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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 (a normal playing card deck with hearts, spades and such) and the event deck (a tarot deck). The two decks should look clearly different. Keep them face down but shuffled in full view. The GM should also have one envelope per character, marked with that character’s name.

If you have one to seven players, a single deck is fine.
If you have eight to fifteen players, shuffle two decks together. Add one more deck for every seven players. I mean, RPGs with that many players isn’t necessarily a good time.

Resolving Injuries

When you believe that a player character or ally or sidekick might get injured, resolve an injury card by, in full view of the players, taking the top card of the injury deck, and looking at it without revealing it, and placing it in that character’s envelope, still without revealing it.

Cards of the heart suit are injuries. Ace is one (always), jacks are 11, queens are 12, and kings are 13. Other suits mean that they didn’t get injured at all. The number is how badly they’re heart. Describe their injuries diegetically. A broken arm, a bullet wound, whatever fits the situation.

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. On average, eight pulls from the deck kills them.

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 like a trap door.

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. The players and the GM are describing the fight in diegetic terms. At some time during the description, resolve an injury card. If Alice survives that card (injured or not), Bob dies. If Alice dies, Bob lives.

Resolving Events

Events are like the encounter table in other games; when you prep, make a list with one event for each major arcana. It’s good to have different list for different areas, time periods, or situations. The list is not visible to the playes during the game.

In a dangerous location, pull one event card every diegetic hour (that means hours that pass for the characters as opposed to time passing around your real life kitchen table). Otherwise, pull one card every eigth diegetic hour, three per 24-hour-period.

You need two discard piles; one for the major arcana (event cards) and one for the non-event cards you pull. That way, the players can see whether you pulled an event or a non-event, but they don’t know what the event was.

After the game, you can show the discard piles and the parts of the list they encountered. “When I pulled this Tower card, that’s when the guards showed up.”


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.

When someone is medically stable, show them the cards in their envelope and shuffle those cards back into the injury deck.

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.

The magic system “Wonder and Wickedness” seems, at least at first glance, like it’d be an especially good fit.

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.