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Nine Powers title

Core Rules

Core Rules Summary

Table of Contents
Skill and Talent Rules
Skill Use
Skill Descriptions
Talent Descriptions
Combat Rules
The Flow of Combat
Equipment During Combat
Skill Use During Combat
Magic Rules
Magic Item Prices
Impact Rating
Magic Item Examples

The people playing 9P have different roles. One acts as narrator. The other (or others) play the role of one protagonist, making choices and developing personality for that protagonist. The narrator describes the setting and uses rules to adjudicate the successfulness and consequences of protagonist intentions. Together they develop an adventure story.

For historical reasons, this type of cooperative storytelling game is called a role-playing game or RPG, the narrator is called the Game Master or GM, and the other people in charge of the protagonists are called the Players.

Two other traditional acronyms calling the main characters Player Characters or PCs, as opposed to the characters controlled by the GM who are called Non-Player Characters or NPCs.

9P has no rules for the Player! The Player simply describes what he or she wants the PC to do, one intention at a time. The rules are only needed by the GM.

However, the Player is welcome to learn the rules. Here is a quick summary of the rules, for a curious player to reference.

The GM and Player take turns telling the story. This is a cooperative type of play. But the story becomes suspenseful and exciting when the PC must deal with difficult situations.

Base

Effective

Muscle

Perception/Escape

_____

_____

May ignore ____ group members

Acrobatics/Climb

_____

_____

Reduce ranged attacks by ____

Shoot/Throw

_____

_____

Point blank range is ____ (×3 squares)

Melee/Protect

_____

_____

Attacks injure ____ more opponents

Wrestle/Disarm

_____

_____

Can endure ____ more major losses

Marvel

Stealth/Track

_____

_____

Shadow use of level ____

Identify/Lore

_____

_____

Herbs heal ____ times faster

Bargain/Wonder

_____

_____

Wondrous feats have ____ skill

Disguise/Etiquette

_____

_____

Vocal mimicry has ____ skill

Animals/Wilderness

_____

_____

Animal control has ____ skill

Intuition/Hearthwork

_____

_____

Fast talking lasts ____ hours

Crafting

Alchemy

_____

_____

Identifying potions has ____ skill

Machinery

_____

_____

Increse trap perception by ____

Musing

_____

_____

Sees musing of impact ____ or less

Transmutery

_____

_____

Works at a distance of ____ meters

Skills and talents rated between 0 and 8 measure how well the PC overcomes these difficult situations. New characters have no talents and have 35 points to distribute among the skills, with no skill rating above 4. As the story unfolds, the PC accomplishes objectives and is awarded with increases to skill or talent ratings, and wealth that can be spent to craft or buy magic items.

Difficult situations have three classifications. They may be uncontested with a fixed difficulty, contested with opponents trying to actively out maneuver each other, or passive with a higher skill minimizing or avoiding the difficulty.

A clever character will use advantageous circumstances. Different bonuses and penalties can modify skill use, especially during contested skill use.

To make combat more dramatic than other kinds of difficulties, the game has a few rules about combat equipment and skill use.

This summary should include copies of a few important tables: the types of bonuses and penalties...

An equipment bonus is +1 for an excellent quality item or +2 for an item with a long-duration enchantment.

An equipment penalty is −1 for a broken or improvised item or −2 for a cursed item.

A situational advantage bonus is +1 or +2 for favorable circumstances.

A situational disadvantage penalty is −1 or −2 for unfavorable circumstances.

A bravado bonus is +1 or +2 for boldly taking advantage of an opponent's predictability.

...the flow of combat...

The turn after success with the Melee skill a Wrestle/Disarm attempt will gain a +1 bonus.

The turn after success with the Wrestle skill a Acrobatics attempt will gain a +1 bonus.

The turn after success with the Acrobatics skill a Melee/Protect attempt will gain a +1 bonus.

...and the impact of magic items...

Impact Possibility
-1 inexpensive equipment
0 expensive equipment
3 mundanely impossibe
Impact Area
0 no area
1 set up the area
2 immediately fills area
Impact Convenience
0 needs lab, no range
1 delayed effect, can have range
2 immediate effect, can have range
Impact Losses
0 no damage, or skill dependent
1 cause or cure 1 minor loss
2 cause or cure both minor losses
3 cause or cure all but last major loss
5 cause or cure any affliction

Example of Play

Consider a short example of play. Notice that neither the GM nor Player ever mention any part of the game's rules. This allows the game to flow and feel like how authors write a story. Adventures are full of surprises! The plot is non-linear. Characters do unexpected things. Protagonists grow in unpredicted ways.

Boxley and the Giant Lizard

Player: Boxley grunts at the giant lizard and swings her sword. If only she still had her bow!

GM: The lizard tries to veer aside, but is scratched by Boxley's blade. Its right foreclaw cuts Boxley, knocking her off balance.

Player: Boxley recovers her balance. She is bleeding from a slash on her arm. She spits and uses her magic jumping boots to leap atop the boulder. Then she waits for an opportune moment, yells, and jumps down to stab the beast in its back. Hopefully the combination of elevation and a sudden, forceful blow will do the trick.

GM: The lizard is quick. Boxley does land on its back, but in the split second before the sword blade hits the lizard shakes violently and then rolls. She does stab it, but only a minor wound. The lizard gets to its feet slightly faster, and lunges.

Player: Boxley tries to jump aside.

GM: She does so easily. The lizard lunges again.

Player: This is going nowhere. Boxley jumps onto the boulder again. Can she notice anything about the lizard's behavior that might help her?

GM: The lizard pauses, panting and glaring at Boxley. It paces back and forth, swishing its tail. As you watch it you notice it is sniffing intently, even though it can still see Boxley.

Player: Boxley takes a stink bomb from her backpack and throws it at the lizard.

GM: The lizard hisses in anger and confusion when the stink bomb explodes.

Player: Boxley repeats her diving attack.

GM: This time Boxley connects. The lizard screams as Boxley's sword sinks deep into its shoulder.

Player: Boxley pulls her sword free. She tries to sneak behind the lizard and then charges it.

GM: The lizard is so disoriented from the stink and from its wound that Boxley is able to get behind it unnoticed. Her charge connects, wounding the creature by its left hip. The lizard crumples to the ground, defeated.

Player: Whew. Boxley removes her sword, but does not kill the beast. Perhaps it will recover enough to retreat to its lair where she might find something interesting?

PC Archetypes

The Player does needs to have ideas about what his or her PC is like. Some Players like to be creative and invent a very original protagonist. Other players like using archetypical protagonists.

Three Example Character Concepts

"My hero is like Robin Hood in the Errol Flynn film. He is energetic, physical, and charming. He is the best archer, and a very good swordsman. He is pretty observant. He is not an acrobat, but he can swing from chandeliers or safely jump down from a high place."

"My heroine is like Kerowyn from the Mercedes Lackey stories. Maybe she even has some kind of magic sword. She works as a mercenary. She is a dangerous swordfighter and a capable team leader. She values honor and fair play. She could teach and inspire people. She rides a horse very well. I want her to be good with all animals, not just horses."

"My hero is a fantasy equivalent of James Bond played by Sean Connery. He always knows the right thing to say. He is good at fighting but not a champion. Actually, he is quite skilled with a bow but would rather wrestle than fight with a sword or dagger. He knows a lot of things, especially about people and society. And if he does not know something he knows who to ask. He is a little sneaky, but prefers to use a disguise and not need to sneak. He is very perceptive. If there is a bad machine he knows how to take it apart."

If you are a Player reading these rules, take a moment to imagine what type of fantasy character you would like to play.

The tools most helpful to a Player are a paper and pencil used to keep track of the PC's inventory. What does the hero wear and carry? Does he or she have a house or animals? What else is owned but not carried around? What alchemical recipes or mechanical blueprints are known?

The GM will need to know the PC's starting skill ratings. Many of these skill ratings will already be established before the story begins if the Player has described his or her character concept well.

As the story develops, the GM will ask the Player questions as need arises to help determine newly needed skill ratings. (For example, "You might be able to jump over that pit. How good is your character at jumping?") A new PC may have skill ratings that total 40. If the Player consistently describes the PC is capable at everything, the PC will soon run out of available points and the GM will set the remaining undecided skill ratings to the minimum of 1.

A PC's skill ratings are not secret. The Player may refer to them, but should not need to.

During the story, the Player's job is to describe what the PC tries to do. Be daring, dramagic, and confident! Try to keep the pace of the story quick and exciting.

The rules are only an aid to help the GM decide whether the PC and NPCs are successful in their intentions. The rules surround the story with an unobtrusive layer of structure that provides consistency and a shared understanding of what might reasonably happen.

On one hand, the GM's rulings are more important than what the rules say. A fun GM prioritizes helping a thrilling and dramatic story unfold, and does not always follow the rules. On the other hand, when the rules lead the action in an unexpected direction, a wise GM trusts that the story will naturally flow into places even more colorful and memorable than what was planned or predicted, and does not sidestep the rules to protect the prepared plotline.

Skills and Talent Rules

9P uses "skill-based" rules. As characters gain experience and power they increase in proficiency with any of the game's skills and talents. (This is different from a RPG in which characters instead advance through "levels".)

There are only a few skills. This mimics the exaggerated prowess of protagonists in classic "heroic opera" pulp stories and films. In this genre, heroes and heroines demonstrate unrealistic expertise at broad categories of real-life skills. For example, Yu Shu-lien fights expertly with any melee weapon, James Bond uses all pistols with equal mastery, Benedict of Amber optimally leads any army on any battlefield, and Buckaroo Bonzai can expertly drive any vehicle.

Because characters are described with only a few numbers, the GM can readily improvise NPCs. This helps the story go quickly and encourages a focus on creativity and exciting actions.

For purely aesthetic reasons the skills are sorted into three categories of Muscle, Marvel, and Crafting. These categories normally have no effect on game play.

(But they could! For example, the GM could put into the story an enchanted belt that grants whomever wears it a 2-point equipment bonus to Muscle skills.)

9P includes a sample setting named Spyragia. It is very easy to replace this sample setting with any other setting. Usually only the skills that describe magical crafting need changing.

These rules sometimes refer to half of a skill's name when doing so aids contextual clarity. For example, these rules will sometimes discuss "the Wrestle skill" instead of "the Wrestle/Disarm skill".

In these rules skill names are always capitalized. Thus helps differentiate situations from skills. For example, while bargaining a character will certainly use the Bargain skill, but will could also use the Identify and Intuition skills to appraise the value of items.

The point of the previous paragraph deserves repeating. One situation can be approached with many skills! This makes 9P different from most other skill-based RPGs.

One Situation, Many Skill Options

Player: Vroy leaps off the ledge onto the monster.

GM: Great! Can you tell me more? What is Vroy trying to accomplish?

Player: I want to land on it while we fight.

GM: Okay. Are you trying to ride it? Knock it over? Stab it as you land? Land so it does not notice you? Subdue it with the force of your personality?

Trying to ride a creature would use the Animals skill. Trying to knock it over would use the Wrestle skill. Trying to leap and stab would use the Melee skill. Trying to land unnoticed would use the Sneak skill. Trying to subdue it with an imposing presence would use the Wonder skill. The rules make clear all these options, and others!

The Player does need not need to know these rules (but certainly may). The GM must know the rules to know which skill to reference when adjucating the results of Vroy's action.

These rules about skills, talents, combat, and magic items are "core rules" both because they are almost independent of setting and because they are the general rules that get trumped by more specific rules. As one example, the core rules state that no character starts with any talents. However, the setting-specific rules about Spyragia's eight intelligent races provide an exception to that general rule: members of each race start with one point in a certain talent as part of their racial heritage and expertise.

Skill Use

Uncontested Skill Use

Uncontested skill use happens when only one character is using a skill. These situations are the simplest. The GM knows or improvises the minimum skill rating required for success. The character succeeds if his or her skill rating is equal to or greater than the required amount.

The skill rating involved in uncontested situations might be the character's unmodified skill rating. Often different bonuses and penalties will modify that number, making the effective skill rating at that moment higher or lower.

The number required for success in an uncontested situation is called the target number.

Ability with skills and talents is normally rated between 1 and 8. So are target numbers. The follow table provides examples of who might have a skill rating, and an example difficulty of a corresponding task.

RatingSkill or Talent ExampleBaking Target Number
1 Wimpy - An inexperienced person mimicking what he or she has only watched Wimpy - Buttering toast
2 Unchallenged - Peons, pawns, flunkies, mooks, and expendable allies wearing red shirts Unchallenging - Following a recipe after someone else set out the ingredients and cookbook
3 Rough - Guards, thugs, laborers, and others who get frequent occasional training and practice Rough - Making a crumb crust cheesecake
4 Practiced - Veterans, diplomats, craftsmen, and others showing fine experience Practiced - Making a cake with jam between the layers, patterned frosting, and pretty piped icing decorations
5 Superior - Guard captains, bandit chiefs, master craftsmen, and other experts and leaders in their fields Superior - Making the wedding cake for a noble family
6 Elite - The local celebrity, someone who is the best in the local region at this skill Elite - Making the wedding cake for a royal family
7 Heroic - Most people only meet someone this skilled once or twice Superior - Making the wedding cake for an imperial family
8 Legendary - Most people never meet someone this skilled Legendary - From more than ten meters away the cake is indistinguishable from a real dragon

Neither the GM nor Player actually use those nicknames for the numerical ratings. They are only included for fun.

Notice the four pairs. Skill ratings 1 and 2 are for skills rarely or never practiced during stressful situations. Skill ratings 3 and 4 denote skills used almost daily, often as a professional to earn a living. Skill ratings 5 and 6 are special and elite, probably unique to any town or region, respectively. Skill ratings 7 and 8 do not appear in most adventures.

Skills in SPECTRE

Consider the novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The common SPECTRE agents employed at Piz Gloria were easily fooled and fought by Bond (skill raing 1 in most skills, perhaps 2 in Melee/Protect).

Blofield is far more clever, perceptive, dangerous, and even athletic than these men (skill rating 4 or 5 in most skills).

Since Blofield does not employ a mercilessly tough or trained bodyguard like Odd Job or Jaws, the story lacks a villain who can match Bond's skill rating of 6 in Melee and Shoot.

Tracy does match Bond's skill rating of 6 in driving, as well as proving his equal in courage both before and during their brief marriage.

Probably no character has any skill rated 7 or 8, although it could be claimed that Bond developed such unparalleled skill in Perception or Intuition during the previous ten novels.

The GM may allow a rare skill of 0 that represents complete ignorance. For example, a NPC visiting from a distant town who has never seen a clockwork machine or seen the Machinery skill used could have a skill rating of 0 in Machinery. A NPC who grew up in a peace-loving commune might never have been in a fight, seen a serious fight, or studied martial arts, and thus have a skill rating of 0 in Melee. But it should be quite rare for someone to lack even second-hand experience with a skill or its products.

In uncontested skill use, a skill rating in excess of the target number often provides superior results.

Target Numbers: Knowledge About a Monster

GM: As you approach the rubble the rocks on its surface flow together to form a small, humanoid shape that blocks Vroy's way.

Player: What does Vroy know about this kind of creature?

The GM replies with information based upon Vroy's Lore skill rating.

Vroy has an effective Lore skill rating of 5, so he is told the first three pieces of information.

A character who fails can often find another plan that allows success. Perhaps the originally used skill's rating can be boosted by a bonus from using better equipment or gaining a situational advantage. Perhaps the character could attempt to use a different, but still appropriate skill.

Uncontested Situation: Getting Past a Door

GM: At the bottom of the stairs is a thick, sturdy door.

Player: Boxley opens it, quietly if possible.

GM: It won't open. There is a lock, but Boxley does not have a key. The hinges are on the other side.

Player: Hm. The mad scientist must have a secret entrance elsewhere. Oh, well. No quiet now. Boxley forces open the door.

GM: The door is too sturdy. It won't budge.

The GM knows that forcing open the door has a target number of 4. Unfortunately, Boxley only has a Wrestle skill of 3.

But Boxley need not give up. She can gain an boost to Wrestle by using appropriate equipment: perhaps a lever will help force that door. She could find some way of gaining a situational advantage when forcing the door open, such as weakening the latch by putting acid in the lock. Or she could try using a different skill: perhaps she stops pushing and gets out an axe, switching from Wrestle to Melee.

Note that most situations are uncontested and have trivial difficulty. Skill use is automatically successful and not even mentioned by the GM or Player. A PC does not need to formally use the Acrobatcs skill to jump a short distance, the Animals skill to calmly ride a pet horse, or the Perception skill to notice obvious features and items in a room.

Contested Skill Use

Contested skill use happens when multiple characters attempt opposing goals by using skills. Examples of contested situations include haggling over prices (usually Bargain versus Bargain), following a hidden trail (usually Track versus Stealth), searching for a deliberately hidden object or person (usually Perception versus Stealth), sword fighting (usually Melee versus Melee), and arm wrestling (usually Wrestling versus Wrestling).

In its simplest form, the contest is a sequence of turns in which the opponents compare skill ratings for the skills they choose to use that turn. Each turn, the character with the higher skill rating makes progress towards winning the contest.

To include tactical thinking, each turn the character's effective skill rating determines how many maneuver points can be used that turn. These points may be used in three ways:

Any maneuver points saved for the next turn may not be saved again, but must be spent during that subsequent turn.

The concept of "winning more" is measured by counting losses.

Let's revisit the combat between Boxley and the giant lizard.

Boxley and the Giant Lizard

Player: Boxley grunts at the giant lizard and swings her sword. If only she still had her bow!

The GM has decided this lizard is huge but not very smart. It always uses the Melee skill, and always spends all its maneuver points offensively.

Boxley has a Melee skill rating of 2. She has 2 maneuver points to use. The Player and GM both assume that Boxley allocates her maneuver points half offensively and half defensively (1 point each) unless the Player explicitly mentions being aggressive or cautious.

The lizard has a Melee skill rating of 3. It allocates 3 maneuver points offensively and none defensively.

So Boxley's 1 offensive point has no defensive point to cancel it. The lizard suffers 1 loss.

Also, the lizard's 3 offensive points have 1 defensive point to cancel them. Boxley suffers 3 − 1 = 2 losses.

GM: The lizard tries to veer aside, but is scratched by Boxley's blade. Its right foreclaw cuts Boxley, knocking her off balance.

Notice how the GM and Player both contribute to what the Boxley's two losses actually look like.

Player: Boxley recovers her balance. She is bleeding from a slash on her arm. She spits and uses her magic jumping boots to leap atop the boulder. Then she waits for an opportune moment, yells, and jumps down to stab the beast in its back. Hopefully the combination of elevation and a sudden, forceful blow will do the trick.

Not all losses are equal.

The first two losses a character suffers are minor losses that signify temporary inconveniences and setbacks. They tell an opponent that he or she is losing but have no effect on game mechanics: they do not alter skill use, movement, or any other rules.

Examples of Minor Losses

A minor loss in a debate could be speaking clumsily, being caught using a staw-man argument, going off on a tangent, or being laughed at.

A minor loss when fast-talking could be using an excuse the target immediately recognizes as false, or failing at name-dropping because the target knows the important person very well.

A minor loss in combat could be a minor injury or being knocked down, forced back, or loosely grabbed.

A minor loss when ambushed could represent being disoriented or unfocused.

A minor loss when encountering something horrific or startling could represent becoming shaken or sickened.

In the example above, Boxley suffered two minor losses. These were described as a slashed arm and being knocked off balance. But neither effect impacted the character's options. The Player was free to say that Boxley quickly recovered her balance.

However, describing the resolution of minor losses ("Boxley recovers her balance") does not actually remove them. Boxley is still suffering two minor losses at the end of that example.

But minor losses are easy to remove.

During contested skill use, a character recovers from one minor loss each turn it causes a loss to someone else without itself suffering any losses. This represents who is benefitting from gaining leverage or initiative in the contest.

When contested skill use ends, all characters recover from all minor losses.

Note that contested skill use only ends when a character truly leaves the conflict. This could include defeating the opponents, fleeing the conflict, stalling the conflict by retreating to a location the opponents cannot reach, or successfully hiding from the opponents. However, a very defensive situation that merely stalls the conflict does not provide recovery from minor losses.

Adventures might also contain magic items that can heal losses: healing potions, first aid packs, etc. Sometimes these are readied before the adventure begins, when the PC creates, purchases, or finds those magic items. Or those items might be acquired during the adventure. A wise GM knows which type of suspense the Player enjoys.

A character that has already suffered two minor losses and suffers further losses gains major losses. These represent lasting effects that are likely to sway the conflict's outcome.

Examples of Major Losses

A major loss in a debate could represent being proved ignorant and wrong, or speaking in a way that causes suspicion and distrust.

A major loss when fast-talking could represent saying something that triggers one of the listener's worst negative stereotypes.

A major loss when using social graces could be violating a taboo or accidentally causing a deep insult.

A major loss in combat could be a severe or crippling wound, having a weapon broken, being pinned while wrestling, or being backed up to a cliff with nowhere to move.

For example, a character with no losses who suffers three losses in a turn gains two minor losses and a major loss. As another example, a character with one loss who suffers two more gains a second minor loss and then a major loss.

Each time a character suffers a major loss, the opponent who caused the major loss picks one skill that suffers a 1-point situational disadvantage penalty until the major loss is healed.

Most major losses are only healed with magic items or in between adventures. However, the story might make it appropriate for some major losses might be cured with sufficient rest or care (usually either a full night's sleep or a visit to a physician).

Healing major losses is important. Starting a dangerous endeavor when already penalized is dangerous!

Most characters are defeated after suffering two major losses.

(These rules will later explain the exception: Wrestle/Disarm talent.)

When defeat happens the victor usually chooses what this looks like in the story. For example, a wrestler could say he securely pinned his foe, a swordsman could say he backed his foe against a wall with the sword point touching his foe's neck, or a warrior with a mace could say he knocked down his foe until he or she was too beat up to rise. Or any of those combatants could say their foe became disarmed and exhausted, or simply killed by a fatal strike.

However, the GM always has the option of declaring the type of defeat. The GM has more detailed plans for how the story will develop, and is therefore allowed to use defeats to guide the plot in a desired direction.

Siron's Defeats

Player: Siron fires an arrow at the bandit.

GM: The bandit screams as the arrow hits. Unfortunately he is not alone, and his friend is both sneaky and wielding an enchanted mace. Siron wakes up in a dark room. His feet are tied, and he has a huge lump on his head.

The PC was defeated by a stealth melee attack. Given that this happened, the GM has a strong preference for how the story should continune. The GM simply keeps narrating about what the defeat looks like and what happens next.


Player: Siron fires an arrow at the bandit.

GM: The bandit screams as the arrow hits. Unfortunately he is not alone, and his friend is both sneaky and wielding an enchanted mace. Does Siron do or say anything as he slumps to the ground, losing consciousness?

This time the GM allows the Player to contribute to what the defeat looks like. Perhaps the GM has a few alternatives in mind for what could happen next. Or perhaps Siron will still wake up in a dark room no matter what he does, but the circumstances of his captivity will change based upon whether he insults, pleads with, or sleep-gasses the nearby bandits as he loses consciousness.

When the character is opposed by a group, losses caused by that character only apply to one member of the opposing group.

Elusion

Skills are a most often actively used, as discussed above. But in some situations a high skill rating can proactively protect a character.

Most dangerous situations are qualified with an elusion requirement written in brackets that specifies which effective skill rating(s) will avoid or minimize the danger.

Example Elusion Requirements

Landslide [Acrobatics 4 or Escape 5]: these large rocks can be avoided by characters with Acrobatics skill rating 4 or more, or Escape skill rating of 5 or more.

Poison [Wrestle 6]: the poison weakens most characters, but anyone with Wrestle skill rating of 6 or more is so tough that his or her body resists the poison.

Rumor [Etiquette 5]: the slandrous libel will not tarnish the reputation of characters with Etiquette skill rating of 5 or more, who are so well esteemed in the community that no NPC of importance would believe the wicked rumor.

Charm [Wonder 4]: the mind influencing effect does not work on characters with Wonder skill rating of 4 or more, who have sufficient force of personality and experience with strange compulsions to resist the charm.

Floor Trap [Acrobatics 5 or Perception 3]: a trap fires a javelin at whomever steps on a pressure plate in the floor. A character with an Acrobatics skill rating of 5 or more can leap aside quickly enough to avoid the javelin. A character with a Perception skill rating of 3 or more will notice the trap and have a safe opportunity to avoid or disarm it.

Some dangers cannot be completely avoided, and successful elusion only lessens the harm. For example, an avalanche might hurt all characters caught within it, but those with high enough Acrobatics or Escape suffer much less harm.

Elusion is a special kind of uncontested skill use. The character might not even be aware that any uncontested skill use happened! Perhaps the attempt at magically charming the character was done subtly by an disguised enemy spellcaster in a crowded marketplace—the act was not noticeable, and the subtle charm was resisted, so the character is oblivious that anything happened.

Elusion replaces the concept of "saving throws" in some other RPGs.

Adding Dice

A diceless RPG system is very convenient for being playable almost any time. The pace is also quick and exciting as the in-game action is not interrupted by real-life dice rolling.

Yet dice have their virtues. Many people find adding luck increases the suspense and thrill of victory. Some storytellers enjoy having a chance for luck to steer the story in a surprising way. And some people just really like the texture and sound colorful, polyhedral dice.

Adding dice to the 9P rules is easy and striaghtforward.

First, get a bunch of six-sided and twelve-sided dice.

Your character's effective skill rating tells you how many dice to roll: for both a six-sided die and a twelve-sided die for each point of skill rating. During contested skill use, allocate these dice as usual: offensively, defensively, or saving them for next turn.

When you roll your dice, any dice that rolls the values 5 or more counts as a success (during uncontested skill use) or a maneuver point (during contested skill use).

Target Numbers with Dice: Knowledge About a Monster

GM: As you approach the rubble the rocks on its surface flow together to form a small, humanoid shape that blocks your Vroy's way.

Player: What does Vroy know about this kind of creature?

The GM replies with information based upon Vroy's Lore skill rating. Vroy has an effective Lore skill rating of 5. He rolls five six-sided dice: 2, 3, 5, 3, and 4. He also rolls five twelve-sided dice: 9, 4, 2, 6, and 11. Among all those dice, four rolled 5 or more. So Vroy has a total of four successes for this skill use.

This way of using dice produces results close to the numbers used for playing without dice. That means the Players do not need to all agree about using dice. Some Players can use dice, and others can play without dice, and everyone faces the same challenges.

Bonuses

Skill ratings can be boosted because of special equipment, situational advantages, or a bold and surprising action. For example, a nameless pirate crew member (Melee skill rating 2) with excellent armor and an elevation advantage might fight as well as his pirate captain (Melee skill rating 4) who lacks those benefits.

Note that all three types of bonuses can apply at the same time. A character attempting a bold and surprising action can also enjoy a situational advantage, and also benefit from using impressive equipment or drinking a magic potion.

Bonuses may boost the effective rating of a skill above 8.

Notable equipment provides an equipment bonus of either 1 or 2 points.

Equipment of excellent quality provides an equipment bonus of 1 point. Examples include a musician playing a notable instrument, a gladiator wearing well-made armor, or a machinist with an unusually well-stocked workshop.

Equipment that is beneficially enchanted with a long-term enchantment provides an equipment bonus of 2 points. Examples include an archer using enchanted arrows or a blacksmith using an enchanted anvil.

Character that usually use equipment that grants a bonus can mark the effective rating of appropriate skills as usually higher in their skill list.

Vroy and his Sword

Vroy has a Melee/Protect skill of 3. He normally carries an enchanted sword, which is his preferred weapon. So on the character's list of skills he has 3 for his base rating in Melee/Protect, and 5 for his effective rating.

Characters often try to use cleverness or planning to earn a situational advantage bonus.

A situational advantage can arise from features of the location, environment, or creatures, such as a foot race along familiar streets, fighting from higher ground, identifying a very familiar signature amidst forgeries, or scaring very flamable monster by brandishing a torch.

A situational advantage can be a reward for past accomplishments, such as when a hero whom a village adores because the hero helped save a family receives a bonus when bargaining in that village.

A situational advantage can come from character background, such as someone trained as a locksmith who uses Machinery to create or pick a mechanical lock.

A situational advantage can be based on what other people are doing, such as allies flanking an opponent, soldiers aided by their commander's superior tactics and inspiring shouts, or a highwayman abushing a surprised and unprepared target.

The GM decides whether each helpful factor represents a small (1 point) or large (2 points) situational advantage bonus. Even if many factors are all working in a character's favor, the total situational advantage bonus for skill use never exceeds 2 points.

A character can take advantage of a predictable opponent by acting in a surprising, forceful, and bold manner. This can earn a bravado bonus if the opponent is indeed predictable and does not react appropriately to the extra intensity. However, it can be disastrous if the opponent is prepared and handles the pressure effectively.

Unlike the other two types of bonuses, a bravado bonus can only happen during contested skill use. Bravado can be used during combat, debating, haggling, racing, and many other types of contested skill use.

The character seeking a bravado bonus picks one skill that he or she predicts the opponent will use that turn. The guess is only one part of the two-part skill name, for example "Wrestle" not "Wrestle or Disarm". The character also declares if he or she wants a 1 or 2 point bonus. The character then does contested skill use for that turn.

If the character's prediction is correct, that character's contested skill use does gain the bonus that turn.

Hoever, if the character's prediction is incorrect, one of that character's opponents gains the bonus that turn instead.

Each attempt at bravado is a distinct bonus. Thus an effective skill rating could be boosted by 4 points if a character was both successful at his or her own attempt at gaining a bravado bonus, and also gained the opponent's failed bravado bonus.

Penalties

Sometimes skill ratings are penalized.

Inferior equipment can provide an equipment penalty. A penalty of 1 point is appropriate for equipment that is improvised or broken. A penalty of 2 points is appropriate for equipment that is cursed or otherwise magically hindering.

A situational disadvantage penalty is caused by hindrances and complications that effect the character attempting skill use. It is more difficult to sneak when encumbered, to win an archery contest with an injured arm, and to race on an unbroken horse than a trained one.

A situational disadvantage penalty does not come from the difficulty of the task, or the quality of the opposition. Those effects are represented by higher taget numbers. (For example, knocking down not a shanty's old door but a sturdily reinforced armory door, or fast-talking not a gullible hermit but a well-informed and suspicious auctioneer.)

A situational disadvantage penalty does not arise when opposition is empowered. Those effects are represented by bonuses. Once the palace guard has been alerted that a burglar is in the building, the guards all get a situational advantage bonus to notice the burglar sneaking. The archer contest is unfair because one opponent has a magic bow: that character has an equipment bonus.

A situational disadvantage penalty describes how skill use is harder when you are not functioning at 100%. Common sources of situational disadvantage penalties are being exhausted, sick, dehydrated, numbed, weakened, slowed, ensnared, dazed, dizzy, nauseous, choking, overheated, freezing, phobic, befuddled, depressed, enraged, or misinformed.

Some disadvantages are long-term conditions such as an illness or a curse. How these conditions affect skill use should be a matter of common sense. As always, the GM and Player should both contribute with the GM having the deciding word about how skill use is modified. Context determines the extent, severity, and duration of skill use modification.

As with situational advantage bonuses, the GM decides whether a situational disadvantage penalty is 1 or 2 points. The GM and Player should agree on which attempts at skill use receive the situational disadvantage penalty. Perhaps the character's raging headache impedes spellcasting, but makes charging into a cave of monsters with axes swinging feel like just what the character will do best right now.

Circumstances can cause a skill's use to receive both a bonus and a penalty! For example, a gladiator with exceptional armor but a cursed weapon would receive both a 1-point equipment bonus (for the armor) and a 2-point equipment penalty (for the sword), making an overall 1-point penalty to his or her Melee/Protect skill rating.

Muptiple Bonuses and Penalty Example

A PC is fighting a ship full of pirates. The PC has a base Melee skill rating of 3. Fortunately, this is boosted by an enchanted rapier (2-point equipment bonus) and standing higher on the staircase to the forecastle (1-point situational advantage bonus). The PC thus has an effective skill rating of 6, and fares well against her numerous swarthy and confounded foes.

Here is a table that summarizes the six common bonuses and penalties.

An equipment bonus is +1 for an excellent quality item or +2 for an item with a long-duration enchantment.

An equipment penalty is −1 for a broken or improvised item or −2 for a cursed item.

A situational advantage bonus is +1 or +2 for favorable circumstances.

A situational disadvantage penalty is −1 or −2 for unfavorable circumstances.

A bravado bonus is +1 or +2 for boldly taking advantage of an opponent's predictability.

Taking Turns

The final issue with skill is how often the Player and GM take turns continuing the story. How long is a turn?

The Player's turn lasts until the Player describes the PC's intention to use a skill or item. The Player should be careful to describe intentions, not actions.

Usually the PC's plans or desires are immediately successful: they could just as well have been phrased as actions. But assuming success is actually crowding out the GM's turn. Describing intentions provides the GM with opportunities to inject details and complications. Furthermore, intentions are easy to word in exciting and realistic phrasing, and details often make plans more interesting.

For example, during this archery contest the Player expects Boxley will use the Shoot skill when it is Boxley's turn in the contest.

An Honest Archery Contest

GM: It is Boxley's turn in the archery contest.

Player: Boxley politely smiles at her opponent as she calmly looses an arrow at the target.

But the GM has information that the PC lacks...

A Crooked Archery Contest (Part 1)

GM: It is Boxley's turn in the archery contest.

Player: Boxley politely smiles at her opponent as she calmly looses an arrow at the target.

GM: As Boxley sets the arrow to the string she notices her opponent is attempting to switch arrows unnoticed.

Player: Boxley lowers her bow and frowns at the cheater.

It is still the PC's turn. Boxley has not finalized an intention to use a skill or item. Using the Shoot skill that turn is no longer the obvious choice.

Similarly, the Player knows things about the PC that the GM does not. Since both the GM and Player have kinds of unique knowledge, they often ask each other questions. This does not end taking a turn.

A Crooked Archery Contest (Part 2)

Player: Does the new arrow appear enchanted?

GM: Boxley cannot tell. Does she have any experience with the different types of arrowheads used by the northern barbarians?

It is still the PC's turn. Time in the story is frozen as the GM and Player together flush out current observations and background infromation. Boxley has not finalized an intention to use a skill or item.

Smart Players often ask the GM questions such as "What does my character see?", or "Does my character remember if these creatures can climb trees?", "What does my character think is a fair price for selling the gem?" or "Does my character think he could defeat both of them without getting wounded?" The GM might not answer these questions, but it cannot hurt to ask.

The Player may also legitimately ask the GM about PC hunches, such as "Does this merchant seem trustworthy?" or "What does my character think are his best options?".

Even though only one skill or item is used during each of the Player's turns, the turn can include all sorts of details that do not affect the situation's outcome.

Archery without Details

Player: Boxley cautiously fires an arrow at the highwaymen from her hiding place behind the wagon.

Succinct and sufficient. There is nothing especially right or wrong about using few words.


Archery with Steps

Player: Boxley cautiously fires an arrow at the highwaymen. She readies an arrow, leans from her hiding place behind the wagon, selects a target, aims carefully, shoots the arrow, and ducks back behind cover.

Verbose but not boring. When the situation is suspenseful the Player often slowly states a series of steps to provide the GM opportunity to interrupt if the bad guys do something unexpected.


Archery with Extra Actions

Player: Boxley quickly looks at the highwaymen from her hiding place behind the wagon, hollering, "Head down, Friar!" She touches her lucky rabbit foot and prays for luck before drawing her arrow. "Your mother stinks of gooseberry!" she yells as she fires an arrow at the nearest enemy.

Many actions, but only the shooting really affected the situation's outcome. If those other actions did affect the situation then they would require their own turn. Perhaps the insult could demoralize the enemy: it would need its own turn and a use of the the Bravado or Wonder skills. Perhaps the lucky rabbit foot is not merely cherished but is actually enchanted and would grant a skill bonus to the archer's next attack: each time Boxley touched it would then require a seperate turn.

The Player's turn ends naturally. Using a skill or item usually means the Player cannot continue the story without information from the GM about what the PC perceives or what an NPC does.

If the PC is alone and in a familiar place, the Player's turn could be quite lengthy since the Player can continue the story without new information. If the PC is at home, selecting equipment to take into a dungeon and packing it carefully might involve a lengthy sequence of item use (and maybe even skill use) without the GM ever needing to help carry the story forward.

If the PC doing trivial tasks whose outcome is certain, the Player can also keep going without the GM ever needing to help carry the story forward.

Icky Yet Trivial

GM: Vroy falls down the pit, and lands amidst a bunch of hungry giant snails.

Player: Has Vroy heard of such creatures? How dangerous are they?

GM: They are as long as his forearm, but move very slowly. He can easily avoid their bites.

Player: Ick. Vroy kills them all.

GM: Okay.

Many uses of the Melee skill can all happen in a single turn.

Note that even though the GM and PC take turns talking, the results of opposed skill use happen simultaneously. The GM privately decides what the NPC will attempt before the Player says what the PC will attempt. These two intentions are resolved using the above rules for opposed skill use, to decide which characters, if any, are successful, and to what degree.

Conflict in 9P is a lot like a game of rock-scissors-paper with many extra options. Everyone "goes" at the same time. Usually one participant succeeds more than the other.

Some Players prefer when the GM makes public the tracking of losses. They do not mind the narrative being interrupted by the GM saying "your character now has two minor losses", "the opponent suffers its first major loss", etc.

Similarly, in most of these examples the Player does not mention which skill his or her PC intends to use. This is a big part of what makes 9P an ideal RPG for someone who has never played a RPG before, adult or child. The Player can focus on the story without worrying about the game mechanics. As was mentioned earlier, there are no "Player rules" that the Player must learn or keep track of. But if the Player prefers (and when the GM is uncertain) that choice can also be an explicit part of a Player turn.

Remember to only used contested skill use when there is a meaningful situation that involves genuine competition, contest or struggle. A character who wants to kill an unconscious or bound prisoner with a weapon can almost always do so quickly and easily. A customer at the shop can buy a backpack without haggling. A witty and honey-tongued princess can insult uncharismatic visiting nobles all afternoon without effort.

Some items may take a long time to use. Slow tasks such as picking a tricky lock, repairing worn-out machinery, setting up a trap, climbing a high wall, bandaging a hurt ally, or crossing a large pile of rubble could be one turn if the pace of the story is slow, or could span several Player turns if the story currently involves hectic opposed skill use.

The GM's turn lasts until the Player (and thus the PC) learns new information.

There could be a lot of information (the GM provides lengthy description after the PC enters a new place occupied by strange people) or very little information (the GM shares what the PC can tell about an opponent during the first few moments of a fight). Often the information includes what all the NPCs do and what the PC perceives.

A good GM will alter the length of his or her turn to help the pace of the story. The GM will slow down the pace by providing more detail when the PC has the luxury of slowly looking around and thinking. The GM will foster a sense of urgency when the action is rushed by sharing less detail and concluding with phrases such as "What is your character doing?" or "How does your character react?"

Cooperative Story Telling

Player: Siron smiles at the thug. "I mean no harm."

GM: The thug draws his sword and rushes towards Siron. How does Siron react?

Player: Siron can't question a corpse. He wants to subdue this thug but not kill him. So he moves into a compact stance, ready to disarm. He hopes to gague his opponent's strength and skill, then disarm.

GM: The thug's swings are forceful but not skilled. Siron parries two blows, and on the third has an opportunity to disarm.

Player: Siron knocks away the thug's sword. "Who sent you? Why did they not tell you that I am the finest swordsman in the city?" He shrugs, a bit slowly, to show he is so unafraid of the thug that he can make that gesture during a swordfight.

GM: The thug looks down at his blade, then up at your eyes. He tries to grab at your arm. The thug is definitely less skilled but stronger than Siron. What does Siron do?

This was interesting and exciting. The GM and Player both used details to make the story more fun. They both gave each other enough to build off of.


Uncooperative Story Telling

Player: Siron smiles at the thug. "I mean no harm."

GM: The thug draws his sword and rushes towards Siron.

Player: Siron stabs him in the arm, causing the thug to drop his sword.

GM: Okay.

This was boring. The Player stole the GM's turn and weakened the story by doing so. Neither the GM nor Player are giving each other anything to build off of.

The way a GM and Player take turns is very intentional about putting the burden of carrying the story forward on the GM. This is because 9P is designed to excel as introduction to role-playing games, and as a kid-friendly storytelling game. When the Player is new to role-playing games or a child then the game is usually more exciting and memorable with a dominant GM role.

If both the GM and Player have experience with role-playing games, and neither is a child, then the Player may assume a greater share of the burden of carrying the story forward. The Player may describe PC actions (not only intentions) and even NPC actions. Adventure stories can be at their most exciting and memorable when the GM and Player share responsibility for carrying the story forward. Both need maturity, flexibility, initiative, and comfort in trusting the story to flow synergistically.

A Player Carrying the Story Forward

Player: Siron smiles at the thug. "I mean no harm."

GM: The thug draws his sword and rushes towards Siron. How does Siron react?

Player: Is Siron a vastly better swordsman?

GM: Definitely. He can tell that just from how the thug moves and holds his sword.

Player: Siron's smile broadens. "Oh, please!" he groans. He parries one or two of the thug's swings, then knocks away the thug's sword. "Who sent you? Why did they not tell you that I am the finest swordsman in the city?" He shrugs slowly, showing a lot of teeth.

GM: Okay. The thug is about to grapple, foolishly trusting in his greater strength. Fanaticism shines in his eyes. What does Siron do?

Player: Siron sighs. He stabs the thug in one knee. "I am losing patience." He stabs the thug in the other knee. "I am out of patience." As the thug falls to the ground, Siron holds his sword lightly against the thug's throat. "Who sent you?"

The GM never resolved skill use. The Player knew enough information to make those decisions, and "stole" that role from the GM. This works fine if both the GM and Player want that type of story telling.

The final detail is that a complex situation with many participants can be analyzed using the convenient fact that the skills are listed from quickest to slowest. All intentions are still resolved simultaneously, but the bookkeeping is made easier by having an order to follow.

Item use happens at the same time as the Hearthwork skill, whether or not the item is related to home and hearth, and saves no maneuver points for next turn.

A character that does nothing but move is considered to be using the Escape or Acrobatics skills while allocating the appropriate maneuver points either for defense or for next turn.

When an Art Gallery is Too Complex for Simultaneous Resolution

The PC is Brihn Honeyworth, a captain of the district watch. She received a tip about criminals planning something in the art museum. She is patrolling the museum with four NPC watchmen: Maft, Jezd, Wilx, and Bilx.

The criminals are three Ogres. The Ogre leader has a magic wand. Two other ogres are in hiding places behind large statues on the hall's floor, crossbows ready.

Unknown to both the watch and the Ogres, a mysterious figure is hiding in the shadows in a corner of the room's eastern balcony.

That situation has nine characters! Yikes!

GM: The five members of the watch have just crossed the two-story main hall in the museum's stautary wing. Brihn, Maft, and Jezd have ascended the stairs to the room's western balcony. Wilx and Bilx are still on the ground floor, approaching those stairs. An Ogre steps out from behind the room's centerpiece: a huge statue of a cruel-looking Bergtroll. "Ha ha!" he laughs, surprising all five members of the watch. "Statue, show us your secret!" He then taps the statue with a short wand.

Player: Brihn shouts, "Attack!" She studies the Ogre, looking for how to advise the watchmen to fight.

GM: The Ogre is trying to stare down Brihn. Does she respond to its challenge by looking it in the eyes, or does she continue to study it?

Player: Brihn has been hunting this villain for a week. She will not diminish herself by acknowledging its petty challenge.

GM: The Ogre is really intense, even creepy. Brihn has a vague bad feeling. Brihn call also tell from the Ogre's stance and glances that he is protective of his wand. Attacks that appear to be trying to knock away his wand but actually veer to strike him might be especially effective.

During the first turn, Brihn attempted to use Perception and the Ogre attempted to use Wonder. Both spent all their maneuver points offensively, and were successful. The Ogre has gained bonus after every turn it causes Brihn to suffer losses. Brihn has gained some maneuver points usable any time by herself or her allies.

Player: Hm. She can't really shout that to her men. She shouts, "Bilx, go for his wand!" and hopes Wilx gets the hint.

GM: Okay. What else?

Brihn has not yet stated an intention to use a skill or item. It is still the second turn of combat, and the Player's turn to talk.

Player: Brihn ducks down behind one of the balcony railing's pillars, and draws her crossbow.

The Player could have taken control of all four NPC watchmen. But the Player only provided intention for Bilx. So the GM will describe the actions for the other watchmen and all three Ogres. Here is what the GM improvises, in order from quickest to slowest action.

1. The Ogre leader backs up slightly around the statue, so that Bilx barely gets within reach and Wilx ends up on the other side of the statue, out of reach. (Escape skill attempt, all maneuver points saved for next turn.)

2. Wilx is far from the Ogre leader, and runs quickly but cautiously, ending up near the huge statue. (Acrobatics skill attempt, splitting maneuver points between defense and being saved for next turn.)

3 and 4. The two other Ogres lean out from behind their statues, firing their crossbows at Bilx. (Shoot skill attempt, all manuever points offensive.)

5. Bilx was close enough to move up to the Ogre leader, and charges him to knock the wand out of his hand as Brihn desired. (Disarm skill attempt, all manuever points offensive, attempting Bravado bonus by guessing the Ogre will use Escape.)

6. The mysterious figure recalls what it knows about magic statues, or maybe even that statue in particular. (Identify/Lore skill use, all manuever points offensive.)

7 and 8. Brihn ducks down and draws her crossbow. Maft will rush down the stairs and draw his sword. Jezd will rush down the stairs while drinking the potion of size doubling he was already holding. (Item use happens with Intuition/Hearthwork.)

GM: As Brihn shouts "Attack!" and "Bilx, go for his wand!" loud chaos erupts. The first Ogre retreats, while two other Ogres lean out from hiding places as shoot crossbows at Wilx. Wilx dodges one bolt, but hollers as the other bolt sinks into his leg. Bilx swings bare-handed to disarm the first Ogre as Brihn instructed, and succeeds in knocking the wand from its hand. The wand bounces across the floor to the far side of the room. Maft and Jezd rush down the stairs. As Jezd runs, he pops the cork off a potion of size doubling and drinks it.

Player: Yikes. How hurt is Wilx?

GM: Wilx is still standing. The last thing that happens that turn is that the huge statue awakens. Its eyes glow blue. It straightens up, and bellows "I was created to smash!"

Player: Uh oh.

NPCs

NPCs are described by their important skills and talents, as well as other information important to the story. For the sake of brevity, everything else is improvised by the GM.

Here is a sample NPC.

An Example NPC Merchant

Caul the merchant is capable haggler, but might still be no match for an experienced PC. He has a booth in the small market square near the port. He sells potions: primarily antidotes for seasickness, hangover, scurvy, and Deckhand's Fever. It is a rough part of town, but he finds the people-watching there amusing and relaxing.

Skills: Perception/Escape 3, Melee/Protect 2, Wrestle/Disarm 3, Identify/Lore 4, Bargain/Wonder 4, Disguise/Etiquette 4, Alchemy 3

Talents: Identifying potions has 2 skill

This description shows that the adventure's designer is not expecting Caul to be very significant in the story. The merchant is described with just enough detail to help the GM improvise the rest of the character.

Increasing Skill Ratings

As the PC adventures, he or she develops greater skills and talents, and becomes capable of attempting greater challenges.

Adventures will contain many significant objectives: the PC finds an important clue, makes an important ally, reaches an important location, wins an important fight, etc. Whenever the PC successfully completes one of these accomplishments, he or she receives as a reward an advancement token. This can be a physical token or just a tally mark recorded in the character's inventory.

Advancement tokens can be saved up, spent during an adventure, or spent between adventures. They are used to increase skill or talent ratings.

Increasing a skill or talent by one costs as many advancement tokens as the new rating. Also, a talent's rating can never exceed the corresponding skill's rating.

When a group of PCs adventure together, they should share the advanement tokens. A solo PC who adventures with NPC helpers or assistants does not need to share the advanement tokens with the NPCs.

The GM may also reward unusually great moments of Player creativity or role-playing with extra advancement tokens.

Skill Descriptions

Perception/Escape

Perception measures alertness, awareness, and attention to detail. It is always used passively, to determine if a character not actively searching still notices something. Perception applies to all types of noticing, whether a tiny item carefully hidden in a room or a mystical plant growing somewhere in a large forest.

A character that is actively looking for an item is normally able to find it. A situation that would prevent success, such as a key hidden within the false bottom of a drawer, is better handled through role-playing than consulting a numeric skill rating.

Escape refers to noticing how to gain freedom from a diffiuclt situation. It could be escaping a physical confinement such as a trap or net. It could be escaping pursuit while fleeing down a busy street by noticing a timely opportunity to duck under a cart or through a doorway.

Some sources of confinement are not appropriate to the Escape skill. For example, a character stuck in locked manacles or a well-maintained wrestling hold cannot gain freedom simply by noticing something opportune.

The target rating for an Escape attempt might be the skill rating used to create the source of confinement: Wilderness for a snare, Machinery for a mechanical trap, Melee for a thrown net, Wrestle for a sloppy wrestling hold, etc.

Acrobatics/Climb

This skill is used to safely and successfully jump, fall, roll, climb, etc. Acrobatics is used when moving along or onto horizontal surfaces. Climb is used when moving along or onto vertical surfaces.

Characters with greater skill rating can jump farther, fall safely from higher distances, and climb trickier surfaces. As a rule of thumb, at higher values a character can:

This skill is also used to avoid threats or obstacles, such as diving away from an explosion, avoiding harm in a rockslide, or leaping from an out-of-control mount.

Compare Acrobatics skill ratings to find the victor when foot racing through a forest heavy with underbrush and branches. Coordination and strength are both required.

If the GM creates his or her own setting to use with the 9P rules then the Acrobatics/Climb skill may be too general. For example, adventures in a mountainous land covered with snow and ice might benefit by having additional and distinct skills for Ski/Snowshoe and Ropes/Ice-Climbing. There is nothing sacrosanct about the provided list of skills!

Shoot/Throw

This skill is used for distance attacks. Shoot is used for bows, crossbows, and handheld devices created with Machinery. (Seige weapons are operated with Machinery instead of Shoot.) Throw is used for throwing either sharp or blunt objects.

As a rule of thumb, the distance a character can shoot a projectile without penalty is ten times his or her skill rating (in meters). The distance for throwing without penalty is four times the skill rating. Beyond this distance the attacker suffers a situational disadvantage penalty.

Normally a character uses Shoot while stationary. Moving while shooting causes a a situational disadvantage penalty.

A character can use Throw but not Shoot when adjacent to an aggressive opponent or other danger.

Melee/Protect

Melee involves up-close combat focused on causing wounds. The skill can be used with punches, kicks, claws, bites, or stings as well as with sharp or blunt weapons.

Protect is used to intercept danger. A character using this skill can allocate maneuver points to boost an ally's defense, instead of his or her own defense.

Wrestle/Disarm

Wrestle is for attacks not focused on causing wounds, but instead attempting to restrain or reposition an opponent. It usually requires having at least one hand free, but can also used with weapons that ensnare, such as a net, whip, mancatcher, or bolo.

The Wrestle skill is also important as an estimate of the general physical strength of a character: a higher Wrestle skill rating denotes deeper reserves of physical endurance and greater ability to resist fatigue, poison, etc.

As a rule of thumb, a character can comfortably carry a backpack and other equipment weighing at total of fifteen times his or her skill rating (in kilograms) without penalizing physical skills such as Acrobatics and Dodge.

Compare Wrestle skill ratings to find the victor when foot racing on a clean track or street. Strength is much more important than coordination for this foot race.

Disarm is used with any attacks (with or without a weapon) that try to knock away what the opponent is holding.

The rules are purposefully vague about whether Disarm can be used at long distances. Perhaps the GM and Player favor the drama and plot device of a very skilled character being able to shoot a weapon (or doomsday device) from an opponent's hand. Or perhaps they prefer realism, realizing that even professional target shooters cannot reliably do such a feat in the face of danger.

Stealth/Track

Stealth is used to hide, move quietly, walk tracelessly, use a disguise, or be physically sneaky in other ways. Stealth is also used for sleight of hand and pickpocketing.

This skill rating determines the target number that other characters would need to notice the sneaker by using their Perception skill.

As a rule of thumb, moving at crawl causes a -2 situational disadvantage penalty, and creeping with barely any movement causes a -1 situational disadvantage penalty.

(Normally the sneaking character will not know the Perception skill ratings of those who are searching. The sneaking character must use clues, intuition, and courage to estimate how quickly he or she can safely move.)

Track attempts to follow someone's trail, which often involves the same knowledge and tricks as Stealth. The target number for the Track skill is usually the Stealth skill rating that was used by the quarry.

A character whose Track skill equals the target numer can follow a recent trail at a speed of one kilometer per hour.

As a rule of thumb, for each point the tracker's skill rating is higher than the target number, add one more kilometer per hour to the tracking speed, and one more day or hour to the possible age of tracks that can be followed.

(Days applies in relatively quiet places, such as a forest during a hot, dry week. Hours applies to frequently distrubed places, such as a town square or a forest during a rainstorm.)

Identify/Lore

Identify refers to appraising valuable items, recognizing famous cultural artifacts, recalling which nobility owns certain jewelry, verifying the authenticity of a signature, and other situations of recalling information about a particular item.

Lore refers to knowledge of general helpful facts and cultural information: details about history, society, laws, notable families, religious practices, and so forth.

Either can help a character fabricate reasonable-sounding falsehoods.

Bargain/Wonder

Bargain is used to haggle over prices or otherwise steer a conflict of interests to a workable compromise.

As a rule of thumb, for each point the bargainer's skill rating is higher than the target number, change the price 5%.

Wonder measures the ability to produce practical attitudes and understandings through feeling the grandeur and drama inherent in a situation. Awe and amazement can be a form of thinking, and insight and wisdom can spring from encountering the indescribable.

Wonder also measures how resistant a character is to harmful magical mental influences.

Disguise/Etiquette

Disguise measures a character's ability to impersonate someone else using a costume and mannerisms. This skill rating usually determines the target number that other characters would need to notice the disguise by using their Perception skill.

For the Disguise skill a 1-point equipment bonus would come from an unusually appropriate disguise being available, not necessarily a disguise made of superior quality materials.

Impersonting a general type of person can provide a situational advantage bonus or penalty. It is easier for a Therion to disguise itself as a generic Therion merchant than the specific merchant who owns a popular shop. It is harder for a Therion to disguise itself as Kobalt.

Etiquette is used to successfully navigate social situations. It includes clarity in conversations, ease in making a good impression, skill at getting attention at parties, and success when gambling. It also measures the ability to deal well with unfamiliar cultures, and to impressively manage domestic tasks such as cooking or gardening.

Animals/Wilderness

Animals applies to training, riding, taming, misdirecting, or caring for any animals, as well as maintenance of a riding animal's tack and other gear. Compare skill ratings to find the victor when racing on mounts of similar speed.

Wilderness applies to swiming, fishing, locating food, setting snares, navigation, and other tasks related to surviving in the outdoors, both above ground and underground.

As a rule of thumb, the skill rating in Wilderness measures the number of people for which that character can provide decent food and shelter.

Intuition/Hearthwork

Intuition refers to confidently reaching correct conclusions despite having neither the facts for logical deduction nor an encounter with sublime grandeur to provide awe-inspired wisdom. A practiced intuition includes both experience with accurate hunches and well-developed habits of calming the mind, looking at the big picture, and acting purposefully instead of reacting to circumstances. The skill of Intuition can also be used to instill a false sense of intuition in someone else by subtly planting ideas that the victim will mistake for his or her own insights and hunches.

Hearthwork refers to skill in domestic situations, including cooking, sewing, child care, and basic home repair and construction.

Alchemy

The magic items created using the Alchemy skill are bottled potions to drink, or flasks thrown to release gasses.

Machinery

The magic items created using the Machinery skill are clever clockwork and steam-powered traps, devices, and vehicles.

The Machinery skill is also is used to create or bypass magical locks and traps.

Musing

The magic items created using the Musing skill are completed pieces of artwork that are held during a magical trance, and thus enchanted to do just about anything.

Transmutery

The Transmutery skill does not always create items. It is used by the transmuticist to acquire an elemental spirit and use that spiritual link to mentally manipulate the elements.

Talent Descriptions

Talents are advanced ways to use skills. Talents set experienced characters apart from other people. Having a talent allows the corresponding skill be used differently, achieving a distinct kind of benefit that can never be acquired through normal skill use. The benefits of talents are never availble from other means (magic items, blessings, etc.).

Talents also have a numeric rating. But the numeric ratings for talents do not have adjective nicknames because most people in the game world have no talents (all their talent ratings are zero). All talents start at zero and a talent's rating may never be increased beyond the base skill rating of the corresponding skill. A new PC has no talents.

In most other role-playing games the primary differences between a knight, a woodsman, and a thief would a represented through a set of bonuses and restrictions called a "character class". In 9P the talents serve the same function in a more natural manner.

Block/Dodge

Talent in the Block/Dodge skill represents the quickness and alertness that allows a character to avoid ranged attacks, even while occupied with another activity. Any ranged attack directed against this character (except for a talented "point blank" shot) has its skill diminished by this talent's rating.

(This is probably the most common talent in the genre of "heroic opera" pulp stories and films. Why else are Stormtroopers, SMERSH agents, and Prince John's bowmen unable to hit heroes who are focusing on fighting, climbing, sneaking, and other tasks?)

Perception/Escape

Talent in the Perception/Escape skill shows defensive combat habits of positioning and evading damage that allow a character to ignore some enemies when fighting a group, to better focus on a single opponent at a time. This does two things.

First, the talent rating excludes its number of opponents from counting when accumulating a gang up bonus to allied skill use.

For example, consider five foes trying to gang up on a character whose Perception/Escape talent rating is 3. The most skilled foe decides to use his Melee skill. The other four each wish to grant +1 to their ally. But three of those +1s are counteracted by the Perception/Escape talent rating. That most skilled foe only receives a single +1 to his Melee skill.

Second, when the character uses the Block/Dodge skill, it applies to as many additional opponents as this talent's rating. (Normally Block/Dodge only applies to one opponent.)

Acrobatics/Climb

Talent in Acrobatics/Climb grants faster movement. Climbing speed can eventually be increased to normal running speed, and running speed can eventually be doubled.

When moving fast matters, this talent's rating has priority over higher Acrobatics or Wrestle skill rating.

This talent rating is added to other skills (usually Dodge/Block) for attempts to flee combat unharmed.

Shoot/Throw

Talent in the Shoot/Throw skill allows making incredibly accurate "point blank" distance attacks. The character suffers no penalties within six times this range (in meters). As examples, their skill use in unpenalized no matter how fast the target is moving, what cover the target are attempting to hide behind, or how windy it is.

Melee/Protect

Talent in the Melee/Protect skill allows using one melee action to hit multiple opponents. This could be a flurry of quick blows or a powerful, sweeping attack that injures many foes with one swing.

This talent's rating determines the maximum number of secondary targets, assuming sufficient enemies can be reached. (As always, in each turn all movement happens before all attacks.)

Ususally this secondary damage is not as injurious as the damage dealt to the attack's primary target (reduce the Melee skill rating by one when determining losses for secondary targets).

Wrestle/Disarm

Talent in the Wrestle/Disarm skill denotes toughness and fortitude that allow a character to endure more hurt during combat. This talent's rating grants the character that many additional major losses before being defeated.

Additionally, the character may hold a stationary "sanctuary pose" that temporarily doubles this talent's rating by focusing internal energy. This pose can be useful while being rescued by allies or to survive environmental damage such as a rockslide or collapsing building.

Stealth/Track

Talent in the Stealth/Track skill allows a character to blend into shadows with amazing ability. Four times the rating measures how many fewer centimeters thick a character appears to be when trying to hide in a shadow (for example, if a character flattened against a wall is actually 20 cm thick, a talent rating of 3 would allow that character to hide in a shadow normally only able to hide something 20 − (3 talent rating × 4) = 8 cm thick).

Also, attunement with shadows becomes so advanced that "shadow stepping" is possible: teleportation from one shadow to another. Each meter of stepping takes one minute of preparation while remaining stationary in a shadow. This talent's rating measures the maximum number of meters traveled.

Identify/Lore

Talent in the Identify/Lore skill represents knowledge of herbal medicines. Unlike healing potions, healing herbs are effective even after some time has passed since the injury, and only herbal healing is capable of curing disease or paralysis, or speeding the healing of broken bones or mental afflictions.

The talent's numeric rating is used as a multiplier, by which the body's natural healing rate is boosted if the rights herbs are available. (A rating of 1 allows a character to identify and administer herbal medicines but does not yet provide a multiplier for healing. This still allows stabilizing a disease or poison to prevent further harm, or temporarily soothing a mental affliction.)

Bargain/Wonder

Talent in the Bargain/Wonder skill shows development of wonder so advanced that the character can perform wondrous feats of physical prowess. These wondrous feats allow character concepts that do not otherwise fit into the 9P core rules.

In the sample setting of Spyragia, there are nine flavors of wondrous feats, each corresponding to one of the nine Powers.

The Player and GM can also work together to create new flavors of wondrous feats.

Disguise/Etiquette

Talent in the Disguise/Etiquette skill measures the character skill with mimicry of voices and sounds. It does not allow the character to mimic with magical or supernatural ability. A character could have sufficient talent to mimic a horse, but never all the noises made by a herd of horses.

Animals/Wilderness

Talent in the Animals/Wilderness skill allows a character to control tame animals. The rating measures three factors: the maximum length of a sequence of steps the animals will perform, the numer of animals that can be simultaneously controlled, and the maximum difficulty of any requests.

How difficult are requests? The optimal situation would have six characteristics:

An optimal situation has a difficulty of 1. The difficulty increases by one for each of the above six items missing from the situation.

Animal Control Example

With a talent rating of 1, a character could ask his or her own pet mouse to go eat a visible piece of cheese in an empty, safe room. (The instruction has only one step. There is only one animal. The situation is optimal.)

With a talent rating of 4, the character could ask his or her friend's four pet mice (whom the character knows well) to each go to an empty and safe room, pick up some cheese, bring it back instead of eating it, and drop it in front of the character. The mice will not get an immediate reward of food or positive attention from their owner. (The instruction has four steps. There are four animals. The situation has a difficulty rating of 4 because it is not optimal for three reasons: the animals have not done similar tasks for the character, are asked to do the unnatural behavior of giving up potential food, and will not receive an immediate reward.)

Intuition/Hearthwork

Talent in the Intuition/Hearthwork skill represents the kind of interpersonal intuition that alows more effective fast-talking, with the beneficial result that people who are fast-talked remain duped for hours instead of only minutes.

Fast-talking can be done with other skills. Depending upon the context, any of Etiquette, Bargain, Bravado, Intuition, Hearthwork, or Wonder might apply. This talent's rating shows the number of hours that successful fast-talking will last.

The technique of fast-talking is a skill. But it is a talent to have the right hunch about whether the target will respond best to a rushed excuse, a call to honor and duty, an emotional plea, a haughty aristocratic attitude, an appeal to nostalgia or sentimentality, a request for a favor that enables saving face, a promise of future compensation, etc.

Alchemy

Talent in Alchemy allows the alchemist to identify potions by appearance and smell.

Any magic item crafted with alchemy of impact rating equal or less than this talent rating is identified as magical. The talented alchemist learns what the potion does, and may use the potion to reverse engineer the recipe.

Machinery

Talent in the Machinery skill aids in noticing mechanical traps. This talent's rating is added to the Perception skill to notice mechanical traps.

Musing

Talent in the Musing skill allows a character to notice which items they see have been enchanted by musing, and to recognize what effect the enchantment provides.

Any magic item crafted with musing of impact rating equal or less than this talent rating is identified as magical. This tells what the item does, and the item may used to reverse engineer the recipe.

Transmutery

Most transmuticists can only effect elemental material they touch. Talent in the Transmutery skill allows the transmuticists to use transmutery at a distance. The maximum range is equal to the Transmutery talent rating.

Combat Rules

The 9P core rules do not need any specific combat rules. If the GM and Player are a parent and young child, the above rules for skills can be simple and sufficient.

However, that simplicity also means that combat is just another puzzle-obstacle. The rules above do not make slaying a hungry giant lizard any different from getting past a locked door or using diplomacy to negotiate the best deal. Characters use their own skill, and try to cleverly gain various advantages.

These following rules are recommended to make combat feel like combat with as few extra rules as possible.

The bonuses and penalties in these combat rules are extra modifiers, layered on top of the usual bonuses (equipment, situational advantage, and bravado) and penalites (equipment, situational disadvantage, and group).

The Flow of Combat

There is a natural rhythm to combat. Initially the fighters will circle and test each other, as represented by spending most of their maneuver points defensively. After one fighter scores a good hit, he or she will often try to take advantage of the opponent's momentary weakness by moving closer to grab or disarm. Doing that successfully can allow a quick, precise strike to be effective. Then the fighters step back and disengage to test each other again.

This natural flow of combat is represented in the game rules by three small bonuses:

The turn after success with the Melee skill a Wrestle/Disarm attempt will gain a +1 bonus.

The turn after success with the Wrestle skill a Acrobatics attempt will gain a +1 bonus.

The turn after success with the Acrobatics skill a Melee/Protect attempt will gain a +1 bonus.

Note that the other portion of those three skills (Protect, Disarm, and Climb) do not grant the +1 bonus.

Note that these three +1 bonuses are smaller than the opponent's possible +2 bravado bonus. When fighting an intelligent opponent, following the flow of combat too predictably is unwise.

Equipment During Combat

These core rules say very little about weapons and armor.

However, certain styles of combat should provide some distinct benefit, at the cost of making that combatant more predictable.

Empty or Full Hands

The most obvious issue is how many free hands each combatant has.

A character not holding a melee weapon suffers a -2 penalty to the Protect skill.

A character with both hands full that combat round cannot use the Wrestle skill (unless using certain appropriate weapons or tools).

A character wielding more than one weapon who is disarmed of a weapon does not suffer that minor loss.

In other words, it is hard for an archer to defend a friend, pushing with a shield will not resposition an experienced soldier, and it someone holding two axes is barely slowed down by losing only one of them.

The GM and Players should together work out any setting-specific details: if wuxia monks able to block blades bare-handed, which weapons allow wresting, or how certain weapons interact with disarming.

Weapons

A character's choice of weapon is normally only an matter of narrative flavor. But three guidelines make combat more interestingly descriptive.

A character using a shield that combat turn gains an extra defensive maneuver point.

Wielding a small weapon gives a +1 bonus to the Wrestle skill.

Wielding a significantly longer weapon gives a -2 penalty to foes you approach from a distance.

In other words, a shield is always somewhat protective, outside of the sporting ring a grappler with a dagger is more threatening, and a warrior can ward away foes better with a spear or polearm.

As before, the GM and Players should together work out any setting-specific details: what counts as a shield, as a weapon small enough to help wrestling, and whether the Acrobatics skill could allow safely rushing up to a spearman.

Armor

It is nice to be the more heavily armored combatant! Your unfortunately less-armored opponents will have a hard time with the positioning and timing issues often represented by minor losses.

In other words, at the start of combat, a significantly more armored combatant gains an extra one or two minor loss(es).

On the other hand, wearing armor that is not personally fitted is bulky, and causes a penalty to Acrobatics skill use.

Here is what the rules might say for a fantasy or medieval setting:

Wearing only wool, linen, cotton, or silk clothing is being unarmored.

Clothing offers no combat benefit or penalty.

Soft leather armor, a chain shirt, or boiled leather armor provides light armor.

At the start of combat, gain 1 extra minor loss if fighting unarmored foes.

Soft leather and a chain shirt are unfitted and cause a -1 penalty to Acrobatics skill use.

Ringmail, scale, and plate provides heavy armor.

At the start of combat, gain 1 extra minor loss if fighting lightly armored foes, or 2 extra minor losses if fighting only unarmored foes.

Ringmail and scale are unfitted and cause a -2 penalty to Acrobatics skill use.

More expensive armors, even within the same category of "light" or "heavy", also serve as displays of status. They signify wealth, rank, or experience. In certain social situations they will provide a situational advantage bonus or situational disadvantage penalty.

The GM and Players should, as always, work out setting-specific details.

Skill Use During Combat

Beyond those bonuses, several skills have additional rules when contested skill use involves combat.

Most generally, after a character defeats a foe that victorious character gains an extra turn. (This rule goes way back to Dave Arneson's similar rule named "Chop Til You Drop". Some more modern games call the rule "Cleave".)

A character using Acrobatics/Climb can be the most evasive. When that character uses all maneuver points defensively, he or she gains +1 bonus.

A character using Shoot/Throw benefits from uninterrupted focus. When that character uses all maneuver points offensively, he or she gains +1 bonus.

A character whose ally is using Melee/Protect or Wrestle/Disarm, and who can also physically reach the target, may gang up on that target. For that character's turn, he or she may act in a way that adds one to the ally's skill rating, instead of using his or her own skill. There is no limit to how many +1s a character can receive from different allies, except as appropriate to the physical situation. This allows numerous lesser-skilled allies to overwhelm a better-skilled target that is emphasizing defensive maneuver points.

Normally both participants in contested skill use suffer losses simultaneously. A character using Melee can use a half-sword grip to try to find a weakness in the opponent's armor. Gripping the middle of the sword reduces its reach, a vulnerability that means the armored opponent causes losses first that turn. In exchange, the attack bypasses any extra minor losses the opponent woud have gained from being more heavily armored.

A character using Wrestle may restrain one opponent. This reduces the wrestler's mobility too. The wrestler picks a number, up to his or her Wrestle skill rating. Until the wrestling hold ends, both characters must allocate at least that many maneuver points defensively each turn. This represents the wrestler maintaining the hold and perhaps using his or her opponent as a shield. It represents the opponent struggling to avoid being forced into an even more submissive wrestling position. The wrestler's allies may ignore these forced defensive maneuver points if they attack the held opponent.

A character using Disarm causes different effects when inflicting minor and major losses. Causing a minor loss does not actually hinder the opponent. You can say you knock away a dagger, or bash their shield so mightily that their arm swings wide to the side leaving their body exposed. But during the next turn opponent can also say that he or she picks up the dagger, or repositions the shield. Causing a major loss will hinder the opponent. Now you can say the dagger is knocked off the cliff, or the shield is bashed so much its straps break and the shield clangs uselessly to the floor.

A character using Stealth gains no special benefits, but this skill is often one way to get a situational advantage.

A character may use Perception or Identify/Lore during combat. This skill does not cause losses. Instead, each success sets aside a maneuver point that may be used on any turn during the combat. The character has noticed a foe's weakness, or recalled some helpful technique or advice. (This Ogre has poor peripheral vision, all Dust Spiders shun fire, the Kobalt spearmen of that clan favor their right side, etc.) Moreover, these maneuver points can be distributed to allies to represent sharing that advice.

A character may use Wonder during combat to startle, intimidate, or awe an opponent using impressive solidity, energetic charisma, and stunning force of presence. This skill does not cause losses. Instead, the number of success establishes a bonus that the character will receive after every subsequent turn they cause losses to that oppoent. (If a character tries this more than once against the same opponent, the new number of successes replaces the old.)

A character may use Intuition during combat to intuit a helpful tactic. This skill does not cause losses. Instead, each success counts as two extra defensive maneuver points for the next turn.

Note that the benefits of the observational combat skills (Perception, Identify/Lore, Wonder, and Intuition) might apply outside of combat to haggling, fast talking, and other contested skill use situations.

Adding Battlemats

Here are seven brief and optional rules about using miniatures and maps with a square or hexagonal grid to add tactical thinking to combat situations. The maps used are generically called "battlemats".

Many people are able to appreciate the added clarity and detail provided by miniatures and battlemats without noticeably slowing the shared free-form storytelling. Other people prefer the more narrative feel of playing without visual aids. Either style of play works great with 9P.

(Paizo publishes some pretty and affordable battlemats called Flip-Mats.)

Scale: Because 9P uses SI measurement units, battlemats are assumed to have squares or hexes of two-meter side length. As with all rules, the GM and Player should feel free to cooperatively adapt or ignore these battlemat rules as they desire. In other sections of these rules these commentary paragraphs provide more generally useful comments.

Movement Speed: Skills higher on the skill list not only happen earlier during the combat turn, but also allow moving more map squares.

Sticky Warriors: A character using the Melee/Protect or Wrestle skills is "sticky" and opponents cannot move away from him or her without successfully using the Block/Dodge or Escape skills.

Wrestling Distances: A character using Wrestle/Disarm who grapples first and then move 1 map square can be dragging a grappled opponent. A character can also use Wrestle to throw a foe up to 2 map squares away.

Projectile Distances: Remember that the distance a character can shoot a projectile without penalty is five times his or her skill rating (in map squares or hexes), and the distance a character can throw a projectile without penalty is twice his or her skill rating (in map squares or hexes). A character with the Shoot/Throw talent never suffers penalties within three times this range (in map squares or hexes)—their accuracy is undiminished no matter how fast the target is moving, what cover the target are attempting to hide behind, or how windy it is.

Acrobatic Distances: Remember the earlier rules for standing and running long jump distances, and that a map square is two meters in side length. An Acrobatics skill rating of 2 allows a running jump over one map square of difficult terrain, and an Acrobatics skill rating of 4 allows a running jump over two map squares of difficult terrain. For standing long jumps the required skill doubles: a skill rating of 4 to leap over one map square, and a skill rating of 8 to leap over two map squares.

Difficult Terrain: When using a battlemat, positioning and movement is made more strategic by including the complication that some map squares are slow to move through. A map square is called difficult terrain if it contains rubble, dense underbrush, deep mud, a fallen thick tree trunk, etc. Some map squares are only difficult terrain in one direction: ascending a stairway or steep slope is slow, but descending happens at normal speed. There are two rules for movement in difficult terrain. First, any character ends his or her movement when entering difficult terrain. Second, a character using the Acrobatics skill may jump over the obstacle instead of ending movement early.

Magic Rules

A magic item is a fun piece of equipment with nifty powers.

Some magic items merely provide a bonus to skill use. Others dramatically change a scene and decisively determine how the encounter resolves.

In a fantasy setting a special item might be a magic potion, flying carpet, or dancing sword. In a science fiction setting a "magic" item might be a nanotech restorative, a personal levitation belt, or an electrified net launcher.

The same rules for pricing and crafting these items can be used whether or not the setting justifies their effects with magic, technology, or some other narrative hand-waving.

Magic Item Prices

Impact Rating Retail Price Rougly Equivalent Value
0 or 1 10 leather pouch or a fishing net
2 30 cheap clothing, light blanket, longbow, or a grapnel
3 80 common clothing, heavy blanket, cooking equipment, or a dagger of exceptional quality
4 200 a month's skill 4 wages, a one-handed sword of exceptional quality
5 600 a year's unskilled wages, or both scale armor and a shield
6 1,800 a year's skill 3 wages, or plate armor of exceptional quality
7 4,800 two year's skill 4 wages, or a prince's wardrobe of 7 sets of royal clothing
8 13,500 a noble's home and garden

A special item's retail price depends only on how much it changes the world around it.

The chart above provides an example listing of the minimum retail price of each use of a special item in a typical fantasy setting.

The crafter need only pay half that amount as a crafting cost.

A character that crafts his or her own magic items thus spends only half as much wealth for their benefts.

A normally priced special item does one thing. A special item that does multiple things is equivalent to multiple magic items merged together, and its crafting time and price should be equal to the totals for its components.

For example, a pair of glasses might allow the person wearing them to detect poison, or criminals, or Ogres. But if those glasses detected all three things, with separate color-coding for each, then that special item is clearly doing three things. To be fair, that combination item should be crafted and priced as if it were three different magic items.

Sometimes the four crafting skills can create functionally equivalent items. A character that wants to fly could drink a flying potion, use a backpack-helicopter machine, expend one charge of a cape of flight, or attach air-crampons to his or her boots.

Functionally equivalent magic items would all have an identical monetary cost per use. However, the crafting skill used to create them will make the items distinct in many ways.

Alchemy Machinery Musing Transmutery
Costly Materials alchemical ingredients lots of fragile springs, gears, and tubes expensive artwork (including artistic tools or weapons) to be enchanted acquiring a pet elemental spirit
Duration 4 hours 8 active hours until midnight 1 month
Area Option radius 2 meters per skill rating radius 4 meters per skill rating radius 3 meters per skill rating none
Range Option flasks may be thrown to splash liquid or release a gas cloud machines can launch projectiles either no range
or concentration line-of-sight
with talent
Multiple Uses duration may be shared among a batch of potions in 1-hour increments run-down machines may be rebuilt inexpensively artwork becomes magic items with charges can manipulate the elements many times
Crafting Time 5 minutes per impact, needs a laboratory 1 hour per impact, needs a toolbox 10 minutes per impact, crafter enters a trance always instant
Dangerous When targets fail their Elusion targets already suffering losses wielder aims with Shoot skill circumstances are right
Other Issues potions have a 1 month shelf life machines can be bypassed or destroyed item vanishes after last charge used used without following a recipe

It is advised that 9P stories do not include "divinations". Many fantasy stories include objects or rituals that predict the future, or in other ways learn what is not normally knowable. Wizards scry with crystal balls, sages read the future in tea leaves, and necromancers make corpses answer questions. Although divination magic can work well in a story we read, it is difficult to do well in a two-person role-playing game. Plots about solving a mysteries or gathering information from an enemy stronghold get ruined by this kind of magic. It makes no sense to limit the kind of adventures the GM and Player can enjoy just because the PC has become highly skilled with magical crafting.

Impact Rating

All magic items use an impact rating that depends upon four factors to measure how intense and powerful an effect they produce.

Having rules for measuring impact rating empowers the Player and GM to do freeform special item design. The Player and GM can invent and design any kind of effect. These rules will allow them to know how much character skill would be needed to craft such an item, and how to determine an appropriate crafting or retail cost.

A magic item's impact rating determines is retail price, as described above.

Crafting any magic item is uncontested skill use that requires a skill rating at least equal to the item's impact rating (minimum 1). No bonuses can assist this skill use. The crafter must have both hands free, and constructs his or her creation by hand.

These rules assume magic item crafters using the Alchemy, Machinery, and Musing skills follow a clear recipe or procedure, either memorized on written down. If the crafter is improvising he or she suffers a 2-point situational disadvantage penalty. This penalty is reduced to a 1-point situational disadvantage penalty if the crafter has a prototype to reverse engineer.

Characters should keep track of which recipes they know. Most new PCs with crafting skills know only a few common, inexpensive recipes. During adventures the PC will find new recipes. Thus the Player slowly gains options as the PC gains a different type of power than measured by skill or talent ratings.

(Most GMs and Players do not find it fun to actually detail the recipes and keep track of required ingredients. We want nifty magic powers, not mundane bookkeeping chores!)

The GM and Player can always invent exceptions.

A character background issue might provide a character with a situational advantage.

For example, a PC who worked as a locksmith before adventuring might have a +2 situational advantage bonus when using Machinery to work with magical locks. It makes sense that the PC knows more about locks than other types of machinery.

A story issue can certainly allow a character to create a magic item whose impact rating is otherwise too high for that character.

For example, a very powerful recipe might be too tricky to create without a rare location that is the goal of a quest. Perhaps a potent alchemical gas can only be made in the royal alchemy laboratory, or a uniquely powerful musing item can only be made where research and obscure equipment have proven three ley-lines converge. In this special location, there is no penalty for lacking a recipe, and the crafter also gains a +2 situational advantage bonus.

A harmful magic item's impact rating determines how hard its effect is to avoid.

Magical Possibility

Impact Possibility
-1 inexpensive equipment
0 expensive equipment
3 mundanely impossibe

The first factor that determines impact rating is possibility.

The smallest effects only duplicate what inexpensive mundane equipment can do, but perhaps do it more rapidly or conveniently. These items might be used to quickly kindle a fire, befriend a domestic animal, spin wool into yarn, season firewood, provide a meal's nourishment, etc. Or these items might have an ongoing effect such as radiating as much light as a torch or flashlight, whistling like the sound of blowing on a blade of grass, obscuring vision like a smoky campfire, or making a room smell like roses. These effects add −1 to the impact rating.

Other magic items duplicate what expensive mundane equipment can do, but again perhaps more rapidly or conveniently. The special item heals as well as the best mundane herbs or medicines, heats or cools as well as a stove or block of ice, protects someone as well as the best armor, or makes an area deadly like a spilled vat of boiling oil. Those effects add 0 to the impact rating.

Effects that are mundanely impossible are the most dramatic, wondrous, and fun. These add 3 to the impact rating.

Magical Area

Impact Area
0 no area
1 set up the area
2 immediately fills area

The second factor that determines impact rating is the effect's area.

Many effects only affect the character using the special item, or a single object. These add 0 to the impact rating. (All transmutery effects are of this category.)

Some magic items effect an area, but only after the character using the item sets up the area. This could be assembling a device, arming a trap, drawing a magic circle, etc. That adds 1 to the impact rating.

Other effects immediately fill an area or volume. These add 2 to the impact rating.

The maximum radius of the effect depends upon the type of special item and the crafter's skill.

Magical Convenience

Impact Convenience
0 needs lab, no range
1 delayed effect, can have range
2 immediate effect, can have range

The third factor that determines impact rating is the effect's convenience.

The least convenient magic items must be created in advance at a laboratory, workshop, magic shrine, or other noteworthy location. Their effects have no range, and suffer from a delayed start. These effects add 0 to the impact rating. (All alchemy items are of this category.)

(Those items are the most common, because they are most affordable. Adventurers who want to craft their own magic items routinely try to predict before an adventure begins which magic items might be most useful to have prepared.

Magic items of medium convenience can be created anywhere, and the item's effect can have range instead of only happening at the user's location. But the item's effect has a delayed start due to a gas spreading, a machine warming up, a long chant to help a person focus, etc. Those effects add 1 to the impact rating.

The most magic items effects can be created anywhere, have range, and have an effect that begins immediately. Very convenient effects like these add 2 to the impact rating. (All transmutery effects are of this category.)

Magical Losses

Impact Losses
0 no damage, or skill dependent
1 cause or cure 1 minor loss
2 cause or cure both minor losses
3 cause or cure all but last major loss
5 cause or cure any affliction

The fourth factor that determines impact rating is how many losses are caused or cured.

Effects that do not cause or cure losses add 0 to the impact rating.

Some effects do cause losses, but only based upon the same skill use that mundane equipment would use. These also add 0 to the impact rating. They do not change how much damage a character can do. If someone prefers to craft or buy a wand that shoot icicles, instead of using a bow and arrows with the same effects, it is inexpensive to do so.

Some magic items augment successful contested skill use. When the item's user causes one or more losses, these items cause additional temporary inconveniences and setbacks (minor losses) by momentarily causing the wound to also trip, stun, burn, ensnare, slow, or befuddle the target. Effects that allow a success to cause extra minor losses add 1 or 2 to the impact rating, depending upon whether they involve 1 or 2 minor losses. (If the wand of icicles was more threatening than a mundane bow and arrow, either because it froze whomever it hit or caused larger wounds, then it would have a higher impact rating.)

Effects that heal minor losses also add 1 or 2 to the impact rating, depending upon whether they heal 1 or 2 minor losses.

Some magic items can determine the outcome of a situation completely, or nearly so. An effect that causes enough damage to bring the opponent down to its last major loss, so one more bit of damage will win the conflict, adds 3 to the impact rating. The most potent effects decisively win the conflict themselves, and these add 5 to the impact rating.

Similarly, magic items that cause or cure permanent harmful conditions such as blindness, paralysis, or being turned to stone add 5 to the impact rating.

The four factors are color-coded here and in the upcoming section of sample magic items. Possibility is pink, area is avacado, convenience is crimson, and losses are lavender.

Magic Item Examples

Here are some sample fantasy magic items. Within an adventure most would have more interesting and fun names. But simple names are best for making a web page of rules searchable.

Alchemical Potions

Potions are crafted with the Alchemy skill. The alchemist must prepare them in a lab, and store them in glass bottles. Throughout the adventure's perils the glass bottles must be kept intact.

Once drank, they have a delayed start (convenience is always 0). Their special effect only affects the drinker (area is always 0). and begins a few seconds after the potion is drunk.

Potions that heal or cure do so all at once. Potions that cause an ongoing effect have a duration of 4 hours.

(Potions whose duration is shared among a batch are not normally bought and sold. Those are used by their own crafter.)

Potion making is an old, diverse, and widely-studied art whose history and recipes have flowed together from many cultures. Helpful potions are well-accepted everywhere. Yet some recipes remain carefully guarded secrets, and a few have effects considered illegal or taboo. However, healing potions have helped almost every family, and professional potion makers are respected unless their business practices are unethical or their prices are unusually high. Amateur potion makers are common.

Potions have a one month shelf life, after which they lose potency and do nothing.

Potion of Domestic Animal Friendship

This potion is given to a domestic animal, often by mixing it in food. For the potion's duration the animal becomes very fond of the person who fed it the potion, as if that person had been a kind and caring pet owner for many years. (Impact 0 = 0 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Knock Knock Nodules

Black market alchemists prepare these tools by injecting an alchemical liquid into the nodules that grow on pea or bean roots. After a few minutes after being shaken, the nodules begin to flex and crack. This causes taps and creaks that sound remarkably like footsteps. Burglars and spies use knock knock nodules to distract people. They drop them from the rafters into a shadowy corner, or throw them under or behind furniture. Few guards have enough experience with these items to recognize that the noise is not footsteps. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0, Elusion [Identify 3 or Perception 3] )

Potion of Invisibility

There are many versions of this potion. Many towns and cities have laws limiting their use, to help prevent crime. Most potions of invisibility also affect what the drinker is wearing. Some cause a limited invisibility that ends if the drinker is touched by sunlight or moonlight, attacks anyone, etc. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Potion of Shared Sight

This potion is shared by two people or animals. After a minute they can close their eyes and concentrate to see what the other is seeing. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Silent Shoe Slime

This alchemical goo is spread on the soles of a pair of shoes. After a moment it hardens, becoming a material that magically allows silent steps. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Maleable Mickey

This alchemical potion is slipped into a victim's drink. After a minute the drinker becomes very agreeable to the next reasonable request he or she hears. Only one more success while fast-talking will dupe the drinker. (Impact 3 = 0 + 0 + 0 + 3)

Alchemical Flasks

Alchemical Flasks are crafted with the Alchemy skill. The alchemist must prepare them in a lab, and store them in glass vials. Throughout the adventure's perils the glass vials must be kept intact.

Once thrown, they break open to release a splash of liquid or cloud of gas. The effect has a delayed start (convenience is always 0) as the liquid or gas spreads for a few seconds. A harmful effect with have an elusion rating.

Most flasks cause an ongoing effect with a duration of 4 hours.

(Flasks whose duration is shared among a batch are not normally bought and sold. Those are used by their own crafter.)

Many flasks cause harmful area effects, and thus have an elusion rating. As always, elusion ratings are written in square brackets.

Flask making is as old and diverse as potion making. But flasks are more threatening than potions, so most places have laws that restrict or prohibit the crafting, purchasing, and/or owning of flasks. Amateur flask makers are rare.

Flasks have a one month shelf life, after which they lose potency and do nothing.

Flask of Splashy Acid

The acid in this flask reacts with air after the flask breaks. After a moment, it turns into green goo that causes 1 minor loss to any creature entering its area. (Impact 3 = 0 + 2 + 0 + 1, Elusion [Acrobatics 1])

Flask of Blinding Cloud

The chemicals in this flask reacts with air after the flask breaks. After a moment, the area fills with dense, fragrant smoke. The smoke is so thick that it interferes with sound as well as sight, smell, and taste. Within the smoke, all ranged perception and combat skill use automatically fails. (Impact 5 = 3 + 2 + 0 + 0, Elusion [Perception 5])

Targeted Tiny Flask of Sleep Gas

Small vials of the sleep gas can be thrown or used as arrowheads. Because they contain such a small amount of gas, they only cause sleep with a well-placed hit to the face, represented by both a successful Shoot/Throw attempt as well as the gas's Elusion requirement. (Impact 5 = 0 + 0 + 0 + 5, Elusion [Acrobatics 5 or Wrestle 5])

Untargeted Flask of Sleep Gas

Breathing more than one breath of the cloud of soothing gas released when this flask breaks puts any creature to sleep. Sometimes these are crafted so the gas is invisible, to trap and capture tresspassers. (Impact 7 = 0 + 2 + 0 + 5, Elusion [Wrestle 7])

Mechanical Traps

Mechanical Traps are crafted with the Machinery skill. The machinist use a toolbox to initially assemble the trap. No toolbox is needed during the time required to set up the trap (convenience is always 0) in its intended location.

Traps can wait indefinitely in a dormant state. Once triggered, they become active for 8 hours.

A trap that has expended its active time can be repaired for half its original crafting cost.

Magic machines, including traps, are unintelligent. They sense and react to their environment (area is always 1). But they only do what they were instructed to do when designed.

Magic machines can make rough comparisons involving size or color, but have no other ability to form judgments make choices. No magic machine can use other equipment, nor act cleverly enough to benefit from a situational advantage or bravado bonus.

Some traps shoot projectiles, and like all machines have terrible aim. Other traps cause harmful area effects, and thus have an elusion rating. In both cases, traps have trouble harming alert and healthy targets, but can be deadly if the target is already slowed, weakened, or distracted. The maximum number of losses any machine can cause is 1 more than the target's current number of suffered losses.

Trap building is as old as using tools to ensnare animals for food. Laws restricting the construction or sale of traps are very rare. The more general laws about public safety suffice to punish people who set up traps in places that threaten the public. Amateur trap makers are common, and many children learn a little Machinery as their first magical crafting skill.

Pressure Plate Dart Trap

This trap shoots darts when a pressure plate is triggered. The darts are small, and only cause one minor loss if they hit. (Impact 2 = 0 + 1 + 0 + 1)

Mechanical Devices

Mechanical Devices are crafted with the Machinery skill. The machinist must prepare them using a toolbox.

...

Mechanical Eye

This extremely expensive device is still the least expensive way to magically give sight to a blind person. (Impact 8 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 5)

Enchanted Artwork

Enchanted Artwork is crafted with the Musing skill. The muser must ...

Crampons of Sky Stepping

These crampons radiate a soft blue glow. When attached to any shoes or boots, the glow intensifies and the wearer can walk on air. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Goggles of Ogre Detection

These goggles allow the wearer to see who is an Ogre. Vision is unaffected, except that Ogres appear to be glowing purple. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Lock of Super-Locking

A matched key and lock are crafted togehter. Once the key locks that lock, nothing else can unlock it until the lock's duration expires. (Attempting to pick the lock slowly uses up the device's active duration.) Often these keys are used in conjunction with a magically indestructibe box. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Sword of Preternatual Accuracy

This sword grants +2 to its wielder's skill use when attacking or parrying. It is an example of the classic "weapon with a 2-point equipment bonus from a magical source". (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)

Sword of Deadly Risk [Wonder 4]

This sword radiates an aura when unsheathed. Any wound inflicted in that area causes the injured creature to only have its final major loss remaining—except that a creature already down to its final major loss is defeated as normal. (Impact 4 = -1 + 2 + 0 + 3)

Wards

Wards are circles (area is always 1) whose special effect is triggered when a creature crosses their boundary, unless that creature overcomes their elusion rating.

Wards can be drawn with alchemical ingredients, built with machines and trip wires, drawn artistically and enchanted with musing, or created with the concentrated willpower of transmutery. The choice of crafting skill determines their duration and maximum radius.

Most wards are used as traps, so the crafter does not mind if their effect only begins after a short delay (convenience for non-alchemical wards is very often 1).

Ward of Alarm [Acrobatics 1]

When a creature steps on this ward a noise happens. Usually the noise is a loud alarm to alert guards elsewhere, or wake sleepers. Because such a low impact ward has such a low elusion rating, the circle is often hidden under dirt or a carpet so the intruder does not see to step over it. (Impact 1 = -1 + 1 + 1 + 0)

Ward of Kitchen Cooking

This practical ward causes items placed on its border to be heated or chilled. The change in temperature is quicker than an oven or icebox, but not quick enough to harm a creature mobile enough to move off the ward. This ward does have an elusion rating of [Escape 2], but most stories never use that. (Impact 2 = 0 + 1 + 1 + 0)

Ward of Stumbling [Acrobatics 2]

Guards tasked with protecting an entryway can use this ward to cause anyone crossing the threshold to fall down (suffer 1 minor loss). It works like a tripwire, but is not broken by the first person to trigger it. (Impact 2 = -1 + 1 + 1 + 1)

Ward of Wellness

Crossing this ward makes someone feel rested and confident (heals one or both minor losses). The effect is beneficial, so it does not have an elusion rating. (Impact 3 = -1 + 1 + 1 + 2)

Ward of Scalding Steam [Escape 7]

The ultimate trap, crossing into this ward causes the intruder to die, instantly cooked in deadly scalding steam. (Impact 7 = 0 + 1 + 1 + 5)

Musing Artwork

The enchanted Artwork crafted using musing has "charges". Each charge lasts until the next midnight. The piece of enchanted artwork vanishes after the final charge ends.

(In some cities the criminals are especially bold shortly before midnight because law enforcement will be hesitant to inefficiently use expensive magic effects.)

Musing has few other restrictions. Its magical effects can affect a large area and/or happen far away.

The example items below that do not have range are assumeed to be crafted as inexpensively as possible: a location such as a magic shrine or ley line crossing is used to allow the item a convenience of zero. These items would have one higher impact if created away from such a noteworthy location.

Extra Sparkly Searchstone

A ring with a sparkly gemstone is enchanted to shine with a radiant inner light after the gemstone is squeezed. The gleams of radience sometimes appear to bend if the wearer is looking for something, as if pointing the way. The effect bestows a 2-point equipment bonus to the Perception/Escape and Track skills. (Impact 2 = 0 + 2 + 0 + 0)

Cummerbund of the Careful Tongue

Bergtroll nobles use musing to enchant a piece of their young children's clothing to help the children remember their manners while being introduced at parties. If the child is about to make an egregious mistake in etiquette, the piece of clothing constricts slightly as a reminder. The effect bestows a 2-point equipment bonus to the Etiquette skill. (Impact 3 = 3 + 0 + 0 + 0)