Action Dice Review

A departure from some of the most recent releases by Zozer Games, Action Dice is advertised as a simple, fast-to play 2D6 RPG. It doesn’t come with a specific setting but can be used for a variety of games including sci-fi, fantasy, horror or the modern-day. It is available from Drivethru RPG for $3.90 as a PDF and contains 36 pages, authored by Paul Elliott. There is currently no print-on-demand option. Pitched as something that is easy-to-use, it is a rules-light system that requires only two six-sided dice to play. Though Action Dice is a 2D6 based game, it is not Cepheus Engine or Traveller compatible and is hence a proprietary system.

The book is broken down into the following sections:

Introduction

Creating Characters

Character Sheet

Resolving Tasks

Wizards & Supers

Fighting Battles

Sample Heroes

Antagonists

Settings

Adventure Generator

Playing Solo

Improvement

A key aspect of the game is improvisation; if the rules don’t have a structure to help play out a situation, then the referee is encouraged to make it up as they go along, especially if it provides for an entertaining or exciting game. Characters are created with a defining ‘role’, fitting the setting. A character has four attributes; Skill, Fate, Hits and their Role to which you role different number of dice according to the attribute. Some roles are considered as ‘combat capable’; those that aren’t gain an additional Fate point. Players are then encouraged to describe one or two identifying features, which may be related to their profession or background.

Equipment is more free-form in Action Dice, players can simply pick (or the referee does for them) what they need. Ammunition isn’t counted either – just like the movies!

Skill checks are made by rolling dice which results in a successful roll if it is lower than the players skill. However, if the skill check is not related to the players role, the result is lowered to make it a bit more difficult. Explanations are provided for Critical’s & Fumbles and ‘Other Actions’ such as falling, hiding, poisons, surprise and movement amongst a couple of others

Wizards & Supers (ie. ‘Super-powered’ characters) get to pick some sort of extraordinary power, which lowers their Skill by one point. This introduces an additional attribute ‘Power’ to which success rolls are made where the special power is employed. The section on Powers presents some of the most complicated parts of the Action Dice system, listing three effect tables. A couple of pages follow describing Cybernetic Powers and Magic Powers (there are no spell lists, so players pick 1-3 Magic Powers).

The Fighting Battles section is detailed and employs the three characteristics to the full. Combat rolls are made by each combatant and whichever is the lowest wins that round. Hits are typically deducted by 2 points each time; there is no roll for damage. Your average character gets one attack, so they nominate the opponent they want to fight and combat rolls are made. Multiple attacks or more than one opponent battles are described in detail and once you get your head around the principle, it works really well. The flexibility of the attacks system easily allows for ranged and automatic weapons so if you are playing modern warfare games, use of these types of weapons is covered. Using the same Skills and Hits values as characters, vehicle combat is also described and combat is followed along the same principles as hand-to-hand battles.

The next couple of pages describe a couple of NPCs, which is useful as for reference when generating your own characters. In addition, a list of antagonists is detailed which includes potential opponents from both futuristic and fantasy settings.

As Action Dice doesn’t come with any predefined setting, quite a bit of background and advice is provided in how to set up your own background for adventures. A few ideas are provided to help you get started; ‘Tank World’, a sort of post-apocalyptic setting (reminds me of SJG ‘Ogre’), ‘Lovecraftian Horror’ (Fate could be used as a Sanity attribute here in a now-familiar setting), ‘Cybersquad’ (a sort of RoboCop-themed background) and ‘Tanglewood’ (a fantasy world dominated by a huge forest). The author also describes the principles behind creating a setting, using a pirate-themed background with a spooky aspect to the characters main aims. There is a lot material provided for the referee to help set up the basis for an adventure, included what to and what not to do.

What if the referee still has trouble setting up a game and is stuck for ideas? Thoughtfully, the author has provided an ‘Adventure Generator’ with a set of tables which are generic enough to help a referee set a game up. To support the use of the tables, a couple of examples are provided which help to put some narrative around the results gained from the dice rolls.

The penultimate section looks at using the Action Dice rules to play solo games, supported with a couple of tables to help set your game up. The final page covers improvement and experience points, with details how gain and spend experience points. Stock artwork is used throughout, with the book containing a number of pieces of black and white artwork by a variety of artists.

A separate character sheet is also available for download via Drivethru RPG, for free via this link.

Overall I liked Action Dice, my initial impression was quite a rules-light game where there is a lot of emphasis on the referee to make things as you went along. Thats quite a bit of responsibility as I wasn’t sure who the game was aimed at. New players might find it a bit intimidating in having to create things on the spot, in the absence of a lot of rules or supporting background. Experienced gamers might find the game a bit too ‘simplistic’ and feel they should have a bit more value in the product, rather than being reminded how to set up and structure a game.

However, having read through the rules thoroughly, I think this is part of the games strength; a simple-enough set of rules that are flexible and can be applied to a variety of situations. The three main characteristics are wide enough in scope and can be applied to a number of situations where a dice roll is required. If in doubt, simply pick the nearest attribute and roll against that. That is also part of what the Action Dice aims to achieve; not to find a game mechanic to determine an event, but allow play to be free-flowing enough so that it encourages players and the referee to make things up as they go and enjoy an adventure, without getting bogged down with lots of rules. With that in mind, I think Action Dice certainly achieves its aim is definitely worth taking a look at, whether you are a seasoned adventurer or just starting out and looking for something that will allow a fast, enjoyable game.

About AlegisDownport

Musings on the Traveller RPG world, technology, astronomy and digital art.
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