The ChaosGrenade

Quick & Dirty Tabletop Role-Playing

RAMBLING ON: TRICUBE TALES

2020-01-27 Rambling R.E. Davis

I need to talk about this game, Tricube Tales by Richard Woolcock of Zadmar’s Games. There’s a lot I want to say about it, which is crazy because it’s also pretty lite and simple. Also, the damn game is free (full thing in the preview) so you can easily check it for yourself. Yeah, it’s 49 pages, but it’s using that fancy Phone PDF format so it’s really a quick read. But, it’s the end of the month, I haven’t blogged any this year, and I really want to bring it more attention.

I’ll keep this brief: Tricube Tales is a minimalist, lite RPG using a mechanic similar to games like TinyD6 — you roll 1 to 3 six-sided dice, and if any of them hit the target number you succeed. Unlike some of those systems, though, it adds a fluctuating difficulty (a base scale of 4, 5, and 6). Players make all the rolls, which make it a great system for solo gaming and asynchronous play-by-chat games over Discord.

Character creation is very straight forward, appearing almost too simple but there is a system for it. Here’s what a playable character looks like at a glance:

Sam Strongblade, a Brawny Dwarf Soldier
Perks: Dwarf Stamina
Quirks: Wooden Peg-Leg
Karma: 3 / Resolve: 3

That’s it. You can glance at that, have an idea of what the character does, and maybe dismiss the fact that there’s no stats (Karma and Resolve are point pools, which I’ll explain in a bit.) That first statement is you archetype, which includes a trait (Agile, Brawny or Crafty) and a concept. Your archetype will help determine if you’re rolling two or three dice (or 1 if it has nothing in common with the action being performed). Your Perks establish special qualities, powers, abilities or unique equipment. Often you can spend a Karma point to use a perk significantly in an action (such as lowering the difficulty). Quirks, likewise, can hinder the character. A player can actively choose to work their Quirk into the narrative, taking a penalty but in doing so restores 1 Karma.

So, if you haven’t guessed yet, Karma is the luck/fortune/power pool that lets the players do cool things. Resolve is the stress/health/endurance pool for every character. When a character hits 0 resolve, they’re taken out of the conflict, and the victor (either PC or GM) gets to narrate what happens. When this happens to player characters, they return next scene, their Resolve restored but now with an Affliction — usually a temporary quirk, but sometimes these can become more serious. Character death isn’t off the table as long as GM and Players agree to the arbitration.

Running things on the GM side is pretty easy-peasy. Most challenges are static pass-or-fail; more elaborate obstacles or tasks are assigned a pool of Effort tokens (where each successful die roll against it removes a token). Combat encounters can track multiple foes separately or you can just say “a horde of goblins” and track a single pool of effort tokens.

There’s a lot more going on — the game covers some quick ground on genre rules, like handling cybernetics, fear, magic & psionics, varying power levels, super heroes and vehicles. For the most part, all of these are just common sense guides for arbitrating things based on context. This may be the deal breaker for some — this is a game system where players and the GM should be comfortable going back and forth making their own judgment calls on how things go down. It’s pretty much “Roll the dice, and if you succeed — narrate what happens.” It was a system originally designed with kids in mind, but obviously it has appeal to older gamers as well.

I love the damn thing. I’ve written my own stuff in a similar wheel house, have played other games like it, but I keep taking a break from my current work to come back and read it. I’ve actually started playing a couple solo games with it, testing out ideas and house rules for certain settings. I’m hoping to use it for some pick up games this spring.

Definitely check it out, and if you dig it — toss the guy a buck. Buying the game gets you a 4:6 table/PC scaled PDF as well as a Word doc so you can hack it and make your own stuff with it.