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Eventually RPG

Thinking out loud about a possible homemade small TRPG.

Players, make characters and describe your actions in diegetic terms. That’s your interface to the game. Just talking and making notes.

GMs, prep a full blorb with maps, NPCs, event tables etc. Also prepare and shuffle two decks, the injury deck and the event deck. Keep them face down but shuffled in full view. You also need one note, label, or marker for each character’s injury pile.

Resolving Injuries

A normal playing card deck might work as an injury deck with hearts as the injury suit, numbered 1 through 13 (A=1, J=11, Q=12, K=13).

When you believe that a player character or ally or sidekick might get injured, resolve an injury card by taking the top card of the injury deck and looking at it and placing it face down in the OK pile if it’s not an injury, or the injury pile for that character if it is. Place the cards face down, but it’s visible which pile it goes into. Describe their injuries diegetically.

If the injuries you’ve drawn for a character totals 12 or more, they die. So a queen or a king instantly kills them. On average, two injury cards kills them. They’d better hope they draw a lot of “OK” cards instead.

You don’t need to use this deck for every little thing, but if they’re doing seriously risky things, it’s time for the deck. Take the diegetic circumstances into account. It’s both for combat and for saving throw type situations.

Your NPCs (the ones the players haven’t “adopted” into their own party or as dependants) don’t use this deck. If they are the equivalent normal humans, they just get hurt or killed as makes sense in the diegesis. If they are supernatural monsters, they can’t die (unless if there’s some specific vulnerability like silver bullets). In a swarm or herd, one or two might die, but the threat as a whole isn’t easily fought off. Eventually is not a good or interesting combat game.

Example: The character Alice tries to kill the NPC Bob in a hand-to-hand fight on a train. At some time during the description, resolve an injury card. If Alice survives that card, Bob dies. If Alice dies, Bob lives.

Resolving Events

Event decks are module specific or prep specific but if you use a tarot deck you can designate one suit, or the major arcana, as event triggering cards. They should be different so if you use the Swords you might have, in your notes, that the Three of Swords means that five armed and animated skeletons show up. Just like any encounter table.

A good default is a one-in-six chance every hour.

Unlike the separate injury piles, you just need two: one for events and one for non-events.

Success

Unless they’re trying to do impossible things, just let them succeed. If it’s risky, they risk injuries, and if it’s time-consuming, they risk events, and if it’s both it’s both. There’s no action- or task-resolution system because they can usually just do it as long as they can diegetically. Like, if they wanna pick locks? Some characters just can always do that and others never can. There’s no roll for it in this game.

Sometimes your prep will say that “it takes the strength of three people to push open the door” or whatever. That’s fine.

Run the game invisibly but verifiably

Your goal when playing and running this game is to talk in diegetic terms only. There shouldn’t be any “who has the highest wisdom score?” or “take your AC minus twelve” or list of weapon manuevers. Instead, we’re just talking about what we’re doing and what happens.

The flipside of that is that the players need to have trust in that what you’re narrating is what’s really happening. So after the game, or when it’s time to shuffle, reveal the cards so players can see that you resolved them honestly. This might seem nitpicky but it’s effective for building trust and buy-in and stakes and tension into the game.

Characters reset their injury cards when they’re not in critical condition.

For example, if your arm gets torn out by a snout-bat from beyond time, you still have your injury cards until you’ve received medical attention, but that doesn’t mean that every one-armed investigator needs to have a bunch of injury cards in their stack at all time. But one who is still bleeding does.

Reset their cards by revealing the OK pile and all character piles except any who are still in critical condition, and shuffling them back into the injury deck.

Magic and spaceships

If you have magic or spaceships you can use normal RPG rules from another game for those. For example magic from Feast of Bukako or Sorcerer or Unknown Armies, or spaceships, spacefighting, spacetravel from Stars Without Number.

You’ll get the Eventually feeling often enough that it’s OK to have those components handled differently. Unless you’re on the spaceship literally all the time.

Injury alternatives

You can also change it up by tracking something other than injuries, like Insight for a Cthulhu Dark type vibe or your relationship towards Violence or Self from Unknown Armies. There’s no need for more than one; whole point of this is to be rules light, we just need one death clock so that risky actions come at a cost—risky in whatever sense is appropriate for the genre. Such a game might have the players be able to survive every fight without risk to their own physical bodies but hurting others eats away at their humanity. Or whatever.