Rasta - A Free / Universal Li'l RPG

This page contains some random thoughts and musings of mine that have condensed and distilled into the following li'l roleplaying system. This is designed for ad-hoc sessions where you don't want to spend a lot of time making a character. Design goals of this system are low-overhead, playability, balance, universiality, humor, and realism (in that order).

Maybe I'll come up with a better name for the system. 'Rasta' was the name that first came to mind, but I'm not married to it.

Credit Where It's Due

In the true spirit of Postmodernism, Rasta has taken cues and borrowed ideas from various other RPG systems. Some major sources of inspiration for this game are: the Star Wars RPG (the first edition), GURPS and Risus. A good deal of what you see here is also a brain-dump of an attempted RPG system that my brother Jared Whitley and I worked on, but never quite finished...

Success Rolls

You need 2 10-sided dice to play this game. When you need to determine whether you can accomplish something, you roll 2d10 against the appropriate stat (stats are explained below). Add the two numbers together and compare them to your stat. If you rolled less-than or equal-to your stat, you were successful. If you rolled greater-than your stat. You failed. The difference between your stat and your roll is the "spread", either the "success spread" or the "failure spread". The spread determines the degree of success or failure. This might represent the number of hits you inflict in combat, or the number of hits you heal with a First Aid roll.

(Do I want to have critical hits too? Dunno.)

For those who are interested, I've written up a page of 2d10 probabilities. The progression has a certain appeal.

Character Stats

The following are the twelve stats each character has. I make no distinction between "attributes", "skills", or even "equipment". Rather, each stat is a blend of some inherent ability, combined with experience / familiarity, and tools / weapons the character has aquired. The scores you assign to these stats is used for a variety of tasks that all fall within a specific domain.

This makes stats immune to differences in technology or equipment. A Frankenstein-esque 19th century mad scientist with a Knowledge stat of 14 is "better" (in game terms) than a 30th century particle fission physicist with a Knowledge stat of 9. That's just how it is. Just because you live in some high-tech futuristic world doesn't mean you're any good at what you do. Likewise a 18th century Swashbuckler with a Prowess of 7 is "worse" than a 26th century Space Marine with a Prowess of 13, simply by virtue of the fact that the Space Marine's stat is highigher; vibro-swords and cutlasses are on equal footing in this game.

This also means that the players and GM never need to deal with money or equipment lists. I consider this a big plus.

Another design goal with these stats is to try to involve all of them in various facets of combat, since that seems to be a good way to keep things ballanced, and avoid making useless stats.

The first eight stats have skills associated with them and are used when you need to perform any task.


(Could also be called "Athletics") - This is a measure of your physical strength and stamina and ability to perform strenuous tasks. It is used for any athletic task: jumping, running, swimming, climbing, lifting. It is also used for all close-combat rolls including grappling, takedown, and submission.


(Could also be called "Fighting" since that's what you're going to be using it for) - This represents your overall body dexterity for punching, kicking, or hitting someone with any kind of hand-to-hand weapon. This is also used for all acrobatic and defensive manuvers. All defensive manuvers are likewise done with your Prowess: blocking with a shield, parrying with a fist / weapon, or dodging / rolling out of the way. There is a "strength" dimension to this stat as well as a "dexterity" dimension, as your ability to harm an opponent is based both on where you hit (dex) and how hard (strength).

(Should I put modifiers on defense rolls? I'm thinking maybe I should. Say, the difference between the attacker and defender? Not sure.)


(An example of "calling a spade a spade") - This is the ability to aim and fire a ranged weapon accurately: bows, blowpipes, crossbows, pistols, rifles, ray-guns, machine guns, or whatever. This stat is also used for any thrown weapons like daggers, darts, or hatchets. This stat is as much about your vision as it is your agility, as good hand-eye coordination is essential.

Manual Dexterity

This stat is used when you are working with something small or complicated; the kinds of jobs that require a steady hand and good eyesight. Use this stat for all mechanic / repair tasks, be it clockwork, steam-powered, gas-powered, or deteronic-frombotzer engines. You also use this stat for lots of "theif skills" like lockpicking, pickpocketing, sleight of hand, and escape. Lastly, you use this stat for any surgery or medical tasks that involve careful use of tools to repair or operate on the body (basic first-aid is a Knowledge skill and does not require a Manual Dexterity roll).


This represents your mental aptitude and experience in a range of intellectual pursuits. (But note that this does not include social / performance skills. For that, see Charm below.) Scientists, detectives and computer-savvy folks would have this stat at a high level. Use this stat for any scientific skill (including biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, mathematics etc.), any medical skill (poisons, drugs, diagnosis, first aid, etc.), any technical, electronic or computer skill (programming, security, analysis, etc.), lastly, you would use this for any technology that hasn't been invented yet but exists in your gameworld (deteronic frombotzers, etc.).

The Knowledge and Manual Dexterity stats go hand-in-hand: when you need to perform a task that requires both intelligence and dexterity (such as diagnosing a patient before operating on him, or analyzing a circuit board before making a repair) you first make a Knowledge roll to see if you can even understand the problem. If the Knowledge roll is successful (and only if it is successful), you can then attempt the repair / operation using your Manual Dexterity stat. GMs need not go overboard on demanding a Manual Dexterity roll when applying one's Knowledge. Some skills like First Aid or Computer Programming would require ONLY a Knowledge roll, since the act of bandaging or typing can be performed by anyone, regardless of how nimble-fingered they might be. (And don't brag to me about how Manual Dexterity helps you type; you can type a hundred words a minute and still not be able to pick a lock or tie a suture. Most all the programmers I know are lousy typists anyway.)


This stat is a gauge of your charisma with other people and represents your ability to dazzle or amuse people or audiences in a social setting. (Note that this applies only to other people / sentient races, not animals. For getting along with animals, see Animal Ken, below.) Any skill that involves talking or interacting with people is done with this stat, this includes: con, persuade, diplomacy, public-speaking, joking, carousing, and verbal intimidation. This stat also has a physical dimension to it as it is used for any performance related skills, such as: acting, singing, and dancing.

A person could feasibly use his Charm stat before a fight to try to avert it, or durring a fight to try to distract his opponent. ("Great Scott, is that a policeman behind you?") In this case, it's resisted by Wits.

Some situations that involve gameplay with a group (such as cardplaying or pool) might involve both a Knowledge roll and a Charm roll. The success of those two rolls determines whether you win / loose, and whether people like you / think you're a Poindexter.

Animal Ken

This represents your ability to get along with animals and use them to perform tasks. There is a physical dimension as well as a personality dimension to this stat. It is used for any / all of the following skills: handling, charming / soothing, riding, packing, teamster, care and feeding, etc. When animals are being ridden in combat, this skill is used to keep animals in control (navigate sharp turns, calm them when spooked by gunfire, etc.), and to gain on opponents.

The GM may assign modifiers when you try to use this stat on animals that are wild or hostile.

If there is a situation involving an animal where a Knowledge roll is required (i.e. giving the animal medical treatment, identifying a paranormal animal) the GM might give a bonus to the Knowledge roll if it is preceeded by a successful Animal Ken roll.


(Could also be called "Vehicles", "Piloting" or "Gunnery") You use this stat when driving any mechanical vehicle or operating any heavy weapon. The type of vehicle is unimportant, it could be a car, a mecha, a hover-bike, a space ship, a hot-air balloon, a submarine, or a clockwork goblin-smasher. Likewise, the type of heavy weaponry is unimportant, it coud be a catapult, a black-powder cannon, or a particle-beam cannon. As with Shooting and Manual Dexterity, this stat is as much about vision as it is about quick reflexes, as hand-eye (or hand-body) coordination count for a lot. Likewise, there is a mental / experience dimension to this stat as well as it represents your ability to successfully operate (complex) controls. When vehicles are being piloted in combat, this skill is used to keep the vehicle in control and to gain on opponents, as per Animal Ken.

The GM might assign modifiers when you try to pilot a vehicle or operate a heavy weapon that is unfamiliar or in disrepair.

Some high-tech weapons where the details of loading, aiming and firing are automated by computer wouldn't require a Machinery roll, but rather a Knowledge roll - especially if there was some kind of security system in place that you need to bypass before using the weapon.

The last four stats do not have skills associated with them.


Where Brawn represents your outward / external strength, Health represents your internal strength. As such, Health is used when you need to roll to resist poison, disease, injuries, radiation, burns, strangulation, knock-out gas, or anything else that concerns your well-being. Your Health stat is equal to the number of hits you can take before you go unconcious. You're not dead at zero, though, you can go to -10 x Health (or maybe more?) before your body has been thoroughly mashed to bits.


This is an amalgam of your sensory perception, your willpower, and your cleverness. You use this for perception / "noticing things" rolls (visual, auditory, tasting, smelling), for any willpower test (resisting pain, not flinching when intimidated, having the nerve to eat the food the aliens gave you), or for any suprise (shock, fright check, stun, etc.) The person with the highest Wits goes first in combat. To resolve ties, favor players and go clockwise or in some other order that makes sense.


Where Health represents your internal / bodily strength, this stat represents your meta-physical health. Your spirit rating is equal to the amount of Fatigue you can take. Likewise, if you are playing with any magic / psi / super powers, you spend Spirit points when you cast spells, use your powers, or enchant objects. Some magic objects will have a minimum Spirit rating in order for you to use them. If your Spirit stat is below that minimum, the magic properties of that object might be reduced to your Spirit rating, or you might not be able to use it at all.

GMs might also allow a Spirit roll in place of a Charm roll when dealing with ghosts / demigods / immortals, etc.


This stat is used to determine random hapenchance and serendipity. If you're looking for something and there's a chance of whether it might be there or not, roll against your Luck. A successfull roll means you found it. An unsuccessful roll means you're out of luck. Luck points can also be "spent" throughout the course of an adventure for any of the following: a re-roll (best of three?), doubling the value of a stat (5 becomes 10), an automatic success on a roll (GMs discretion), or an automatic success when trying to find something. Note that spending points in this way decreases your Luck attribute temporarily until the end of the adventure, at which point this stat returns to its original level. (Thus, it is possible to "run out of luck".) Spare character points (awarded by the GM at the end of successful adventures) can also be spent where luck points would be spent, with the same benefits.

Character Creation

Everybody's stats start at 10. You can lower one stat and raise another, but you have to end up with a balance of 120 points.

There's no fussing around with equipment, money, or any of that schtuff because it's all wrapped up in the stats.

You will, however, probably want to garnish your stats to make your character mor interesting and amusing. (More on this below.)

You might also have some 'Super Stats' if you're doing a Magic / Psionic / Horror / Superhero campaign. See below.

Super Stats

In Fantasy campaigns there are magics, in Sci-Fi campaigns there are often Psionics, in Superhero campaigns there are often super-powers, and in Horror campaigns there are often paranormal abiliies. If a character wants to have one of these "Super Stats", they can (per the GM's discretion). The difference between Super Stats and normal stats is that they start at zero instead of 10.

Just like normal stats, Super Stats should cover a "family" of related skills, but not be overly broad. For example, "Magic User" or "Superman" or "Psi-Dude" is way too broad and would unbalance the game. Something like "Firemage" or "Flight" or "Telepath" is about right. Don't go too far in the opposite direction either: a "ball of light spell" is too puny to be a stand-alone stat, and should probably be part of a larger "Energy Mage" stat. When in doubt about whether a Super Stat is too broad, the GMs word is final.

For some guidelines on doing magic stats, have a look at Jason Puckett's Page on Risus Magic and my Risus Magic page.

For some guidelines on doing super-hero stats, have a look at Stacy Allston's Risus Supers page.


Missing so far from this system is one of the stated design goals: humor. To provide a more humorous tone, everyone can "garnish" their stats with some trait that gives you special benefits or hinderances. Benefits cost points, hinderances give you points. Each time you garnish a trait (either with a benefit or a hinderance), you must put an accompanying personality trait beside it, like a catchphrase or behavioral quirk. Super Stats can also be garnished in this fashion. GMs may want to set limits on how much garnish a character can apply, to prevent things from getting totally out of hand.

TODO: Finish this

Guidelines Personality Traits

Rather than duplicate a bunch of words already said on this topic, I'll direct the gentle reader to my Quintessence of Quirks GURPS page.

Sample Character Sheet

TODO: Need to make one of these


Here's how I figure it works, combat can be resolved with two rolls and about three subtraction math problems.

  1. Attacker rolls to hit, using Prowess (if striking / weapon), Shooting (if using a ranged weapon) or Brawn (if grappling). If they fail the roll, they miss. If they make the roll, the success spread determines damage they can do.
  2. Defender rolls his Prowess to defend. His success spread reduces the amount of damage done.
  3. Anything left is taken as damage.

(Optional ideas: All-out Attacks / Defense, etc.?)

Adventuring and Character Growth

At the end of a session of play, the GM will award you points based on how successful you were with the mission, and how much you made him laugh. Those two criteria are on equal footing, but you shouldn't award more than 3-5 per session. The cost of raising a stat is the price of the next level. Example: if your Knowledge stat was 3 and you wanted to raise it, it would cost 4 points.

Optional Rules - More Advanced Version of the System

In a more complicated version of the system, you could have subskills underneath each stat which default to that stat at some modifier (stat - N), representing the difficulty. You might even have individual spells / skills underneath your Super Stats that default to the stat at some modifier. Defensive rolls based on Prowess could also be fine-tuned in this manner, depending on the defending skill, it's difficulty, etc.

In addition to raising stats, earned points could be spent to offset the modifiers of subskills at a one-to-one rate.