Monday, November 18, 2013

Five by Five Back to Basics

First a big thanks to Rob Lang for the Re-Review of Five by Five on the Free RPG Blog. Thanks for the love Rob!

Rob and I have had many discussions (via email ... e-scussions? Is that a thing?) about generic systems versus systems designed for and focused on a specific genre/setting/world. Rob being pro-non-generic, advocating the strengths of targeting a specific world, genre, etc. when working on design.

I have always argued that generic systems have their place, but as I have been struggling with creating a "Fantasy Version" of Five by Five, I begin to realize just how right Rob is. Fantasy Five by Five has become a struggle with weapons and armor and magic. Trappings exclusive to the Fantasy RPG's that Five by Five was never designed for. I have been fighting with a way to shoe-horn something in without sacrificing the exclusive use of the 5x5 Roll in the process. And, I have been losing.

What I realize is that Five by Five works best when it embraces it's generic nature. And in a weird way this realization makes Rob's point in that, the Five by Five system isn't so much a generic system as Five by Five is "Five by Five" and it only works when it is allowed to be itself.

There is a reason why the current fantasy campaign I am running for my friends uses the 13th Age rules. 13th Age was designed from the ground up to be a specific thing and create a specific kind of game play. The Fantasy campaign that I am running needs that.

Five by Five is designed to be a specific thing and to create a specific kind of game play, too ... and what 13th Age is designed to do and what Five by Five is designed to do are two very different things.

Five by Five is meant to be a "Jack of All Trades - Master of None" RPG. It's meant to allow players to create anything they want quickly and easily. Detail is intentionally kept nondescript to make room for fast free form play. It's not meant to be tactical. It's not a simulation. It's meant to be easy and tether free. It's not so much a "setting" as it is a statement of intent. But, the game only works when the players are playing "that" game. Five by Five doesn't work to play "D&D" ... and it shouldn't.

I was working on a sort of Five by Five "cheat sheet" to allow me to fit all the rules for Five by Five on a single sheet of paper. I was going to use this a summary in the Fantasy Five by Five supplement as a sort of "recap." But, I couldn't get everything to fit. Combat ... even the basic combat of the current core rules was just too complex.

I found a solution: "Stop trying to make Five by Five work like other more tactically based RPG's." With that realization, I was able to streamline combat and at the same time take Five by Five a step in the "Storytelling Game" direction. It's a good direction for the "freedom" that Five by Five is designed to provide.

Take a look at these Five by Five Fast Play Rules. They are the same rules but with streamlined simplified combat/conflict resolution. What do you think? Is this the right direction for Five by Five in the future?




  1. Give it a look when I finish NaNo.

  2. This post is interesting because it's exactly the *opposite* of something I've been thinking about doing with 5x5!

    I think the fast-play rules would be great as a pick-up game or a really light narrative game. It's not my cup of tea as I like more mechanical crunch than that.

    If I wanted to go with something really light I'd go back to 5x5 version 1.0, but that's just me. I think 1.0 struck a nice balance between the narrative and mechanical aspects of light RPGs.

    For my part, I've been toying recently with using the base 5x5 die roll system to create a more crunchy RPG with ability scores, skills, etc. I'll let you know if/how/when this works out.

  3. I've been using 1.0 with the dice mechanic revisions successfully in pick up games. 1.0 reminds me of Over the Fudge.

  4. This approach smooths out and simplifies combat, but the integrity of everything else that Five by Five does remains unchanged. The "combat" part of Five by Five is the part of it that continues to give me the most trouble.

    Ver 3 has some fun options that add some crunch, but the weapons and armor rules are lacking. Options offered in posts here on my blog do make weapons and armor more functional, but they fracture the flow of play.

    I do think that the original version 1 combat rules had their benefits and I am going to take another look at them. I think these "fast play" rules would be perfect for a super hero game where equipment takes a back seat to powers, as these rules encourage that all that matters is traits and that trappings are merely window dressing added for effect.

    I am going to post something soon to talk about that.


  5. I've been going over all 3 previous versions of 5x5 and this 1-page version is the one I actually like the best. I've been really into micro-lite rpgs lately since my gaming time tends to be very limited at the moment and this 1-page version of 5x5 seems to be very solid and complete.

    Currently I'm running a once a week game for some students at the school I teach at and I this is totally the route I would go for rules considering our limited gaming time.

  6. Thanks Droo! Let me know how things work out for you. I believe that this "lighter" direction serves Five by Five's design intent better than some of what has come before. That said, the fact that I am constantly tinkering and that there are so many "versions" of the system out there makes me realize that this ability to tweak and tinker is another of the system's strengths that I need to continue to exploit.