A rules and combat light playing card based system that is designed to be used with any genre of story.
It is intended to be accessible to non-gamers, but have enough depth to it to interest long time gamers.
• The language would change so that role-playing games would be not confused with games where one player or team wins. The concept of collaborative storytelling needs to be conveyed.
• The system would be easy to learn and character creation could be done in under an hour for new players.
• Characters have a mind and that should be notated on the character sheet
• The characters are not all celibate. Even if no romantic story lines come out during the course of a campaign, it should be clear as to who the character is attracted to.
• The mechanics could be derived from tools accessible at any supermarket. This will reduce the hesitation that people may feel about going to a Friendly Local Gaming Store. Not to mention that they are sometimes hard to find.
• Combat needs to be intuitive and quick. It also needs to be able to flow smoothly from the narrative.
• Any genre can be used without any rework of the mechanics
• There are no perfect characters. Flaws are required and can be picked up throughout the narrative. There is no mechanical benefit to the character for taking flaws.
• Magic needs to be loose enough to require creativity on the part of the player, but controlled so that the narrative does not get crushed by the player. That design criteria led to the creation of the Universal Storytelling System. Everything a character does is based on the number of successes drawn from a standard playing card deck that includes the jokers. Successes are 8-K. Aces take away a success. Jokers are wild. They first count as a success, but they force a single card draw. If the card is a success, the player adds three successes. If the card is a failure, the player takes away four successes. The system uses dots to determine how many cards are drawn for a particular task. Most of the draws are based on the skills the character has.
Each character is defined by their physical appearance, their emotional traits, who they are attracted to, their advantages, and flaws. To keep the character moving and changing, they always need to have short term and long term goals. Achieving those gets them development points to be used to improve the character. The improvement is smoothly gradual rather than stepped, as in a level based system.
Combat is story driven, in that the players must describe what their character does in order for the other players to determine what their characters do. Each player describes what their character does in initiative order (determined at the beginning of the session). Players later in the initiative track can use earlier players’ actions in determining what they do. Once everyone describes what they have done, each player determines if what they described gets pulled off through card draws. If any dependent action fails, the later characters must try to do as much as they can as to what they intended. Like crashing through a window that was not able to be opened in time. If any character cannot do what they intended, they may fully change their action.
The system can be extremely deadly. There are six areas of the body that can be targeted and destroyed. If the head or body gets destroyed, the character dies. It is important to have armor or a good dodge skill.
Magic uses runes and areas of influence to define what a character can do. Each rune has an area of influence, like Raido that governs travel and cycles. Then there is a Venn diagram of influences, which includes Self, Others, and Environment. By using a rune within the diagram of influence, a player can describe what it is the character is trying to do, which is up to the player’s imagination. To determine a successful casting, the player makes a card draw based on an appropriate magic skill combined with creativity. The story master (GM in gamer parlance) will make a 3 card draw per rune cast. If the player has one success per area on influence used and the SM has at least one success per rune cast, the spell succeeds.