An RPG rule system for instant, free-style role playing. It features simple, lightweight, consistent rules that fit on one page of A4 paper. You can download the SpartanS rules from this site.
SpartanS—the Spartanic RPG System—is a very simple rule system. Its goal is to stay out of the way when a group of people spontaneously decides to start a game session. For this reason, SpartanS relies only on the six-sided die, because this type of die can be assumed to be available everywhere—even in a pub!
SpartanS uses consistent rules and tries to avoid the usage of different number values for different things: It should be easy to ‘guess the rules correctly.’ SpartanS is very much suited for free-style role playing.
This page outlines the rules of SpartanS and also explains the rationale behind it. It is longer than the pure rules sheet and intended for the interested reader and potential game master. If you want the condensed form, you can download SpartanS rules PDF file.
Dice, Rolls, and Difficulties
SpartanS needs only a six-sided die; used either as a D6—with values ranging from 1 to 6—and the D3, where a six-sided die is thrown and the value is halved (rounded up). I.e., 1 and 2 on the die count as 1, 3 and 4 as 2, and 5 and 6 are the D3’s 3. A D6 is probably available everywhere, even in the local pub, and can be harvested in almost any home from other games. Using the D6 makes SpartanS also independent of any dice app or service that needs a smartphone, computer, or even the internet.
In SpartanS, higher results are better. A player (or the game master) rolls against a target number; if the final result is equal to or higher than the target number, the roll succeeds.
A character can succeed exceptionally good at a given task, or fail horribly. When the player rolls a natural 6, he must re-roll and check whether he would have succeeded at the second roll, too. If so, his character achieved an outstanding success that gives him an extra benefit at the game master’s discretion. In contrast, rolling a natural 1 and then failing again constitutes a fumble, a catastrophic failure with dire results, again at the game master’s discretion.
SpartanS is very much focused on skills and tries to resolve most checks with them. Skills are based on an attribute. Attribute and skill values are added to the result of a D6 roll, so that the typical formula for a check is:
attribute + skill + D6.
Difficulties encountered are figured into this as penalties. Each difficulty encountered lowers the final result by 1. Thus, SpartanS does not offer to apply arbitrary numbers—though the game master can of course decide to do so—, but uses the concept of different difficulties that stack. For each -1 applied to the final result of a check, the game master must name a different difficulty.
The most commonly difficulty encountered is that of a missing skill. If a player is asked to roll on a skill his character does not have any ranks in, she must apply -1 to the roll. Note that this creates a stark contrast between characters who have a certain skill, even with ‘only’ +1, and those who do not have that skill and must apply -1 to the roll. I.e., there is no skill on a character sheet with ±0; a character either has a skill and thus receives at least +1 to a roll, or misses it and has to take a -1 penalty to the roll. This intentionally emphasises the effect of having learned something in concert with the 1–6 interval of the D6.
Other potential difficulties a character can encounter may be:
- Missing the appropriate tools
- being distracted or even attacked
- low visibility
- complete darkness
- being partially bound
Usually, the game master decides based on the current situation which difficulties are present and thus what penalties apply. E.g., trying to force a door latch open in darkness (-1) without the appropriate tools (-1) while being attacked by a pair of rats (-1) is a cumulative -3 penalty.
When two characters compete against each other, each of the contestants makes a skill test. The character with the higher total result then wins. If the results are equal, the player character wins. If more than one competing party contains player characters, the party that initiated the contest wins. This rule exists so that player characters have an advantage in standoffs and, in general, the party that takes the initiative to act in a certain situation—which, more often than not, is the party of the players—has an edge over the passive characters. This speeds up gameplay and generally gives players an edge over all non-player characters (NPC), leading to overall more player satisfaction. After all, the game master can always raise the skill values of an NPC, if he feels the game becomes too easy for the players.
Wherever rounding occurs in SpartanS, the value is question is rounded up. E.g., a 2.5 is always rounded up to 3.
The base of each character are its attributes. SpartanS knows six of them: Strength (STR), Constitution (CON), Dexterity (DEX), Agility (AGI), Intelligence (INT), and Wisdom (WIS). The number of attributes is intentional: There are three active attributes and three passive ones. The purpose of the labels active and passive is not just to express symmetry, thus making the list of attributes easier to remember; the passive attributes also lend them selves well for saves, checks against a threat a character must defend itself instinctively from.
- Strength (STR)
- Raw, bodily strength. This attribute describes how much people can carry, and how much force they can bring behind a push. Strength describes how much a body can dish out. Having much strength does not automatically mean that one is also a good climber or fighter, but it sure helps a lot.
- Constitution (CON)
- This describes how much a body can take. People with high constitution can walk longer and endure adverse conditions longer than those with less constitution. It also quantifies how good one’s immune system defend itself against an illness or poison.
- Dexterity (DEX)
- People with a high dexterity have nimble fingers: They can piece together a complex mechanical system, pick locks, and have a steady aim.
- Agility (AGI)
- Keeping balance even on a rope, reacting that fraction of a second faster than your opponent, or escaping the deadly trap just when you hear the click of the spring: People with high agility dance well, ride well, and are seldom surprised.
- Intelligence (INT)
- Intelligent people learn fast, can draw conclusions easily, are good at combining facts, and are apt to logical thinking. Intelligence describes not just knowledge, but a person’s general ability learn, remember, draw conclusions, and think logically or mathematically.
- Wisdom (WIS)
- Wise people have probably seen and heard many things. They have a way of looking at the reality that shows great experience and a deeper understanding of things, people, and the universe around them. A wise man notices things quickly and has a way with people—even if he often chooses to appear as if not.
Secondary Characteristics and Saves
The attributes of a character are used to derive her secondary characteristics, which are her health (measured in hit points, HP), her magical energy (measured in magical points, MP)—if appropriate, e.g., in a fantasy-themed setting—, and her sanity (mental health, measured in sanity points, SP):
- 6 + D6 × CON HP
- Magic Energy
- 6 + D6 × INT MP
- 6 + D6 × WIS SP
The game master can always decide to let a player re-roll if the die shows 1 or 2 to make sure a character with a certain attribute bonus is actually exceptional because of this underlying attribute.
All three passive attributes are also used for saves. A save is a roll a player must succeed in order to save his character from an unforeseen danger. Depending on the situation, a successful save can halve the damage a character would otherwise take, or avoid it entirely. The saves are:
- CON save
- A character’s bodily health is in danger and his constitution must save him. A CON save can be called in by the game master for illnesses, poisons, and to avoid falling unconcious.
- AGI save
- Whenever a character is surprised by something and has to react instinctevely, an AGI save is in order. AGI saves test a character’s reflexes and can be used to keep the balance when the ground shakes violently, to stay on a horse when the animal is frightend, or to (narrowly) escape a trap that springs.
- WIS save
- To influence one’s mind can be countered by experience and a deeply rooted, positive world outlook. A character’s wisdem helps him against everything that boggles the mind, be it hyponsis or a magic dominitation spell.
Note that any dangers a save addresses can be categorized by a level ranging from 1 (as easy as it gets, fails only due to a fumble) to 6 (almost impossible).
SpartanS is skill-centric and tries to solve almost any in-game situation with an appropriate skill roll. Thus, few deviations from the simple attribute + skill - stacking penalties + D6 rule exist.
Since SpartanS is agnostic of the time and setting the story takes place in, a number of different skill lists exist: The common, or core skills are probably used in every game; a list of additional skills exists for fantasy-themed settings, as well es a list for modern-themed games.
Game masters and players alike should come up with their own skills, if they feel the need to do so. When inventing new skills, the game master must ensure that the skill has a specific description, but is still broad enough so that it can be applied in several situations. A skill a player uses only once in an adventure is probably not a very interesting one.
Climbing, jumping, running, swimming, throwing, and more: Athletics checks test a character regarding his performance in the classical contests, and potentially related disciplines. This can have many applications during a story: Sprinting to catch a thief, jumping over a chasm, or throwing a grenade. An athletics check usually assumes a performance over a short period of time, in contrast to longer tests of endurance, such as a marathon run. If a character needs to perform an athletic action over a longer period of time, the game master can call for CON saves with increasing difficulty, starting at difficulty 1, to represent the growing exhaustion of the character.
Crafting expresses skills in and knowledge of skilled work. Ranks in crafting show a character’s aptitude in creating or repairing numerous things, from carving arrows over repairing shoes and tents to creating traps. Most tasks in crafting except for the most simple mending jobs require tools.
A character can (try to) dodge things he sees coming. This will usually mean a blow in combat, but can extend to any situation in which the hero sidesteps a danger he is aware of. A character needs room to dodge, otherwise, he cannot do so. If the hero is unaware of whatever he needs to dodge, the game master should call for an AGI save instead.
Feats of Strength (STR)
Raw physical prowess alone does not necessarily help in all cases: The hero must still know how to lift a heavy weight without hurting herself and how to apply leverage when she needs to force a door or a lid open. Thus, Feats of Strength constitutes the skill of actually applying the force the hero’s body is capable of.
Hand-held Weapons (STR)
From the simple stick to the noble sword, from the modern baton to the futuristic shock staff: every weapon one holds in one’s hands to hit somebody else with is covered by this skill. Hand-held Weapons is one of the skills needed in combat; the game master calls for checks when the character attacks with his weapon or uses it to block her adversary’s attack.
Hand-to-hand Combat (AGI)
All types of combat without weapons call for skill checks with this ability, from the tavern brawl to sophisticated martial arts. Hand-to-hand combat is based on agility, because the most impressive effects can be achieved by using the attacker’s force against her. Not every action in hand-to-hand combat is based on reacting, however, fighters specializing in unarmed combat will eventually find themselves against armed warriors: blocking a sword, an axe, or any other weapon of this kind can inflict damage at the discretion of the game master even though the block check was actually successful. Therefore, such heroes will probably prefer to Dodge instead and the Dodge skill is also based on agility.
Knowledge: Architecture (INT)
The hero knows how buildings are erected and why they are constructed in a certain way. He can identify commonly used materials and what their purpose is. This helps him to grasp the general layout of a building or structure in order to orient him and also means that he can identify the weak spots of a fortification. If a hero possesses ranks in this skill it does not imply that he is a scholar, has studied architecture, or was the apprentice of an architect. Even if he does not know what the classical order entails, he can be aware of the more practical aspects of architecture, e.g., because he spent much time as a soldier in fortifications of different types and layouts.
Knowledge: Lore and History (INT)
Legends of days long past, the life of heroes forgotten by the common folk, rise and demise of an empire long crumbled to dust, or the events that led to the first world war: this skill represents bardic knowledge as well as history as a science, depending on the type of character and the game setting.
Knowledge: Law and Politics (INT)
How are companies incorporated, and who is responsible for the chamber of commerce? Which lord controls the majority in the senate? Whom might the Mafia bribe to achieve their goals? Law and politics are tightly intertwined, and both are treacherous waters to navigate. So, it is good when the hero knows its way around the city hall, the senate, the house of lords, or in a courtroom.
Heroes with ranks in the Mechanics skill know how to identify the purpose of a mechanical construct, can repair it, construct one themselves given blueprints, or even create a completely new one. From the fine clockwork to the inner workings of an oldtimer, from the simple, yet effective trap in a dungeon to the sophisticated construction of a mechanical homunculus: The Mechanics skill covers all these applications. The game master can (and should) apply a penalty for areas the character is not familiar with.
Noticing means experiencing a sensation of one or more of a character’s senses, such as hearing, smelling, feeling, or seeing. However, the human body experiences many sensations throughout a day without actually being aware that these are something special. Thus, experience is necessary to grasp the meaning of a tone that is unusual, a smell that seems just a little bit too sweet, or that blink one can see only from a certain angle.
Every type of ranged combat is handled with the Shooting skill. In a fantasy setting, this mostly means bows and crossbows, though slingshots and other types of arms for ranged combat also fall into this category. In games in a modern-times setting, the game master will handle pistols, shotguns, rifles, etc. via this skill. ‘Shooting’ is a very general, broad category for all types of actions; especially in modern types, the hero might have a bow and a gun available. The game master should then treat the unfamiliarity of the character with a certain weapon as a difficulty that justifies a penalty.
Cities are a type of terrain of their own, with their own, sometimes very special rules. Does a local mob control a quarter? Is there a thieves guild one should be aware of? Can the party buy the services of a local assassin? How can the heroes turn up local black market dealers? And how can a one locate a safe house? In the twisty mazes of an old city’s streets to the finer details of the local customs, surviving in a foreign city certainly means more than checking into the next best tavern or hotel. A streetwise hero knows its way around foreign places—and even more so in his own backyard!
Wilderness Survival (WIS)
Pitching a tent might be one of the easier tasks for a weathered hero (and probably the first challenge for a new one), but keeping one’s orientation even in the thickness of the forest, during cloudy nights and rainy days, finding edible plants and fruits while avoiding predators, keeping a fire going during a storm, and procuring drinkable water requires some experience in Wilderness Survival.
Social skills are separated from the core skills for a particular reason: The game master might want to choose to have all social interaction played out at the table, rather than resorting to skill checks. There is a fine balance to be kept here, depending on the type of players at the table: Playing out social interaction might lead to a more fun gameplay as it avoids reducing these situations to a mere roll of a die. However, it might put players at a disadvantage who are not especially good at playing the social part, who will actually experience a gain in fun by having a character who excels at social interaction.
This constitutes a form of ‘persuasion’ that works with a well-placed threat. And a threat is no use if the character cannot back it up. Usually, this involves some muscle; hence, the backing attribute for this skill is STR. If the character makes a threat that implies that others might hurt the threatened person—such as a bodyguard—, the player can subsitute this character’s STR value for her own for the skill check. Some threats do not involve an intimidating statue, but nevertheless need some substance, like a box of ‘tools.’ In this case, the game master can substitute the STR attribute value with a +1 bonus.
Heroes with ranks in the leadership skill can inspire confidence in others, give orders—and have others actually follow them. While the Leadership skill does not force people to obey the hero, they will certainly be inclined to do so if they want do choose somebody as their leader. A successful Leadership check can, at the discretion of the game master, help people to overcome a WIS save or give them a bonus to attack since they act more coordinated.
Negotiation and Persuasion (INT)
A hero capable of proper negotiation know how to make another person an offer he won’t easily refuse—and still get something out of it. She can persuade others that her view of things is, indeed, the correct one.
Sense Motive (WIS)
Sometimes one would like to know what goes on behind the other person’s eyes: what is he thinking and what are his motives? Characters with ranks in the Sense Motive skill can at least guess it: experience brings the skill of gauging another character’s intentions.
It might be obvious that many people in today’s times can drive a car, but a chase through a crowded city is quite another thing than driving to the next shopping mall. A skilled driver knows how to handle a broad range of cars, how to drive them at their limit, and how to execute maneuvers such as an escape turn.
In modern times, most people know how to use a computer to surf the web, find web sites with Google, and how to read and write e-mail. So even if a character has no ranks in the Hacking skill, she can still operate a Windows PC, Mac, or one of the nearly ubiquitous smartphones.
Hacking is something entirely different altogether. It starts with writing programs and administering systems, knowing one‘s way around Unix systems, includes tracing packets and e-mails and encompasses all the finer skills of a real computer hacker: breaking into other computer systems, circumventing firewalls, planting backdoors and the things alike—and covering one’s tracks.
Piloting: Aircraft/Boat (DEX)
The hero knows how to take off with a plane, or how to race a speedboat through a canal. These two skills, Piloting: Aircraft and Piloting: Boat enable the character to control an aircraft or a boat respectively in a meaningful way. In contrast to the Driving skill, having ranks in these skills is required to pilot a plane or a vessel.
Science: Mathematics/Checmics/Physics/History/etc. (INT)
In modern times, there are numerous scientific disciplines; the time of the polymath is long since over. One can reasonably assume that the heroes posses some general knowledge, especially about the things that are common in their time and setting, or with regards to their profession. However, in-depth scientific knowledge requires ranks in the skill fitting the description. E.g., a detective knows very well how to search for fingerprints and watch out for strands of hair, but will not be able to pinpoint the hair to a specific person without ranks in Science: Medicine—and a laboratory.
In SpartanS, combat is just another series of skill checks. First, all combatants determine the order of action, i.e., their initiative. Rolling initiative is a simple AGI check; the character with the highest result starts first, then the other combatants in order of their decreasing initiative roll result. When two characters have the same initiative value, the character with the higher AGI value acts first. If both AGI values are the same, the player character acts first. If both are player characters, they act simultaneously.
A combat round lasts for about three seconds of in-game time. A character can usually perform one (active) action when her turn has come and one (defensive) action when she is attacked. In addition, each character can perform two simple actions that do not require attention, such as shouting a short sentence (3–5 words) or making a step covering about 1m. The defensive action cannot be converted into another active action, even if it is not being used.
Heroes can choose to do more than one thing during their turn. All subsequent actions are then penalized with one additional difficulty, starting from the second action. I.e., the first action has no penalty (±0), the second action is penalized with -1, the third with -2, and so on. If an action would typically not require a check, it will now, using, e.g., Athletics or similar skills. This expresses the increasing stress the hero works under.
Attacking and defending is an opposed skill check. The attacker announces how she will attack her opponent, the defender then announces his defensive skill. The resulting dice rolls are then compared: the higher result wins, i.e., the attacker managed to hit her opponent or the defender was able to block or dodge. If the results are equal, the player character wins. Finally, if attacker and defender are player characters, the attacker wins.
If the attack was successful, the weapon damage is applied to the person that was hit; armor can reduce damage. The section on equipment details damage values and armor protection.
In SpartanS, magic is just another skill check. Naturally, invoking magic simply succeeds, and no check is needed. However, in most cases, there will be an opposing force.
Magic skills represent the character’s knowledge in a particular school of magic. The following schools of magic—and hence skills—exist:
The school of Creation teaches spells that summon new things, and even beings, and enables its followers to mend and repair objects, or heal other people and creatures. In opposition, the school of Destruction offers damaging spells that harm objects and beings alike. Spells from the school of Illusion craft new sensory experiences, even whole facsimile worlds, whereas the school of Destruction seeks the ultimate thruth in death itself.
Spells are organized by the schools that teach them as well as by their level. Casting a spell needs at least one combat action of time, after which the effect manifests itself—i.e., during the same combat round immediately after the casting character’s turn—, unless something different is given in the spell’s description.
Each spell costs a number of magical points (MP) equal to its level.
The spells listed in the next section are suggestions that make starting with SpartanS easier, not a canonical spell list the game master must adhere to. The spell list follows a number of implicit guidelines about deriving numbers for the spells themselves in order to make them implicitly consistent. If a spell warrants or requires a save, the difficulty of the save is equal to the level of the spell. Since spells are organized in level 1–6, a level 6 spell is also extremely difficult to counter with a save. The level of the spell can also determine the number of dice available to the caster. This stems from destructive spells and the notion that the average player character has 6 HP available, so a level 5 spell that can cause 5D6 points of damage to a player character is very powerful (as it can kill a player immediately) and also costs 5 MP, making it quite rare. Spells that become more powerful the more training the caster has received from the school of magic the spell originates from are tied to the ranks the caster has in this ability, usually as a fixed number. Distances, areas, and weights use the ranks in the skill either multiplied with two (2 × ranks in meters, kilograms) or in a squared unit (e.g., m²).
Each spell of this level costs 1 MP to cast.
Light (All Schools)
This simple spell conjures a glowing light at is fixed to an object, like a staff, or even a person’s hand. It glows for as long as the wizard wants to, as maintaining this spell is a subconscious effort through the many years of training.
The wizard can also adjust the light’s intensity, ranging from a faint glow to a bright, white light. The light cannot be focused by this spell alone; it radiates on all directions. However, the wizard can cast it on an interior piece of a storm lantern and then use the lantern’s shield to focus the light to a beam.
Magic Missile (Destruction)
A simple, yet effective spell. The wizard points with his finger at the target and rolls a Magic: Destruction check to hit. A bolt of magic energy then zaps from his finger and is launched at the target. The so attacked can try to evade the missile by using the Dodge skill.
If it hits, Magic Missile deals damage equal to 1D3 plus the wizard’s ranks in Magic: Destruction. E.g., a wizard with 2 ranks in this skill could launch a Magic Missile that would deal 1D3 + 2 points of damage on impact. Magic Missile can also damage any structure. Armor reduces the damage as usual.
The initiates of the school of Creation first learn to repair things, using the already existing pattern of matter as a blueprint. The Mending spell certainly serves the wizard throughout his life, as its applications are manifold: Mending recreates damaged structures, even those completely dissolved, given the larger frame within which they existed are still discernable.
The spell fixes an area equal to the wizard’s ranks in Magic: Creation in square meters. E.g., a spellcaster with 2 ranks in Magic: Creation can mend an area of 2m². Each square meter needs 1 combat round of time for mending. Repeated applications of this spell cannot repair an area larger than indicated by the wizard’s ranks, but the spell can be immediately applied to a different area.
See Truth (Illusion)
Followers of the school of illusion first learn to discern fake images, sounds, smells, and tactile sensory input in order to distinguish reality from illusion. Through this spell, the player can use his character’s Magic: Illusion skill to see through an illusion instead of resorting to a WIS save.
See Death (Necromancy)
The necromancer can, through the application of this spell, see whether somebody recently died in the surrounding area, and where exactly. The boundaries of the area are what the necromancer can see with his naked eyes. The spell does not only indicate where somebody died, but also how, as it allows a glimpse to the last three seconds of the dead ones lives. Indeed, if in the area the spellcaster looks upon several people died, she will see every single one’s death.
Although necromancers are used to dealing with death—and dead creatures in all forms, for that matter—, they might not similarly be acquainted with the actual act of dying. Therefore, especially gruesome death might warrant a WIS save; if the spellcaster fails it, she loses 1 SP (but still obtains the information wanted).
Each spell of this level costs 2 MP to cast.
Disrupt Magic (Destruction)
This spell destroys the very fabric of a spell, nullifying it. The spellcaster must be able to unambiguously name and locate a point in reality where the spell is anchored on, e.g., an artifact, a lock, the spellcaster itself when he is making obvious gestures, or simply the effect of the spell: a magic shield, a bolt of lightning, etc. Guessing alone does not locate the spell, i.e., if a wizard only suspects that a lock is magically reinforced, she cannot successfully apply Disrupt Magic to it. Specifically illusions are therefore hard to target. If the wizard, however, as succeeded at an appropriate WIS save against the illusion in question, she can target and destroy it. Otherwise, a prior successful application of the See Magic spell will help.
Disrupting a spell requires the two casters to engage at a skill contest, with the original caster using the skill he used to weave the spell that is about to be disrupted, and the attacking wizard using her Magic: Destruction skill. The Disrupt Magic spell causes damage to magic-based, ethereal creatures such as ghosts or an necromancer in its ghost form. The amount of damage is equal to the level of the skill D3s plus the user’s rank in Magic: Destruction. E.g., a spellcaster with 3 ranks in this skill would cause 2D3 + 3 points of damage.
This spell creates a simple, static illusion. It targets as many senses as the caster has ranks in Magic: Illusion. E.g., with 1 rank, the illusionist can create a fake image or fake smell, with 2 ranks, he can create a fake image that emits a fake sounds, and so on. Those who become aware of the missing sensorial sensation (e.g., the image of a beast that makes no sound) can make a WIS saving throw against the level of the spell (2) to identify the illusion as such. Similarly, an ‘unrealistic’ illusion that challenges the current reality profoundly (such as rain in the desert) also triggers a WIS save against the level of the spell. The illusion lasts for a number of minutes equal to twice the spellcaster’s ranks in Magic: Illusion or until she dismisses it.
Spectral Hand (All Schools)
Extends the mage’s natural extremities with a magic one. Magic Hand allows the magic to move, push, lift, etc. any object or person in the same way he would with his real hand. The Mage Hand extends to a number of meters equal to twice the ranks in a magic skill of the player’s choosing and is strong enough to influence (e.g., move, push, or lift) objects or creatures that weigh twice the ranks in the chosen magic skill, in kilograms. A wizard that chooses to use Magic: Creation, because he has 3 ranks in this skill, could move an object that weighs 6kg and is 6m away. The spectral hand itself cannot be naturally seen, but if made visible, it can be attacked and subsequently destroyed: it has 2 HP and no armor. The wizard himself is not hurt if his spectral hand receives damage. The spectral hand is immune to damage from elements that were not magically summoned and therefore can be used to, e.g., lift a white-hot rod of metal from a furnace.
The wizard forms a shield of pure magical energy at his arm, which he can use to block hits, projectiles, extreme heat or cold, and similar dangers. This shield is ¾ the height of the mage and 2m wide, providing ample cover for the bearer. However, the shield does not have any weight. The wizard still needs to actually block hits or other threats to his body, using his Magic: Creation skill for it; if he does not succeed at the roll, he receives damage as if unguarded.
The shield receives the damage intended for its bearer: it has a number of HP equal to twice the wizard’s ranks in Magic: Creation. If the last instance of damage to the shield causes it to dissolve, it still absorbs it completely. E.g., if a shield has 3 HP and receives 6 points of damage, it is dissolved, but absorbs all 6 damage points in the process. If not dissolved through damage, the shield exists until the spellcaster dismisses it. Maintaining the shield does not require any active thought, thus, the wizard can perform actions—including spellcasting—unhindered once the shield exists.
The necromancer raises a fresh body to do her bidding. The newly animated undead has as many HP as it had when it was alive and unharmed, but it does not retain any skills or knowledge it had in its life. The body cannot speak, perform any sophisticated tasks, or even understand the necromancer after it has risen. Instead, the spellcaster imbues the new zombie with a single, simple mental command during its creation. The zombie exists for a number of hours equal to twice the spellcaster’s ranks in Magic: Necromancy.
Each spell of this level costs 3 MP to cast.
Practicers of necromancy who have sufficiently advanced their knowledge have learnt how to work with undead flesh and bones in a way eeringly similar to how a potter would work with clay. This spell allows the caster to fuse two undead materials, up to two whole creatures: necromantic aberrations are born this way. The new creature has the combined hit points of the two individual bodies. Since it has now two brains, it both parts can still act individually and, e.g., perform two attacks during a combat round.
Indeed, the wizard can use this spell to subsequently connect any number of undead bodies, creating a creature that consists of three, four, five, or more zombies; the number of actions during a combat round is therefore equal to the number of creatures with a (even barely) working brain.
However, a so-created creature does not become more nimble, thus, all actions requiring agility—i.e., all skills based on AGI—use the skill value of the slowest creature-part.
The structure of a living being is inherently more complex than that of any structure; thus, healing somebody is harder than mending an object—and much more complicated than harming it in the first place. This spell heals one living being and restores a number of D6 equal to the level of the spell, i.e., 3D6, plus a number of HP equal to the spellcaster’s ranks in Magic: Creation. E.g., a spellcaster with 2 ranks in Magic: Creation would heal 3D6+2 HP.
Since this spell recreates the original structure of a living being, it also undoes the application of a necromancy spell that raised a creatures as an undead. I.e., the amount this spell would heal a living being, it damages an undead one.
Jam Device (Destruction)
With sufficient understanding of a mechanical process, the wizard who has specialized in the school of Destruction is able to purposefully jam a device instead of resorting to raw, destructive force—a much more subtle approach. A cog that gets stuck, a spring that cracks, linkage that snaps in just the right moment: neither the current user of the device nor an engineer will be able to tell what exactly caused the device to malfunction; but a suspecting mage that uses See Magic will be able to detect residue traces of magic.
The wizard who uses this spell must make a skill check (Magic: Destruction) if he must cast the spell in haste (e.g., during combat or if put at the weapon’s point) and especially if the game master considers the current device to be responsible for a difficulty, e.g., because of a mechanism completely unknown to the spellcaster, the device being shielded from inspecting it, redundancies that should help to avoid failures, or especially sturdy constructions.
Levitate (All Schools)
This spell allows the spellcaster or somebody he touches to levitate. ‘Levitation’ means that the person becomes weightless and can ascent, descent, or generally move through the air at his own will. The maximum speed of movement is that of a sturdy walk on earth, in all directions. If the person wants to move against a strong wind, he must succeed at a check in a magic skill of its own choosing. If the levitating character is hindered by another person, the two opponents must make an opposing skill check. People not versed in the ways of magic cannot control the spell in order to move against a strong force.
Weave Dreams (Illusion)
This spell allows the illusionist to enter somebodies dreams and be a part of it, either, at the choosing of the spellcaster, as an observer or as an actor within the other person’s dreams. In order to enter somebody else’s dreams, the wizard needs some personal effect of the target character, which he has recently used, held in hand, or to which he has a strong emotional tie to. Better yet is a part of the sleeper’s body, such as a lock of hair. Touching, of course, works just as well.
The illusionist must then make a Magic: Illusion skill check to enter the person’s dreams. If this action is unwanted, the sleeper can make a WIS save to forbid the caster entrance to his dream world. If the caster’s check is successful and he has overcome the sleeper’s save, he can observe and act freely in the dream, even directly communicate with the sleeper. If the spellcaster fails the test, she cannot enter; a fumble imprisons the wizard in the dream world of the sleeper as a mere character appearing in it, unable to influence it on a larger scale, until the dreamer wakes up.
Each spell of this level costs 4 MP to cast.
Alkahest is the universal solvent, able to dissolve any material. Sought out by the alchemist, it is actually a spell developed by the school of Destruction—albeit one that can be put to rather constructive use.
The caster aims the spell at the object he wants to dissolve and specifies the raw materials he wants to extract. The caster can extract a number of raw materials equal to his ranks in Magic: Destruction; every further component constitutes a separate difficulty. All other components coagulate as a mish-mash puddle. E.g., a spellcaster with 4 ranks in Magic: Destruction can choose to obtain 4 materials from an object at no penalty, or 6 materials at a cumulative -2 penalty.
This spell dissolves any target, not just inanimate objects. If aimed at a living creature, it causes 4D6 points of damage, i.e., a number of dice equal to the level of the spell. However, if the creature is protected by an armor, the armor—and then the underlying clothing—is first dissolved into its raw materials before the wearer gets hurt.
The illusionist creates the perfect mirror image of himself. It acts, talks, and smells like the caster and is otherwise indistinguishable from the original—even to sensitive creatures, such as dogs or cats. The hologram can even ‘produce’ items from the illusionist’s backpack, if he carried it when he created the image. However, the illusion is not tangible: it cannot be hit, it cannot pick something up or carry a thing, and it walks through solid matter just like a ghost, meaning that it also cannot open a door. Once something like this happens, it becomes immediately clear to everybody who is watching that the illusion is indeed just that: a shallow copy of the original spellcaster.
If another mage is suspecting the presence of an illusion, she can make an opposed skill check using See Truth against the casters Magic: Illusion skill to reveal the nature of the hologram. Using See Magic also results in an opposed skill check; if successful, the wizard identifies the hologram as a person making heavy use of illusionistic magic and is entitled to a WIS save against the level of the spell (4).
The illusionist can act and talk through its hologram, but needs to concentrate on doing so; if the image should simply stand still, maintaining the spell does not need any effort. The hologram exists for a number of minutes equal to twice the wizard’s ranks in Magic: Illusion. After this time has elapsed—or the wizard dismisses his doppelganger—the hologram simply disappears.
Ghost Form (Necromancy)
For a short period of time, the necromancer can become a spectre; she knows enough of the world of the dead to fade into the realm of ghosts. In this form, she is invisible to other people—unless she chooses to become visible—and can pass through solid objects effortlessly. There is no restriction of movement, i.e., the spellcaster-turned-ghost can as easily levitate and pass through the ceiling as it can walk through a wall.
The ghost form holds for a number of minutes equal to the spellcaster’s ranks in Magic: Necromancy. After this time has passed, the necromancer immediately returns to her physical form, regardless of her current position. If she was not careful, she could rematerialize in midair (and possible plunge to death) or in the midst of a rock (in which case she would immediately die as the rock would also fill her lungs).
Another wizard can detect and subsequently see the necromancer in its ghost form, even if invisible, by casting See Magic. The so-detected wizard is still immune to most forms of damage, except if attacked using the Disrupt Magic spell.
See Magic (All Schools)
Allows the spellcaster to see where magic is being used, identify the school of magic the specific spell originated from, and, if she has ranks in the skill for the particular school of magic, she can also identify the spell’s purpose. See Magic works in this way on all spells in the area the spellcaster can currently see.
Spells that craft illusions are constructed to also make wizards believe in the illusion, and therefore disguise themselves. However, the See Magic spell allows the caster to make a WIS saving throw against the illusionist’s spell.
Summon Elemental (Creation)
The spell summons a mass of a pure element—air, earth, fire, or water—and breathes life into it. The spellcaster must succeed at a Magic: Creation check in order to control the elemental: if he fails, only a portion of the element, without life, remains; on a fumble, the elemental breaks loose and attacks its creator. Once controlled, the elemental understands the mental commands of his master; this mental connection works even through obstacles such as solid wall and, hence, the spellcaster can communicate with the elemental even if it is on an errand.
The elemental exists for a number of hours equal to twice the spellcaster’s ranks in Magic: Creation; afterwards, it simply decays. The caster can, however, feed it by supplying it with more raw material. It is rumored that the masters of the school of Creation have even let their elementals mate and produce offspring.
The spellcaster’s result in his Magic: Creation check also indicates how many hit points the elemental possesses, and how many skill points. E.g., a spellcaster with 4 ranks in Magic: Creation whose player rolls a 5 can create an elemental with 9 HP and 9 freely distributable skill points.
The game master should adjust the final scores in concordance with the element; for example, an air elemental has half the hit points but gains ranks in Dodge and is also faster; a fire elemental harms by nature any creature that gets to close to it (dealing 1D3 fire damage); an earth elemental is sturdier, but has less skill points, whereas a water elemental has more skill points, but is also less capable of taking damage.
Each spell of this level costs 5 MP to cast.
Black Blood (Necromancy)
This mighty poison was specifically created through the application of necromantic magic and is not distilled from any natural source. It is a thick, black liquid that resembles a thick oil or an unholy blood. The Black Blood drips, once cast, from the fingers of the necromancer. She must then directly inject it into the victim’s blood stream, e.g., by smearing it on an open wound.
The victim must pass a CON save against the necromancer’s ranks in Magic: Destruction, or succumb to the poison. His condition gradually worsens for 1D6 + the victim’s CON days; during this time, greenish-black spots form on his body that expand, until his eyes turn black and his appearance resembles that of a ghoul. Once the Black Blood has gained control over the victim, he has a strong appetite for flesh and an equal strong urge to seek out his creator and do his bidding. The ghoul still retains its former memories—although they become increasingly clouded—and, more importantly, its intellect. If he receives the order to harm people than once were dear to him, he is entitled to a WIS save against the level of the spell (5) to refuse the order.
During the time the victim fights the spread of the Black Blood in his body, he can still be saved: Either by an application of the Heal spell or by detecting the Black Blood using See Magic, followed by a purposeful disruption of the magic pattern that constitute the virus with Disrupt Magic. The application of Heal or Disrupt Magic is nothing less than a battle two mages fight in a body; therefore, the necromancer and the other spellcaster must roll a opposed skill check.
The spell enables the caster to use his magic as the purest form of craftsmanship. It allows the creation of simple, sturdy forms, small, yet intricate mechanisms as well as great mechanical constructs. The wizard must have a clear understanding of the final product he wants to create. The simplest form of the spell allows him to summon any simple or compound material and form it to a shape he desires. This model may be as heavy as the wizard himself, and have approximately the same dimensions. Every further mechanism, increase in size (double, triple, etc. the spellcaster’s size) or weight (double, triple, etc. the wizard’s own weight), or additional material increases the complexity of the mechanism and therefore warrants an additional difficulty.
Empower Spell (All Schools)
This spell works on a meta layer as it changes the fabric of whatever spell is cast next by the wizard, making it stronger, last longer, cover a greater area, or harder to counter. After casting this spell, the next spell the wizard casts is cast as if it was one level higher. This modifies any number given in the spell description that is explicitly—or implicitly, at the discretion of the game master—dependent on the level of the spell. The spell then also costs a number of MP equal to its new, i.e., empowered, level.
The spellcaster creates a mighty explosion with a radius of equal to the level of the spell (5) in meters, causing 5D6 points of damage (a number of dice equal to the level of the spell) to every creature and object within the area designated by the wizard. Every creature can make a AGI saving throw against the level of the spell (5) to halve the damage (rounded up). The wizard must see the target area clearly.
Illusionist’s Cloud (Illusion)
Using this spell, the illusionist conjures a cloud above her head. This cloud is about 1m in diameter. Once per combat round, a flash of lightning strikes from the cloud at a random adversary of the wizard. The target must succeed at an AGI save against the level of the spell (5) or be blinded for 1D6 combat rounds and additionally suffering 1D6 damage (armor helps).
Although the illusionist cannot designate the target, she can direct the cloud, which moves at the pace of a slow stroll. The wizard can move the cloud 5m in any direction; it dissolves if moved farther than this distance. The wizard instinctively knows the radius of action. The spell lasts for 5 combat rounds.
Each spell of this level costs 6 MP to cast.
Portal (All Schools)
This spell creates a pair of portals that are connected to each other and allow the caster—in fact, any creature or object—to bridge a distance equal to two times the ranks in any magic skill of the caster’s choosing in miles. The first portal is created immediately beside the wizard; the caster designates the position of the second portal. He can do so freely and does not need to see or have been to the place he targets.
The portals remain open for a number of hours equal to twice the ranks in the skill the caster chose for creating the portals, or until he dismisses them. E.g., a the caster can choose to use Magic: Destruction to create the portals. Having 5 ranks in this skill, the portals can bridge the distance of 10 miles and last for 10 hours (or until the caster dismisses them). Any creature can use the portals, not just the spellcaster’s associates, and they can carry any object with them.
Create Being (Creation)
Nothing less than the creation of a being is this spell’s intent, marking the apex of knowledge of the school of Creation. The spellcaster must succeed at a Magic: Creation check. Before rolling the die, the player must specify what kind of creature she intends to create. If the roll succeeds, the player may distribute 1 attribute point and skill points equal to the caster’s ranks in Magic: Creation.
If she instead fails at the skill check, nothing happens, but the MP are still lost; on a fumble, the creature comes into being as intended, but immediately turns against its creator. The being exists for a number of hours equal to twice the spellcaster’s ranks in Magic: Creation.
Fake World (Illusion)
Nothing less than the creation of a whole world is what this spell was wrought for. It creates an illusion so complete that it is undistinguishable from reality itself. The illusion is complete insofar is it targets all senses a human possesses, i.e., the illusion can be seen, heard, smelled, and touched. The illusion expands in a radius equal to twice the ranks the illusionist possesses in his Magic: Illusion skill, e.g., a mage with 4 ranks in this skill could create an illusion with a radius of 8 meters, which is 16 meters in diameter.
Beings inside the illusion cannot see where the fake world ends. Those inside the illusion who have seen it forming can make a WIS save against the level of the spell, i.e., 6, to see the spell as what it is: an illusion. If the illusion forms a stark contrast to the reality the characters inside have experienced so far—e.g., crafting the illusion of a burning sun during a winter day—are also entitled to a WIS save.
Breaking the illusion with a successful save makes the person also immediately aware of the creator of the fake world. For those outside of the fake world, the illusion does not exist and no boundary is visible. It is thus easy for any character to simply ‘walk’ into an illusion unknowingly. The illusion exists for a number of hours equal to the wizards ranks in Magic: Illusion.
Harms a being’s very essence itself. This devastating spell lets the sorcerer’s hand glow with a deadly, ebony-black energy. He must touch his victim, which in combat means a successful Hand-to-Hand Combat skill check. Touching the target’s clothes or armor, when being worn, also delivers the deadly energy. Not only is this spell especially strong, but it also ignores any armor a person might wear. The target makes a CON save against the level of the spell (6); if successful, the target will be unharmed, if not, the spell will deliver the full amount of damage.
The Harm spell deals damage equal to the ranks in the Magic: Destruction skill of the sorcerer, plus a number of D6 equal to the level of the skill, i.e., 6D6. E.g., if the sorcerer has 4 ranks in Magic: Destruction, this spell deals 6D6+4 damage, ignoring armor. Since the spell targets the essence of creatures, it does not work against inanimate, lifeless objects.
Beings that die because of this spell cannot be resurrected as their sould is also permanently destroyed.
This Magnum Opus of necromancy revives all dead in a radius equal to the conjurer’s ranks in Magic: Necromancy. E.g., a necromancer with 5 ranks in her Magic: Necromancy skill can revive all dead in a 10-meter radius, i.e., a circle with the mage it its center that spans 20 meters.
The spell rips the souls of the only recently deceased from the afterlife and thrusts it back into their bodies, awaking them with all their abilities they possessed in their former life. Older bodies still in decay rise as zombies, and skeletons walk likewise as mindless automatons. Those who have been violently slain return as spectres.
The necromancer must succeed as at a Magic: Necromancy skill check to successfully control the undead she created. Every undead creature additional to the first one adds one penalty to the skill check, regardless of the type of creature. E.g., if the wizard awakes 5 undead, she must succeed at a skill check with a -4 cumulative penalty. On failure, the undead cannot be controlled and roam freely, potentially attacking every other creature they encounter. If the skill check results in a fumble, the creatures are in wrath because of being disturbed in their eternal slumber and immediately attack the caster and her associates.
The undead walk for a number of hours equal to the necromancer’s ranks in Magic: Necromancy.
A hero can usually carry up to 50kg of pack, but this means the he is doing nothing more than walking; a heavy pack usually poses an additional difficulty to any physical task that involves STR-, DEX-, or AGI-based skills. Besides that, tracking the weight of the inventory is probably not very practical, especially with regards to the casual atmosphere SpartanS was made for. Thus, the game master should apply the difficulty only when the weight of a character’s pack becomes obviously high.
Equipment might break due to extreme stress or simply because of uses. This concerns weapons most of the time, which get hammered against by other weapons. An extremely vicious blow against a sword can cause it to shatter. Once such a situation arises, the game master can ask for a breakage save for the weapon or general, the item of equipment in question. The player then rolls a D6 against the current breakage value of the item. An item’s breakage value usually starts with 1. If the player successfully makes the check, the breakage increases by 1, but the item stays intact. Otherwise, it breaks and becomes unusable.
Items of especially high quality have a bonus of +1 to this breakage check; items of poor quality have a penalty of -1 to the check.
Hand-held weapons do damage according to their size:
- Single-handed, small (e.g., a dagger)
- Single-handed, normal size (e.g., a sword)
- Double-handed (e.g., a battle axe)
For all shooting weapons, the damage depends on the type of ammunition:
- Small Bow
- 5.56mm NATO (assault rifle)
- 9mm cast bullet (pistol)
- 9mm hollow-point bullet (pistol)
- 7.65mm NATO (sniper rifle)
If a weapon’s damage depends on strength, the charater’s STR attribute is added to the damage roll. This applies to most hand-to-hand combat weapons such as daggers, swords, clubs, or axes. A two-handed sword therefore causes 2D6+STR points of damage. Weapons where dexterity plays an important role, because the character needs to have a good aim, which is appropriate to smaller bows, crossbows, pistols, assault rifles, and also stilettos, have the hero’s DEX value added to the damage roll.
Armor simply reduces damage by a certain value. The game master can choose to handle different types of damage, but generally, wearing armor simply means that the wearer can subtract a fixed value from the final damage value.
- Padded leather
- Full plate
- Kevlar west (KM-2)
SpartanS promises to make spontaneous, free-style role playing sessions easy. While it is worthwhile and even rewarding for certain styles of playing to be very precise about the characters’ inventory, thorough bookkeeping might hinder the start into the actual thick of the story. However, being alone in a dungeon essentially requires to find to solution with whatever the heroes have with them and therefore also needs a carefully maintained equipment list.
SpartanS offers a middle ground between plunging head-first into adventure and carefully managing the resources the player’s have at hand. It is called Prepardness and manifests itself in the form of a pool the player’s can use as equipment they have, but do not need to specify.
The party has a pool of Prepardness points equal to the number of members of the party. Whenever a member needs a certain item of equipment, he can use one point of the Prepardness pool to actually have it—in this case, the game master can narrate a flashback of how the hero haggled with a merchant for exactly this item. The pool exits for the whole party, i.e., even though the initial number of Prepardness points equals the number of characters, a player can use more than one point from the pool, if the other permit. If the game master deems the presence of the requested item in the hero’s backpack unlikely, he can call for a WIS check; the player may then use one point from the Prepardness pool to get +1 to his WIS check.
Character Creation and Advancement
Character creation is very straightforward. The game master asks each player what kind of character she wants to play. He then awards 1 point to a specific attribute for the player’s character; all other attributes remain at 0. Since the value of an attribute counts for every check dealing with a skill related to this attribute, it emphasises the character’s predisposition towards a particular type of actions.
Afterwards, the player calculates her health, magic energy—if appropriate—and sanity.
Then, the game master awards 6 skill points for the player to freely distribute. She can pick skills from the skill list or make up her own ones, together with the game master.
The player’s equipment is given by the game master and contains the usual items appropriate for the game that is about to be played, usually including a weapon. Exceptional items can be requested by the player, but the game master has the last word on what is initially part of a player’s inventory and what not.
Finally, begin playing. :-)
During play, the game master can award a skill point to a player for an exceptional action of the player’s character, or long training, either through the description of in-game practicing or frequent application of a particular skill. The player can then immediately advance her character by either improving an/the appropriate skill or by adding a new skill with 1 rank to her skill list. This happens at the discretion of the game master, who usually has the last say in this matter with regard to the story. Advancing a skill point can and probably should happen in the middle of a game session and not at the end so that players can immediately enjoy their new skill point.
Attributes seldom improve. The reason behind this is the notion that attributes describe the physical or mental setup of a character: while it is possible to improve one’s skills or acquire new ones, actually becoming physically stronger, more agile, or more intelligent later in one’s life—the heroes are usually not children—is a very hard thing to achieve. Therefore, the game master should award an attribute improvement only in rare and exceptional circumstances.
Eric MSP Veith [email protected]
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SpartanS Rules PDF