True System Reference Document, Generic Edition

All of the following text is Open Gaming Content.


The True System Reference Document (SRD) is everything you need to create fun and fantastic storytelling adventures. It is a game of heroes, villains, action and excitement, where you decide the course the story takes! This Introduction provides you with an overview of what the True SRD is and how it works, while the later chapters show you how to create heroes and your own exciting adventures. Whether you are new to the world of adventure roleplaying games or this is your first, welcome! You have opened the door to whole new worlds of your imagination.

What Is Roleplaying?

If the True SRD is your introduction to the world of roleplaying games (RPGs for short), then you might be wondering, "What's all this 'roleplaying' stuff about?"

Essentially, in a roleplaying game, you (the player) take on the role of a fictional character in a world of your imagination. One player, the Narrator, acts like the narrator of a story or the director of a play. The Narrator sets the scene and describes what happens in the world around your character. Then the other players decide what their characters do, the Narrator describes the outcome of those actions, and off you go, spinning your own story.

Roleplaying is much like cooperative fan fiction or simulation gaming, where players work together to build a fun and exciting story. Although it's the Narrator's job to portray the various antagonists in the story, as well as the heroes' allies, the Narrator isn't playing against everyone else. In fact, it's the Narrator's job to work with the players to ensure everyone has fun and the group tells an enjoyable story.

Think of a roleplaying game like an extended version of the various games of make believe we all played as children, only with rules to help guide the story and a central Narrator to help set the stage and keep things moving along.

The Basics of the Game

The True SRD provides a framework for your imagination. It has rules to describe your character's traits, help you decide what happens in your stories and resolve conflicts between the heroes and the challenges they face. With it, any adventure you can imagine is possible.

To play, you need a copy of the True SRD; a twenty-sided die, available at game and hobby stores; and a pencil and some paper. You might want copies of the True SRD character record sheet found in the Appendix as well.

The Core System

The True SRD uses a core game system to resolve actions. Whenever your character attempts any action with a chance of failure, do the following:

  1. Roll a twenty-sided die (abbreviated d20).
  2. Add any relevant modifiers (for things like abilities, skills, and circumstances).
  3. Compare the total to a number called the action's Difficulty (set by the Narrator based on the circumstances).

If the result equals or exceeds the Difficulty, the action succeeds. If the result is lower than the Difficulty, the action fails. This simple system is used for nearly everything in the True SRD, with variations based on the modifiers added to a roll, the Difficulty, and the effects of success and failure.

The Narrator

One of the players in a True SRD game takes the role of Narrator. The Narrator is responsible for running the game and is a combination of writer, director, and referee. The Narrator creates adventures for the heroes, portrays the villains and supporting characters, describes the world, and decides the outcome of the heroes' actions based on the guidelines given in the rules.

It's a big job, but also a rewarding one, since the Narrator gets to create the setting and the various characters in it, as well as inventing fun and exciting plots. If you're going to be a Narrator, you should read through this whole book carefully. You should have a firm grasp of the setting and rules, since you're expected to interpret them for the players.

The Heroes

The other players in a True SRD game create heroes -- the main characters of their own adventure series, like an ongoing series of short stories or novels. As a player, you create your hero following the guidelines in this book, with the assistance and guidance of your Narrator, building the sort of hero you want to play. There are several components to creating a hero, outlined here and described in detail in the following chapters.


All heroes have certain basic abilities that define what they are capable of doing. These abilities are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. They each have a numeric ability score, averaging 0 for a normally capable human. Higher ability scores are bonuses (+1 to +5 or more), while lower ability scores are penalties (as low as -5). As part of creating your hero, you decide how strong, smart, and tough your hero is by choosing the appropriate ability scores. see Chapter 1: Hero Creation for more information.


Heroes fall into one of three roles that define the part they play in the story. Adepts are intellectual and knowledgeable heroes focused on supernatural powers. Experts are heroes specializing in various skills. Warriors are heroes specializing in fighting and combat. Your hero's role determines things like fighting ability, saving throw bonuses, and available feats.


Skills represent training in a particular sort of task or knowledge, everything from acrobatic maneuvers to negotiation, riding a horse, and ancient lore. Someone trained in climbing is able to climb faster and with more confidence than someone who isn't, for example. Skills are measured in ranks, reflecting how much training a character has in the skill. Skill ranks act as a bonus when a hero attempts an action related to a skill. You choose the skills your hero knows from a list of available skills. see Chapter 2: Skills for more information.


Feats are special abilities, representing talents or special training. They allow your hero to do things others can't or give your hero some other advantage. You select your hero's feats based on what you want your hero to be able to do. Heroes acquire new feats as they improve. see Chapter 3: Feats for more information.

Game Play

A session of True SRD play resembles one or more chapters from a novel. The Narrator and the players get together and tell a story by playing the game. The length of the game session can vary, from an hour or two to four hours or more. Some adventures are completed in a single session, while others take many sessions. You can choose when to stop playing, and you can start up again anytime later.

Just like a story, a True SRD adventure consists of a series of scenes. Some scenes are fairly straightforward, with the heroes interacting with each other and the supporting cast. In these cases the Narrator generally just asks the players to describe what their heroes are doing and in turn describes how the other characters react and what they say and do.

When the action starts happening, such as when the heroes are staving off a disaster or fighting villains, time becomes more crucial and is broken down into rounds, each six seconds long, and the players generally have to make die rolls to see how well their heroes do.

Die Rolls

There are a number of different die rolls in the True SRD, although they all follow the core system of a d20 roll plus modifiers versus a Difficulty. The three main die rolls in the True SRD are checks, attack rolls, and saving throws.


To make a check, roll a d20 and add your modifier for the appropriate trait (ability, skill, and so forth). You always want to roll high. Rolling 20 before adding modifiers (called a natural 20) is not an automatic success, and rolling 1 before adding modifiers (a natural 1) is not an automatic failure (as they are with attack rolls).

Check = d20 + modifier versus Difficulty


A check's Difficulty is a number set by the Narrator you must equal or exceed with your check result to succeed. So, for a task with a Difficulty of 15 you must have a check result of 15 or better to succeed. In some cases, the consequences of a check vary based on how much higher or lower the result is than the Difficulty.

Opposed Checks

Some checks are opposed checks. They are made against the result of someone else's check. Whoever gets the higher result wins. An example is trying to bluff someone. You make a Bluff check, while the Narrator makes a Sense Motive check for your target. If you beat the target's Sense Motive check result, you succeed.

For ties on opposed checks, the character with the higher modifier wins. If the modifiers are the same, re-roll.

Trying Again

In general, you can try a check again if you fail, and keep trying indefinitely. Some tasks, however, have consequences for failure. For example, failing a Climb check might mean you fall, which might make it difficult to try again. Some tasks can't be attempted again once a check has failed. For most tasks, once you've succeeded, additional successes are meaningless. (Once you've discovered a room's only secret door using the Search skill, for instance, there's no further benefit from additional Search checks.)

Circumstance Modifiers

Some circumstances make a check easier or harder, resulting in a bonus or penalty to the modifier for the check or a change to the check's Difficulty. The Narrator can alter the odds of success in four ways:


Difficulty Example (Skill Used)
Very easy (0) Notice something large in plain sight (Notice)
Easy (5) Climb a knotted rope with a wall to brace against (Climb)
Average (10) Hear an approaching guard (Notice)
Tough (15) Rig a wagon wheel to fall off (Disable Device)
Challenging (20) Swim in stormy water (Swim)
Formidable (25) Pick an average quality lock (Disable Device)
Heroic (30) Leap across a 30-foot chasm (Jump)
Superheroic (35) Convince the guards that even though they've never seen you before, they should let you into the fortress (Bluff)
Nearly impossible (40) Track an expert hunter through the woods on a moonless night after days of rainfall (Survival)


Task Skill Opposing Skill
Sneak up on someone Stealth Notice
Con someone Bluff Sense Motive
Hide from someone Stealth Notice
Win a horse race Ride Ride
Pretend to be someone else Disguise Notice
Steal a key chain Sleight of Hand Notice

Bonuses to your check modifier and reduction to the check's Difficulty have the same result: they create a better chance of success. But they represent different circumstances, and sometimes that difference is important.

Time and Checks

Performing a particular task may take a round, several rounds or more, or even no real time at all. Most checks are move actions, standard actions, or full-round actions. Some checks are instant and represent reactions to an event, or are included as part of another action. Other checks represent part of movement. The distance the character jumps when making a Jump check, for example, is part of the character's move action. Some checks take more than a round to use, and the rules specify how long these tasks require. see The Combat Round for more information.


Some tasks require tools. If tools are needed, the specific items are mentioned in the description of the task or skill. If you don't have the appropriate tools, you can still attempt the task but at a -4 penalty on your check.

A character may be able to put together impromptu tools to make the check. If the Narrator allows this, reduce the penalty to -2 (instead of -4). It usually takes some time (several minutes to an hour or more) to collect or create a set of impromptu tools, and it may require an additional check as well.

The True SRD provides systems to handle most situations likely to come up during a game, but these systems are just guidelines. Ultimately, it's up to the Narrator to decide exactly what happens in any given situation. The Narrator also decides when various checks and other die rolls are necessary to resolve a situation.

Generally speaking, it's possible to handle a lot of challenges and routine issues in the game using the guidelines given in this section, particularly the rules for taking 10, taking 20, and comparison checks. For example, if you know a hero can simply take 10 and succeed at a task under routine circumstances, there's no reason to bother rolling dice; just assume the hero succeeds and move on. This helps to maintain the narrative flow of the game and makes the times when you do start rolling dice more dramatic, since all the focus is on the action.

Checks without Rolls

A check represents performing a task under a certain amount of pressure, with uncertain results. When the situation is less demanding, you can perform with more reliable results. Applying these rules can speed up checks under routine circumstances, cutting down the number of die rolls players need to make during play.

Taking 1

If your total bonus on a check is equal to or greater than the Difficulty, you will succeed regardless of what you roll on the die. In this case, the Narrator might not require you to roll at all and just assume you succeed, since it's a trivial effort for someone of your capability. If the check has varying levels of success, you're assumed to achieve the minimum possible (as if you'd rolled a 1). You can choose to make a roll to achieve a greater level of success, or the Narrator may assume a greater level of success, depending on the circumstances.

Taking 10

When you are not in a rush and not threatened or distracted, you may choose to take 10. Instead of rolling for the check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 10. For average (Difficulty 10) tasks, taking 10 allows you to succeed automatically. You cannot take 10 if distracted or under pressure (such as in a combat situation). The Narrator decides when this is the case.

Taking 20

When you have plenty of time, and when the task carries no penalties for failure, you can take 20. Instead of rolling the check, calculate your result as if you had rolled a 20. Taking 20 means you keep trying until you get it right. Taking 20 takes about twenty times as long as making a single check, or about 2 minutes for a task requiring a round or less. If there are potential consequences for failing the check, such as setting off an alarm or slipping and falling, you cannot take 20.

Comparison Checks

In cases where a check is a simple test of one character's capabilities against another, with no luck involved, the one with the higher modifier or score wins. Just as you wouldn't make a "height check" to see who's taller, you don't need to make a Strength check to see who's stronger. The ability scores tell you that. When two characters arm wrestle, for example, the stronger character wins. In the case of identical bonuses or scores, just flip a coin to see who wins.

Aiding Another

Sometimes characters work together and help each other out. In this case, one character (usually the one with the highest bonus) is considered the leader of the effort and makes the check normally, while each helper makes the same check against Difficulty 10 (and can't take 10 on this check). Success grants the leader a +2 bonus for favorable conditions. For every 10 full points the helper's check exceeds the Difficulty, increase the bonus by +1, so a result of 20-29 grants a +3 bonus, 30-39 a +4, and so forth. In many cases, outside help isn't beneficial, or only a limited number of helpers can aid someone at once. The Narrator limits aid as appropriate for the task and conditions.

Types of Checks

There are two main types of checks: skill checks and ability checks.

Skill Checks

A skill check determines what you can accomplish with a particular skill (sometimes whether you're trained in that skill or not). It is a roll of d20 + your rank in the skill and the skill's key ability score against a Difficulty. Skill checks sometimes have gradations of success and failure based on how much your total roll is above or below the Difficulty. For example, if you fail a Climb check, you don't make any progress. If you fail by 5 or more, you fall.

Ability Checks

An ability check is like a skill check, but measures raw ability, like strength, endurance, or intellect. It is a roll of d20 + your ability modifier against a Difficulty. Ability checks tend to be all or nothing (you can either accomplish the task or you can't), although there are sometimes gradations of success or failure. Attempting a skill check without training (in other words, without ranks in the skill) is an ability check.

Attack Rolls

An attack roll determines whether or not you hit an opponent in combat. It is a d20 roll + your attack bonus. The Difficulty is your target's Defense, which measures their ability to avoid attacks. If you equal or exceed your target's Defense, your attack hits. Otherwise, you miss.

A roll of 20 on the die (called a natural 20) means the attack hits automatically and may be a critical hit. A roll of 1 on the die (a natural 1) means the attack automatically misses.

Saving Throws

Saving throws allow your hero to avoid different forms of danger, including injury, traps, poisons, tricks, and even supernatural powers. A saving throw is a d20 roll + the appropriate ability score (Constitution for Toughness and Fortitude saves, Dexterity for Reflex saves, and Wisdom for Will saves) and the appropriate save bonus, along with any bonuses from feats, special abilities, and the like.

Saving throw Difficulty is based on the potency of the hazard, such as the power of an attack or the strength of a disease or poison. Like skill checks, there are sometimes gradations to a saving throw's results. For example, a Toughness save may result in no damage at all if you beat the Difficulty, but could result in a glancing blow, a stunning blow, or an immediate knockout if you fail, depending on how much the roll misses the Difficulty.

The Combat Round

When things really start happening in a True SRD game, time is broken down into six-second segments called rounds, or combat rounds, since they're most often used in fights. A round isn't very much time, just long enough for a hero to do something. The types of actions your hero can perform during a round are standard actions, move actions, full round actions, free actions, and reactions. During a round you can do the following:

You can perform as many free actions and reactions in a round as you wish, although the Narrator may choose to limit them to a reasonable number to keep the game moving.

Standard Actions

A standard action generally involves acting upon something, whether it's an actual attack or using some skill to affect something. You're limited to one standard action in a round.

Move Actions

A move action usually involves moving. You can move your speed in a single move action or twice your speed in a round by taking two move actions. You can take a move action before or after a standard action, so you can attack then move or move then attack. You cannot normally split your move action before and after your standard action. Move actions also include things like drawing weapons, standing up from being knocked down, and picking up objects.

Full-Round Actions

A full-round action occupies all your attention for a round, meaning you can't do anything else that round. Full-round actions include charging an opponent at full speed or moving all out as quickly as you can. Certain maneuvers require a full-round action to perform, as do some skills.

Free Actions

A free action is something so comparatively minor it doesn't take any significant time at all, so you can perform as many free actions in a round as the Narrator considers reasonable. Free actions include things like talking (heroes and villains always seem to find time to say a lot in the middle of a fight), dropping something, and so forth.


A reaction is something you do in response to something else. A reaction doesn't take any time, like a free action. The difference is you might take a reaction when it's not even your turn to act, in response to something else happening during the round.


Heroes in True SRD games have a trait called Conviction, representing their inner determination. Players can spend Conviction to improve heroes' abilities in various ways. You can spend Conviction to re-roll a bad die roll, bounce back from being hurt, and various other things. see Conviction for more information. Conviction helps give heroes an edge, but don't get overconfident, because many villains also have Conviction!


Task Ability
Forcing open a jammed or locked door Strength
Tying a rope Dexterity
Resisting injury, holding your breath Constitution
Navigating a maze Intelligence
Recognize a stranger you've seen before Wisdom
Getting yourself noticed in a crowd Charisma

Important Terms

ability score: The numerical rating of an ability, applied as a bonus or penalty.
ability: One of the six basic character traits -- Strength (Str), Dexterity (Dex), Constitution (Con), Intelligence (Int), Wisdom (Wis), and Charisma (Cha).
action: A character activity. There are standard actions, move actions, full-round actions, free actions, and reactions.
adventure: A story for players to experience.
attack bonus: A modifier used to measure a character's combat skill.
attack roll: A roll to determine whether an attack hits. To make an attack roll, roll d20 and add the appropriate modifiers for the attack type. An attack hits if the result is equal to or greater than the target's Defense.
attack: Any of numerous actions intended to harm, disable, or neutralize an opponent.
bonus: A positive modifier to a die roll.
character: A fictional individual in the game. The players control heroes, while the Narrator controls Narrator characters.
check: A method of deciding the result of a character's action (other than attacking or making a saving throw). Checks are based on a relevant ability, skill, or other trait. To make a check, roll d20 and add any relevant modifiers. If the check result equals or exceeds the Difficulty of a task or the result of an opponent's check, it succeeds.
conviction: A quality of heroic and villainous characters, used to enhance their abilities and actions in various ways.
critical hit (crit): An attack inflicting extra damage. To score a critical hit, an attacker must first score a threat (usually a natural 20 on an attack roll, depending on the attack being used), then make another attack roll equal or greater than the target's normal Defense.
d20: A twenty-sided die, used to resolve all actions in the True SRD.
damage bonus: A modifier used to determine the damage of an attack.
damage: Harm caused to a character by injury, illness, or some other source.
Defense: The Difficulty to hit a target in combat. Defense equals 10 + any relevant modifiers.
Difficulty: The number a player must meet or beat for a check, attack roll, or saving throw to succeed.
dodge bonus: Bonus applied to Defense to determine how difficult a character is to hit. Characters lose their dodge bonus when they are flatfooted, stunned, or otherwise incapable of reacting to an attack.
dying: Near death and unconscious. A dying character can take no actions.
flat-footed: Especially vulnerable to attacks at the beginning of a fight. Characters are flat-footed until their first turn in the initiative cycle. Flat-footed characters lose their dodge bonus to Defense.
free action: A minor activity, requiring very little time and effort.
full-round action: An action requiring all your effort in a round. Some skills, feats, and powers require a full-round action (or longer) to use. Also called a full action.
hero: A character controlled by a player, one of the protagonists of an adventure or series.
lethal damage: Damage that can potentially disable or kill a target.
melee attack: A physical attack in close combat.
melee weapon: A handheld weapon designed for close combat.
modifier: Any bonus or penalty applied to a die roll.
move action: An action intended to move a distance or to manipulate or move an object. You can take up to two move actions per round.
Narrator character: Also supporting character. A character controlled by the Narrator (as opposed to a hero controlled by a player).
Narrator: The player who portrays characters not controlled by the other players, makes up the story and setting for the game, and serves as the referee.
natural: A natural result on a roll or check is the actual number appearing on the die, not the modified result obtained by adding bonuses or subtracting penalties.
non-lethal damage: Damage that can potentially stun or knock out a target, but does no permanent harm.
penalty: A negative modifier to a die roll.
range increment: Each full range increment of distance between an attacker using a ranged weapon and a target gives the attacker a cumulative -2 penalty to the ranged attack roll. Thrown weapons have a maximum range of five range increments. Other ranged attacks have a maximum range of ten range increments.
ranged attack: Any attack made at a distance.
ranged weapon: A projectile or thrown weapon designed for attacking at a distance.
rank: A measure of a character's level of ability with a skill or other trait.
round: A six-second unit of game time used to manage actions, usually in combat.
saving throw (save): A roll made to avoid or reduce harm. The four types of saving throws are Toughness, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.
series: A series of linked adventures.
stack: Combine for a cumulative effect. In most cases, modifiers to a given check or roll stack. If the modifiers of a particular roll do not stack, only the best bonus or worst penalty applies. Sometimes there is a limit to how high a stacked bonus or penalty can be.
standard action: An action intended to do something within about 3 seconds. You can perform a single standard action per round.
target (also subject) : The intended recipient of an attack, action, or effect.
threat range: The natural die roll results constituting a critical hit threat when rolled for an attack. For most attacks, the threat range is a roll of 20.
threat: A possible critical hit.
trained: Having knowledge of, and therefore ranks in, a skill.
trait: Any of a character's game-defined qualities. Ability scores, skills, and feats are all traits.
unarmed attack: A melee attack made with no weapon.
untrained: Having no ranks in a skill. Some skills cannot be used untrained.