Ethnis Lite RPG
Choosing Ethnis Lite
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What do you need to play?
Dice: Fudge (Or Fate) 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. Amazon has plenty of options when it comes to fudge dice starter kits.
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. You can see an example of the Ethnis Lite Sheet in use here!
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.
You can buy many sizes of grid paper online, or use a virtual table top service!
If you are reading on desktop, hover to the right of the page to see the navigable Table of Contents.
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All links within this article lead to more detailed sections. Read those for comprehensive mechanics if needed.
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Reading Ethnis LiteWithin this guide and all related pages are several different note types. Unadorned text, such as this text, is the text you need to read to run and understand the game. These notes each serve a different purpose, outlined below.
Quotes are bits of flavor used to illustrate the text through storytelling or excerpts from example games.
Narrators: You may already have a campaign and setting in mind that you are recruiting players for. In that case, complete this section of your own and fill out a Narrator Sheet so that players can review the Narrator and understand the game at a glance.
Group: Define the Campaign
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. 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.
Narrator:Build the Narrator
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. Start out by taking the Tones, Trials, and Themes from the previous step, and writing them down on your Narrator sheet.
Choose Narrator AbilitiesNext, 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.
Build a Narrator PersonalityFrom 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.
Now that you have your campaign prepared, you can start with character creation!
Full Narrator Guide
Below is a full guide on the expectations of the Narrator and how to make one, as well as a catalog of Narrator abilities. If this is your first time creating a Narrator, open it up and have a thorough read.
The composure with which the story is told. This affects things like the voice with the Narrator might speak and the music you would pair the game with.Themes
The narrative arcs you would like to explore within a game. These are the emotional motivations of the story—for the individual, the character party, or the table itself.Trials
The sorts of events the party would like to have happen. Not everyone wants heavy combat, not everyone wants politics.
InstructionsFollow 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 high-level campaign, ask them how many more points of Plot you will have to spend.
For Lower-Level Campaigns
Narrators may choose to omit any steps of Character creation, down to having just a Sophont and a Provenance. This may represent younger, less experienced, or amnesiac characters.
1: Choose Your Backstory Aspects
The first step of character creation is to establish a Backstory. Every E.Lite setting will have different options for Backstories, 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!
A complete Backstory has:
2: Allocate Attributes
Aside from the starting Attributes from your Backstory, you also get to spend an additional 2 points into your Attributes. For each point you spend, relate it to the character by making up a one or two sentence story justifying that Attribute bonus and share it with the group. You may put both points into one Attribute.
3: Calculate your Stats
Next, calculate your Stats. Here is a table of the different Stats, what they do, and how to calculate them.
|Stat||Effect / Usage||Calculation|
|Damage Resist||Lowers the damage of incoming attacks||VIT|
|Stamina||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|
|Mana||Your reserve of mana||2*MTP|
4: Create a Mantra
Aside from the Mantras gained from your Backstory, you get to craft one of your own. It should be vague enough to apply to many aspects of life. Read the entry on Mantras for ideas.
5: Acquire Gear
Every Character begins with 3 points to spend acquiring Gear. Gear includes weapons, armor, vehicles, and augments. For each point you spend, relate it to the character by making up a one or two sentence story justifying the acquisition.
6: Spend Remaining Plot
If your Narrator alloted the group extra Plot, this is the time to spend it. Read Leveling and Progression for more.
Full Backstory Guide
Below is a full guide on choosing and creating your Character's backstory, as well as examples and elaborations on everything within this section.
Attributes are passive aspects of your character. You do not make checks or saves with them.
Conflict is how Ethnis handles scenarios of danger, discord, and disagreement. 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 Conflict.
Conflict is resolved using the Narrative Dice and Narrator Discretion.
Conflict is broken into Rounds wherein each Actor is a Belligerent. Players Ante first, then all Belligerents act in order of highest RFX score to lowest, and finally the Narrator takes their turn. Once the Conflict is resolved, the final Round continues until all characters have acted.
Rounds are approximately 5 seconds long
Belligerents act in series, not parallel
Belligerent turns are ordered by their RFX
Turn Order Ties
If two Belligerents have the same RFX, players take precedence. If all else fails, settle by dice, coin toss, or fist fight.
1) All Players Ante & Roll
Everyone who elects to Act this round places between 1 and 8 dice on the table. This is their Ante. Each Action a character takes (listed in the Action Types) is taken from their Ante, and they may not take any more once their dice are depleted.
Once everyone has placed their Ante they roll together.
2) All Belligerents Take Actions
Starting with the Belligerent with the highest Reflex and working to the Belligerent with the least, everyone either Holds or takes their turn.
On their turn, they declare their Actions and the Narrator resolves them. NPC Belligerents act according to their Behavior rather than worrying about dice. PC Belligerents do not have to play their entire pool, but may only make Checks on their turn.
Once all Belligerents have taken their turns, The Narrator takes all unused dice. This is the Narrator's Pool.
3) Narrator Takes Actions
The Narrator uses the Narrator's Pool to invoke their Abilities. Depending on if the Dice Pool is mostly maluses or bonuses, this can damn or aid the Party. The Narrator must use up as many of the dice as possible.
4) Round Upkeep
All dice are returned to their owners and the next round begins with the same turn order.
A Free Action is one so natural that you can do it without thinking. No action is naturally free, but is instead trained into being a free action.Partial
A Partial Action is one which takes no skill to complete, but requires some sort of motion or focus.
Invoking Abilities • Reloading • Restoring Charge • Using Items • Swapping Weapons • Communication
A Check is an Action made on a target or with a specific outcome intended, for which there may be a penalty for failure.
Casting • Movement • Attacking • Analyzing Evidence • Climbs • Using Complicated Objects
A Save is an Action made as a response to being the Target of another Action.
Spell countering • Parrying Attacks • Dodging Traps • Veiling Motive • Shrouding a Spell
Ethnis Lite uses Narrative Dice to resolve Conflicts. All Actions are affected by Factors, which are divided into Maluses and Bonuses, and into three types:
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.
Each Factor makes a situation more difficult (Malus) or more easy (Bonus). Ask the Narrator what Factors you know of when making your Actions, but be mindful that unknown Factors don't have to be revealed until after you've made your Check or Save!Examples of Factors
Check OutcomeOutcomes 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.
|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...|
|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...|
|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!|
|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.|
|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.|
|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!|
|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.|
|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!|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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!|
|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!|
|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.|
|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 are capabilities you have gained through your Backstory or adventure.
Some Abilities are passive—always in effect—while others are triggered by you or by circumstance; read each ability to determine how it works, what it effects, and what triggers it.
Using an Ability
To use an Ability, first read if there are any restrictions to its use. If none are listed, you may invoke it at any time during play for its listed Effect. Using an Ability Depletes it, and it cannot be used again until Refreshed.
Full Abilities Guide
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.
Downtime is broken into half-hour chunks during which the party Travels, Rests, or works on Projects.
Downtime is a good opportunity to break between sessions, and offers you the opportunity to manage and upgrade your Character.
Whether it's a quick drive across town or a massive trek through the stars, travel is an inevitability, and tends to be the limiter on how much downtime you have.
As described in the Stamina article, you can use your downtime to catch some much-needed shut-eye.
Projects are undertakings of Skill to create, upgrade, or repair Gear. They may take between five minutes and several days to complete.
You can take this time to spend Plot on Levels and Gear. For more information on how to do that, read the next section!
You may spend a point of Plot to upgrade any Attribute by 1. An Attribute may never exceed 5.
You may spend a point to either upgrade an existing skill by + (up to a maximum of +++) or to define a new Skill. A Skill may not exceed +++.
Refer to the cost of Gear. You may either buy Gear, upgrade existing, or buy an Augment to attach to the gear.
If any Backstory Aspects can be upgraded or purchased, you may do so with Plot.
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.