Stones: An RPG

November 16, 1998


The following is inspired by the collectable dice game and RPG, Throwing Stones. This RPG I've created is a perfect example of exactly the kind of thing I always complain about -- overly cute dice mechanics that add nothing (or less) to the quality of the game, but it is an interesting diversion.

Abilities and Dice

Start with 3 abilities. It does not really matter which 3 abilities you want to use. Strength-Agility-Intelligence and Body-Mind-Soul are two popular combinations. For the sake of discussion, I will call the abilities X, Y, and Z.

Each face of each die is labeled with an X, Y, or Z. Each die must have at least one face of each ability. There are 10 such combinations possible, labeled A through J, represented by the table below


The Throwing Stones dice have symbols silk-screened onto the dice. Instead, I would suggest shipping blank d6s and provide either a marking pen or a set of stickers that can be used to label the sides of the dice.

Each starting character has 4 such dice, though each die can be different. If you count the number of sides of a particular ability, that gives you the ability's rank. Abilities have a minimum rank of 4 and a maximum rank of 16, and the sum of the ranks of all 3 abilities is always 24. The average rank is 8 with a median of 10.

Sample Character

Abilities: BFFJ

X Rank: 7
Y Rank: 12
Z Rank: 5

Ability Rolls

When the character attempts an action that is worthy of making an ability roll, the player rolls all 4 dice. Each face that is appropriate for the task at hand counts as one success. Frex, If a character is doing something related to agility, count the number of Agility faces which come up. The minimum result is 0 successes, while the best a starting character can do is 4 successes; however, skill ranks can increase this.

If this number exceeds the difficulty set by the GM, then the task succeeds. If the number equals the difficulty, the character only gets a partial, marginal success. Getting less than the difficulty results in failure. Opposed ability rolls work much the same way, except the number of successes rolled by one character is compared to that of another character.


Skills have a rank of 0 to 4, possibly higher, with all skills defaulting to 0. I have two thoughts about how skill ranks affect ability rolls, so I'll present both of them.

1. Skill ranks add directly to the result of the ability roll. Frex, a character with a rank 2 skill will automatically add 2 to any ability roll using that skill.

2. Skill ranks allow dice to be re-rolled, one die per skill rank. The results of the re-rolled dice are added to the original results. Re-rolling a successful die does not cancel the success. All the dice have to be re-rolled simultaneously, though the player may choose which dice are re-rolled. Frex, a character with rank 3 cannot re-roll the same die 3 times -- the player must choose 3 dice to re-roll at once.

Combat and Damage

Combat is resolved as per any other opposed ability roll, comparing the attacker's and defender's ability rolls. If the attacker gets a number of successes equal to or greater than the defender, the attack succeeds. Initiative could be determined either by comparing ability ranks or requiring an ability roll.

Attack damage is measured in damage ranks from 0 for a bare fist to 4 for a great sword and higher for more powerful attacks. Likewise, different types of protection have an armor rank representing how much damage they prevent. Typical shields add 1 to the defensive skill rank and add 1 to the armor rank.

On a successful attack, the attacker takes the number of successes of the attack and adds the damage rank of the attack. The defender's successes and armor rank reduce this total. If the total is above zero, the defender loses that many hit points.

Sample Damage:

An attack scores 6 successes using a long sword (damage rank 4) against a defender who got only 3 successes and is wearing heavy plate armor (armor rank 5). The defender takes 6+4-3-5=2 hit points of damage.

Hit Points

How many HP each character has would be based on some combination of the ability ranks and number of dice. Frex, Throwing Stones uses Strength plus number of dice.

Once reaching 0 or fewer HP, a character falls unconscious. Death occurs at a specific negative value of HP or when the character fails an ability roll based on Strength (or similar) ability. Frex, if the character is at -5 HP, the character must make an ability roll and get 5 or more successes or else die. If the roll succeeds, further rolls are unnecessary unless the character takes further damage.

Experience Points

XP can be spent during a game to re-roll dice at one XP per die. XP can also be saved up to increase skill ranks, add new skills, or even add dice. I'm thinking that increasing a skill by 1 rank or adding a new skill (essentially going from rank 0 to rank 1) would cost 5 XP. Adding a new dice would cost the square of the number of dice you currently have. Frex, going from 4 to 5 dice would cost 16, going from 5 to 6 dice would cost 25, etc. Any type of die could be added.

Advancement in Throwing Stones is purely by adding dice, since that game handles skills differently, and I have just copied their XP costs for adding dice.

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Copyright © 1998 Patrick Riley