This is a bok.
A monkeyís paw. In the famous story by W.W. Jacobs, a monkeyís paw is a wishing device, like a genie or a leprechaun. The paw allows the wielder to wish for anything, the problem is that they get what they wish for.
A roleplaying game is like a monkeyís paw. An opportunity to get what you wish for, even if it only exists in conversation and across a few sheets or paper. Like the monkeyís paw, it wouldnít be interesting if it didnít have some drawbacks.
6X is a six-fingered monkeyís paw. A wish is made and granted, but not always how weíd like it to be. If you could accomplish anything, what would you do? Itís an interesting motivational question. If you could attempt anything, but you were just as likely to fail as succeed, what would you do? Thatís lifeís question and the basis for 6X.
At its root, 6X is an improv game. A group of people come together to tell a story, but the story is not predetermined and can twist with a roll of the die. Because of this there is an important ingredient to note here which will go unmentioned in the remainder of this bok.
The players must bring their imaginations.
It is possible, to play a dull version of this game, where not much happens for quite some time and it all ends with a whimper. It is on the group to assure this is not their fate. Bold Proposals, cruel Counters and wild Rundowns create stories lived with excitement and remembered with fondness.
The rules are the road to adventure. You walk that road together.
6X is a roleplaying game for one to six players.
The key goal is to adhere to the narrative. Once something happens (i.e. the die is cast) it cannot be undone. Because 6X is a game of possibilities it is important to keep this limitation strong. †
Each game has two roles to be played. The Narrator and the Player. In the case of a one-person game, both of these roles can be played by a single person. In most games there will be one Narrator and multiple Players.
Narrator Ė The Narrator is the storyteller. They take care of much of the world-building and run all non-player characters.
Player(s) Ė The Player pretends to be a character in the scenario put forth by the Narrator. The decisions they make are tied to the actions of their character.
ō One six-sided die
ō Paper and writing utensil (optional, but preferred)
Narrator and Player(s) start the game with a brief discussion about the scenario to be played. Major questions to be answered in this discussion include:
ō What genre are we playing in? Western, space opera, fantasy, spy, sitcom, etc.
ō What tone are we hoping for? Grimdark, gothic, romantic, funny, absurd, surreal, etc.
ō What world are we playing in? Establish the worldís basic details.
ō Who is each Player playing? Name, status, desires, equipment, friends, etc.
Any facts not established in the setup are subject to the game itself. For example, a Player may ďrememberĒ a rich uncle during the game, but that fact would be subject to a roll, and that uncle may end up being a vampire who comes asking for money.
There are two modes of play. Exploration and Challenge.
ō Exploration occurs anytime the role-player is moving about the environment or making choices that are reasonably within their capability.
ō Challenge occurs when the player wants to attempt an action that could result in failure. Challenges require rolls.†
Depending on your setup, different situations could fall into the Challenge category. For example, a regular person might struggle to lift a car, but a superhero would have no trouble. In the first scenario, a roll would be necessary, but not necessarily in the second.
Exploration is a conversation between the Player and the Narrator. First, the Narrator describes the scene. Next the Player or Players make choices about what to do. Then the Narrator explains the outcome of those choices. In Exploration mode, all actions are successful. In a single Player game, Exploration mode may be a simple reverie that might, or might not, be written down.
Once a Player decides to do something that is not automatic, theyíve entered Challenge mode. This is the core and only mechanic in the game.
The Player creates a Proposal. It is the best-case scenario outcome for their proposed action. The Proposal is set as one possible outcome for the proposed action.
The Narrator considers the Proposal and then devises an equivalent negative outcome, the Counter. Likewise, the Counter becomes a possible outcome.
Through conversation, the Narrator and Player and anyone at the table come up with four additional outcomes. Two that lean toward success and two that lean toward failure.
Each of these outcomes is then assigned a number between one and six. One is the Playerís original Proposal. Six is the Narratorís Counter. Two through five are the other outcomes in order from positive to negative. This is the Rundown.
2. †Positive, but imperfect outcome.
3. †Slightly positive outcome.
4. †Slightly negative outcome.
5. †Negative, but not devastating outcome.
Once the list is decided the six-sided die is cast. The number on the die is the result of the Challenge.
Play continues through Exploration or Challenge phases, as appropriate.
If you are planning a long game, it can be useful to write down every Rundown. Not only will this help you review and remember, but the Narrator can often incorporate discarded outcomes into new scenarios.
To win is to play well. Sessions can last from seconds to
Everything you need to know about 6X you learned in the first section of this bok. However, if this is your first time reading through, you may not understand it yet.
In this section, we will present three different gaming scenarios with annotations to help you see how the game actually functions. 6X is easy to learn and play, but the featured Playtips! will ensure that you get the most out of the experience.
To demonstrate the variety of game scenarios available, this bok will feature a historical, fantasy scenario, a contemporary, superhero scenario, and a futuristic, horror scenario. Each with a different number of players.
Reading about someone playing a game can cause its own confusion. The scripts will each follow the same format to ease understanding. Each Player will be listed by their actual name followed by their characterís name in parentheses. The Narratorís actual name will be followed by an N.
In the first example gameplay will be broken into the modes described in the Basics section. As the transitions become more natural these labels will be abandoned. †Playtips! will be labeled as such and inserted separately.
John and Anne have agreed to play a game. They want to tell a lightweight adventure story set in a fantasy world that is emerging from the dark ages and into a renaissance.
Anne decides to be the narrator. John describes his character as a former orphan with mixed-elven ancestry that travels the world looking for work as a tinker. The characterís name is Grond.
Anne (N): Grond has arrived in a medium-size village, which is bigger than most he has been travelling through. The villagers are especially wary of strangers this morning and few will even make eye contact with Grond.
John (Grond): I want to ask around for a place to stay the night.
Anne (N): Most of the villagers straight up ignore you, but there are some older children nearby who look in your direction.
John (Grond): I approach the children and ask about the town.
Anne (N): Do you want to act that out?
John (Grond): No, not really.
Not every Player wants to roleplay all the time. Sometimes they just want to get to the action. Here Anne gave John an opportunity to act, but he chose not to, so she skips that bit. If Anne needed the conversation to be acted out (to communicate secret information or set up a fight) she would have simply not given the option to skip it.
Anne (N): Okay, the oldest girl, who wears a tattered dress, introduces herself as Claire. She tells you that this is Bindale, a trading post halfway between the outer regions and the Capital.
John (Grond): Iíll ask why everyone is avoiding me.
Anne (N): Claire doesnít respond, but looks around the town, as if trying to make contact with someone.
John (Grond): ďWhat are you not telling me?Ē
Anne (N): ďNothing, Sir,Ē Claire says, but her mood has definitely changed.
John (Grond): ďI donít have time for this.Ē Iíll intimidate her into telling me.
Here the game mode may switch from Exploration to Challenge. Anne could have John continue to roleplay the scenario, but it seems like heís not into that part of the game at the moment. He could fail at intimidating the girl, so Anne decides to roll the die.
Exploration naturally flows into Challenge because the character has already stated their goal, or Proposal. This becomes our number one outcome. It may help to ask the player to clarify.
Anne (N): What do you want to learn from her?
John (Grond): I want to know what sheís hiding and why the townsfolk are avoiding me.
Proposal: Claire tells Grond about the townfolk and her own behavior.
This is the critical moment in the game. Anne must generate a Counter that is opposite and equivalent to Johnís Proposal. If the outcome is too harsh, John will feel cheated. If itís too soft, John wonít feel challenged. In this instance, having the villagers intervene seems like a balanced Counter.
This early in the game, the Counter can be softer, as long as the Player isnít asking for too much. If, for example, Grond attempted to kill Claire in broad daylight, the Counter should be extreme, perhaps a local hero might launch a successful attack. It could even be enough to dissuade John from acting at all.
This is an important point. Narrators can use Counters to push back on Player overreach. Players can back down from a Proposal without penalty.
Anne (N): Okay, if you fail, youíll attract the attention of the locals, angry that youíre harassing children.
Counter: Armed villagers intervene before Claire can speak.
If John accepts the Counter, Anne and John iron out the rest of the outcomes. Anne takes the lead, but John incorporates his own ideas for positive and negative outcomes. The goal is to have an interesting Rundown. The conversation is part of the fun. Remember that two and three lean positive and four and five lean negative, but none should reach beyond the Proposal and the Counter.
1. Claire tells Grond about the townfolk and her own behavior.
2. Claire gives up the information.
3. Claire calls Grond over to a sidestreet to speak in private.
4. Claire tries to sell Grond something.
5. Claire screams when Grond gets too close drawing negative attention from the crowd.
6. Armed villagers intervene before Claire can speak.
John (Grond): (Rolls) A two! Not bad.
6X is different from most roleplaying games. 6X considers multiple outcomes to each event. In this example, we have a side street, an item for sale, and some armed villagers mentioned in outcomes that did not occur. Are all of those places, objects and people present in the scene? Maybe, but not necessarily. Itís up to the Narrator to decide how much those options influence future gameplay.
Each possible outcome has an impact on the narrative and characters. The Claire that screams may turn out to have a different personality from the one who tries to sell an old dagger. Itís important to move forward from the rolled outcome, but keep the options in mind as the game progresses. This can build suspense in the player or create red herrings as they consider what might have been.
Anne (N): Claire reveals to Grond that many hucksters have come through town selling miracle cures and magic lessons. Disappointed expectations have led to a wariness of strangers. Claire herself was supposed to be apprenticed in Ms. Blackís School for Girl Assassins only to be left with a school uniform, a pointed stick and a bill for both.
John (Grond): Okay, well, Iíll be careful, but this doesnít really apply to me. Iíll keep looking around town for a tinkerís guild or shop, to see if I can get some business.
Anne (N): You wander further into town looking for the merchant district. As you enter the center of town you find yourself in the midst of a jeering crowd. A cart with a stage has been setup in the middle of the plaza emblazoned with the name of Martana the Maker. An elderly woman is being booed and pelted by rotten fruit. Next to her is a tin automaton thatís been knocked over. Itís silver feet kick with clockwork motion. Shouts of ďfraudĒ and ďget out of hereĒ rise around you.
John (Grond): I guess they donít like tinkers much either. I approach the wagon.
Anne (N): You work your way through the crowd, jostled but ignored.
John (Grond): Do I notice anything as I get to the front?
Anne (N): The smell tells you this fruit was especially rotten, as if theyíve been saving a crop in barrels for weeks. Your attention is drawn to the automaton, which you have just enough skill to recognize as a masterwork.
John (Grond): So, sheís not a fraud?
Anne (N): Impossible to know, but she certainly has a fine piece of machinery.
John (Grond): Can I get a closer look at the automaton?
Anne (N): You could get on stage or you could try to pull it off.
Here we see the Narrator bait the Player with a choice. This is one method by which Narrators can exercise control of the narrative. Of course, a savvy Player doesnít have to take the bait.
John (Grond): Iíll pull it off.
Anne (N): Whatís your Proposal?
John (Grond): I want to pull the automaton off the stage and sneak it through the crowd and out of sight without being caught.
Proposal: Grond steals the automaton and escapes to a nearby cover. In the commotion, no one notices.
Anne (N): Thatís a difficult outcome. If you fail completely, youíre going to find yourself breaking the automaton, trampled on the ground and everyone knows itís your fault.
Counter: Grond grabs for the automaton, a piece breaks off and he falls to the ground where heís trampled and then spotlighted by the crowd.
Notice how Johnís Proposal has three parts: steal, escape, no one notices. Anneís Counter similarly has three parts: break, fall, and get caught. This provides symmetry, but also allows for a quick Rundown of the options. Perhaps Grond can fail to steal, but still escape unnoticed, or maybe heís recognized as a thief, but no one cares.
†1. Grond steals the automaton and escapes to a nearby cover. In the commotion, no one notices.
2. Grond steals the automaton and escapes. Everyone sees him do it, but itís not clear if they care.
3. Grond grabs the automaton, but itís heavy and no one clears a path, so heís stuck at the front of the crowd holding it.
4. Grond grabs for the automaton and fails to grasp it. Heís back on the ground.
5. Grond grasps the automaton, but itís so heavy he ends up pulling himself on stage instead. Now, heís being pelted too.
6. Grond grabs for the automaton, a piece breaks off and he falls to the ground where heís trampled and then spotlighted by the crowd.
John (Grond): (Rolls a six) Uh oh!
Anne (N): As you scramble for the stage you manage to grab one of the clockwork legs. The gentle whirring you barely registered up to this point transforms into a clacking and then a clang. The leg breaks off in your hand and you fall back into the crowd. Bumped and bruised, the mob in front has turned their attention to you, as has Martana the Maker who stares daggers down from the stage.
John (Grond): Iíll scream, ďget out of town!Ē while I wave the leg as if Iím angry.
Anne (N): Whatís your Proposal?
John (Grond): I want the audience to go back to screaming at her and ignoring me.
To be continued Ö
Stan, Jack and Marie have decided to play a superhero scenario. It will be set in a stylized present with some comedic elements.
Jack has decided to be the Narrator and Stan and Marie will be Players. Marie is excited to play a superhero she has invented. A Chinese sleeper agent who betrayed her country and became a solo hero fighting for justice. Her characterís name is Shatter. Shatter is an excellent athlete and has many spy tools. Stan hasnít had time to prepare. He just knows he wants to play a fire-based character. He picks the name Bonfire.
Jack (N): Itís a peaceful day in Super City, when suddenly bananas start falling like rain. People are amused at first, but itís quickly getting dangerous. Windshields are breaking and citizens are slipping around everywhere.
Marie (Shatter): Is there anyone being seriously hurt around me?
Jack (N): †You are in an outdoor cafť with an awning. Most of people have been able to get under cover. No one is in serious, immediate danger.
Stan (Bonfire): What about me? I was flying.
Jack (N): Can you fly?
Stan (Bonfire): †Yes!
Here the Narrator has some options. He can just let Stanís character fly, he can say no, or he can make it a Challenge. You may be thinking, isnít it up to Stan to decide what his character can do, and shouldnít he have done that before the game started? In 6X there is room to evolve the narrative as the story progresses, like an author would.
This opens up a lot of possibilities for instant play. Narrators and Players can address backstory as they play, allowing for spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff adventures. Of course, Players inclined can bring volumes of world-building and backstory. It works either way.
Jack (N): †I donít see why a fire-controlling hero would fly.
Stan (Bonfire):† Itís pretty common in the comic books.
Jack (N):† But it doesnít make sense, fire doesnít fly. Letís have you roll for it. What do you want your power to be?
Stan (Bonfire):† I would like to be able to fly by generating heat out my backside, like a rocket.
Proposal: Rocket bottom flight!
Jack (N):† Okay, since you want to enhance your power, a low roll will give you a weakness. Like, when you ignite, your clothes burn off and you have to fight naked.
Counter: Combustible clothing.
Stan (Bonfire):† Ouch!
1. Rocket bottom flight!
2. Fire-assisted super-jumps.
3. Heatless flames (for cool effects).
4. Chronic increased body-temp (150˚ F).
5. No hair (it all burns off).
6. Combustible clothing.
Stan (Bonfire): (Rolls a one) Yes! Iím flying!
Jack (N):† Flying through the sky the banana rain begins. You are pelted with bananas of all quality from green to ripe to rotten. You ground yourself and now youíre covered in squashed bananas.
Stan (Bonfire):† Gross! I want to burn them off.
Jack (N):† Youíre standing under a very crowded roof with a lot of other people.
Stan (Bonfire):† Iíll be careful, not too hot.
Jack (N):† Whatís your best-case scenario?
Stan (Bonfire):† I burn off the banana, not hurting anyone and am left with a fresh inviting smell.
Proposal: Fresh scented flame!
Jack (N):† Okay, if you fail hard youíll end up catching someone near you on fire. Are you sure you want to do this?
Counter: Burning civilians!
Stan (Bonfire):† Yep!
1. Fresh scented flame!
2. Clean, but it doesnít smell good.
3. Most of it burns off, but you might find some mush in your hair tonight.
4. Flaming mush. The banana burns off, but falls to the ground in little napalm droplets.
5. Instead of burning off the bananas burn into your clothes and smell like burnt dog hair.
6. Burning civilians! Someone nearby catches on fire.
Stan (Bonfire): (Rolls a six) Uh oh!
Jack (N):† In a dangerous misstep with your powers, a business man next to you, finds his suit sleeve flaming. Panicking, he dances out into the street, but a rain of bananas is not likely to put out the flames.
Stan (Bonfire):† I guess Iíll go put him out.
Jack (N):† Not so fast. Marie, Shatter sees a true danger now. A man on fire emerges from one of the shelters nearby.
In a multi-Player game, itís important to balance playtime. Stan is a particularly needy player, but Jack is not letting him get away with it. He seizes on the opportunity Stan has provided to bring Marie into the game. Of course, all along Marie has been contributing ideas to the Rundown. Filling out the Rundown is always a full table conversation, even though the Narrator makes the final decisions.
Marie (Shatter): Shatter grabs a tablecloth and jumps from the cafť and into action. Avoiding the bananas, I use the cloth to extinguish the flames.
Stan (Bonfire):† Hold on! This is my problem, Iíll fix it. I want to approach the man and use my fire control powers to suppress the flames.
Jack (N):† Alright, weíll have to see who gets there first.
When you have two Players trying to perform actions that interfere with each other you have new type of Challenge, a Contested Challenge. Some things are the same. You have six options and one roll. However, there are two Proposals, one for each Player involved. These become one and six. The middle options three and four, now become Counters for each character. If the characters want a similar result, this keeps them from using the team-up to avoid negative outcomes.
Contested Challenge Rundown:
1. Player 1ís Proposal
2. Slightly negative/positive outcome.
3. Counter to Player 1ís Proposal
4. Counter to Player 2ís Proposal
5. Slightly negative/positive outcome.
6. Player 2ís Proposal
1. Shatter grabs a tablecloth, crosses the banana rain without incident and uses the cloth to extinguish the flames.
2. Shatter grabs the tablecloth and reaches the man, but the cloth has filled with bananas and is not usable in time.
3. Shatter pulls the cloth from the table, but it catches the edge and sends her stumbling into the banana rain where she slips on a peel and falls on her butt.
4. Bonfireís fire suppression power glitches and powers up the flames instead. The man is in real danger now.
5. Bonfireís power puts out the fire, but not the smoke. The man starts hacking violently, but heíll be okay.
6. Bonfire uses his fire control powers to suppress the fire, saving the day before Shatter can get there.
Jack (N): (Rolls a six; a good thing for once) The flames subside as quickly as they came. The man looks around confused, not sure if he should curse the man in the fire-themed spandex or thank him.
Marie (Shatter): Where am I?
Jack (N):† It all happened faster than you could act. Youíre still at the table, but your attention is on the commotion.
Marie (Shatter): I want to join the fire-powered hero across the street and see if we can figure out whatís going on.
Jack (N):† Since you are no longer in a hurry and you are a superagile superspy, you have no trouble crossing the plaza without getting hurt.
Stan (Bonfire):† Iíll reach out my hand and say, ďNice to meet you.Ē
Marie (Shatter): Iíll ignore the handshake. ďDo you know whatís going on?Ē
Jack (N):† Before he can answer the banana rain comes to an abrupt stop. A shadow covers you. You look up to see Angorilla, a mechanical Gorilla, the size of a house, sliding down the side of a nearby building and heading in your direction. What are you going to do?
Stan (Bonfire): ďWhat are we going to do!?Ē
To be continued Ö
Herbert, Mary, Shirley, and Ursula have gotten together for a game night. Theyíve decided to play a horror-themed game, but set in a cyberpunk future. Ursula will be the Narrator and the other three will play.
They donít have time for a lot of set up. They decide to set the game twenty years in the future and figure out the tech and politics as they go. As for horror elements, theyíve decided that monsters (undefined for now) are emerging around cutting-edge science facilities.
They come up with some quick character descriptions:
Herbert will play a computer engineer named Adam with insomnia and a recently deceased mother with whom he lived.
Maryís character is Ben, a corporate spy trying to steal technology.
Shirleyís character is Synthia, an aspiring transhumanist with an internet connection in her brain.
Ursula sets the scene. Adam has arrived in his lab to discover his assistant Debbie has been violently murdered. Ben is a paper-pusher in the lab, and also a spy. Synthia is a consultant with the police department, using her implant to help solve cases. Detective Erdrick is on the case, and as a non-player character, will be run by Ursula.
Ursula (N/Detective Erdrick): Okay, describe the scene as you found it.
Herbert (Adam): Debbie usually comes in before me. I stopped at the cafť for a cup of coffee and then came to the door. Somehow, the security measures had been disengaged. When I slipped in, I called out, but heard nothing. Then I came in here and saw this. How! How could she even be that ball of flesh? If it wasnít for her horrible face I wouldnít even have known her.
If youíve played other RPGs you may be confused here. Herbert is a player, how is he revealing details of the plot? Thatís the Narratorís job. However, in 6X the story can be told collaboratively, and this group agreed to go with the flow. As long as Herbert doesnít have Adam attempt any challenges or make choices for other Players then he can reveal the story too. Ursula and the players will go along with the story as revealed by Herbert.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): Synthia, check the net for any other instances of this Ö ballification of people.
Mary (Ben): Ugh! Ben gags at that word.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): And what do you know of this, Ben was it?
Mary (Ben): I was dating Debbie, but I didnít see her last night. Her mother was visiting and I had Ö work to do.
Shirley (Synthia): Iíve found some information. Apparently, thereís an old Ukrainian myth about people being turned into spheres. According to the myth, the shredded souls of enemy soldiers could congeal into monsters known as Yarch. These monsters would then squeeze their killers into balls as revenge.
Ursula (N/Erdrick):† I asked for facts not fairy tales.
Shirley is injecting more information into the play scenario. Where did she get it? Sheís making it up! This is the improvisational portion of the game. A Yarch is not a Ukrainian myth, but it works for the moment. She took Herbertís premise (a ball of flesh), said yes, and then added to it. Itís important that Players donít invalidate each other. If a Player is going too far the Narrator can jump in, but for the most part everyone should be pushing the game forward.
Ursula (N/Erdrick):† Suddenly, the lights go out. This being a corporate building with secrets, there are no outside windows. Itís dark as pitch.
Mary (Ben): Ben pulls out a flashlight.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): What are the chances youíd have a flashlight?
Mary (Ben): Letís find out.
Proposal: Ben has a fully functioning industrial flashlight hidden nearby and accessible.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): Youíre tempting fate.
Counter: Ben reaches for his secret spy case, but the lights come on as he finds it. Branding him a traitor.
1. Ben has a fully functioning industrial flashlight hidden nearby and accessible.
2. Ben has a standard flashlight with a low battery.
3. Ben has a tiny LED flashlight that gives off 10 feet of light.
4. Ben has a matchbook.
5. Ben bangs his knee hard trying to get around in the dark and ultimately finds nothing.
6. Ben reaches for his secret spy case, but the lights come on as he finds it. Branding him a traitor.
Mary (Ben): (Rolls a four) Well, thatís something.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): Looks like Ben picked the wrong week to give up smoking. He finds a matchbook in his pocket.
Mary (Ben): He lights a match.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): †For a moment, quickly passing, you can see the lab. Shadows loom in every corner. The flickering light illuminates the spherical corpse.
Herbert (Adam): Oh, heck no! Adam runs for the door and opens it.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): †The door is far away and the lab is full of equipment.
Herbert (Adam): I do not care. I run for it.
Proposal: Adam makes it to the door without a problem and opens it.
Ursula (N/Erdrick): †I warned you.
Counter: Adam trips immediately, hits his head and starts bleeding profusely.
1. Adam makes it to the door without a problem and opens it.
2. Adam makes it to the door without a problem, but it wonít open.
3. Adamís halfway to the door when the match burns out.
4. Adam bumps into Ben and knocks the matchbook and match out of his hands. The match goes out.
5. Adam knocks into Synthia and they both fall to the floor near the corpse.
6. Adam trips immediately, hits his head and starts bleeding profusely.
Herbert (Adam): (Rolls a five) Uh oh!
Ursula (N/Erdrick): †Adam knock Synthia down. The shadows are deeper from this angle. As you both recover from the impact, the eyes of Debbieís corpse blink. The body roll slightly in your direction.
Shirley (Synthia): Ahhhhhhhhhhh!
To be continued Ö
You may have noticed that to this point we have not discussed a primary element of most role-playing games, combat! 6X does support combat, but within the Challenge system. There are no hit points or strength bonuses. The narrative context and the wisdom of the Narrator and Players leads to a Rundown. A roll of the die determines the outcome.
Combat is part of the story; it can be simple or get complicated based on how the game is played. Here we will revisit each of our previous examples, but place the characters into combat situations.
Formatting will follow the conventions described in the first section and Playtips! will again interrupt the action to explain or expand on the concepts presented.
Letís start simple. A mano-a-mano fight. Weíll flip back to the Historical Fantasy Game. Johnís character Grond has found himself in a fight with a hybrid dog/bird monster, a hound-finch. Heís armed with a dagger. The creature guards a cave, its lair and a passage to treasure.
Anne (N): The beast is about to lunge! What do you want to do?
John (Grond): Dodge to the left and run past the hound-finch, trying not to injure the noble creature.
Proposal: Grond dodges and escapes. The hound-finch is uninjured.
Anne (N): Well, itís not a huge monster, and youíre not injured or anything. So Ö
Counter: The hound-finch swipes you with its claws leaves a nasty scrape bleeding on your forearm.
A combat Challenge is not that different from a normal Challenge. There are opportunities for damage and injury, but they are handled within the narrative.
If Grond was to injure his arm in this conflict (because John rolls a six), the consequence is not a loss of points, but an injured arm that would need to be accounted for in future Challenges. Climbing a rope later in the scene would be difficult, for example. †
1. Grond dodges and escapes. The hound-finch is uninjured.
2. Grond dodges cleanly, but doesnít get past the creature.
3. Grond dodges, but checks the hound-finch with his elbow, angering it further.
4. Grond tries to dodge but has to fall back. Heís now further from the entrance to the cave.
5. The hound-finchís claws falls just short, ripping Grondís sleeve.
6. The hound-finch swipes Grond with its claws leaves a nasty scrape bleeding on his forearm.
John (Grond): (Rolls a three).
Anne (N): Your elbow clips the creatureís face. It bellows in fury and is still in your way. Itís going to knock you down.
Proposal (N): The hound-finch headbutts Grond knocking him to his backside.
If youíve been paying attention, you may be confused here. This the first time the Narratorís character has made a Proposal. The process is the same as usual from here, except that the Player gets to suggest the Counter, with input from the Narrator. Also, you may want to switch the order of the Rundown, so that a one is still a victory for the Player, as we will do here.
John (Grond): Ugh, the dodge didnít work, maybe I can leap frog the monster?
Counter: Grond leaps over the charging creatureís body and lands safely on the other side.
1. Grond leaps over the charging creatureís body and lands safely on the other side.
2. Grondís leap turns into a dodge. Itís not impressive, but heís out of harmís way.
3. Grondís leaps over the hound-finchís head and lands on its back. Grond is now riding the creature Ö backward.
4. Grond dodges and is pulled around in a circle. The cave entrance is now behind him.
5. Grondís partial leap means the headbutt is at groin level. Heís standing, but in intense pain.
6. The hound-finch headbutts Grond knocking him to his backside.
John (Grond): (Rolls a three).
Anne (N): You jump over the beak, but land on the creatureís neck. Itís strong enough to hold you up, but not happy about it.
As with all 6X battles this encounter is more about what happens then how much damage is done. Interesting outcomes can take the game to places neither Player nor Narrator were anticipating at the outset.
John (Grond): Okay, I want to hurt this thing enough to get it to run away. In this position it should be easy, but I still donít want to kill it. Iíll cut it with my dagger on the backside.
Proposal: Grond lands a frightening, but healable injury to the backside of the hound-finch.
Anne (N): Heís not going to like that.
Counter: The hound-finch bucks Grond off and knocks the wind out of him.
1. Grond lands a frightening, but healable injury to the backside of the hound-finch.
2. Grond does more damage than he hoped cutting a gash into the creature and disabling one leg.
3. Grond can only hold on for dear life as the hound-finch starts bucking.
4. Grond loses his dagger as he barely holds on to the creature, which is running further away from the cave.
5. Grond falls off the hound-finch, but miraculously lands on his feet.
6. The hound-finch bucks Grond off and knocks the wind out of him.
Notice option two above. In other games excess damage is usually a bonus, but in 6X context matters. Grond is holding back. Hurting the creature too much would be worse than just enough, so itís a lower outcome.
Imagine a Player attempts to knock out a guard. Killing the guard would be much worse in most circumstances, therefore it would be a lower outcome, maybe even the Counter.†
John (Grond): (Rolls a four).
Anne (N): You pull out your dagger and it keeps on moving right out of your hand and onto the ground, meanwhile youíre getting further away from the cave.
John (Grond): Jump off! Jump off!
Proposal: Jump off! Safely, of course.
Anne (N): Thatís dangerous.
Counter: Fall off! And twist an ankle.
1. Jump off! Safely, of course.
2. Bucked off! And saddle sore!
3. Slide off! On to your butt.
4. Thrown off! And into brambles!
5. Spun off! And dizzy.
6. Fall off! And twist an ankle.
Every outcome gets Grond off the hound-finch. The Counter does not have to be the opposite of the Proposal. It can be a negative version. In this case, the Narrator wants to move on from the hound-finch. Since it shouldnít be too hard to get to the ground, she keeps it simple.
John (Grond): (Rolls a five).
Anne (N): You spin in a circle and onto the ground. Whatever you do next, itís going to be harder.
John (Grond): Iím going to kill that thing.
To be continued Ö
Our first combat example illustrated how itís not about points and numbers, but about the story. But we put a limiter on it. Grond didnít want to hurt the hound-finch. What if a Player wants to do damage? Letís return to the superheroes to see how that might go.
Stan (Bonfire):† What are we going to do?!
Jack (N): Angorilla is heading your way, swinging his arms and leaving indents in the pavement.
Marie (Shatter): Weíve got to protect the people.
Stan (Bonfire):† Thereís only one way to do that. I fly to the gorilla and shoot flames into its face.
Marie (Shatter): Iíll make sure the people are safe.
Jack (N): Okay, the attack is a Challenge, but keeping people back shouldnít be at this point. Bonfire, whatís your goal with this attack?
Stan (Bonfire):† To melt his head off and stop the rampage.
Jack (N): Okay, well the response to that is that he grabs you and squashes your head like a grape.
Stan (Bonfire):† Hey?!
Jack (N): Well, what do you expect, to kill a giant robot in one shot?
Here the Narrator uses the extreme Counter technique to dissuade an overpowered Proposal. Jack could have simply said no, but that inhibits the Players and takes some fun out of the game. If Stan presses, Jack should let him take the roll. Maybe itís his lucky day, or maybe he dies. Either way, the story could go on, with a clever-enough Narrator.
Stan (Bonfire):† Well, I want to do something.
Jack (N): A kill shot in this circumstance is a risk. Maybe you should come up with a better strategy.† Or you could take the chance Ö
Stan (Bonfire):† Okay, Iíll blast his face with fire, but Iím hoping to blind him.
Proposal: Bonfire bathes the Angorillaís face in fire, blinding him.
Jack (N): Thatís more reasonable. If you fail, youíll merely be swatted like a fly.
Counter: Angorilla swats Bonfire to the ground.
1. Bonfire bathes the Angorillaís face in fire, blinding him.
2. Bonfire heats up Angorillaís face. Itís red hot and maybe malleable, but it can still see.
3. Bonfire hits Angorillaís face and it turns away for a few moments, recovering.
4. Bonfire misses.
5. Bonfireís attempt to fire flame out his front and backside simultaneously results in him falling clumsily to the ground.
6. Angorilla swats Bonfire to the ground.
Stan (Bonfire): (Rolls a four)
Jack (N): The spout of fire swirls past the apeís robot head. Angorilla is unphased.
Stan (Bonfire):† Shoot!
Jack (N): Meanwhile, Shatter has established a perimeter. No civilians are in immediate danger.
Marie (Shatter): Great! I want to go attack the gorilla, too. But Iím not a brawler. Itís a robot, right? Does it look like it has any mechanical seams I could shove a dagger into?
Jack (N): It sure does!
Marie (Shatter): Iíll attack one of those.
Stan (Bonfire):† Wait! I didnít even get to hit it. I want to attack, too.
Itís easy for Players to work together. Since turns are determined by the Narrator, Players can team up whenever it makes narrative sense. In a Challenge, they make a single, joint Proposal.
Teaming up may make difficult tasks easier, and therefore Counters less dangerous. It can also make filling out the Rundown easier. Have one or the other Player fail their portion as two or three.
Marie (Shatter): Letís work together. The further the stretch, the weaker the seam. You can distract him, and I can stick my dagger in.
Stan (Bonfire):† Okay!
Proposal: Bonfire does a flyby to get Angorillaís attention, while Shatter sneaks up and drives a dagger into his ankle seam.
Jack (N): Sounds like a good plan. How could it go wrong?
Counter: Bonfire flies the wrong way and bumps into Shatter, igniting her hair and sending them both to the ground.
1. Bonfire does a flyby to get Angorillaís attention, while Shatter sneaks up and drives a dagger into his ankle seam.
2. Bonfire distracts Angorilla, but the dagger canít penetrate.
3. Angorilla keeps focus, but the dagger goes in anyway. Angorilla gets angrier.
4. Angorilla bats Bonfire away. Shatter, unnoticed, gets close.
5. Angorilla dances out of the way of Bonfire, and kicks Shatter.
6. Bonfire flies the wrong way and bumps into Shatter, igniting her hair and sending them both to the ground.
Marie (Shatter): (Rolls a three).
Jack (N): Angorilla ignores Bonfire, but somehow doesnít see Shatter coming. The blade finds a seam and sticks into it.† Angorillaís mechanical eyes glow red. He turns on Shatter.
Proposal (N): Angorilla smashes Shatter and sends her flying beyond the perimeter and into the crowd.
Marie (Shatter): Okay, Iíll use my superspy skills to swing up the arm, uninjured, of course, and make my way onto the robotís back.
Counter: A super-slick spin up Angorillaís arm and onto his back.
Stan (Bonfire):† Wait, I want to do something!
Jack (N): Youíve just flown past and Shatter is about to get curb stomped. You wonít have time to interfere, but you should be thinking about what youíll do next.
If a Player wants to take a turn that does not make narrative sense, the Narrator can simply delay them. The Narrator should consider what fits with the story and is not locked into any other timing mechanic.
On a second note, we have flipped the list again to keep the lower numbers positive for the Player.
1. A super-slick spin up Angorillaís arm and onto his back.
2. Shatter dodges in such a way that Angorilla loses sight of her.
3. Angorilla misses.
4. Angorilla lands a glancing blow on Shatter, stunning her momentarily.
5. Angorilla punches Shatter, sheís concussed, but her martial arts skills keep her from being flung away.
6. Angorilla smashes Shatter and sends her flying beyond the perimeter and into the crowd.
Marie (Shatter): (Rolls a five).
Jack (N): You take a big wallop; the world is spinning but youíve managed to deflect enough to stay engaged in combat.
Stan (Bonfire):† Okay, my turn! I want to melt the ground under Angorillaís feet, so that he canít move.
Proposal: The asphalt beneath Angorillaís feet is melted into a hot sludge that may trap the monster.
Jack (N): Thatís a plan. Shatter will have to take a moment to recover. If you fail itís because you overdid it and the ground gives way to an underground tunnel. Shatter and Angorilla will fall inside.
Marie (Shatter): Thanks a lot.
Stan (Bonfire):† It hasnít happened yet.
Counter: The ground gives way to the inferno. Angorilla and Shatter tumble underground.
1. The asphalt beneath Angorillaís feet is melted into a hot sludge that may trap the monster.
2. The ground beneath Angorilla is hotter than a Phoenix summer, but itís not melted.
3. The flames donít melt the ground, but the Angorilla is surprised and starts a hotfoot dance.
4. Performance anxiety causes Bonefireís flames to sizzle instead of scorch.
5. Bonfireís still figuring out flying. Multitasking sends him past his target before he can fire.
6. The ground gives way to the inferno. Angorilla and Shatter tumble underground.
Stan (Bonfire): (Rolls a one). Yes! Bonfire saves the day!
Jack (N): The asphalt melts to sludge and Angorilla sinks in. Shatter is spared. Angorilla tries to fight it, but can no longer move his legs. The smell of burning bananas floats in the air.
Stan (Bonfire):† Howís that for a hot foot!
To be continued Ö
In our third example, we will revisit our future horror scenario. Since weíre focusing on combat, letís fast forward to point at which the stakes are dire.
The Narrator is Ursula, who is also running the character Detective Erdrick. Herbert, Mary and Shirley are the Players. Their characters are Adam, Ben, and Synthia.
After a night of horrors beyond imagining, the ragged crew look for refuge in a secret second basement. Adamís company, it turns out, has stolen corpses for experimentation. Theyíre victims of recent Ukrainian uprisings. Their brain tissue has been used to create uplinks, like Synthiaís, that connect minds directly to the net.
Throughout the night Synthiaís implant has fed them false information and caused her hallucinations.
They are now confronted by the Yarch, a demon composed of the shredded souls of the dead. The Yarch has embodied a surgical assistant robot, complete with lasers and scalpels.
Through cunning, teamwork, and blunt force the crew have almost disabled the robot. Though Adam has fallen unconscious, Ben has a bleeding head wound, and Synthia is still unsure of what sheís seeing.
Ursula (N): The laser arm falls to the ground. After your previous assault the scalpel arm is unreliable. You have a moment to act.
Mary (Ben): I still have the pipe, right?
Ursula (N): Yes, but itís quite banged up.
Mary (Ben): I want to smash the robot to pieces, just pound on it until it stops working.
Proposal: Robot beatdown.
Ursula (N): Given how much damage you guys have already done, that shouldnít be too hard. Your worst case is you cut yourself on some of the jagged metal.
1. Robot beatdown.
2. Robot broken, but so is the pipe.
3. Robot stops moving, but doesnít sustain extensive damage.
4. The pipe bounces off the robot, itís too tough to break this way.
5. The pipe bounces off the robot and out of your hands.
6. Caution: sharp edges.
Mary (Ben): (Rolls a two).
Ursula (N): You break the pipe over the head of the robot and both splinter into pieces. The robot sparks and then collapses into a heap.
While this isnít the end of battle for this group, you can see here how the cumulative effect of combat Challenges can lead to the defeat of an enemy. They didnít just conk the robot on the head. They spent many Challenges dodging, finding and losing weapons, striking blows and getting injured.
Shirley (Synthia): Yes! We won!
Ursula (N): Actually, Synthia, an electric ghost appears out of the robotís wreckage. It bursts into a thousand cerulean sparks. They fall around the room like rain. The floor becomes an ocean and then a whirlpool. Theyíre all heading in the same direction like water down a drain.
Mary (Ben): Step on them!
Ursula (N): You canít see them, only Synthia can.
Shirley (Synthia): Can I step on them?
Ursula (N): You do, but they are unaffected. They seem to exist on a different plane.
Shirley (Synthia): Where are they gathering?
Ursula (N): At the feet of Detective Erdrick. His eyes roll back into his head and then reappear as electric blue that even you can see, Ben. A hollow voice emerges from his throat. ďWe shall be avenged!Ē
Mary (Ben): I say we rush him.
Shirley (Synthia): Thatís not a great idea, remember what happened with the robot. Weíll just get in each otherís way.
The Players reference here an incident that occurs frequently in some roleplaying games, but rarely in real life. The three-on-one fight. Easier to recount than to show, a team-up such as this will increase the danger instead of the effect. You can imagine perhaps three people attacking a murderous robot. Another roleplaying game might allow this as good strategy, but with 6X, as with life, if you stick four people with weapons into a small space, itís unlikely that you can predict whoís coming out safe. In 6X this would be demonstrated by negative outcomes that have Players getting injured by each other, or tripping over each otherís Proposals. In short, strategy counts.
Mary (Ben): Well, what do you suggest? Weíre fighting a demon unarmed.
Shirley (Synthia): There must be something we can use.
Ursula (N): While youíre debating a ghostly tendril emerges from Detective Erdrickís mouth. Itís coming toward you both.
Proposal: The Yarch uses its ectoplasmic tendril to seize control of Synthia, whoís mind is weakened due to the implant.
Shirley (Synthia): Oh, no way. Iím going to use my will power to resist.
Ursula (N): The demon is pushing itself to control two unwilling people you may be able to do some damage here.
Shirley (Synthia): Okay, great! It grabs ahold of my mind, but Ö I Ö I know. My implant has one of these Ukrainians in it, right?
Ursula (N): Yes.
Shirley (Synthia): That Ukrainian, or whatís left of them, must have some empathy for me. I havenít done anything wrong in this situation, so the Ukrainian in my brain attacks the Yarch and destroys its psychic powers.
Using the information in the game, as it developed, to create Proposals is what makes 6X versatile. With the Narratorís help, this story emerged from a night of playing. Now a Player is using the information created to influence the game. The criteria for allowing these actions is only, ďdoes this work in the story?Ē If, in the Narratorís appraisal, the answer is yes, then the Player may give it a try.
Ursula (N): Thatís a great solution, but since itís your first such attack, weíll say it limits the creatures psychic powers instead of outright destroys them.
Shirley (Synthia): Okay.
Counter: The Ukrainian in Synthiaís implant fights back against the Yarch, limiting its ability to work beyond its body.
1. The Ukrainian in Synthiaís implant fights back against the Yarch, limiting its ability to work beyond its body.
2. The Yarchís tendril connects to Ben, but his iron will, developed in his corporate espionage training, sends it slapping back in psychic pain.
3. The Yarch tendril flails about to little effect except intimidation.
4. The Yarchís tendril sweeps past both Ben and Synthia causing a momentary severe migraine.
5. The Yarch reaches for Ben attempting to control him. Because Ben doesnít have an implant, it wonít be as effective.
6. The Yarch uses its ectoplasmic tendril to seize control of Synthia, whose mind is weakened due to the implant.
Ursula (N): (Rolls a one). The tendril lashes out and pushes itself into Synthiaís mouth and from there to her brainstem. For a moment, Synthia feels the anger of a thousand soldiers and is gripped in a fiery rage. Suddenly a new voice arrives from the Net. No, it feels like the Net, but itís something else, something closer, the spirit of the pacifist mother, Eugenia, whose brain powers Synthia implant.
ďYou call this justice! You call this vengeance! This is the same perpetual violence that cost us our homes, our families, our lives.Ē
With that, there is a great flash of light and the tendril explodes. Detective Erdrickís body falls back as if punched.
Shirley (Synthia): Awesome!
Ursula (N): Meanwhile, Adam regains consciousness on the floor. The broken pieces of the surgical robot lay around him.
Herbert (Adam): Do I know whatís going on?
Ursula (N): Your fevered dreams have somehow kept you appraised. You know the Yarch is hostile and is in the body of Detective Erdrick.
Herbert (Adam): I want to cut him in half with the laser.
Ursula (N): Detective Erdrick?
Herbert (Adam): Yes, I know how to use it. This is my lab after all. I want to grab the arm, stand up and slice him in half. No more Erdrick; no more Yarch.
Ursula (N): Sounds reasonable.
Proposal: Yarch: 0; Erdrick: 2 halves.
As long as the meaning remains clear for future review, itís fun to name your outcomes in silly or dramatic ways.
Ursula (N): Well, you have the Yarch on the ropes. It can no longer use psychic powers against you and itís across the room. I think the worst thing that could happen is you miss and maybe blow out the electricity from the generator you guys set up earlier.
Counter: The laser hits the lights, blowing out the power!
The Narrator is ready for all the Players work to pay off. For this reason, the Counter is no longer as risky as it was earlier. Had the Player fired the laser too early, before the work had been done, the Counter may have included it blowing up in his hands. Easier Counters are a reward for the Playersí hard work and a method of bring the narrative to an end.
1. Yarch: 0; Erdrick: 2 halves.
2. Erdrick is shot through the chest, but not in halves.
3. Erdrick loses an arm. The effect on the Yarch is unknown.
4. The laser slices across the room, but in your semi-conscious state you somehow miss.
5. The laser doesnít fire. Itís broken.
6. The laser hits the lights, blowing out the power!
Herbert (Adam): (Rolls a two).
Ursula (N): The laser beam bursts into life and fries a hole right through the Detectiveís heart. The Yarch, weakened by Synthiaís ghost, attempts to escape. You all see a figure covered with howling faces appear and then vanish, as the Detectiveís body falls to the floor. The Yarch is no more.
The end Ö?
6X was originally design as an entry point for roleplaying. The hope was that any person could easily get their hands on a six-sided die. However, roleplaying has exploded in popularity and online shopping has made getting equipment easier. Finding the proper die is no longer a problem.
This availability opens up a quicker variation of the game. 4X employs, of course, a four-sided die for decision making. Proposals are still ones. Counters are now fours. Two is a positive, but undesired, outcome. Three is a negative, but less severe than the Counter, outcome.
∑ Quick play. Finding six alternatives for every decision can be tedious to those who lack imagination or time. Four outcomes speeds up the game.
∑ Easier. In 6X the second and fifth outcomes stymie some players. Fully positive and negative outcomes are intuitive. Mostly neutral outcomes usually come quickly. But middle good/bad outcomes take some thought. This variant eliminates that work.
∑ Fewer surprises. Twists make stories sing. The best games have rules and randomness. The elimination of two outcomes puts the game on rails.
∑ Four-sided die. They donít roll; they just plop.
In keeping with the original mission of 6X to be portable, accessible and inexpensive, 3X was the first variant developed.
3X requires no dice at all. Each decision is given three options, the Proposal, the Counter, and Wild. In order to determine the outcome, the Narrator and the Player engage in the ancient art of Rochambeau, a.k.a. Rock, Paper, Scissors. If the Player wins, the Proposal is used. If the Narrator wins, the Counter is used. If itís a tie the Wild option is used.
3X can be boring if you donít make it Wild. Make sure the middle option is as Wild as possible, while still in keeping with the story, to ensure a good time.
∑ Portability. You need a minimum of two people, and thatís it. Play it in line, on a car trip, or in a waiting room.
∑ Speed. You can have a big adventure in a little time.
∑ Blunt play. Without additional options, 3X can be reductive. Punch or get punched is not conducive to engaging narratives.
∑ No single player games. While the other variants can be used alone, itís hard to rock, paper, scissor yourself and there is no such thing as a 3-sided die.
Sometimes you want to live in a world of high risk and high reward. 6X-Treme gives you that option. In this version of the game the six-sided die is retained. The Proposal and the Counter are set at two and five, respectively. Three and four again represent leaning options toward the Proposal or the Counter. One and six, however, have a new purpose. One is set as an outcome, better than the Proposal. A bit of luck you might call it. But where good luck treads, bad luck follows. Six is a result worse than the Counter. Cautious Players will hate this. 6X-Treme is not for cautious Players.
∑ Fast and furious. There are no small acts with 6X-Treme. Itís for high-flying adventures, grand dramas, and screwball comedies, where fate turns on a dime.
∑ Risk aversion therapy. 6X-Treme can show cautious Players the advantages of swinging for the fences.
∑ Untimely ends. 6X-Treme can go south fast. A few bad rolls can leave a character dead, or wishing they were. Players need to be ready to face the risks.†
∑ Over the top. Realism may go out the window with 6X-Treme. Luck and fate can make a trip to the grocery store into an action movie.
XX is a mixture of 3X, 4X, 6X, and 6X-Treme. Itís the Narratorís call as to how many options are on the table and which ruleset is being used when.
If the act is not likely to lead to interesting outcomes, they can declare it a 3X.
If the situation is such that a high number of outcomes donít make sense, it can be a 4X Challenge.
For the more interesting Challenges with a lot of characters in play, use 6X.
If the Narrator needs to up-the-stakes, they can declare it a 6X-Treme Challenge.
Once a narrator has played for a while, they will naturally develop their own standards for which system to use when. For example, Ursula might prefer to use 4X for all combat rolls, 3X for actions with limited consequences, and 6X-Treme for high intensity situations. Jack may start with 6X-Treme to get out of the gate quickly. He might move to 4X and 3X if the 6X Challenges start to feel repetitive (for example, when the Players are trying to escape a room).
∑ Versatile. XX is the ultimate play experience, because the game conforms to the actions of the moment.
∑ Controllable. XX allows the Narrator to control the narrative more than other variations.
∑ Cumbersome. More equipment is need (both a 4-sided die and a 6-sided die).
∑ Skill-based. Choosing the wrong rule at the wrong moment can drain some of the liveliness out of the game. A good Narrator will need to learn what works when.
∑ Time consuming. Deciding which variant to use can waste valuable play time.
1X has existed for a long time. Itís simply writing a story. You decide on each outcome and thatís the one that you go with. You can play 1X anytime you want. Highly recommended, but harder to do with a team.
Once you play 3X you will understand why 2X is not a good idea. Two outcomes are not enough to develop a nuanced world. Yes/No, Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, these dichotomies are where stories start, not where they go.
5X could be fun. Make three your Wild result and enjoy, but there are no five-sided dice. If youíd like to play on a random number generator, go for it!
Arenít six outcomes enough? Yes, they are. Higher numbers overwhelm with options and you lose the thread of the story.