I am currently developing a quick RPG system with custom dices and a deck building based approach to handle different types of actions/powers for each character. I am seeking some feedback here for generic tips/pitfalls to avoid in such a system, as well as any references I can look at for further reading. I know it is difficult to have it all, but the idea is that the system is quick and allows for some strategy, while not completely removing player's creativity from the equation.

To give some further specification of what I am looking for (trying to keep it generic so it can serve for other GM looking to design something similar):


  • Dices are custom: different numeric results in each side based on custom probabilities (ie: D&D board game).
  • Different types of dices (some allow for higher results and/or better probabilities).
  • Generic rolls are always the same number and type of dices.
  • Advantages (high ground, aim before shoot and such) allow to roll extra dices.
  • Disadvantages (taken by surprise, fighting in the dark) allow oponent to roll extra dices (if no oponent, those extra dices are deduced from result).


  • Different attributes that define overall characteristics.
  • Advantages / disadvantages that slightly modify game mechanics for that PC.
  • Heroic points. Explained below.
  • Expertise. Used to track which new cards can be bought with XP.


  • Show a type of action, allow for roll and consequences.
  • Has a cost. It can be payed with different types of "resources".
  • Has a initiative value. Used to decide order in battle.
  • Might have resources assigned. If so, it can be used to pay for the cost of other cards.
  • Some actions (like defenses) might be reactive and have no cost.


  • Skills deck. All cards are always available. Never have resources.
  • Actions deck. Drawn and used in combat. Minimum size limit.


  • GM assign difficulty to action.
  • If attribute is over difficulty, action is performed.
  • If attribute is under difficulty, action fails.
  • If attribute is equal to difficulty, 50% chance (Regular roll).
  • Some actions require specific cards from skills deck.
  • Skills deck cards might alter rules for some specific actions (ie: climb skills reduces difficulty for clim actions).
  • Non-opposed actions can be relevant too for combat.


  • Players draw initial hand from Action deck.
  • Optional: allow for some discussion about strategy, if it proceeds.
  • Players secretly select action/s to perform.
  • Cards are shown. Highest initiative are resolved first.
  • Actions are paid with resources from cards in hand.
  • All used cards (actions and resources) are discarded.
  • Players draw X cards (if no more cards, shuffle).
  • Go back to step 2.


  • Can be used to try actions with higher difficulty than attribute (need roll).
  • Can be used to roll extra dices.
  • Other "narrative" advantages (ie: PC survives even if dead by rules).


  • All PCs start with an initial Skills deck with common actions.
  • Players choose starting weapon/class/expertise (or even a combination of these).
  • PCs receive a starting actions deck based on previous step.
  • PCs may or may not receive additional skills cards.


  • Players can use experience to:
    • Buy new cards to include into their decks (most common use of xp).
    • Increase their expertise in weapons/class/path (less common)
    • Adquire new advantages/disadvantages (not frequently).
    • Increase attributes (not frequently).


  • When using an action in an original way, players will get advantage.
  • Generic common skill card to allow for non-contemplated actions.

I think this is already enough info to get some feedback, since I do not want this text to grow larger. Have also a health system in mind, but I do not think is that relevant for the deck building idea. I will give some examples of cards below, but the mentioned Attributes, resources, costs and effects do not necessarily need to be those: it is just to give an idea of what I have in mind.

  • Common Skill card: Unarmed combat

    • Cost: 1 resource of type Strength.
    • Opposed roll of Attribute Strength.
    • If success, damage depends on difference.
  • Specific Skill card: Jump (expert).

    • Cost: 0.
    • Reduces the difficulty of all jumping physical actions in 1.
  • Initial Action card: Martial Artist - Tigers claw (novice)

    • Cost: 2 resources of type Dexterity.
    • Opposed roll of Attribute Dexterity.
    • If success, damage depends on difference. (better damage than "Unarmed combat")
    • If difference greater or equal than 3, target suffers bleeding effect.
    • If used to pay another action, it generates 1 Dexterity Resource.
  • Advanced Action card: Great Sword - Area Attack

    • Cost: 4 resources of type Strength.
    • Allows to choose up to three targets.
    • Opposed roll of Strength for each enemy.
    • If success, damage depends on difference. (better damage than "Unarmed combat")
    • If used to pay another action, it generates 2 Strength Resources.
  • Advanced Action card: Gunslinger - Perfect shoot

    • Cost: 5 resources of type Dexterity.
    • Regular roll of Dexterity against difficulty decided by distance.
    • +2 dices to the roll.
    • If success, damage depends on difference. (better damage than "Unarmed combat")

PS: I know this probably will involve a lot of effort from my side to design all initial decks and advanced cards for each class/weapon/area that I decide for the ambientation.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Kyra, and welcome to RPG Stack Exchange. Check out our tour to see how we work here. Please note we're a Q&A site, and we work by handling concrete problems that can have single best or correct answers. Questions that are actually discussion prompts, and those that have no best answer available such as surveys, are off topic here as they don't work in our Q&A system. You can however ask this question on a forum, such as this list we'd recommend. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 26 '19 at 17:51
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Along with that, though, is the site's ability to check the balance of a particular homebrew rule. That is, once you've developed these ideas into a working model and put a playtest draft of your game somewhere that it can be read, folks here would be happy to look at parts of it and evaluate those parts from a balance perspective. It's possible for experts here to find hidden gems (and not-so gems!) that an author missed. Thank you for sharing, though, and feel free to ask other questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 26 '19 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you both for the advice, and sorry for the inconveniente. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyra_W Feb 26 '19 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ In case anyone is interested, this is posted now in giantitp.com/forums/… \$\endgroup\$ – Kyra_W Feb 27 '19 at 10:53

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