Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Unexpected Journeys - An RPG for "The Hobbit"


Since it's the holidays, this light RPG system is inspired by the brilliant Freeform, Universal (FU) system by Nathan Russell. If anything, it’s a little simpler than FU, as it’s designed to capture something of the simplicity and swift pacing of fantasy adventures in the style of “The Hobbit” (the movies or the book, depending on your tastes).

The FU system uses no numbers, only descriptions, which allows a great deal of flexibility but also the chance to bring together characters of quite different status and ability (such as wondering wizards and homely halflings). The probabilities are very granular, and largely advantage the characters, except when chances are against them.


Characters have three descriptive qualities, or descriptors:
Kin: A lineage, background or kind (such as Dwarf, Hobbit, Dunadan, or Elf).
Calling: A profession or main area of knowledge and skill (such a burglar, warrior or ranger), which may be only an aspiration when you begin.
Trait: A special attribute or ability that defines you (such as nimble, hardy, swift, or stern).
Putting your descriptors together defines your character:
Stern Dwarvish Warrior...
Nimble Hobbit Burglar...
Hardy Dunadan Ranger...
Of course, you may have some equipment and possessions, or nothing but your waistcoat.


When you meet a hazard or trial:

  • Pick up one die if it is something any of your kin could attempt.
  • Pick up one die if it is something any of your calling could attempt.
  • Pick up one die if your character trait or ability applies.

Roll all the dice you have, and take the best result:
1: Mishap the worst outcome, with complications or losses
2-3: Awry - failure, thwarted or crooked
4-5: Square - a success, sound
6: Boon - a success, with a benefit or a clear advantage
GM: Three dice are usually enough. If there are more dice in play, perhaps the roll could be passed over and the next challenge arise?


Dangers or conditions may cause you to set down one or more of your dice, as the GM directs. But you cannot set down your last die. Roll one die for each danger after your last die and take the lowest die you roll.


In battle, make the same check as an adventuring roll, but the GM may cause you to set down dice if you are matched, or daunted, by your foe.

In battle, you may be hit and wounded if your attack goes awry, or worse. If you are hit, you may have cause to roll to check your Wounds and Weariness, as below.

Wounds and Weariness

If you are wounded, or grow weary, pick up a die and roll. Then check the result.
6: Hale
5-4:  Shaken, then hurt
3-2: Weary, then wounded (a condition against you)
1: Out of play - GM will rule on consequences
Pick up another die when you have good armour, proof against your attacker. Set down dice against deadly attacks (such as a morgul blade). Depending on the result, the GM may also assign a suitable condition.
The latest check sets your current status. If the next roll is higher than your current score, lose one point instead. Lose nothing if the roll is a 6.
Monsters and other foes may start weakened or have several dice to use up before they fall.

Good rest and other healing will restore your condition towards Hale.

Other Conditions

You may be affected by other conditions, such as becoming Lost, Frightened, Daunted, Despairing or Enchanted. The GM will tell you when a condition will also affect your rolls. Some conditions may be easy to remove or overcome, whereas others may require considerable healing or success to cast off.

At times, and with luck and skill, you may inflict conditions, as well as wounds, on your foes (such as terrifying goblins, or enraging wolves).


Every character begins with two points of Hope or Courage. You can cancel the effects of a condition with a point of Hope, or expend one point of Hope at any stage to gain another die to roll.


Generally, the gear you carry will not affect rolls, although if you lack equipment, this may be a condition against you. Only rare, strong magic can add dice to your rolls.

Long Tales

As you adventure, you may gain new descriptors at certain points, becoming Wise or Nimble or Travel-worn. However, you may also gain a Shadow, such as Pride or Greed, which acts as a negative condition for certain rolls you attempt.


This work is based on FU: The Freeform/Universal RPG (found at http://nathanrussell.net/fu), by Nathan Russell, and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

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