Hello, and welcome to the Strange Trails TTRPG! (Playtesters, this section is a mess. Feel free to skip it.) It's a lightweight system intended for shorter games with settings where big sheets would be more cumbersome and confusing than useful. Hopefully, it's quick to learn and an easy transition from DnD; it has all the elements from MOTW and 5e that I like, just condensed down. For the Ranger (GM), note the shorter games part of this "mission statement"; you could probably run a full campaign with Strange Trails, but there's no progression system, so I wouldn't recommend it.
This is a work in progress, and I have not had the opportunity to playtest yet. In addition to (amateurish) Spanish and Esperanto translations already in the works, I plan to add a progression system, illustrations, a list of ready-made Talents, point buy and standard array stats, premade and blank character sheets, and three adventures/settings. If you have any feedback, feel free to contact me at Lightseeker2304 on Twitter or violettherainwing on Tumblr. Special thanks to BT for his ideas, and Lord Huron, whose music inspired this game and the campaign I created it for. May you live until you die!
Part 1: Characters
Skills and Talents
In Strange Trails, characters are pretty simple! You have seven Skills:
- Strength: Your physical prowess and ability to take a hit. Stuff like fistfighting, moving heavy objects, or staying up after taking some damage.
- Agility: Your speed and grace. Stuff like climbing a tree, running from a spooky ghost, or throwing something accurately.
- Insight: Your intuition and common sense. Stuff like noticing details in your surroundings, getting a bad vibe before something happens, or knowing when someone's lying.
- Charm: Your social Skills and force of personality. Stuff like convincing people, getting your ideas across, or intimidating someone.
- Creativity: Your artistic sensibilities. Stuff like writing, drawing, or singing - not necessarily your smarts.
- Intelligence: Your raw knowledge. Stuff like doing math, knowing the history of a location, or figuring out a puzzle.
- Luck: Exactly what it says on the tin! Being in the right place at the right time.
Each character has some level of knowledge in all of these areas. You determine your modifier like you do for stats in 5e. You roll a d20 + your modifier when the Ranger asks you to. For example, if Jack's Skill in Charm is 16, then his modifier is +3. If his Skill in Creativity is 8, it's -1. You can choose your Skills like you do in 5e, too - rolling, point buy, or standard array. [ADD SPECIAL POINT BUY AND STANDARD ARRAY STUFF]
Just like in real life, every character has a few things they're quite good at or know a lot about. These are your Talents. Each character gets three Talents, meaning they add +2 on top of their usual Skill whenever they roll for it. You can choose just about any Talent you want: horseback riding, video games, plant identification, anything! They're meant to show off your character's personality and your own creativity. However, it must be a specific area of expertise, and you should talk to your Ranger to 1. make sure it's not too broad or powerful and 2. know what Skill it uses. Let's bring back our friend Jack for an example.
Jack has the Talent knife collecting. He knows quite a lot about knives - he can look at one and tell you what it's used for, its overall quality, and how it was made. Because it requires objective knowledge and remembering facts, this Talent is Intelligence-based. If Jack is in a tense situation and someone draws a knife, he can use his knife collecting Talent to determine whether or not his attacker is experienced with it. He'd roll a d20 and add his Intelligence modifier + 2. Then, depending on the result, the Ranger describes what Jack does or doesn't discover.
Notes on Luck
Luck is kind of a catch-all - you might roll for it when you enter a very dangerous area, use unstable magic, or determine action order. Rangers, don't have people roll for Luck just to scare em. It's mostly intended to minimize/standardize "Roll a d20." "Why?" "Vague GM math reasons."
Combat and HP
In real life, people are very squishy and weapons are very sharp. In Strange Trails, people are pretty squishy and weapons are super sharp, so it balances out.
Every player character has 10 HP. Monsters, animals, and other people might have more or less. You lose HP when you are hit in a fight, get sick or poisoned, or are hurt by the environment. Simple! There are four Conditions that may be incurred whenever you go below 7 HP:
- Concussed: You lose your Agility and Intelligence modifiers if they are positive. If you do not have a modifier or they are negative, then subtract -2. You still get bonuses from Talents that use those Skills.
- Bleeding: You lose .5 HP every round/minute.
- Burned: Every time you would take 1 damage on a turn, you take 2 instead.
- Unconscious: You can't do anything until your teammates wake you up. You automatically fall Unconscious once you hit 1 HP or below.
Once the fight is over, most of these Conditions can be ended by your teammates with medicine-related Talents or some first aid supplies. Concussed can be temporarily ended; however, depending on Luck, it can return when someone takes any amount of damage from any source. Conditions are not always incurred, even if you are hit by a weapon that can inflict it.
The structure of a fight is similar to how it works in 5e: Everyone rolls agiliy and then attacks in that turn order. During your turn, describe one action you take and about how far you move. You can only attack once in a turn, unless your Ranger says otherwise. When you're attacked, you can try to dodge by rolling a d20 + Agi mod. If your roll falls below the target, then your opponent makes a critical hit; roll above, and you don't take any damage.
As you probably inferred from the above, combat is costly and dangerous, and you should try to avoid it when possible. Well, let's make it more costly and dangerous!
Here is a short list of weapons. You can flip a coin or roll a die; damage is listed as heads/tails/crit or odds/evens/crit.
Notes on Fistfighting
Optionally, if you're playing an in-person session, you can arm-wrestle the DM or your fellow players to settle an in-game fistfight. Yes this will inevitably result in chaos yes I'm keeping it.