I.R.P.S. Icehouse Role Playing System
While attempting to brainstorm a Boardgame/RPG hybrid that could serve as an introduction to RPGs for people who might be scared of the concept I ran across Stacktors! on Icehousegames.org. It was a very interesting concept but a little too complex for my tastes. I also wanted something that could be played almost strictly as a boardgame before introducing a flavor to it so as not to intimidate new players. Finally, I've been reading more and more of the indie RPG scene and fell in love with the concept of Micro d20, so the idea of a rules light Treehouse-centric RPG clicked into place. I.R.P.S. should be fully functional (eventually) as a settingless universal rpg system playable only with A Treehouse stash (or several) a deck of cards and some d6's. It should become evident upon reading it that depending on the whims of the players it can be expanded to much much more if desired.
Please note that while the terms used here will be familiar to RPG players, they can be stripped of such association and presented purely as a boardgame. The basic game will assume 4 competitive players and a GM (whose role can be swapped for the winner after each game if desired). The game can easily be adapted to teams of 2 or even all 4 players working as a team quite easily.
- Character Creation
For 4 players, take the black pieces out of a Treehouse set and place the others in an opaque bag. Each player in turn selects a complete tree worth of pieces, 1 of each size. These 3 pieces will represent your character. Each color is associated with a playing card suit. Blue = Spades, Green = Clubs, Red = Hearts, Yellow = Diamonds. The 3 point piece is the strongest stat of the 3 and represents great ability. The 1 point piece represents an above average aptitude. A character with no pips in a color is assumed to be average in it.
Each color is assumed to represent a stat in the setting chosen by the GM. The stats are arbitrary and could represent anything based on the setting. Some examples below.
Fantasy Setting Blue = Body Red = Mind Green = Spirit Yellow = Luck
Mech Combat Setting Blue = Speed Red = Armor Green = Firepower Yellow = Special Attack
Steampunk Mad Science setting Blue = Inspiration Red = Engineering Green = Access to parts Yellow = Endurance
Any combination will in fact do. Once each player has the Tree of pieces making up their character, it is up to them to describe some sort of special attribute associated with that stat. The special attribute should be in line with the pip count and color of the piece being represented. For example, Togar the Barbarian is represented by a 3 point blue piece, 2 point red piece, and a 1 point blue piece. His player decides that his 3 point piece represents that he is "Abhorrantly large", his 2 point piece represents that he has some training of war strategy and tactics, and his 1 point piece represents that he is of above average speed. Players should feel free to be as creative as they like with these descriptions.
- Board Layout
The GM shuffles a standard poker deck (taking out the Aces first) and deals the cards into 4 rows of 12. The Aces are randomized and placed at the end of those 4 paths. After this is done each player examines the board and determines which path will be most advantageous for their character to attempt to navigate. They then place their trees on the first card in those paths. There is no limit to the number of players which may choose any given path. This is a very important choice however as you will not be able to deviate from this path without slowing (see HORIZONTAL MOVEMENT below) and if you choose a path that is shared by other players you may find yourself at odds with them (see PVP below). The players chose their paths in the same order they created their characters, first to draw pyramids is the first to choose a path. Knowing which paths your opponents are taking can be useful information.
- Challenge resolution
On each players turn they are presented with a scenario based on the card on which they are on. Each scenario should be thematically matched to the suit of the card and the appropriate stat. The difficulty of overcoming the scenario is based on it's rank. You can look up the difficulty levels from the chart below. The number of dice rolled for any scenario begins at 2 (representing the use of an average ability). If the color of any pieces in the character's make up match the suit of the scenario the player may ADD that many extra dice to the roll. Togar for instance since he has 2 points of Red would roll 4d6 for any Heart he is on and would get to roll a whole 6d6 dice for any Spade he is on. In addition, the GM has the ability to grant bonus dice under two circumstances. If you can petition the GM that your Special attributes you described for your character are particularly adept at helping out with the challenge they have laid out you can get up to 1 bonus die per piece (this can include colors that don't match the card!) additionally the GM can grant 1 more bonus die for your description of how you best the challenge being really cool. So Togar could in theory get up to 10d6 to roll if he were facing a challenge that his large size, speed, and military training were useful and he described how to overcome it in a really cool manner.
Normal Movement -If you meet or beat the difficulty level of the challenge you are on you move forward a card. If you fail you stand still and try again next turn using one extra die over last time. If you succeed by a great amount (2 or more times the difficulty) then you MAY move up that many cards instead of just 1. However this is all or nothing, if you triple the difficulty you may move 1 card or 3, but not 2.
- EXCEPTION - Face cards MAY force you to halt on them rather than jump over. In order to jump over a face card you must have pips in that color of a value to match the rank, Jacks require 1 pip, Queens 2, Kings 3. For example, a player with 2 pips of blue would be able to jump over a Jack or Queen of spades as they would any other card but would be forced to stop on a King of Spades. A player with no pips of the appropriate color must stop on all face cards of that color (10's are not face cards).
Horizontal Movement - If you find yourself on a challenge card that you have very little hope of succeeding at (for instance, a King for which you will only roll 2d6) you may instead of attempting it, attempt to overcome the card to the immediate right or left of the card you are on. The board does "wrap around" to the other side, so there is always a card on both sides of you. You make a test against that card as normal and if successful may move to that card horizontally rather than moving up further vertically. This can be useful for putting yourself in a better situation pathwise but can slow you considerably as you will make no forward progress that turn. Additionally, there is no automatic movement for 3 failures on attempts to move sideways, you MUST beat the target to move horizontally.
If you land on a card occupied by another player, you immediately begin a PVP challenge. Both players roll 3d6, highest total wins. In the case of a tie, whoever had the highest result on a single die wins. If it is still a tie both players roll 3d6 again. The loser immediately FALLS BACK one card. If this results in them occupying the same card as another player, those players immediately begin another PVP challenge.
- Winning the Game
The last card in each row is always an ace. Upon starting a turn on it you begin some sort of "final challenge" as described by your GM. This is played out normally but at a much higher difficulty than normal (24). You MUST complete this challenge by meeting or beating it's difficulty. You add an extra die every time after a failure as normal. The first player to land on the final challenge and complete it is the winner!
- Difficulty Levels
The difficulty level of a card is = to it's numerical value +4. A 2 has a difficulty value of 6 while a 9 has a difficulty value of 13. Face cards (except Aces) are ranked appropriately so the difficulty of the face cards are J = 15, Q = 16, K = 17. Aces have a difficulty value of 24. The great difficulty of Aces makes them a critical juncture of the game and which path they are on should weigh on your initial selection. Moving to a path with a more judicious Ace at the end at some point during the game is often a good move.