Card symbols on a dark purple field marked with faint X's


👤 Players:
⏱ Time to play:
Varies minutes
♟ Equipment:
Several sheets of paper and something to draw with.
🧠 Designer(s):
Nathan Long

version 0.3


This is a role-playing game powered by Freeform Universal system designed to power 'story games' and provide structure to the free-wheeling imaginative stories that kids can create. I created this ruleset to have adventures with my own kids at a young age, specifically while we were waiting up to 45 minutes for the bus to come in the early mornings. I wanted a way to keep them entertained and engaged with only a few things at hand and leveraging one of the most powerful tools: imagination.

How Does This Work? #

FIG is a cooperative adventure game (or roleplaying game) designed for the younger adventurers among us (or just young-at-heart). You’ll tell stories of epic deeds, weird dance battles with magic goat-men, befriending slimes in forgotten caves, or piloting the stars in your faithful space jellyfish—whatever you can dream up!

The game plays as a conversation between the Players and the Narrator from which a story emerges. When the outcome of something is unsure, the Players roll dice and with the help of the Narrator interpret the outcome of the roll.

There is no winner, the goal is to have fun.

It’s designed to be played in short bursts (possibly with little notice) with very little math, bookkeeping, or materials.

Players #

The Players take on a Character in the story. The Players say what they do, what they think, what they say. They speak as their Character.

Narrator #

The Narrator (presumably you) controls everything except the Player's Characters. This includes the world, monsters, or other Characters the Players do not control (referred to as NPCs, or non-player characters). The Narrator sets up a scenario, speaks as the allies and villains in the story, and makes the world react to the Player’s actions.

What You Will Need #

To get started, you will need:

There are two scenarios of play:

  1. If on the go, prepare index cards ahead of time and reveal, hand out, or take away cards as needed. Use the digital dice roller on a phone or device to allow rolls to happen without the risk of losing dice.
    • Prepare a 'deck' for each player containing their character information and any items they may have.
    • Prepare a separate deck for the Narrator containing enemies, scenarios, items, etc.
  2. If stationary, (like at a table), the cards can be created collaboratively as needed, and dice rolled where all can see. Being stationary allows more elaborate card setups like progressively revealing rooms in a dungeon or allowing more use of physical objects for trackers.

Characters #

Character Creation #

Creating a character should be like a conversation where you’re describing someone really neat to some good friends. As you ask questions, specific 'descriptors' should emerge. These special descriptors form the core of a Character's abilities.

Step 1: Describe their Speciality #

Ask: “What’s something they’re super good at?” or "What are they known for?" or "What's their special skill?"

A talent, speciality, or expertise. Something they are exceptionally skilled at.

Candy Magic, Creating Gadgets, Piloting Spaceships.

Step 2: Describe something unique about their Appearance #

Ask: “What do they look like?" or "What’s something weird or cool about them?”

Something unique about them. Something they have or are that may factor into how they interact with the world.

Bendy Body, Dragon Scales, Hulking Muscles, Glow-in-the-dark Skin

Step 3: Describe their Dream #

Ask: “What do they dream of doing?” or “What’s their big goal?”

Their internal drive or goal. Create your own or choose from these options:

  • Make lots of friends (Friend-To-All!)
  • Travel or explore all over (Explorer!)
  • Find a certain object (Finder!)
  • Become famous and renowned across the land (Superstar!)
  • Fight epic battles (Warrior!)
  • Create something amazing (Builder!)
  • Discover or learn something, uncover a dark secret (Seeker!)

Step 4: Describe their Prized Possession #

Ask: “What’s something super important they have or carry around?”

Every character starts with a signature magic item: An object, artifact, or heirloom. Be weird, be creative. It could even be a magic pet or companion. Items are best described as an ADJECTIVE-NOUN pair. "Ancient Sword" is more interesting than "Sword".

Moon Diamond, Sentient Avocado, Warped Stopwatch.

Step 5: Give them a Name and a Title #

Ask: “What’s their name?” or "What do people call them?"

Now that we’ve got the Descriptors defined, we need a suitable name to top it off. If applicable, a title may help solidify the character or capture additional details about a Character. A title gives no mechanical benefit like a Descriptor, but is useful in keeping the character's goal in focus. Have fun with it!

Step 6: Draw (or Describe) your character #

Drawing the character is optional, but highly encouraged. Grab an index card and write down the concepts from the previous steps that make up their character.

By now, you should have a basis of a sentence that captures the character:

(Name) the (Title). Good at (Specialty). Has/is a (Appearance). Dreams of (Dream). Owns a (Prized Possession).

Some examples:

Loogie the Goblin Chef. Good at cooking. Has a really big mouth (for eating things of course). Dreams of tasting everything ever. Owns a magic fork that makes things edible (even if they’re not normally).

Mimo the Monkey Moon Warrior. Good at dancing. Has blue skin that glows at night and is sunburned really easily. Dreams of being the most famous dance fighter. Owns a magic Moon Sword that shoots Moon Beams.

George the Mushroom Wizard. Good at fungi and poisons. Has an enormous body but tiny hands. Dreams of writing the most popular novel of all time. Owns a bag of (magic?) mushroom samples collected in his travels.

Luna the Night Sorceress. Good at night magic. Has an extra ear on top of her head (covered by her hair) that allows echolocation. Dreams of traveling everywhere, even outer space. Owns a Night Owl that shoots beams from its eyes (when it’s angry).

For brevity, you can list these on an index card as ‘fill in the blanks’:

Help, Hints, Tricks #

For younger adventurers try leading with the questions as a conversation and help them craft their concepts. It’s ok to lean into popular media or clichés. Reflect and refine.

Narrator: “What do they dream of doing?”
Player: “Dancing as a ballerina!”
(The Narrator notices they already have dancing as a Specialty)
Narrator: “So to be the most fabulously famous dancer in the land?”
(Similar, but allows use in situations where the character is in the spotlight, or trying to gain fame.)
Player: “Yeah!”
Narrator: “Tell me about your character.”
Player: “I want to be a… dinosaur… but in space… with Jedi powers and a lightsaber! And I can like force choke people…” [mimics choking]
(GM notes lightsaber or laser sword as a possible ‘Prized Possession’ to discuss)
Narrator: “[Laughs] Soon, young padawan. So would you want to be a ‘Dinosaur Jedi’ or a ‘Dinosaur Space Wizard’ so you can have other magic powers too?”
Player: “Hmm..”

Try not to create too many overlapping concepts or the character may be too specialized. If they have something pretty well covered in another area, try to refocus into an adjacent area.

Each concept should allow the character to do roughly 1-2 things. It’s helpful to define some of these things up front. The extra ear on top of the head allows echolocation, the shape-shifting avocado can turn into simple objects like a small boat or be used as a mace.

If a Player has a Character that's mostly there, but needs JUST ONE MORE detail to fill in here’s a list of basic types of tasks that often come up in adventures for inspiration:

Items #

Inventory is not tracked separately in FIG. There's three types of items

  1. Basic Items that relate to the Character.
  2. Situational Items that help solve problems.
  3. Magic Items with special powers or abilities.

Only Magic Items are tracked separately.

Basic Items #

Basic Items are simple items that the Character always has with them that make sense based on their Descriptors. A Character good with Uncovering Mysteries would likely have a magnifying glass, pen and paper, and a fancy hat with them always.

Situational Items #

Each character is given a magic backpack, matter replicator, or something else in a form of their choosing that fits the tone of the adventure. Once per Scene, a Character can pull out a Situational Item of their choice to use to help solve a problem. The size of the item can be larger than the total space of the bag (think Mary Poppin’s handbag). This can include things like:

It’s recommended that the chosen situational item dispenser have its own handout to remind Players that they have these as an option when facing problems or challenges.

Magic Items #

A magic item is something that gives a player an ability or power similar to the Prized Possession from the Character details. It is written on an index card (recommended) or other handout.

Core Mechanics #

How to Play #

If the outcome of something the Player wants to is unclear the Narrator will ask them to:

Step 1: Say what you’re trying to do. #

Explain what the Character is trying to do, and have the Player describe how they’re attempting it.

Step 2: Roll the Dice #

Whenever a Player rolls, they roll at least 1d6 (One six-sided dice, see Extra Dice) and check the highest number against the following table.

Result Legend Description
1 👎 + 😕 failure + something bad
2 👎 failure
3 👎 + 😃 failure + something good
4 👍 + 😕 success + something bad
5 👍 success
6 👍 + 😃 success + something good
😕 Something Bad

Something unfortunate happens. An enemy appears, something happens to make things more difficult for everyone. Describe what happens. The next Player to act takes -1 on their roll.

😃 Something Good

Something fortunate happens. A lucky break, unintentional effects elsewhere make it easier on everyone. Describe what happens. The next Player to act takes +1 on their roll.

Success and failure isn’t always cut and dry. Sometimes a failure can create opportunities for others. Sometimes by succeeding, it makes it harder for someone else to act.

Extra Dice

If the action attempted relates to or is helped by the Character Descriptors (title, specialty, weird fact, dream, or prized possession), circumstances, magic items, or other conditions, you add an additional die to the roll for each that applies and take the single highest result of that roll.

In the situation where it is unclear whether a detail can add to the roll, the Player must describe it in amusing and entertaining terms. The Narrator will then rule if it can add to the roll.

Mimo the Monkey Moon Warrior wants to run and jump off a wall and bounce up behind the giant golden statue without triggering any booby traps. His specialty is ‘Dancing’, which is questionable here so the GM asks Mimo to describe how Mimo attempts this. The player amusingly mimics dance moves used in a music acrobatic montage. The Narrator is amused and allows Mimo to roll 2 dice for the maneuver: one base with one dice for the 'Dancing' Specialty. Mimo rolls a 1 and a 3 which results in: Failure + Something Good (👎 + 😃). Mimo really gets into the routine, accidentally setting off the spring booby trap which sends him sailing across the room (optionally taking an injury the GM’s discretion) but now the way is clear for others (+1 on the next player's roll).

Ivy the Plant Fairy wants to create a vine bridge over a chasm. They can use ‘Plant Magic’ from their Specialty to roll 2 dice. She rolls a 2 and a 4, which means: Success + Something Bad (👍 + 😕). The vines shoot across the chasm, but impact a little too hard, causing the walls to become unstable! Rocks start to fall and the bridge begins to wobble! Quickly before it all crumbles! (-1 on the next player's roll).

Optional: Critical Successes and Failures #

Optionally, if you roll more than one 6, the success counts as a critical action and is extra effective, possibly causing additional effects. Likewise, if you roll more than one ‘1’ no matter the highest number, it is a critical failure, something extra bad occurs.

This means that a critical success or failure can only happen if more than one dice is used in a roll, adding an extra risk/reward outcome to bigger rolls.

Why this system? #

There is very little math to slow things down for young developing minds, only dice pools (trending towards low numbers) and number recognition for highest number rolled. Every action has a chance to succeed, and there’s a tactile sense for what a character is better at (more dice).

Most rolls will involve 1 or 2 dice, which gives a 50-75% chance of success. 3 dice expresses mastery with an 87.5% rate of succeeding on the chosen action.

It allows the Player to try anything, with a reasonable chance of success but rewards creative thinking and forces the Player to sometimes work through failure scenarios. Even in success the 'Something Bad' condition creates tension and the 'feel good' success rate of 65-75% places comfortable success at 2 dice, with 3 dice having a very likely chance of success.

% of rolling result or higher

Result 1d6 2d6 3d6 4d6 5d6
1 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
2 83.7% 97.2% 99.5% 99.9% 99.9%
3 66.7% 88.9% 96.3% 98.8% 99.6%
4 50% 75% 87.5% 93.8% 96.9%
5 33.3% 55.6% 70.2% 80.2% 86.8%
6 16.7% 30.6% 42.1% 51.8% 59.8%

These probabilities were calculated with: 1 - (P / 6) ^ N = %

  • P = amount of rolls where the result does not show (0 for 1, 5 for 6)
  • N = number of dice

Injury #

There is no health in FIG, but if something negative happens to a Character, they may take an Injury. Injuries are not only limited to physical conditions but can also reflect mental or emotional setbacks that prevent a Character from acting at their full potential.

For each Injury sustained, the Character subtracts one die from their dice pool when making a roll. If they would have rolled 3d6, they would instead roll 2d6. A character can not be reduced below 1 die for a roll.

Injuries can be removed by a character action during conflict or if pressed for time (someone takes time to bandage themselves or a teammate up and rolls success) otherwise Injuries will reset themselves once the Scene ends.

It's recommended to use a physical object like a token to track injuries to allow the youngest adventurers to have a 1-to-1 indication of how many dice to remove.

Optional Rule: If a character takes more than 3 injuries, they will either Pass Out or Die (depending on the mood of your game). If Passed Out, the Character cannot do anything until they're healed, or the Scene ends.

If EVERYONE passes out, well… then they’re in quite the pickle. When they wake up, they may find themselves captured, missing Something Important™ to the story or some other juicy story twist.

Optional: Character Death? #

Should Characters be allowed to outright die? That really, really depends. The default assumption in this game is ‘no’. Your youngest adventurers may take it quite hard, especially if the concept of death has not been firmly introduced and discussed. Take into consideration the media and stories your players regularly consume. Does it feature a main character’s dying (and staying dead)? Do they play or watch video games where progression comes from dying over and over? Model your games after the tone of their favorite genres and be upfront with the Players before they find themselves unexpectedly in Mortal Peril!

Conflict and Combat #

In a story, few things are as dramatic as conflict where two or more sides vie for victory, but not all conflict is based around physical harm and fighting. It could be a battle of the mind, a dance contest, a race to beat someone to the sacred artifact.

In a conflict there are no turns—both sides act at the same time! Each side's effort causes the other a type of Injury (but can be modified depending on the outcome of the roll). You state your intention, identify relevant character details, roll dice, then interpret the results.

On success, the action or attack succeeds, and you can choose 1 of the following:

If playing with critical successes, choose 2 from this list when you roll a critical success.

On a failure, opponent's efforts cause an Injury but the Character causes no injury to the Opponent. If playing with critical failures the opposition chooses 1 option from the success list.

For each conflict, the Narrator will set a difficulty level, with a default of 3. The first side to reach the level of injury as the difficulty level loses the conflict.

Optional: Streamlined Action #

For the youngest adventurers, the choices presented may be overwhelming. To simplify, run success and failure with a default choice of BLOCK! (On success do damage and evade, on failure do no damage and take 1 heart).

Optional: Teaming Up #

Players can team up to help each other out. They must describe how they assist. Gain +1 die in a roll for each person who decides to help.

Time #

Scene #

A room, a conversation, a place, a combat. A scene is a chunk of related activity where you can see a TV show producer insert a transition at the beginning and end. A scene can be long (traveling to the forest) or short (buying candy from a local store).

Session #

The entire length of a play session.

Running the Game #

Now let's spend some time talking about running a game of FIG. This section is intended for the Narrator.

Adventure Design #

FIG is designed to be dropped into your favorite adventures but tends to favor more open-ended systems due to it's forgiving nature. You'll have a hard time running a grueling, fatalistic dungeon crawl with this system (though not impossible).

Tips for Playing with Younger Adventurers #

Set Expectations #

Different people like different stories. The first thing a group should do is talk about the kind of story they want to tell together. Is it a heroic story with lots of monsters to fight? Is it an adventure where the Characters explore a wild and wonderful place?

Make the Character Creation Fun #

This is a joyous part of the game, make it a conversation not an exposition. Have the players draw your character or come up with a funny voice. Stories, not Rulebooks.

Work to allow the story, the Player’s actions, and the world’s response to them take center stage. Streamline the rules to only appear when needed. Allow certain things to just happen if it progresses the story in an interesting way.

Come with Options... #

You may need to come prepared with a few seeds to spark imagination. Or when a Player starts to get stuck on what to do, try to provide some options or information if the situation is unclear to them.

… But Expect Chaos. #

Crazy, zany actions and wild laughter are all on track AS LONG as everyone is having fun. Keep an eye on your Players to make sure no one’s getting drowned in the wild fray. If it starts to snowball, pause the session until everyone is back on track and listening.

Keep Short Sessions #

The attention spans of your Players may wildly vary. Keep sessions short with simple goals and keep an eye on your Players for restlessness. Think of it like an episode rather than a movie.

Use NPC’s early and often #

Young adventurers often don’t need much prompting to engage their imagination, but an NPC allows you to directly inject in-world information without exposition. Consider creating a tag-a-long NPC — or allow the players to adopt one of your characters or creatures and bring them with them on the adventure.

Differences from other Systems #

Here’s a few notes of interest if you’re more familiar with other systems.

The Narrator Doesn’t Roll Dice #

In FIG RPG, everything is interpreted from the Player’s rolls. Creatures don’t make attack rolls, but rather succeed when the Player fails. NPC’s don’t make saving throws but succumb when the Players succeed.

There is No Initiative #

The story drives everything. There’s very little difference in the rules of a conflict than there is in the normal flow of the game. This means there’s also no set turns—only what makes sense for the story. The creatures act at the same time as the players, and the results of their actions are largely determined by the results of the Player roll. When it makes sense, you can have a creature or faction in a conflict make special actions in between Player actions.

Inspiration #

All of these great games had an influence on FIG, I recommend you check them out!

Acknowledgements & License #

This work is based on the core of FU: The Freeform Universal RPG (found at, by Nathan Russell, and licensed for use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (

All additional work is by Nathan Long and also licensed for use under CCA .

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