Ethnis Lite RPG

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Introduction

Ethnis Lite is the condensed spirit and ruleset of the Ethnis Core RPG, optimized for narrative roleplay adventures within the Ethnis Universe. It uses FUDGE dice for play, and requires only that and some Ethnis sheets.  
Ethnis Lite is being developed with live play, World Anvil, and play-by-post all in mind.

How you can help

There's high costs associated with a project like Ethnis in terms of art, business fees, promotion, and production. It boils down to time and money, and we can always use help with both.

Tell your friends about us and subscribe to us on Patreon, and we will put your efforts to good use!

We are going to make Ethnis no matter what, but the love and resources given to us by our fans drives us and makes Ethnis a reality sooner.

Support Ethnis
Organization | Jul 19, 2019

How you can help Ethnis grow! Share us with friends, give us feedback, and support us on social media and Patreon!

 

Starting the Adventure

In Ethnis, campaign and character creation is a group activity. Session 0 of every Campaign involves everyone working together to define what they want from the campaign and designing their characters.

What do you need to play?

Dice
Fudge Dice to be Specific. These Dice are 6 sided, with 2 sides blank, 2 sides with '-', and 2 sides with '+'. Ethnis Lite requires having at least 8 of these dice per participant.
Character Sheet
Ethnis Lite's character sheets are all available on World Anvil under the Ethnis Lite RPG system, you can also print them out for use away from the computer.
A Grid
This one is optional, but if you want to keep track of player and npc positioning, a grid either on paper or digital can help.
 

Creating the Narrator Character

Why should players get to have all the fun of making a character? Narrators get to make a character as well, as much a persona to don as a guide rail for how the campaign is to be run. In a nutshell, a Narrator should personify the Genre that the game becomes, and reinforce the tone of the play.  

1: Collaborate Desires

To create a Narrator, first gather everyone and review what Themes, Tone, and Trials everyone wants to see in the game. Have everyone, Narrator included, write a prioritized list of three things they want from each, then discuss. Combine the lists together and pare them down to 2 Tones, 3 Themes, and 4 Trials—this will become the basis of how the Narrator approaches the design of the Campaign.  

2: Narrator Abilities

Next, comb through the Narrator Abilities and choose 3 of the Abilities which align with the Tones, Themes, and Trials everyone has agreed upon. Announce which abilities you have taken.  

3: Personality

From this, built the personality of the Narrator. This determines how they approach scenarios and what they can do to interact with the party. Personifying your Narrator helps you fall into the role of Game Master, and brings you into the act of play as well.

Tone
The tone of the story is the composure with which it's told.
Upbeat • Grim • Gritty • Hopeful • Somber • Melodramatic • Subtle

Themes
The themes are the sort of narrative arcs you would like to explore within a game. They are the emotional motive of the story.
Sacrifice • Family • Expression of Self • Exploring the Unknown

Trials
The sorts of events the party would like to have happen. Not everyone wants heavy combat, not everyone wants politics.
Combat • Puzzles • Negotiations • Survival • Dungeoneering • Vehicular Combat

Player: Creating your Character

Instructions
Follow the instructions under each header. Some will link you off to other pages with their own instructions.   This article is your core guide through character creation, so if you're ever unsure of where to go, refer back to here, as your Narrator for help, or Join the Ethnis Discord for clarification on items.
For Higher-Level Campaigns
If the Narrator has told you that this will be a more high-level campaign, ask them how many more points of Plot you will have to spend. This will be relevant going forward.  
For Lower-Level Campaigns
Narrators may choose to omit any steps of Character creation, down to having just a Sophont and a Provenance. They may represent characters who are younger, less experienced, or amnesiac.
 

 

1: Building Your Backstory

As a character, you were born as a Sophont, raised within a Provenance, and either chose a Banner or had one chosen for you by the circumstances of your birth. As you reached maturity you adopted a Mantle, perhaps by choice or perhaps by necessity, and set out into the world.   This step of character creation is called the Backstory. Every E.Lite setting will have different options for each part of the backstory. Choose one of each and follow any special instructions within. Once you have chosen a Sophont, Provenance, Banner, and a Mantle you may move to the next step.

Sophont
What Sophont you choose affects your starting Attributes, Traits, Scale, and Abilities, and may change how characters in the world view and treat you.
Choose a Sophont
Provenance
Your Provenance is where you hail from. Hub worlds are the most common, but space stations and colonies crop up as well. Your Provenance determines a starting Ability and Value.
Banner
Your Banner is the major societal influence you grew up within. Each comes with its own unique societal codes and philosophies. Your Banner determines a starting Ability and Value.
Mantle
Your Mantle is your chosen Profession. There are many to choose from, from the laborious, to the dangerous, to the academic. Your Mantle determines some of your available Abilities and reflects your playstyle.
Choose a Mantle


Choose Your Skills

Every Character is given a selection of Skill Points to spend on Skills and Attributes. These complement their Abilities and are how they make their Skill checks to complete actions.
Spend your Skill Points
You begin the game with 3 points to spend across your skills. You may spend each to either upgrade an existing skill bonus by + (up to a maximum of +++) or to define a new Skill. A Skill may never exceed +++.

Choose Your Gear

Every Character is given a selection of Plot Points to spend on acquiring Gear. Gear includes weapons, armor, vehicles, and augments, and affects all aspects of play.
Spend your Gear Points
You begin the game with 5 points to spend across your Gear. Refer to the Gear Catalogue for more information on how to use and acquire gear.

2: Choosing Attributes

Your backstory will establish your starting Attributes, but you also get to further customize your character by spending an additional 2 points into your Attributes. For each point you spend, relate it to the character by making up a story and sharing it with the group. You may put both points into one attribute.  
I am putting one point into Vitality. Working the mines made all of us tough, but they started calling me Canary because I was the first into any new pit.

I took a shining to the name, so I'll put my second point into Nerve because whenever I get stressed I whistle a pretty song, just like a canary, to keep my mind straight.
— A Player
 
UBS: Increases attack damage, carrying capacity, and stamina
LBS: Increases attack damage, carrying capacity, and stamina
VIT: Increases stamina and Damage Resistance
RFX: Turn order
PER: Passive spot check, observation, memory
MTP: How much mana you have
NRV: Mental Health

3: Calculating Stats

Damage Resist
Lowers the damage of incoming attacks
Vitality (Minimum 0)
Fatigue
Threshold before exhaustion affects checks
VIT + UBS + LBS +RFX
Sanity
How much mental strain you can handle
10 + NRV

Encumbrance
What you can carry overall, and in hand
UBS + LBS
Meta
Your reserve of meta
2*MTP (Minimum 0)


4: Finalizing Mantras

Mantras are the proverbs, pithy sayings, snarks, remarks, or quotes that your character lives by. They may not be entirely aware of their Mantras, but you are. Whenever you do something which you think fulfills one of your Mantras, bring it up to the Narrator. If they agree, the Mantra is used up until your next rest, and you may refresh one of your abilities. The concept is simple: the better you roleplay your character, the more you can use abilities.   Aside from Mantras from your backstory, design one Mantra of your own. It should be vague enough to apply to many aspects of life. Read the entry on Mantras for ideas.

The Adventure

Conflict Scenarios

Scenarios are how Ethnis handles conflict. Whenever a challenge rises—a long voyage through a lush jungle, a firefight between space pirates, a fiery debate over the fate of a prisoner—the outcome is determined through Scenarios. They are resolved using the Narrative Dice and Narrator Discretion.   Scenarios break down into Rounds of about 5 seconds each, wherein players progress through 3 Phases. When the event which triggered the Scenario has been dealt with, the final round continues until all characters have acted.

Determining Turn Order

Turn order is determined by RFX from highest to lowest.   If two Belligerents have the same RFX, players take precedence. If all else fails, settle by dice, coin toss, or fist fight.

Rounds

Each round is 5 seconds long. Each active participant—those can can make actions and choices, regardless of whether or not they are a player—is a Belligerent. Their turns are resolved first, then the Narrator takes the remaining dice for their own turn.

1) Belligerent Turns
    Ante
    Everyone indicates how many dice they will throw by placing that many dice before them. Once everyone had committed, they throw their dice together. These dice become their check pool for the rest of the round, and will be used for actions and reactions.   You Ante even if the Scenario resolves in a single round.   Action
    Starting with the Belligerent with the highest Reflex and working to the Belligerent with the least, everyone takes their Actions and the Narrator resolves them.   You may choose to Hold your Turn instead when yours comes around. While holding, you may interject at the beginning of another Character’s Turn and take yours first, so long as their Reflex is lower. You do not have to play your entire pool, but if you are targeted you must use your dice in defense.

Action Types

Partials
Invoking Abilities • Reloading • Restoring Charge • Using Items • Swapping Weapons• Communication
 
Checks
Casting • Movement • Attacking • Analyzing Evidence • Climbs • Using Complicated Objects
 
Saves
Spell countering • Parrying Attacks • Dodging Traps • Veiling Motive • Shrouding a Spell

2) Player Upkeep
    After all Belligerents have taken their turn, Players move their unused dice to the center of the table. This becomes the Narrator's Pool, which is used to invoke their abilities in their turn.

3) Narrator’s Turn
    The Narrator uses the Narrator's Pool to take their own actions. These actions are the Abilities they purchased during Narrator Creation and whenever they have leveled up. These allow them to spice up the encounter with bonuses or maluses.   Enemy belligerents do not take their turn at this time. Their turn was during the Belligerent Turns.

4) Round Upkeep
    All dice are returned to their owners and the next round begins with the same turn order.

Resolving Checks

The Ethnis Lite Ruleset uses Narrative Dice to resolve Conflicts. Before you make your check you must first determine the Factors—the things which may affect the check for the better or the worse. This includes: Environmental Factors, Skill Factors, and Oppositional Factors.  
  • Environmental Factors come from the outside world and extenuating factors.
  • Skill Factors Skill Factors are how the Players Skills may add-to or detract from the check.
  • Oppositional Factors are the Skill checks opposing the person making the check.
 
A Malus is any negative adjective which can be applied to the description of a situation
A Bonus is any positive adjective which can be applied to the description of a situation
Fudge Minus
Negative dice have a negative bearing on situations. Each pair adds a Malus to the Scenario.
Fudge Blank
Neutral dice have no direct bearing on a situation. Each pair can be used for a Partial Action.
Fudge Plus
Positive dice have a positive bearing on situations. Each pair adds a Bonus to the Scenario.

Determining Outcome

Outcomes are the result of a check. The dice serve as an element chaos to overcome or supplement with skill, and because they are Narrative serve more as guideline than rule.   Your hand of dice may determine where on the below table you land, but it's up to the Narrator to determine the outcome, perhaps even to enlist the help of the player or party for ideas.

Resolving Contested Checks

 
Value Outcome
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
You succeed, demonstrably, such that you manage to pivot off of it and take a Free Action or another Action of the same check with no bonuses. Such as...
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Blank
You succeed and... then some, setting yourself or a friend up for future success by adding a Bonus to play. This bonus might be short-lived or permanently a part of the landscape, but will predominantly favor your goals. Such as...
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Minus
You succeed, but, well... you kick up some chaos in the progress, triggering some event which can help you as much as it can hinder you. This can still work out in your favor if you're careful!
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Success! You did what you aimed to do and you did it well. This might be a cut-and-dry outcome, a great victory, or one step towards a larger goal.
Fudge Plus
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Hmm! Well, that wasn't quite what you wanted but that's not a bad outcome at all! In fact it sets you up quite nicely and it might come out to help you later! A Bonus gets added to play which favors your goals.
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Blank
Fudge Minus
You succeed but... at a bit of a cost. Perhaps you were a bit zealous in your actions and caused some collateral damage, or perhaps you just sacrificed your footing for the power play. Either way, a Malus is added to play which may impede your goals going forward!
Fudge Plus
Fudge Plus
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
Success? Failure? All hangs in the balance. You don't complete the task as you aimed to, and end up making some damaging mistakes in the process, but at least something good comes of it.
Fudge Plus
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Fudge Minus
Hmm! Well then! That's not at all what you expected, and really a bit of a mixed bag. Some good, some bad, and a whole lot of chaos result from this. A Malus or Bonus are/or added to play which may impede or help anyone!
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Utter Stagnation, somehow absolutely nothing came of the situation. Whatever was going on was postponed for another round with no claim towards victory but no major stepback.
Fudge Plus
Fudge Blank
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
You fail but... it's not a total loss. Perhaps you saved it at the last moment, or maybe it was sheer dumb luck that resulted from the commotion of your failure, but you've added a Bonus to play which will help you with your goals going forward.
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Fudge Minus
Oops! Well, that wasn't strictly a failure, but is sure doesn't help the situation. You mess up something which might come back to bite you later on in some small way in the form of a Malus.
Fudge Plus
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
You fail, well, mostly. It's a pretty chaotic outcome and you probably made a big mess, but you might be able to use that chaos to your advantage rather than having it bite you in the butt going forward!
Fudge Blank
Fudge Blank
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
Failure! Whatever you were trying to do you fail to do, in a bad way. Retrying the action may not be an option, or perhaps you hurt yourself in the attempt. If you were fighting, you took a hit from this!
Fudge Blank
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
You fail, and... worse. Not only did you not advance your goal, you introduced a setback to play which can only make things worse for you. It's probably not too late to try to escape.
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
Fudge Minus
You fail, spectacularly, In the worst display of Murphy's Law. Not only do you fail, but nearby events and obstacles are exacerbated as you irreparably auto-fail another related check or cause a catastrophe which hurts your allies ensures this encounter can only end in some sort of doom.
 

Abilities

Abilities are particular capabilities which your character has gained through their experiences. These may come from your backstory or gained through quests and upgrading your Mantle.   You may use an ability at any time unless it has a listed constraint. When you use that ability, mark it as spent. You may refresh any spent ability by fulfilling a Mantra.

Trauma


It is inevitable that your adventures will take their toll, leaving you exhausted, wounded, or insane.   These, collectively, are known as Trauma.   How these affect you, how you handle them, and what the long term effects are will differ per character, per trauma, and per situation.   Make your choices wisely and invest into your safety, as a bad turn of events can can end in broken limb, shattered mind, or catatonic exhaustion.   Read about Health, Sanity, and Stamina to learn more.
The toll of adventure is carved from the minds and bodies of its adherents. Everyone, from faceless commoner to mighty Sovereign, bears the scars of their trials. Some trials punish the body with loss of flesh and limb, others punish the mind with the scars of trauma.
— Alexander the Everlasting
 
 

Downtime

Downtime is broken into half-hour chunks during which the party Travels, Rests, or works on Projects. This is also a good opportunity to look more closely at your character and consider spending Plot on upgrades if you're in a good position to do so.  

Travel

In all adventurers it is inevitable that there is a bit of travel that needs to be done.

Whether it's a quick drive across town or a massive trek through the stars, travel is what tends to be the limiter on how much downtime you have.

Rest

As described in the Stamina article, you can take this as an opportunity to kick up your heels and catch some much-needed shut-eye.

Whether it's a few minutes or a few hours, it can make all the difference to success.

Projects

Projects are undertakings of Skill and resources done to create, upgrade, or repair something.

Projects are extended Checks played similarly to normal Contests, and can take anywhere from five minutes to several days ingame.

Spend Plot

You can take this time to spend Plot on Levels and Gear. For more information on how to do that, read the next section!

Remember, in order to spend Plot you have to tell a small story justifying whatever you've purchased. Use those creative juices!

Progression and Reward

Narrator: Beats, Chapters, and Books

While it isn't required, we organizing your game into Beats, Chapters, and Books. It is a helpful way to think about your Campaign, keep things moving, and provide an ebb and flow on how you give your tables rewards. It only really works if your Campaign has a goal.  

Beats

Alternatively: Scene
A beat is equivalent to an unbroken scene in a show. Any time there's a fade to a new scenario or a major lull in storytelling, that's a beat. They should take 5-10 minutes to resolve.   Breaking your game into Beats, each with just one or two goals, can help keep your game focused and on-track. This might be a long fight, clearing a room in a dungeon, or so forth.   The reward of a Beat might be finding minor loot (like Materials), learning a useful bit of information, unlocking a new area, or making a new friend.

Chapters

Alternatively: Episode, Act
Chapters are cohesive collections of interrelated Beats all working together to form an arc in a story. Any time Beats are working together towards a climax, that's a Chapter. They should take 5-6 hours to resolve.   Breaking your game into Chapters with one major climax, creates a point of narrative tension you can pivot on. This might be a dungeon with a climactic boss fight or a harrowing investigation and its results.   The reward of a Chapter should be a Plot point.

Books

Alternatively: Season, Movie
Books are collections of Chapters. They are higher-order major questlines towards a major known goal. Any time there's a looming threat of major plot, that's a Book. They should take 40-50 hours to resolve.   A Book might be stopping a big bad or stopping one of the 7 Princes of hell on the way to fight lucifer in Book 8. Usally there's a time skip and some personal progression between Books.   The reward of a Chapter should be 5 Plot points.
 
Some Campaigns might go onto a higher order than that. A plural of Books is a Saga.
 
 

Players: Leveling

Attributes

You may spend a point of Plot to upgrade any Attribute by 1. An Attribute may never exceed 5.

Skills

You may spend a point to either upgrade an existing skill bonus by + (up to a maximum of +++) or to define a new Skill. A Skill may never exceed +++.

Gear

Refer to the cost of Gear. You may either buy Gear, upgrade existing, or buy an Augment to attach to the gear.

Story

If your Sophont, Banner, Provenance, or Mantle has levels, you may purchase one of those levels. You may also purchase a new Sophont, Banner, Provenance, or Mantle as the setting allows.
 

Narrators: Leveling

During Downtime, the Narrator can trade their Plot to gain more Narrator Abilities to be used for or against the players.


Articles under Ethnis Lite RPG


Comments

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31 Aug, 2019 18:14

This is a very interesting system. I might try to use it for my world; It seems almost perfect. Does it come with spell descriptions like DnD?

2 Sep, 2019 21:55

We will be developing different pages for the different common kinds of magic (Vancian, Ritual, Etc) and will be putting out a vote at some point to prioritize which ones get made first!   I'm glad you like it, feel free to join the discord server to keep up to date on it. :)

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