The Judge System

Whenever a character attempts to do something that she could conceivably fail to do—for example, hit a moving target or pick a lock—the game proceeds as follows:

  1. The GM notes what the player is trying to do and any forces that may be helping or opposing the attempt.
  2. The player points out any applicable experience in the character’s background.
  3. Based on the above, the GM sets a difficulty (2-20) for the attempt. Players can chime in, but the GM is the final arbiter of this decision.
  4. The player rolls a d20. A 20 is always a spectacular success, a 1 is always a spectacular failure. If the roll is lower than the difficulty, the character fails to do what she intended—but she always does something. If it’s close, the character’s action may be nearly as beneficial as if she had succeeded. If it’s way off, the character’s action may not be beneficial at all.


Initiative is always contextual. If a character sneaks up on a person without being detected, she can attack the person without being attacked first—just like real life. If an angry drunk takes an unprompted swing at the character, then only a character highly trained in self-defense would have a chance of reacting before the punch lands. Combat is fast and unforgiving.

Once a character has acted, the rest of the characters will have an opportunity to act before the first character has the chance to act again.

Injuries Instead of HP

If a razor-sharp axe pounds through your upper arm and cleaves your humerus, you don’t lose 10 hit points—you lose an arm.

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