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.
   
This is where the pitch for Ethnis will go.

Choosing Ethnis Lite


Want to support Ethnis Lite? You can join the Patreon from the top bar above. Read more about it here.
 

  Getting Started

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!

Navigation

 

If you are reading on desktop, hover to the right of the page to see the navigable Table of Contents.

 

Clicking the # at start of each section sets the address bar to link there for copypasting or bookmarking.

 

All links within this article lead to more detailed sections. Read those for comprehensive mechanics if needed.

 

If something is hard to read or is underlined, hover it! Small text and icons will grow. Double underlines mean tooltips!

Reading Ethnis Lite

Within 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.
Mechanic notes are there to tell you another way to use a mechanic or how it's intended to be used.
Secrets are only visible to Patrons or close friends. They contain developer notes explaining the logic behind our game design.
Quotes are bits of flavor used to illustrate the text through storytelling or excerpts from example games.
Sidebars are additional information on the topic that you will need to know to use it in-depth, but don't need on a casual read.

  Beginning a Campaign

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 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.

Build a Narrator 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.


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.

Narrators
Generic article | Jan 14, 2020

The Narrator is the Game Master's Character within the Ethnis Lite RPG. The Narrator represents the Game Master's influence while also subtly guiding them on how to best use the E.Lite game mechanics.

Helpful Terms

Tone

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.

 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 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:

  • 3 Mantras to live by.
  • 5 Skills to overcome obstacles.
  • 4 Abilities to accomplish unique feats.
  • Hover or click each for a robust definition

    Sophont: Encapsulates your physiological features
    Provenance: Encapsulates your upbringing
    Banner: Encapsulates your current societal norms
    Mantle: Encapsulates your primary occupation

    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.

    StatEffect / UsageCalculation
    Damage ResistLowers the damage of incoming attacksVIT
    StaminaThreshold before exhaustion affects checksVIT + UBS + LBS + RFX
    SanityHow much mental strain you can handle10 + NRV
    EncumbranceWhat you can carry overall, and in handUBS + LBS
    ManaYour reserve of mana2*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.

    Backstory
    Generic article | Jan 11, 2020

    A Character's Backstory is the result of their Sophont, Provenance, Banner, and Mantle. A Player creates their Character's Backstory during creation.

    Attributes

    Attributes are passive aspects of your character. You do not make checks or saves with them.

    UBS Increases attack damage, carrying capacity, and stamina
    LBS Increases attack damage, carrying capacity, and stamina
    VIT Increases Stamina as well as Damage Resistance.
    RFX Turn order in Conflict. If you may React to traps or surprises.
    PER Noticing oddities in your environment. Remembering details.
    MTP Varies per setting, but is used in calculations of magic. Defer to your Narrator.
    NRV Increases your Sanity. Higher Sanity means it takes longer to gain insanities.

     Conflict

    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.

    Rounds

    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.

    ⮦ Round Begins

    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.

    Round Ends ⮥

    Action Types

    Free

    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

    Check

    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

    Save

    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

     

    Resolving Checks

    Check Factors

    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
    Fudge Minus
      

    Environmental Malus: The ground is soft and marshy, adding -- to any Actions which require movement.

    The Dice

    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.

    Check 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.

    Check Difficulty

     
    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.

     Managing your Character

    Abilities

    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.

    Refreshing

    Abilities are Refreshed by fulfilling a Mantle or taking a rest to sleep. If a Mantle is used, it becomes Depleted until next rest.

    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.

    Downtime is a good opportunity to break between sessions, and offers you the opportunity to manage and upgrade your Character.

    Travel

    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.

    Rest

    As described in the Stamina article, you can use your downtime to catch some much-needed shut-eye.

    Projects

    Projects are undertakings of Skill to create, upgrade, or repair Gear. They may take between five minutes and several days to complete.

    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!

    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 by + (up to a maximum of +++) or to define a new Skill. A Skill may not exceed +++.

    Gear

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

    Backstory Aspects

    If any Backstory Aspects can be upgraded or purchased, you may do so with Plot.


     Narrating the Game

    Pacing

    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.

    Narrators: Leveling

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


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    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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