Saturday, September 22, 2018

FOIL: Outline for a System

Things have been quiet at The Tinkerage of late, while dithering over whether to purchase and review the new RuneQuest: Glorantha (probably not) and skimming the pre-release PDFs for Warhammer Fantasy (4th Ed.).

All these heavy rulebooks (not to mention the unbearably turgid Zweihander, an overwrought clone of WHFRP now somewhat surpassed by the new edition), put me in the mood for a light, streamlined, highly flexible system – a dagger to wield in preference to the weighty zweihander, if you will.

In that spirit, I drafted the Freeform, Open, Instant, Light (FOIL) RPG, inspired by another masterpiece of light design, RISUS.

FOIL (Freeform, Open, Instant, Light) Roleplaying

Freeform Characters

Design a character with a set of Attributes in the 1-4 range, out of 10 points. Create a short brief or description, then pull out some suitable attributes. Each attribute should be specific but usable: "sneak-thief" is preferable to "sneaky". Add as much detail as needed.

  • 1 is capable, 2 is good, 3 is significant, 4 (and higher) is exceptional

Sample Character

Landser – a penniless aristocrat, trained in swordplay and drawn to the dark arts of sorcery. He has steely nerves (and questionable ethics).
Classical Fencer 3, Penniless Aristocrat 3, Dilettante Occult Scholar 2, Nerve 2

Tests and Tasks

For most tests and tasks, roll 2d6, add a relevant Attribute (or zero) and try for 7 (just made it) or better. Any other attribute assigned to the environment constitutes a negative or positive modifier, depending on the circumstances.


In a conflict, roll and add your attribute; your opponent does the same. The higher result wins. Equal results draw.

When you get into a serious or sustained conflict, such as a fight, you also commit your most relevant attribute to the conflict, which is not necessarily your fighting attribute itself. The committed attribute rank is used as a counter.

(If you have no suitable attribute to commit, then you have to take your chances and hope your opponent, or whatever is targeting you, misses.)

Rolls are compared as usual for a conflict, and the loser drops one point from the committed counter. When the counter hits zero, the loser takes a condition attribute, with a suitable 1–4 rating, usually with a negative consequence, as determined by the GM. The active attribute is not affected until the counter is exhausted (0) and consequences apply.

For example, a Deft Swordsman 4 would certainly commit their Deft Swordsman attribute as a counter in a fight, and when their guard fails and parries are exhausted, the character takes a hit, such as Gash 2. But a thief with Fast Dagger 2 and Duck and Weave 3 might well commit Duck and Weave 3 to a fight, while striking with their dagger.

Other Stuff

Stuff like armour probably provides a counter in addition to the other attribute the player commits, and once the armour counts down it gains the Battered or Tattered attribute, which then affects the next commit, and so on.

Resetting Counters and Conditions

Counters quickly reset, usually after a rest, but condition attributes are slower to heal and follow the GMs judgement (i.e., gunshots are harder to heal than simple exhaustion).