0. Table of Contents (at the end of the file)
1. Introduction[If you haven't read the introduction in a separate file, you probably should read that first ... especially since it explains that this is not the full product.]
It's a glorious day, too nice to be inside. Gamers already scheduled to come over, though - what to do? Easy: play a game while hiking in a park or the country!
Sherpa is an easy game system designed to allow playing in "difficult" gaming situations. It is necessarily rules-light, and the Sherpa Guide (called GM for familiarity) is expected to use common sense throughout the game - no rules to fall back on, sorry. Those in need of advice on running a freeform game should read Fudge from Grey Ghost Games.
These rules may seem lengthy to be carrying around hiking, but you don't need to bring them; reading them beforehand should be sufficient. The core rules (found in the GM Aid Sheet) fit on the back of a business card, and you can leave the rest at home!
The name Sherpa is derived partly from the fact you can play it while hiking up mountains (tested in the White Mountains of New Hampshire), and partly from the first letters of the attributes, which, oddly enough, spell SHERPA.
In the "diceless" version, each player needs perhaps ten tokens. This number may vary from GM to GM. You can leave the watch at home.
Strength (Str)In brief, the attributes are defined as:
3. Character CreationA character sheet should be the back of a business card or something similarly easy to carry and refer to while hiking. Use a pencil - you won't need to write while on the hike, but the character may develop between gaming sessions.
To illustrate character creation, we'll create a fantasy character: Brogo the Halfling, a Scout. Each attribute starts at a base allowance of four:
Brogo the Halfling Prof: Scout 4 Exp 4 Rsn 4 Agil 4 Str 4 Hlth 4The GM allots a number of points to each player to improve the attributes with. As a general guide, use:
0 to 5 points for a game with "average folk" PCs,Another way to allow for more powerful PCs is to permit powerful Gifts - see Supernormal Powers
Each player then distributes the GM-allotted points, raising or lowering attributes as they wish according to three simple rules:
Brogo has four more points to spend. He raises Health to 7 with three of them, and Reasoning to 5 with the last point. Experience remains at level 4.Characters now need a GM-approved Gift - anything outside of the attributes which benefits the character. The ability to see well at night, a high-pain threshold, wealth, good looks, contacts in the police force, ambidexterity, lucky (e.g., "reroll" once per hour), etc., are all Gifts. You also might include one very specific skill as a Gift - see the sample character Jack Smith. See also Supernormal Powers, which are simply powerful Gifts.
Characters also need one or more GM-approved Faults - anything
that will limit their actions. Faults can be physical problems,
societal prejudices, psychological disturbances, attitudes, a
specific skill lower than an attribute would suggest, an enemy,
bad reputation, etc. Note that a fault is not necessarily the sign
of a flawed personality: a Vow of Poverty limits your actions,
but doesn't mean you're flawed.
Brogo the Halfling Marie de la Croix Prof: Scout 8 Prof: Musketeer 7 Exp 4 Exp 5 Rsn 5 Rsn 4 Agil 6 Agil 7 Str 3 Str 7 Hlth 7 Hlth 8 Gift: Always knows Gift: Patron: Captain of which way is north the Musketeers Fault: Helps those in Fault: Code of Honor; need for no pay very proud; a bit vain
4. ProfessionsDefining what exactly is covered by a Profession can be tricky, and may vary from game to game. For example, what does the Profession: Musketeer include? To some GMs, this would include swashbuckling actions such as swinging on chandeliers, while other GMs would base such actions on Agility. The GM and player should agree on what actions come under a given Profession before play. To this author, for example, the Profession Musketeer includes fencing, musket use, riding skills, tactics, knowledge of Paris and palace routines, an ability to hold your liquor, etc. It wouldn't include swinging on chandeliers (governed by Agility) - but if another GM wants to include that, great - especially if I'm playing!
A Profession should also include any equipment that an individual is likely to own, or have access to, if appropriate for the situation. For example, a Musketeer would have a rapier, dagger, pistol, musket, ammo, horse & tack, appropriate clothing, and a little wine money. But if he's caught in an adventure while out for a glass of wine after guard duty, he'll only have the rapier, dagger, whatever's left of his wine money, and the clothes he's wearing. Likewise, a Road Construction Worker doesn't automatically have a bulldozer - it may not be appropriate for the situation.
Players can design their own Professions, but the GM has the final say on what a Profession includes and doesn't include.
Some sample Professions and what they might cover are given in
Athos Porthos Prof: Musketeer 7 Prof: Musketeer 7 Nobleman Gigolo Exp 8 Exp 5 Rsn 7 Rsn 4 Agil 6 Agil 7 Str 5 Str 8 Hlth 6 Hlth 8 Gift: Immune to feminine wiles Gift: Good looks Fault: Shameful secret, moody, Fault: Boaster, womanizer, immune to feminine charms overconfidentSo Athos has all the skills, knowledge, and contacts apropos to a nobleman at level 7, while Porthos is a smooth operator with women and expert at wheedling money out of them.
Aramis D'Artagnan Prof: Musketeer 7 Prof: Musketeer 6 Theologist Envoy Exp 7 Exp 4 Rsn 8 Rsn 6 Agil 6 Agil 8 Str 6 Str 6 Hlth 5 Hlth 7 Gift: Important Church Contacts Gift: Fencing is at level 8 Fault: Poor liar about his Fault: Impulsive, stubborn lechery, loves conspiracies very proud & chivalrousAramis has influential contacts in the Church and is good at behind-the-scenes manipulation, while D'Artagnan excels at traveling long, hard and well - knowledge of geography, diplomatic skills, etc. Note: D'Artagnan's Gift is the only way to have a combat skill higher than Profession.
All have the usual Musketeer skills, also. In fact, they all have the basic Musketeer Gifts (Rank in the King's Service, Patron: Captain of the Musketeers, Status: Gentleman) and Faults (Gentleman's Code of Honor, Duty to the King, Sense of Duty to each other). No need to write these things down - but be sure they are understood by all.
The GM may charge double points for dual Professions, but shouldn't bother if all PCs have them. Or you could set each Profession's level independently of the other.
The same physical skill might be governed by Agility for one character, but by Profession for another. Most mental skills will fall under Experience or Profession, but some might come under Reasoning. The GM has the final say about which attribute governs which skills for which characters.
Note there are no Charisma or Willpower attributes: role-play them. Brogo's a charming little fellow with a strong will, but that will only come across in the way he's played. Likewise, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan are all much more charming than reading their Faults would leave you to believe!
Perception is based on Profession for things relating to Profession, but on Reasoning or Experience for other things - a case can sometimes be made for one and sometimes for the other. Of course, there are penalties to notice some things: an accounting error for non-accountants, for example, or a needle in the proverbial camel's eye or haystack or whatever it is. Stating that a character is on the lookout for something in particular gives a bonus to notice it - possibly even automatic success.
The player and GM need to define a supernormal power as precisely as possible. How potent is it? How wide is the range of effects? How frequently may it be used? Are there any drawbacks to using it? And so on. Once those questions are answered (and they don't really have to be written down), mechanics for running the power may suggest themselves - or the GM may wish to translate rules for such powers from another game. Uses per day might equal Profession, Reasoning or Health, or the power might lower an attribute each time it is used. (A full night's sleep restores the attribute.) Modifiers for range, size of target, potency of effect, etc., may also apply.
Here are two sample characters with supernormal powers. Both are True Heroes: Katina is 16 points and Lt. Hall 20. *Attributes associated with supernormal Gifts are marked with an asterisk, and cost double points to raise above level four.
Katina, Elven Maid Lt. Vespasian Hall *Prof: Nature Mage 8 Prof: Space navigator 7 Exp 7 Exp 6 Rsn 8 *Rsn 8 Agil 4 Agil 8 Str 4 Str 5 Hlth 5 Hlth 6 Gift: Can work Nature Magic Gift: Telepathy Fault: Pacifist - must try Fault: Prejudiced against diplomacy before fighting earth's alien allies
Example of psionic power definition and game mechanics: Lt. Hall's Telepathy skill is based on his Reasoning, which therefore costs double. He is at -1 for each 3 yards (meters) between himself and his target to establish contact. He is at -1 for each additional link if contacting multiple targets, and is at -2 or worse for non-humans. Each attempted use lowers his Health attribute by one, regained by sleep. Once mind-linked he can read surface thoughts, send mental messages, or cause distracting headaches. He can maintain a link over great distances if he concentrates on it. His spaceship has a hyperspace telepathy amplifier, allowing telepathy use over vast distances.See Appendix B for more sample supernormal Gifts.
The GM may also award a player a token during a session for some particularly clever and entertaining action.
However, if the outcome is one the player isn't happy with - failure, or merely partial success, when the player had hoped for complete success - the player can attempt to influence the GM's decision. There are two ways to handle this, depending on the GM: randomized or "diceless." Some GMs may use both methods, others only one.
Very favorable situation: +3 or better Advantageous situation: +2 Slight edge: +1 Average situation: 0 Uncomfortable situation: -1 Difficult situation: -2 Very unfavorable situation: -3 or worseThe player then adds the modifier to the relevant attribute (decided by the GM), and the GM consults the randomizer, if necessary. For an unopposed action, a modified attribute of 10 or higher is automatic success - you don't need to consult the randomizer. Likewise, a modified attribute of zero or less is automatic failure.
Example: Brogo needs to leap over a chair quickly to get to the magic wand before the evil mage can grab it. For a human, this might be a trivial task - no randomization would be necessary. But Brogo is a four-foot tall Halfling, and a human-sized chair is a significant obstacle when speed is critical. The GM rules that this action is governed by Agility in Brogo's case. The GM also rules that this is an uncomfortable situation for Brogo: he's at -1. Brogo's Agility level is 6, which is modified down to a 5 for this action.Before (but not after!) the randomizer is used, the player may spend luck tokens to increase the odds of success - even to certainty. Each luck token spent gives a +3 modifier.
Example: the final modified level for Brogo to succeed at following a difficult trail is a 5. The player can spend zero luck tokens and let the randomizer decide it at 5, or spend one luck token and let the randomizer decide it at 8, or spend two luck tokens for a sure thing without having to check the randomizer. In this case, he doesn't want to spend a luck token yet - he's holding on to both of them in case of combat.A luck token may also be used to affect an action by an NPC against the PC, giving a -3 modifier to such an action. You might, for example, wish to give a -3 modifier to an enemy magician casting a spell at you ...
Example: Katina, the Elven mage, is trying to cause some plants to entwine magically around the ankles of a threatening brigand. The GM rules that there are some suitable plants, but that the brigand looks strong enough to require a lot of plants. This is a difficult situation: -2 modifier. Katina's Profession 8 is down to a 6 for this attempt. The GM stops the watch, reads the result of 3, and declares that many vines entangle the brigand just as he is about to leap forward with his sword. He finds himself unable to move, and stares stupidly at the vines as Katina begins a spell to turn his sword into a pumpkin vine ...
7c. CombatMelee combat and other opposed actions are handled differently from unopposed actions. Instead of comparing an attribute level with the random number, add the two. This total is then compared with a similar total for the opponent. A result of "0" on the randomizer equals 10 - for an opposed action, the highest result possible.
Example: Marie's fencing level is the same as her Profession, Musketeer: 7. She's facing Michelle, a Cardinal's Guard, whose fencing skill is 6. The player describes Marie's actions very well: a feint to bring Michelle to her left, then a series of vicious attacks calculated to push her back into a chair. Once Michelle has hit the chair, Marie will try to drive her point home.Ranged combat is more likely to be handled as an unopposed action, with a positive modifier for an easy target or negative modifier for a hard-to-hit target.
Combat skill cannot be higher than Profession - see Attributes.
no effect,There is no way, in a simple game, to make this more objective. The only solid advice is:
The fight is over if one combatant's total of [attribute + random number] is at least twice the other's.Wounds are cumulative: PCs fall unconscious when they take damage points greater than their Health. So a PC of Health 8, can take eight damage points and still be (barely) conscious, while a PC of Health 2 falls unconscious after three points of damage. (The GM may rule that seriously wounded characters are at a penalty in further actions.) Characters who take hits equal to twice their Health may die - make a check on the stopwatch vs. original Health: failure = death.
Characters heal in proportion to their Health level. That is, a given period of time heals 1/4 of the damage, or 1/2 the damage, etc. Thus a character of Health 8 with four damage points will heal as fast as a character of Health 4 with two damage points.
To denote wounds while hiking (where it's awkward to write things down), simply give the player a pebble for each damage point. Players can store pebbles in a pocket or pouch, and throw them away as they are healed.
A luck token may also be used to reduce the severity of a wound by three damage points. Unlike other uses of luck tokens, this may be done after the fact.
Since assigning a wound level is very subjective, the GM must be careful to be impartial - or even lean a little in the PCs' favor. Better to have happy players than realistically dead PCs.
Example of wound determination: Before the evil mage can reach his wand, Brogo manages to bound over the chair, grab the wand, and break it. Enraged, the mage lashes out with his staff at Brogo. This is an opposed action, and the GM rules it's against Brogo's Agility (combat isn't covered by a Scout's Profession). Brogo is in a very unfavorable position: no weapon in hand and focused on breaking the wand. Brogo's Agility is 6, modified down to 3 for this situation. The mage has Agility 5.
7e. DicelessIn the "diceless" method of Sherpa, the GM's knowledge of the story line and the players' input will determine the outcome of most actions.
However, there will be some critical actions in which players will want more input. In those cases, figure a character's score of attribute + modifier, as above. If it's below ten, the player must turn in a number of tokens (at +3 each) equal to the difference in order for the action to succeed. Each player begins the game with ten tokens - or more, for a very cinematic game.
When out of tokens, the character is out of luck, and had best stick to safe actions, or settle for partial success. Of course, the best way to do this is to describe actions so well and cleverly that the GM never even asks for tokens to begin with.
The GM can also occasionally award one point for the players to raise an attribute with. Although a beginning attribute level cannot be above 8, players may raise an attribute to a maximum of 9 through development. However, raising an attribute is a generous bonus in Sherpa, where the range is so small, and so should not be granted every session or even every other session. The GM may wish to charge double to raise Profession, and players may save a point for this purpose.
However, Sherpa is not really intended as a campaign gaming system. Instead of setting up a long-term campaign, try to complete a single adventure each outing - everyone will probably enjoy it more.
Actions: Unopposed: Attribute >= random number [low "roll" is better] Opposed: Attribute + random number [high "roll" is better] Modifiers: Very favorable: +3 or better Advantageous: +2 Slight edge: +1 Average: 0 Uncomfortable: -1 Difficult: -2 Very unfavorable: -3 or worse One luck token spent: +/-3 Wounds: Light: 1 to 2 damage or stun points Moderate: 3 to 4 damage or stun points Severe: 5+ damage or stun points
Appendix B: Sample Professions, Supernormal Gifts, & CharactersThis section contains a list of sample Professions by genre. These are intended strictly as templates for the GM and players, and may be modified at will by the GM. Note that it's possible to have dual Professions.
Sample Fantasy ProfessionsSome of these can be easily translated to other genres, of course.
Sample Modern Professions
Sample SF Professions
Sample Historical ProfessionsSee also Fantasy Professions and Musketeers.
Sample Superhero Gifts
More Sample CharactersTwo Potential Heroes, each 10 points:
Praxilites (Mythic Greece) Father F. X. O'Donnell Prof: Messenger/ 7 Prof: Modern Occult 8 Boxer Investigator Exp 7 Exp 7 Rsn 5 Rsn 7 Agil 6 Agil 4 Str 4 Str 4 Hlth 5 Hlth 4 Gift: Can call for a favor from Gift: Erratic ability to detect his patron Deity: Hermes psi use or a paranormal being Fault: Enemy: Athena (he boasted Fault: Vow of Duty to his he was wiser than she ...) superior (disagrees w/him)Praxilites' Gift can only work after he's tried to help himself first - don't frivolously ask the gods for favors! Success for major request = 1; moderate request <= 2; minor request <= 3. No attribute costs double as it is rarely successful.
Father O'Donnell's power may be attempted once per hour, real time. Ability is equal to [random number -1]. Then randomize again, to test against it. No attribute costs double for this as it is so unreliable.
Jack Smith Sagebrush Prof: Jack of 5 *Prof: Seer Rabbit 6 All Trades Exp 6 Exp 5 Rsn 5 Rsn 6 Agil 4 Agil 3 Str 4 Str 3 Hlth 5 Hlth 4 Gift: Plays the fiddle Gift: ESP: precog visions, at level 8 psychometry, seeker sense Fault: Unlucky with money, Fault: Very nervous: check it always seems to Health before any combat: melt away ... on failure, she faints!
Table of Contents