World of Quests
published: Mar 14, 2018 | last modified: Jul 18, 2018
estimated reading time 49 minutes

The basic foundation of Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) dice (2d6, roll+, 6- / 7-9 / 10+, player facing) and HeroQuest: Glorantha abilities and resolution (masteries, yes/and/but/no, pass/fail cycle) mashed together.

Inspired by the post 2d6 and 3 out of 5 on The Walking Mind blog.

Works Referenced:




Some Terminology

Setting Creation

Character Creation






Levels of Success

Specialist vs Generalist

That’s Stretching It Pretty Thin

Foes and the Pass-Fail Cycle

Applying Masteries

Shift Up With XP

I Still Have Masteries Left






Generally surfing the Glorantha forums, I ran across a reference to the “2d6 and 3 out of 5” post on The Walking Mind (link above). A sliver of insight and inspiration grew to include two of my favorite systems.

This is by no means a “complete” game; rather the basic framework to maybe hang a game on; though an experienced GM — especially in the ways of narrative flavored games — may be able to run with what is here. If you do, I welcome criticism and comments (see About for an email address).

This is also, in its pieces-parts, nothing original. I have just taken concepts and design from many places and put them together in a different way. Throughout I have attempted to give credit where credit is due. If I missed a reference, please let me know.


World of Quests (WoQ) takes inspiration from many places. In general, don’t sweat the nitty-gritty details — aspects can be interpreted in many ways, and sometimes stretched a bit for use in some situations. It should always revolve around the fiction and encourage the creativity of the players. Below are some snippets from sources other than me that capture this feeling, and provide some good general advice.

Think mythic. Think high adventure. Think Beowulf. Think Iliad and Odyssey. Think Story. Do not think “if I take a sword +1 of dragon slaying and apply my +2 ability to strike I will be uber-munchkin.” 3 Best summed up by the Five Principles of Gaming found in HeroQuest: Glorantha.

Directly from HeroQuest: Glorantha 1 on page 130.

The Stafford Principle
As a Game Master, it is important to maintain a sense of wonder in the world. It is not possible for any mortal to fully understand the workings of Glorantha, and to do so takes away from the pleasure of the unexpected. A dragonewt won’t do the same thing every time you encounter one. Leave room in your campaign for the unexplained, the mystic and the mythic. No matter how much you learn and experience, there is always more to discover.
The Petersen Principle
As a Game Master, you should do things that make the campaign fun. If you have a choice between two courses of action, always choose the one that will bring the most enjoyment to the Game Master and the players. The players will come up with things you never expected, and these plans and explanations might not bear any resemblances to what you anticipated. So what!?! If the new explanations are more fun and overall consistent with your Glorantha, go with them!
The Richard Principle
As a Game Master, always be prepared to wing it and make stuff up. If it is Maximum Game Fun for everyone playing and creates a good story, then sometimes a dragon can be defeated with a talking flower, or a player can try to “spontaneously resurrect” by wandering the Path of the Dead and seeking the way out of the Underworld. The consequences of such unlikely successes often make the best and most memorable stories.
The Robinson Principle
As a player, be willing to Embrace Failure. Sometimes your hero will fail, and that is what makes the game more interesting. This is not a computer game or miniatures skirmish where you need to succeed each time to continue the story. Sometimes failing is the story.
The Meints Principle
As a player, be mindful that there are others, including the GM, trying to enjoy the game as much as you are. Making the game fun for everyone else while making it fun for you is its own reward. Always remember to listen more than you talk and that kindness costs you nothing.


The general flow is similar to most PbtA games. A PbtA flow might be abstracted to:

Always revolving around the fiction.

The basic flow of this framework is similar. The big difference is there are no “moves” to be triggered by characters. Rather the characters have aspects that may be used to address situations in the fiction as presented.

The “challenge an aspect” versus “trigger a move” is the real difference. And again, always revolving around the fiction.

Some Terminology

In the different sections below, they may be proceeded by an area with purple text between horizontal rules. This is a summary of the section, which is expanded upon in the subsequent text. These summaries are all available together on a single page as a reference to the rules. The link to this reference is at the bottom of this page.


An aspect is a piece of fiction that differentiates your character.

  • An aspect is a name or description, and a rating.

A domain is a grouping of zero or more aspects.

  • A domain is a name or description.

The name or description should be evocative and fiction appropriate.

A rating is a potential and a mastery.

  • pWm where p is potential (1-3) and m is mastery (0+).
    • 3W2 — potential of 3 with a mastery of 2
  • If a potential would be raised to 4:
    • The mastery is raised by 1.
    • The potential set to 1.
    • 3W2 + 1 = 1W3

When we talk about something that differentiates one character from another, that something is an aspect. An aspect is a piece of fiction specific to your character. It may describe a life outlook, a skill, a tool, a supernatural power, a character flaw, or a relationship. Anything that makes your character come to life and distinguishes him or her from others or grounds him or her in the game world can be an aspect.

Aspects always fall under a domain. A domain is a kind of umbrella within which aspects live.

A domain is defined with a name or description. The name or description should be evocative and fiction appropriate. Domains are like categories to group related aspect beneath. However, the relation of the aspects beneath a domain is defined by the fiction and setting, and domains may be as wide or as narrow as required.

An aspect is defined with a name or description, and a rating. The name or description should be evocative and fiction appropriate. The rating is defined by a potential and a mastery. Together they embody an amalgam of a characters knowledge, skill, natural ability, and relationships in that particular aspect.

Coming up with compelling and strong aspects is very similar to creating a good cliche in the RPG Risus 4. Risus is a 6 page RPG with a 64-page users manual (Risus Companion). Besides tons of good stuff, the Risus Companion has great advice on developing a good cliche, and in this context, aspect.

Aspects all have a potential in a range of 1-3 but are scalable with masteries. When you raise a rating’s potential of 3 by one point, it increases not to 4, but to 1W1. The “W” signifies a game abstraction called a mastery (‘W’ in homage to the Mastery Rune in Glorantha). The way this is shown is pWm where p is the rating potential and m is the rating mastery. An example might be the aspect

Loves riddle contests — 2W1

The potential is 2 and the mastery is 1. Note: this may also be written as

Loves riddle contests — 2W

When the mastery is 1, the number can be dropped and assumed.

The rating, as in HeroQuest, is not how good you are at the aspect, but rather how well you use that aspect. This is a subtle but important difference.

I will use an example player, Jan, and an example character, Jon, to illustrate the different pieces-parts throughout this discussion.

Setting Creation

Setting creation can be a GM only activity, a collaborative activity with the players, or a GM guided player activity. Setting creation will include creating lists of appropriate domains for the setting, and lists of appropriate aspects beneath those domains. The lists do not have to be “complete” and include every possible thing that may be important to the setting. Just a few to get things rolling, and more domains and aspects can be added as needed to the setting and character during play.

Lists of possible domains:

Lists of possible aspects beneath each domain:

Boundaries also need to be established for character creation:

For our example, the GM wants to run a mini-campaign focusing on the clans in the Dragon’s Spine mountains; the conflicts and relationships between the clans, and the conflicts and relationships with the flat-land cultures will be the focus.

The GM outlines three different species: human, dwarf, and elf. Many of the aspects that will be associated with these three species will be quite stereotyped and contrived, but it will help to get the spirit of species differences across in this example. It is important to emphasize weaknesses along with the strengths of different species. In this example, the GM requires a character to take ALL of the aspects under the species domain selected.

Human (species domain)


Dwarf (species domain)



Elf (species domain)



Since the campaign is to involve the clans of the Dragon’s Spine, the GM has stated that characters must be of either human or dwarf stock, as elves have no part in the clans of the mountains. Once the species is selected, the domain is created and the character acquires all of the aspects beneath that species domain.

Immediately, there are two broad cultures at play: the flat-landers and the clans. The GM can choose to leave the cultures available at that, or use these two broad cultures as a base, and derive specific cultures in both areas from which the players may choose. Building a hierarchy of cultures (and it may work for some professions as well) builds depth within and differences between the different cultures.

Cultural Considerations

A Clan of the Dragon’s Spine (general cultural domain)

Survival and navigation in the Dragon’s Spine

Clan politics


Clan beliefs

In which case, all characters born into the clans would begin with this domain and zero or more of the aspects. Of course, more aspects may be created during play, adding to the list for future character creation.

Or, perhaps the above is taken as a general outline and “assumed” by all clans, and specific clan aspect lists are generated identifying the differences and details of that clan.

Vorn Clan of the Dragon’s Spine (specific cultural domain)

Everything has a spirit, and the spirits remember

Fish is best smoked

There is always only one shaman and one apprentice

The Rake Clan must be ended!

Rake Clan of the Dragon’s Spine (specific cultural domain)

The strength of our enemies is respected

The strength of our enemies is respected, the strength of our enemies shall be defeated, the strength of our enemies must be consumed.

Hunting and gathering includes the other clans, especially at the time of Clan Moot

The clan mother and her daughters always know best

Using the clan specific lists, a character may be made with a domain for a specific clan selecting aspects from that list, and also aspects from the “parent” general clan list (if one exists) may also be selected and placed under the same domain. In this way, a GM may create a hierarchical set of aspects that give more options for the players when creating and advancing characters.

Remember, if the setting creation is collaborative or player driven, new domains and/or aspects may be added to any GM provided lists.

For our example campaign and character creation, the GM has directed that all the characters must come from the Vorn Clan. Three cultural aspects may be selected/created for the cultural domain. One aspect should be selected from the clan specific list, one aspect should be selected from the clan general list, and the final cultural aspect is up to the player. Again, remember, the final “up to the player” aspect might be a new creation.

Profession domains cover the skills, knowledge, and tools necessary to function as an active member of a society or economy. Whether it is maintaining a farm, part of a mercenary corp, or an advisor to the lord’s court, most professions have details and nuances to perform well.

Below are two examples. The second is a shaman apprentice, which further warrants an aspect list detailing subjects magical.

Clan Warrior (profession domain)

The Dance of Blood

The Wind of Death

The Shell of Tortoise

Understand the arena of battle

Vorn Clan Scout (warrior profession sub-domain)

Intimate with the Terrain

Eyes of an Eagle

Clan Shaman (profession domain)




Vorn Clan Shaman Apprentice (shaman profession sub-domain)

The Clan Mother/Father is my Mentor and Executioner

A deep connection with the spirits of past myth and legend

Green Thumb

Character Creation

Given a setting (in the making), a character in the setting may now be created.

When you create a character, do the following.

Who are you?

  • Choose a species as a domain.
  • Add all aspects from that domain to your character.

Where were you raised?

  • Choose a culture as a domain.
  • Choose or create 3 aspects for this domain.
  • Choose a name for your character from your culture.

How do you make a living?

  • Choose a profession as a domain.
  • Choose or create 3 aspects for this domain.

What are you passionate about?

  • Create an aspect reflecting a piece you.
  • Some examples:
    • personality trait
    • a bit of history
    • a possession
    • an area of knowledge
    • a special ability
    • a relationship
  • Place the aspect under one of your domains.

Why are you not perfect?

  • Create an aspect representing a flaw.
  • Some examples:
    • a fear
    • a habit
    • a relationship
    • a need
  • Place the aspect under one of your domains.

Determine each aspect’s rating.

  • Roll 2d6 for each aspect down-the-line.
    • On a 2-6, the rating is 1.
    • On a 7-9, the rating is 2.
    • On a 10-11, the rating is 3.
    • On a 12, the rating is 1W.

Buy your stuff.

  • You begin with 10 Coins.

It must be understood, the game is played as a conversation towards the fiction, and the different aspects that make up a character are up for some interpretation. It would be impossible to list all the things a shaman or scout might be competent at, and these things must be taken into account as play progresses and the fiction demands.


The GM states this will be a gritty low-fantasy mini-campaign focusing on the interactions of several clans in the Dragon’s Spine mountains, with each other and with the flat-land peoples. Jan writes a quick description of her character, Jon, and determines the aspects for Jon from this and any information provided by the GM, including the setting domains and aspects.

As a dwarf from the Vorn Clan of the Dragon’s Spine mountains, Jon often acts as a scout when ranging with a war party at night because of his excellent perceptive abilities. He is quite handy with his knife and short bow. Jon also loves playing the flute.

Selecting Dwarf as a species requires Jan to include all of the aspects beneath the species domain into her character:



Next is the culture domain — Vorn Clan required per GM. The GM has requested an aspect from the general cultural list be taken, an aspect from the specific cultural list be taken, and a third from either list or create a new aspect (with GM approval).

Survival and navigation in the Dragon’s Spine

Everything has a spirit, and the spirits remember

Often creates the flutes he plays

And finally, a profession domain is established. Again, the GM would like the player to select an aspect from a general profession and an aspect from a specific profession. A third aspect is to be selected from one of the lists or created.

The Wind of Death

Intimate with the Terrain

Little Thorn (short bow)

After creating the aspects, Jan rolls right down the line accepting whatever the dice show for the aspect ratings.

Jan was unhappy with the low aspect rating on Little Thorn (short bow). Because of this, she has negotiated with the GM to add a “flaw” flavored aspect for the benefit of bumping the potential of the Little Thorn (short bow) aspect. However, it seems Jan’s luck with the dice is holding consistent, as the rating on the new flaw is high.

Spiders are living nightmares

Interestingly, Jan has chosen to place the fear of spiders aspect under profession. This may imply something that occurred in the past during an outing. If the flaw had been placed under the cultural domain it may have implied a clan-wide fear or wariness of spiders. If the flaw had been placed under the species domain it may have implied that most dwarves fear spiders. Another possibility might have been to create a new domain appropriate to place the flaw beneath.

Also of note is Jon has a harm rating (see below about harm rating) of 12 because the character is a dwarf. If the character had been human, the harm rating would have been 9.

So, after adjusting the general description to match the attributes selected, Jon’s final character sheet might look something like the following:

As a dwarf from the Vorn Clan of the Dragon’s Spine mountains, Jon often acts as a scout when ranging with a war party because of his excellent perceptive abilities at night and familiarity with the terrain. He is quite handy with his short bow ‘Little Thorn’ and has a deep respect for the spirits of his ancestors. Jon also loves playing the flute, and secretly fears spiders.

Dwarf (species domain)

Resilient 1W (species: natural ability)

Dark-sighted 1 (species: natural ability)

Vorn Clan (cultural domain)

Survival and navigation in the Dragon’s Spine 2 (cultural: general)

Everything has a spirit, and the spirits remember 1 (cultural: vorn)

Often creates the flutes he plays 2 (cultural: created)

Warrior/Scout (profession domain)

The Wind of Death 3 (profession: warrior)

Intimate with the Terrain 2 (profession: scout)

Little Thorn (shortbow) 2 (possession: created)

Spiders are living nightmares 3 (profession: flaw)

Example Aspects

A bit of history that represents an internal rage or need for revenge? This might also be considered a flaw under certain circumstances. Just a few different or extra words in an aspect can have big implications. The aspect could have been worded “Thieves Guild killed my wife.” Good, and also implies a possibility of rage or revenge. But adding “slaughtered like a side of beef” hints at even more story —

Blackeye — Wolf from a pup (companion domain)

A cemented aspect. Though only a wolf, there is implied a basic understanding, simple commands, pack mentality, and the character would have to maintain alpha status. There is also the implication of a strong bond (“from a pup”), and maybe years of history. This aspect is a domain, and the companion has an aspect related to stealth. This might come into play when the wolf is commanded to follow or take down a target.

Note: since the wolf is cemented in this way, the GM technically cannot permanently take the wolf away. However, it also implies that if the owner passes beyond the black gate, the wolf may follow shortly, probably after laying out some serious vengeance. The death of such a companion can also lead to a great story as the human half struggles to cope with and understand the loss.

Mercenary (profession domain)

Mercenary covers a lot of violence, perhaps survival oriented risks, tactics of battle, and maybe a little strategy depending on the characters background. This domain might be a profession, or maybe a domain added later after acquiring “Shredder” and joining a mercenary corp. Of note is the aspect (cemented) possession in this domain — a weapon. The sword screams for complications; I’m sure someone cares that the sword was tempered in elven blood. It may also imply magical properties along with the history.

The player might have negotiated with the GM and added a second aspect under the “Mercenary” domain just for “tempered in elven blood,” and called that aspect the character’s required flaw. Again dripping with story and complications.

A flaw is something the GM can leverage to make the character’s life interesting and normally manifests as a disadvantage or hard choice. Flaws are purchased at character creation or earned during play. This flaw can be pretty heavy. Having this as a flaw implies you either cannot find any, or any reliable, care facility or situation to provide for the child. That means you are lugging her around and making sure she is fed and changed. A definite challenge when traveling across rugged territory or exchanging bullets on the street.

At character creation, if the GM allows, more than one flaw may be taken. In compensation for taking an extra flaw (of the GM and player’s approval), usually, an extra aspect is made available for the character during creation. There should, of course, be reasonable limits to this.

During play, many situations and events can add temporary or permanent flaws: a removed hand, a slave brand, a loved-one in desperate need, the loss of all of the characters holdings leaving them a pauper, the public humiliation of a performance before the king, wanted for being caught sleeping with the governors daughter (and she is pregnant), etc.

Sunset Downs (relationship/town)

Often communities or specific areas may become domains or aspects. Familiarity with geography, general customs, important dates, important people, etc. can be covered by such a community aspect. This is different than a cultural aspect, as you were raised in your culture and would instinctively know more about it, as contrasted with a community which can be acquired by immersing oneself for a time. In this case, the Pruners Guild in the fiction could be a secret society of assassins for hire, which implies lots of possible lore, connections, and complications with a front as a florist organization; or perhaps just a florist organization.

Moon Magic (talent domain)

Tome of Shadows (possession domain)

“I always have moonstone on me” implies the fiction either requires moonstone to perform magic, or it enhances the results. The interesting thing is, in a condition where the presence of moonstone is suspect (such as naked and chained in a cell), and the player wants to use this aspect in a challenge, where exactly was that moonstone? As usual, never shy from asking the players to fill in the details and answer the questions they ask.

Magic can be handled in many different ways with this framework, from lists of specific spells, perhaps categorized under specific domains, to just a general “I can do Magic” aspect and the effects are driven by the needs of the fiction and the dice results.

Providing a structure for magic removes some of the creative burdens from the player and GM, but may also limit some of the capabilities of the magic system. This should be thought about and perhaps opened for discussion before the game/campaign.

If a character’s intent is to never be unarmed, the second aspect “I always have a dagger on me” is good. This implies many hidden and visible daggers, and short of a strip search, the character would always have a dagger on hand. Even completely disarmed, this aspect may allow picking up something in the environment and hiding it, serving as a holdout weapon.

Simply adding an aspect for a named weapon such as “The Sisters” to ensure you will always have it is inappropriate. Named items should have a history and be integrated into the fiction. As such, an aspect that simply says “Many daggers” is poor, and the “I always have a dagger on me” is good. Try to stray away from creating aspects for just “things for thing’s sake.” All things — tools, weapons, armor, materials, etc., should not be used as aspects unless they have a story, are important to the character, and are rooted in the fiction. Your character can still have stuff, but it does not need to be an aspect.

Normally aspects created for things are done because the thing has something special about it. The example of “The Sisters” is good if there is fiction attached. “The Sisters” could be used in violent or intimidating challenges, making the weapon powerful on that alone. Adding the fiction of “cut a bit deeper than other daggers” makes the weapon more powerful as it lists additional harm.

Also, there is the implication of “more than one” so throwing it does not disarm the character. With the implication in the description and the explicit tag of “+1 harm” it should be either a master-craft weapon or magical. In either case, there is history, a story, and fiction involved.


As the story unfolds, a time will come where a character’s actions are risky or uncertain and the GM will require a roll to resolve an action. This is a challenge.

When you do something risky or uncertain:

Determine an appropriate aspect and any modifiers.

  • Modifiers are applied before the roll.
  • There may be no appropriate aspect — roll+0 (2d6).
  • The non-appropriate aspect may be available as a new aspect.

roll+potential to determine the level of success.

  • On a 10+, “yes, but”
  • On a 7-9, “no, but”
  • On a 6-, “no” — mark 1 XP
  • If an aspect was used, mark it “used”

Apply masteries to the level of success.

  • Opposing masteries cancel.
  • Bump up with your masteries or down with opposition masteries.
  • May spend 1 XP for 1 bump up.
  • Unused masteries are added effects;
  • Or unused masteries are converted to XP 1-for-1.

Update the fiction.

Mark the aspect used for possible advancement.

Levels of Success

Level Description
Yes, and success with added benefit
Yes success
Yes, but success at a cost
No, but mitigated failure/complications
No failure
No, and disaster

Throughout this discussion when modifiers are applied to a challenge, the modifier is always applied to the aspect being rolled before the dice are dropped. When a roll is made, the “potential” part of the aspect is applied as a plus to the roll. As such, the player will “roll+potential”.

To determine how well your hero uses an aspect when challenged, roll two six-sided dice (2d6) and add the aspect’s potential (ignoring the mastery for now). The final result is broken up into three categories: 10+, 7-9, and 6-. The categories never change and are used to determine the level of success.

If the result of the roll is 7+, mark the aspect used (if any) as “used.” This is for the end of the session when it is determined what can be improved. Only aspects that were used in play may be improved (or created).

If the result of the roll is 6-, give your character one XP.

(The mastery part of your aspect rating allows you to perform a shift among the levels of success (see below for applying masteries after the roll), greatly improving your chance of outperforming an inferior foe.)

Levels of Success

There are 6 levels of success or failure:

(All but small tweaks and emphasis for this section is Ian Cooper 5.)

Yes, and … Y+ — success with an added benefit
You get the stakes, and something else. The loser’s condition worsens, perhaps they take a significant injury, lose the trust of their community, or are publicly shamed. They might be dead or as good as. Or perhaps you gain something, stealing a possession, gaining a new follower, or become renowned in song. If you want to distinguish, a Success with Added Benefits should be a greater gain than a Success, but you can ignore this distinction often.
Yes … Y# — success
You get exactly what you want i.e. the stakes.
Yes, but … Y- — success at a cost
You get what you want, but there are complications, the effect is more limited than you desired, or you have to make a hard choice between benefits or accept a loss to get one.
No, but … N+ — mitigated failure/complications
You don’t get what you want, you lose, but it’s not a total loss. You are able to salvage something from the defeat, a little more if you sacrifice something other than the stakes to your opponent, that they agree to take instead.
No … N# — failure
You don’t get what you want, you lose the stakes. Any consequences or complications such as injury or loss of influence are short term and easily shrugged off. Just take the loss and rest up.
No, and … N- — disaster
You don’t get what you want, and there are long-term consequences. The situation might grow worse or more complicated or you might suffer adverse consequences that may require other conflicts to resolve: an injury that needs a healer, an insult that requires a formal apology, a loss of influence with the community that requires a triumph to win their trust again, etc. You might be dead, or as good as. Or perhaps you lose something, an item is taken from you, a follower deserts you, your reputation lies in ruins as poets mock your defeat. If you want to distinguish, a Disaster should be a bigger loss than a Failure, but you can ignore this distinction often.

The GM will let you know where on the scale the three categories fall for the game you are playing. The scale will depend on how lighthearted or grim the game is supposed to be. A kind of “difficulty level” for the setting overall.

So a “nice” game might be:

And an average game (this is where many PbtA games fall) might be:

While an “unkind” game (this is assumed to be the default) might be:

Finally, a “dark” (or perhaps extremely slapstick) game might be:

The GM tells Jan that the game will be gritty with dark overtones. As such the dice scale is set to an unkind game:

10+ is Y- — a “yes, but” outcome;
7-9 is N+ — a “no, but” outcome;
6- is N# — a “no” outcome.

Masteries will play an important role in the game in critical situations. Though the world is grim, there is a need for heroes to step up and provide hope in the fiction, and masteries enable this. Masteries are used to shift the level of success or failure (see below for applying masteries after the roll).

Specialist vs Generalist

(Much of the inspiration for many of the following sections came from jajagappa 3.)

When you roll in a situation against opposition whose opposing aspect is less specific in the fiction to the situation at hand than your own, you gain a +1 modifier to your aspect rating for the challenge; you have an advantage when using aspects relevant in specific situations versus generic aspects.

Jon is looking out for raiders coming over the ridge at night.

The raiders just have their Lowland Thugs 2 aspect as an opposition — no masteries and very general for the situation.

Jon uses his Dark-sighted 1 aspect, which is very specific to the situation, so probably a +1 modifier; in this case, it would give Jon an effective aspect of Dark-sighted 2.

If Jon did not have a specific breakout that applied to the action taken, Intimate with the Terrain 2 may have been appropriate for the challenge, but this aspect is not specific enough, as compared with Lowland Thugs 2, to warrant a bonus.

That’s Stretching It Pretty Thin

When you roll in a situation where your proposed match-up of challenge and aspect is somewhat implausible it is referred to as a stretch; you have a -1 modifier to the aspect.

An aspect is probably usable as a stretch if a successful attempt with the roll wouldn’t completely break the illusion of fictional reality — just stretch it a bit. If you saw the same scene in a book or movie, you might smile a little at the convenience of it all, but still remain engaged with the story.

Foes and the Pass-Fail Cycle

Modifiers might be applicable representing the overall obstacle or situation. These will be assigned by the GM to the challenge at hand and can range from easy to nearly impossible; these difficulties may be represented as simple potential modifiers or opposition masteries. In some cases they represent the situation; in some cases, the ability of another character (e.g. could be Fred’s Reckless flaw, could be George’s Leadership ability); could be the clan’s resources; etc.

If the GM determines the environment or some other over-arching and general situation exists that warrants a modifier, the modifier may be applied to all challenges, or perhaps challenges in specific areas (mental challenges for example in an area where a constant deafening sound is present).

(the pass fail cycle needs expansion here)

Applying Masteries

You get one shift for each level of mastery your hero has greater than the opposition.

Opposed masteries cancel out, so if the opposition has as many masteries as you do, you will not have extra masteries for shifts. If the opposition has more masteries than you do, you will receive the difference in shift downs on your level of success.

A shift is the application of masteries on the level of success just rolled. A single shift improves the result by one step, changing a N- to a N#, a N# to a N+, a N+ to a Y-, a Y- to a Y#, or a Y# to a Y+. As long as you have masteries remaining above the opposition’s, spend them one-for-one mastery-for-shift. Once the level of success has reached Y+, no more shifts can be done.

Shift Up With XP

You can spend an experience point to bump up any result by one step. You may only bump your own rolls, not those of other heroes or supporting characters with the exception of your companions and retainers, which, as extensions of your hero, you may spend experience points on. You can decide to use a bump up after the die roll results and after applying your masteries.

You may spend only one experience point on any given dice roll.

The expenditure of an experience point represents that moment in a story where your character pushes himself to the limit, marshals previously untapped reserves, or pulls a rabbit out of his hat. Strive to make this as exciting a moment in your game as it would be in the equivalent fiction. Describe exactly what extraordinary thing you’re doing to bolster your use of the aspect at hand. One useful approach is to look at your character sheet for other aspects you might be using to bolster this one. When stuck for a solution, feel empowered to describe outside forces acting on your hero, making him the beneficiary of good fortune or convenient coincidence. Wherever you reach for inspiration, be creative and play up your big moment.

I Still Have Masteries Left

If you have achieved a Yes, and (Y+) level of success and still have one or more “unused masteries,” you can use them to add additional effects or facts; the action affects more than one opponent, the action deals extra harm or trauma, the action affects the environment, the action completes in half the time, etc. Spend the remaining masteries one for one for effects in the scene and fiction.

Optionally, you may burn those extra masteries one-for-one for XP. This may ONLY be done with masteries that exist beyond a Y+ result. Note: if the opposition has masteries left, they may be used to apply additional effects upon your character or your character’s situation.


The health of your character is represented by an abstraction of the aspects of the character. Basically, the number of aspects you have represent the trauma your character can take.


When you give harm, the GM will note it to the opposition.

If the fiction and GM agree, a debility may be applied rather than harm.

When you receive harm, mark an aspect as harmed.

The GM may give you a debility rather than harm.

Harm is an abstraction used to represent injury, trauma, and shaken beliefs. When harm is given or received, the harm is represented by marking an aspect of your character as “harmed.” In some cases, a debility may be applied instead of applying harm.

Harm received or given marks an aspect as “harmed.” A mark is made next to the aspect indicating it has been harmed. This, of course, should be reflected in the fiction and the specific aspect justified in the way the harm was dished out. Optionally the GM may decide a debility is more appropriate for the harm.

A debility is a condition applied to the character, as a temporary flaw aspect to the character. Since the aspect is probably temporary, use of an index card is appropriate for adding it to the character sheet. The debility may represent anything appropriate to the fiction; the situation at hand, the character’s condition, the current environment.

Debilities must always be derived from the fiction and could have effects beyond potential modifiers and opposing masteries. Being “Gutshot” might have a side effect of bleeding and leaving a trail to be followed.

There is no limit to the number of debilities one can accumulate. However, common sense and the fiction should guide this. Receiving a small slash on an arm might not add to the trauma of a character that is currently “Gutshot.” In this case, a debility is probably not appropriate, and normal harm should be given. Note: any added flaw aspects representing debilities DO NOT count as aspects that can be marked as harmed.


When you have time to rest and reflect, all harmed aspects are recovered.

When you meet in-fiction conditions to clear a debility, do so.

If the debility and fiction demand, add an aspect to your character.

When you have time to rest and reflect, remove the mark for harm from all aspects. In a more gritty game, the GM may limit the number of aspects that can be cleared for a single rest.

Debilities are cleared as directed by the fiction. Depending upon the severity of, and the circumstances for, a debility, that debility might be cleared after some attention at the end of a scene or may require special resources sought beyond the scene in the fiction.

When you receive treatment or otherwise meet in-fiction conditions for clearing a debility, erase the debility. If the debility and fiction demand, add an aspect to your character representing the fiction.

Some debilities, such as the loss of a hand or the brand of a slave, are not removable by resources, attention, or time. These debilities are removed after adding an aspect to the character that reflects the circumstances of the debility. If a debility will take more than a session of play to clear, that debility should be removed and an aspect representing the condition or situation added to the character.

As circumstances and the fiction move forward in the game, aspects acquired from debilities might be changed or removed.


At the end of a session the player may advance used aspects.

Spend 1 XP to:

  • Create a new aspect at rating 1 beneath an appropriate domain.

Spend (potential + mastery + 1) XP to:

  • Raise an aspects’ potential by 1.

When complete, remove all used marks on aspects.

At the end of a session, you may have the opportunity to improve or add aspects. Only aspects that have been marked as used during the session may be advanced. Any roll made that was not refined with an aspect (roll+0 — no aspect) might introduce a possible new aspect for the character related to the roll.

You may improve an aspect by 1 at a cost of XP equal to the aspect’s current potential plus the aspect’s current mastery plus one (potential + mastery + 1).

Jon’s player wants to improve the The Wind of Death 3 aspect. By spending the current potential + current mastery + 1 XP, or (3 + 0 + 1) 4 XP, she improves the aspect to The Wind of Death 1W.

You can add a new aspect spending 1 XP; The new aspect starts at a rating of 1. Though rare, and it must be justified in the fiction, a new domain may be required for the new aspect.

If the new aspect seems out of character for your hero, you may be required to come up with a believable in fiction explanation before GM approval. The easiest way to get an apparently out-of-character new aspect approved is to do something during the game in the fiction to justify it.

Events that occur in play often serve as inspiration for organic-seeming new abilities. If you befriend an interesting supporting character, you might be able to acquire a Contact or Patron aspect that ensures an ongoing relationship with him or her. Likewise, you can make sure that you can permanently hold onto a new piece of equipment by buying it as a new aspect. The process to establish relationships or equipment is called cementing the fiction. You may cement an aspect at a cost of 1 XP.

Note: On occasion, the GM may increase one of your aspects or give you a new aspect based on the fiction. These are called directed improvements. These increases usually reward for overcoming particularly important or dramatic obstacles. They happen immediately, rather than at session’s end, and usually, have no experience point cost.

Once all improvements have been completed, and before the next session begins, remove all “used” marks from your aspects.


When you acquire stuff, if possible, abstract the stuff to bins.

Examples are ammo, adventuring gear, wealth, and lore.

As much as possible, stuff should be abstracted to bins of things unless having the stuff itemized and enumerated adds to the fiction.

One example would be ammunition for a ranged weapon. Rather than maintaining a tally of arrows for a bow, just maintain a bin for it called “ammo.” If a character has a bow and 3 ammo (note: these are not aspects, just stuff the character has picked up or purchased in the game), as long as the fiction does not take away any ammo, the character will always have 3 ammo. It is assumed the value represents some number of arrows, and the character will either collect expended arrows after a conflict or during downtime such as sitting around the campfire in the evening the character may repair or craft more arrows, to replenish and maintain the count at three.

During play, if the result of a roll gives the GM an opportunity for a soft move (9-) and it is appropriate to the fiction, perhaps the GM decides or gives the player a choice with the option, the character loses 1 ammo, reducing his or her ammo stuff to 2. We are still tracking ammunition, and when things get tense in the fiction, there may be an opportunity for the player to take a hit to ammunition representing the situation.

This same mechanism could be used for many things that are considered enumerable items that get used but are relatively easy to replenish when in a civilized area.

Another example might be a scholar after ransacking an old library in a set of ruins. Most of the scrolls and books in the library had long been taken or decayed to dust, but on a successful roll the GM states the scholar has found “Fief of Mill Town lore 4.” If at any time the scholar wants to know something even remotely related to the environs of Mill Town, the GM may just have the scholar mark off a use of the bin (resulting in “Fief of Mill Town 3”) and then give the information to the character. If the knowledge sought was somewhat esoteric or niche the GM might ask the scholar to roll and allow the scholar to spend “Fief of Mill Town” one-for-one to add +1 modifiers to the roll.

In games where money is not a big thing (assumed to always have pocket change for small items, meals, and board), then even wealth can be abstracted to a bin.

As wealth is accumulated, based on the amount or quality, the GM simply tells the character to add one to his or her wealth. When big ticket items are being bargained for (a small mercenary group, a boat, a manor, a master-craft weapon) that can be purchased with wealth, the GM states the cost in wealth. The purchaser’s wealth is then reduced by the cost. Or perhaps the GM asks the player to roll and allow the player to spend wealth one-for-one to add +1 modifiers to the roll.

Of course, if a large aspect of the game is about wondering where your next meal or the next payment for the farm is coming from, then you might not want to abstract wealth.

In the case of adventuring gear, needing a specific mundane adventuring related item (a set of spikes and hammer, a candle, or flint and steel for instance) would just cost 1 adventuring gear and the character would have that item. Again, for really rare items, or adventuring items that might be considered a stretch to be included in the bin, the GM might ask the player to roll and allow the player to spend adventuring gear one-for-one to add +1 modifiers to the roll.

Abstracting away the bean-counting in a game may help keep the game flowing forward, especially if the item being bean-counted is not important or relevant to the story the group is trying to tell.

During character creation above, your character was given 10 coins. This is meant to be an abstract value, and a set of leather armor might cost one coin, a good weapon might cost one coin, and a bin of “adventuring gear 3” or “rations 5” might cost one coin. Once coins have been spent during character creation, the remaining coins might be converted directly to wealth.

WoQ Reference

  1. HeroQuest: Glorantha
    Glorantha website June 30, 2017 ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. Powered by the Abocalypse
    PbtA website June 30, 2017 ↩︎

  3. jajagappa
    BRP Central Forums
    HQ2 Basics Page? February 26, 2017
    (secondary source) ↩︎ ↩︎

  4. Risus: The Anything RPG
    Risus: The Anything RPG on DriveThru ↩︎

  5. Cooper, Ian
    BRP Central Forums
    [House Rules] Yes, but… April 10, 2017 ↩︎