Saturday, February 17, 2024

Bigfoot Epic Fail and Five By Five Back To Basics

My last post spoke about the history and evolution of Five By Five. This was in anticipation of a coming play test of the game's newest version called, "Bigfoot." -- That play test flopped. The game crashed and burned. I spent more time trying to explain / justify the game's rules than actually running the game. 

It was an epic fail.

The experience left me bitter and angry. I was going to just give up, but I still wanted to run the game. That game being the 10 part Dragon Town / Darkness Below campaign by JP Coovert. Should I just give up and use Dungeons and Dragons? I considered it. However, despite the experience, my players profess to like their characters. Everyone had created anthropomorphic animal characters. These would not have been easily adaptable to Dungeons and Dragons rules.

I started looking at older versions of Five By Five.

I wanted to try to figure out what had gone wrong. I have played this game with this same play group in the past and things have gone swimmingly. The last "stable" version of Five By Five that I had run was version 3. I had in my head that we would go back to version 3 and just play the campaign with that. Sadly, version 3 contained a lot of "crunch" that I never actually used. I remembered just dropping a big part of those rules and playing without them because they didn't work. No wonder I've been fiddling with the game ever since. So, what's gone wrong? I think the biggest problem is that I've been changing, shaping and sharpening rules without actually playing them.

Game Design Rule #1: Play The Game.

I decided to read every version of Five By Five that I had ever written. (Believe it or not, there are like 6.) What I found is that the game that I wanted to play existed in only one version -- the first one. The original Five By Five is the cleanest, most accessible version. So, I decided to suck it up and run some more play tests, this time using the OG version of Five By Five.

Everything worked.

There are some minor tweaks that I wanted to make. There are some changes made to Five By Five that have worked in the 16 years since its inception. But, I didn't have the original Five By Five document anymore. 2008 was a long time ago. So, I decided to recreate the original rules from scratch. They were only 16 pages after all.

I have now done that.

I've recreated the original rules and fitted them to a 5.5 x 8.5 zine format. I've added a few minor tweaks from other versions of the game, but for the most part I stuck to the original. I matched not only the content, but the graphic design, layout, and fonts used (as much as I was able to.) I also changed the copyright on this version, releasing the text content to the Creative Commons Attribution license.

I'm very happy with the results.

The new zine edition of the original Five By Five actually looks quite nice. It's currently in the process of play testing, and it's holding up great.

Click Image To Open Document

Who knew that it would take me 16 years to figure out that I got it right the first time?

Character Sheet

If you want, you can get a form-fillable version of the character sheet: HERE. (You must download and save the PDF locally in order to edit its content.)

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Thursday, January 04, 2024

What is the Bigfoot RPG

This weekend I will be running a game of Bigfoot with some friends. The Bigfoot Players Reference SRD shares all the basic rules for players of the game. I finally decided to simply share the rules as a single blog post because in this form the rules can be quickly and easily edited. Players with the link to the post will always have the most up to date version of the rules. This has proved to be important because I apparently like to fiddle with rules a lot.

These rules in one form or another have found their way to my gaming table more than any other game design that I have authored. I have tried layering in more complexity. I have tried layering in different themes. Ultimately, what works best seems to be keeping things simple.

Bigfoot began life in 2008 as a game called Five By Five. The appeal of the game for me, was in its dice roll interpretation: Roll 2d6 and multiply them to reach a number. Roll equal to or under an Ability Score to succeed. What makes this work is that players treat dice showing 6 as if they show 0 instead. This brings the roll average way down and makes the "roll under" mechanic work. 

It's a simple enough system and it gives the six sided die a bit more utility. It wasn't perfect, but I liked it. Other d6 systems rely on dice pools which I find to be a bit messy. Then there are 3d6 systems that generate a strong bell curve. At the time, I wanted to avoid the bell curve, but I would probably consider it a design asset these days. 

A version featuring a lot more polish was released in 2010 as Five By Five version 2. In 2011, I released a version 2.5 of the rules that included a rule about treating a 6 on the dice as "trump" in an attempt to eliminate the need to convert the six to a zero. I abandoned this innovation in version 3 of the game, but I have come back around to the idea of eliminating the 6 to 0 conversion with Bigfoot. 

Five By Five version 3 was released in 2013 and included a key change to the die mechanic. I made Doubles a roll exception and removed them from the block of numbers that a player would have to multiply. This was a major change because it cleaned up the possible array of numbers considerably and tightened everything up. 

In March of 2014 I play-tested a Superhero version of Five By Five. That game session was one of the most enjoyable experiences that I have had at my gaming table. The experience has continued to resonate with me, and is the impetus for all the changes that I have made to transform Five By Five into the game that I now call Bigfoot.

As mentioned above, I have come back around to eliminating the 6 to 0 conversion in Bigfoot. I have also dropped all the legacy fantasy RPG baggage like weapons and armor and hit points. All that's left are the basics: player defined abilities and the funny 2d6 roll where the dice are multiplied (with a few exceptions.) I won't go into the rules here, the Players Reference SRD covers all that. My purpose here is to speak about the game's evolution.

Bigfoot is the latest version of a game that has something of a long tail. It's been played and it works. The campaign that I will be starting on Saturday should hopefully allow me to test a few new ideas and to ultimately experience some of the same fun I got from that superhero game session 10 years ago.

Why do I call it Bigfoot? Because, I used Bigfoot as an example for character creation and my daughter drew me a wonderful picture. Should I print these rules in a zine format (which I hope to do) I plan to use the picture she drew on my cover. That's why.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Bigfoot Players Reference SRD

This is the Players Reference SRD for the Bigfoot (and anything else that you can imagine) RPG. Bigfoot is a traditional RPG meant to be played by one Game Master and from 2-6 Players.

This Players Reference SRD contains rules for character creation, basic action resolution, and character advancement. All text is subject to the Creative Commons Attribution License CC-BY-4.0 by Jeff Moore. All art is copyright 2023 by Kaylee Moore, all rights reserved.

Social Sasquatch © 2023 by Kaylee Moore

Character Creation

All players (except the GM) will need to create a character. Character creation is performed in five steps:

[1] Character Concept 

Write a two part character concept composed of a descriptor and a noun.


  • Descriptor: Dwarf
  • Noun: Axe Thrasher
  • Descriptor: Social
  • Noun: Sasquatch

[2] Define Strengths 

For each of the two parts of your concept define two Strengths. Strengths are beneficial qualities that help your character to get things done.


  • Dwarf: Incredible Eyesight In Darkness And Light
  • Dwarf: Tough Hide
  • Axe Thrasher: My Lute Is My Axe!
     (I'm good at playing the lute.)
  • Axe Thrasher: My Battleaxe Is My Axe!
     (I'm good at fighting with a battleaxe.)
  • Social: Lovable Fuzzball
  • Social: Dancing Machine
  • Sasquatch: Strong as a Bear
  • Sasquatch: Massive Stride

[3] Define a Struggle 

Define one "Struggle" -- like a Strength, but more difficult for your character to do than normal.


  • Dwarf Axe Thrasher: Grace is a Struggle. (They tend to be both physically clumsy as well as socially blunt.) 
  • Social Sasquatch: Skepticism is a Struggle. (They tend to be gullible.) 

[4] Record Values

  • Give each of your four Strengths a value of 5.
  • Give your Struggle a value of 1.

[5] Define a Trick

Define one Trick. A trick is something special that you can use once per scene to give yourself an advantage. It can be a piece of equipment, a resource or contact, or an actual supernatural ability or super power. Each Trick is tied to a specific Strength and each Strength can only have one Trick assigned to it.


  • Weapon: Battleaxe (Tricks Up: My Battleaxe Is My Axe)
  • Supernatural Ability: Inhumanly Strong (Tricks Up: Strong as a Bear)

Dwarf Axe Thrasher © 2023 by Kaylee Moore

Action Resolution

Decide which Strength (or Struggle) applies to the action. If none apply then the Strength is Undefined. Undefined Strengths have a value of 3.

Roll two (six-sided) dice and check for special rolls.

Special Rolls

  • Doubles (both dice are the same) -- Good Outcome
  • Single Six (one die is a six, the other is not) -- Fair Outcome

Standard Rolls

If no Special Roll, multiply the dice and compare that Result to your Strength (or Struggle) value. 

  • Result is Equal To or Lesser Than your Strength -- Great Outcome 
  • Result is Greater Than your Strength -- Troubled Outcome 


  • Troubled Outcome - you may or may not have achieved what you wanted. This result carries with it some kind of negative consequence or setback. 
  • Fair Outcome - you achieved what you wanted with minimal results. 
  • Good Outcome - a solid success. 
  • Great Outcome - best possible outcome under normal circumstances.


If the GM decides that the consequences of a Troubled Outcome is that your character suffers "stress" - you must choose one of your Strengths (not your Struggle) and mark it as Stressed. A Stressed Strength has a value of 1 (Like your Struggle.) 

If all your Strengths are Stressed, then your character is Stressed Out and must drop out of the scene. 

(Following a scene where a character is stressed out, it is suggested that the next scene be a healing scene. A healing scene is a scene that allows the players the opportunity to remove all stress from their characters.) 

Adjusting Strength Values

The GM might adjust Strength values to reflect extremes in difficulty or a dramatic or environmental influence on an action. Strengths range in value from 1 to 15 and are always odd numbers. 

 1 = Your Struggle or a Stressed Strength
 3 = All Undefined Strengths
 5 = Initial Strengths
 7 = An Improved Strength
 9 = A Greatly Improved Strength
11 = A Master Strength
13 = A Grand Master Strength
15 = Your Maximum Strength

Strengths can be adjusted up or down in increments of 2. The GM should adjust Strengths sparingly. (+2 to make something easier. -2 to make something harder.) No Strength can be adjusted to a value higher than 15 or lower than 1.


Bigfoot has an Enormous Stride with a value of 5. They want to jump across a chasm to the other side, a distance of 100 feet. The GM and the player agree that even for Bigfoot, a 100 foot jump is really far. The GM applies a -2 adjustment to Bigfoot's Enormous Stride, changing its value from 5 to 3 for this action. 


Tricks can be used once in a scene after the dice are rolled to improve the outcome by one step.

  • Troubled becomes Fair
  • Fair becomes Good
  • Good becomes Great
  • Great becomes Super

A Super Outcome is one that exceeds the normal limits of human ability and pushes into the realm of the super human. 


Bigfoot uses Strength Of A Bear [5] to break down a door and surprise some bad guys on the other side. They roll a [1] and a [4] on the dice. The special roll of Doubles and Single Six don't apply. So, they multiply the dice to get a result of 4. 4 is equal to or lesser than their Strength Of A Bear value of 5. This means that they got a Great Success! The GM declares that not only has Bigfoot busted in the door, but the bad guys on the other side are so surprised that everyone gets a free turn to do something before the bad guys can respond. 

If Bigfoot uses their Inhumanly Strong Trick on this action, the outcome would improve from Great to Super. The player asks the GM what a Super Outcome might look like. The GM says that the door would splinter into a million pieces and the bad guys would be so afraid that they would immediately surrender without a fight. This sounds awesome to Bigfoot who uses their Inhumanly Strong Trick to change this action's Outcome from Great to Super.


Pushing allows a player to "Trick Up" an Outcome without the use of a Trick. To do so, the Strength being used for the action cannot be Stressed. After the Outcome of the action is resolved using the Trick Up benefit, the Strength used to resolve the action becomes Stressed. 


Bigfoot's player rolls the dice in an attempt to jump across the 100 foot chasm. They roll a [2] and a [5]. That's not Doubles and neither of the dice is a [6]. So, they multiply the dice to arrive at a result of 10. That's greater than Bigfoot's adjusted Enormous Stride of 3. The Outcome is Troubled. 

Bigfoot has missed the jump and is about to fall into the chasm. Bigfoot's Inhumanly Strong Trick doesn't apply because it Tricks Up: Strength of a Bear, and this action is using Enormous Stride. Bigfoot's player declares that they are "Pushing" Enormous Stride. This Tricks Up the Outcome from Troubled to Fair. 

Bigfoot gets a minimal success, grabbing onto the ledge on the far side of the chasm. They are dangling precariously, but they made it! Bigfoot's player Stresses Bigfoot's Enormous Stride changing it's effective value to 1. (The Stressed status will last until the player participates in a healing scene, restoring Enormous Stride to its original value of 5.)


The GM may award special types of Tricks as treasures. Most commonly these are one shot items that are discarded permanently as soon as they are used. 

Some special treasures might be kept as permanent tricks to be used every scene just like any other trick. (The GM should award these kinds of permanent treasures very rarely.) 

Treasures are associated with an action or type of action, not tied to a specific character's Strength. As such, Treasures are not subject to the "One Trick Per Strength" rule. 

Leveling Up

After each game session players will have a chance to improve Strengths or even to add new ones. At the end of each game session, answer these questions to find out if your character has Leveled Up!

Answer each of the following in order:

Did one of your Strengths become Stressed during the session?

  •  Yes. (Continue to the next question.)
  •  No. (Stop here. You don’t Level Up.)

Did you use a Trick during the session?

  •  Yes. (Continue to the next question.)
  •  No. (Stop here. You don’t Level Up.)

Did you roll for an Outcome using your Struggle during the session?

  •  Yes. (Congrats! You Level Up!!)
  •  No. (Stop here. You don’t Level Up.)

Each time your character levels up, you get to make one change on your character sheet.

When Leveling Up, make one of these changes:

  • Add +2 to the value of any Strength*
  • Trade out your Struggle for a different Struggle**
  • Gain a new Strength with a value of 5***
  • Gain a new Trick****

* You cannot increase any Strength to a value greater than 15, and you can only ever have one Strength with a value of 15.

** This applies to a Struggle that is overcome as you play out the story of your character. If you ever have a Strength, Struggle or Trick that’s just not working out or isn’t fun, talk to the GM about changing it. That sort of thing doesn’t count as Leveling Up.

*** New Strengths added after character creation do not need to tie directly to your character concept. Try to match the growth of your character to the events experienced during the game.

**** A Trick must enhance an existing Strength. Each Strength can only have one Trick assigned to it.

Character Sheet

Get a form-fillable version of the character sheet here. Note: you will need to save the character sheet locally before you can edit it.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Game Design Part 10 - Zodiac Signs as Dramatic Archetypes

My next step is to match the zodiac signs to dramatic character archetypes. This will become the equivalent of a character class. Defining these ideas now will make it easier to create character powers/options/abilities later.

Zodiac Signs as Dramatic Archetypes

Aries: The Hero

Description: The protagonist who rises to meet a challenge.
Keywords: Brave, Bold, Passionate

Taurus: The Everyman

Description: A relatable character, recognizable from daily life.
Keywords: Dependable, Honest, Vigilant

Gemini: The Jester

Description: Comedian or trickster who speaks important truth.
Keywords: Adaptable, Cheerful, Enthusiastic

Cancer: The Caregiver

Description: They support and make sacrifices for others.
Keywords: Loyal, Caring, Protective

Leo: The Ruler

Description: They have legal or emotional power over others.
Keywords: Confident, Determined, Leader

Virgo: The Sage

Description: A wise figure with knowledge to share; a mentor.
Keywords: Attentive, Helpful, Patient

Libra: The Lover

Description: A romantic who’s guided by their heart.
Keywords: Fair, Idealistic, Social

Scorpio: The Magician

Description: Awesome figure harnessing inexplicable powers.
Keywords: Driven, Intense, Focused

Sagittarius: The Explorer

Description: A character driven to push past boundaries.
Keywords: Independent, Optimistic, Adventurous

Capricorn: The Creator

Description: A motivated visionary who creates or structures.
Keywords: Practical, Ambitious, Planner

Aquarius: The Outlaw

Description: The rebel who won’t abide by society’s demands.
Keywords: Innovative, Intelligent, Original

Pisces: The Innocent

Description: A morally pure character, of only good intent.
Keywords: Creative, Intuitive, Generous

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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Game Design Part 9 - Stressing Out

I will have a post soon about character types and associated powers and abilities and everything like that, taking the first steps into firming things up into an actual playable game. For the moment, however, I want to share my thoughts about how characters will take damage in the game and get this written down while it’s fresh in my mind.

Characters will have two option blocks on their character sheets with which to activate various powers, abilities and actions. These will look something like this:

Guiding Options


















Opposing Options














Everyplace you see a number on the table, that’s an option the player can take. When a player takes damage they mark any one of these boxes (the one with the numbers) as “stressed.” A stressed option can’t be used.

If a player is ever “stuck” taking a stressed option because all their dice choices leave them with no other choice (or maybe they choose to do it for some reason) then they become stressed out.

The player still selects and executes the option, but they must include in their role-play an explanation of how using this option has stressed them out and knocked them out of the scene.

As players advance during play, they will unlock powers and gain numbers in new boxes. When this happens the character will not only become more diverse, but also have more ability to survive being stressed out.

The urgency of the scene can be used to the players advantage when assigning stress. For example: if the scene die is in the red zone, a player could safely stress the green, yellow, and orange options (under the number 7) in their option blocks because those options are being superseded by the “red” level options due to the urgency of the scene.

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