Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tommy's Take on Tricube Tales

On today's docket is a really light, narrative RPG by Richard Woolcock (Zadmar Games).

DISCLAIMER: This review contains an affiliate link to DriveThru RPG. Purchasing a book from there may result in a portion of the proceeds being paid to me in store credit. Richard and I have worked in a freelance capacity on projects for other publishers, and he comped me both a physical and PDF copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND: The preface notes that Richard wrote these rules to play with his kid. I've been doing lots of gaming with my kid lately, mostly board games, and I suspect that's part of what inspired Richard to reach out and offer me a review copy.

The digital version sells for $1 and is in multiple formats: Phone sized and tablet PDFs, as well as a Word document. And you can actually download the entire thing for free on DriveThru's publisher preview, with the $1 option really just being there in case you want to throw some financial support his way. Richard even provides a link for getting your own copy printed at cost through Lulu.

The whole thing is about 51 pages of content, including art, title page and credits on the physical book, and the PDF is in full color (print in black and white). The print is a tiny, pocketbook sized volume because the layout was originally intended for a phone.

GAME ON: The system is really light and narrative, but does have a bit of "game" to it. Essentially, you roll 1-3 six sided dice, based on your character archetype, against a difficulty set by the GM (4-6). Each die that meets or beats the difficulty is a success and, if you succeed on 2 or 3 dice, it becomes an exceptional success. But if all dice wind up a "1", it's a critical failure. In fact, enemies are boiled down to just that: A difficulty number (the weaker enemies are a 4, most enemies are a 5, so you can assume that most "boss" enemies are a 6).

Character creation is based on a descriptive archetype. The first part is either going to be Agile, Brawny or Crafty, and the second is open to interpretation. You might be a Crafty Wizard-For-Hire, an Agile Assassin, or a Brawny Wookie Scout. These provide context for not only how the characters interact with the game, but actual success or failure. A Crafty Hardboiled Detective might not miss a clue even on a failure, but he might get attacked by an assailant after finding it, or tip off the target of his investigation in his search...but a Brawny Barbarian trying to cast a spell scroll might blow it, himself and his opponents up on an exceptional success because he doesn't know how to control the magic.

The other two things defining characters are Perks and Quirks. A Perk might be Jedi Training or Spider-Powers or Powered Armor or Lightning Wit. How they impact the game is up to the GM and the player, but the most common uses are a) allowing you to do things that others can't (usually spending Karma tokens) or b) reducing the difficulty of an action. Quirks are disadvantages such as Hard to Miss, Lives Dangerously, or Bound By Duty. Quirks are invoked by the player, but can be used to regain Resolve or Karma (more on that below).


So, the game has two expendable resources: Karma and Resolve. Resolve is, more or less, your hit points. You start with 3 of each (they recommend using tokens), and Karma can be spent on Perks or removing Afflictions (consequences of being defeated). Karma can be recovered by invoking Quirks - as noted above - but you can recover Resolve instead if you succeed on the roll using Quirks.

The GM uses Effort tokens instead: It's the catch all measure for tracking how hard NPCs are to beat, a door is to break down, your ship's hyperdrive is to fix, whatever.


It's a really light, narrative system, but a list of Genre rules are included. Modifying for cyberpunk, horror, fantasy and superheroes is included, even essentially adding "levels" for fantasy games. There's even rules for creating vehicles as characters (probably the most appropriate way to handle something like The Millennium Falcon, for instance).


  • If you're into games like Fate but feel like Fate goes a bit overboard, this is worth looking at. It sticks to largely traditional terminology so there's no re-learning the RPG lexicon to dig in.
  • If the characters sound too simple, it is worth noting that you can gradually gain more Perks. I would even allow someone to change the concept half of their archetype over time if it fit the narrative.
  • The genre rules show off a fair bit of flexibility for as light as the game is, revealing a deceptive amount of "game" inside the tiny frame.
  • Ultimately, it's not going to be my first choice for a game, but I think it's a very viable option in the rules (really)light category. I personally prefer a little more mechanical heft in my games, but that's hardly a mark against this game, as it very much succeeds at what it presents itself as.
  • Combine all that with the price, and it's well worth checking out if you're at all into narrative RPGs.

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