Making My Own Tabletop Role-playing Game

I love playing tabletop role-playing games. Nearly every week for the past six or so years me and my group of friends have played several types of games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and World of Darkness. Like most people who jump into these games, we had little idea what we were doing and made up a lot of the rules. Now, after several years of reading the core books, character guides, and utilizing the internet and its vast resources, I can say with confidence me and my friends are very competent in our knowledge of the rules.

Allow me for a moment to explain what a tabletop role-playing game is to the few of you who have no idea. A tabletop role-playing game is a game played at a table and involves multiple polyhedrial dice. Players pick which class they want to be and form an adventuring group, and the Dungeon Master, Game Master, or Storyteller takes the players through adventures. Normally the person running the game doesn’t have an adventuring player, but sometimes they have one to guide the players in the right direction for the story.

I love the setting for Dungeons & Dragons, and the mechanics have become very familiar to me, but a while ago my group switched to Pathfinder and we haven’t looked back. I “started” with D&D 4e, but who actually admits to playing 4e? Instead, most my knowledge comes from 3.5, Pathfinder, and Baldur’s Gate 2 (2e I think?).

However, we were running a World of Darkness game for a while. It was the second time playing it, and we were exploring the system together. I loved the way WoD wanted to separate itself from D&D by focusing more on the story, and less on rules. This was a welcome change, as my friends and I love/hate to “rules lawyer” each other. But after playing this, I felt like WoD was on the right path, but not quite what I wanted in the system.

Any core rule book will tell you there are several types of players who play table-top role-playing games. There are the people who love the mechanics, love the story, or just love hanging out. I distinctly fall into the “love the story” category, to the point where I have been called out for railroading my players into what I want the story to become. I love role-playing, and I love feeling attached to my characters. I even used to constantly post in forum based role-plays. I loved WoD’s focus on storytelling, but loved Pathfinder’s fantasy setting. I decided I would create a system that would work similar to both of these games, and I would base the game on a previous forum based role-play.

So here I am, creating a new system to encourage role-playing and discourage looking up rules and breaking up the flow of the game. Inspired by WoD, Pathfinder, D&D, and games like Xcom: Enemy Unknown and Splintercell Blacklist, I started making the first page of the character sheet.


This is the result of over a month working on it, and figuring out what things I wanted to keep, and what things I decided to change. If the sheet looks a lot like World of Darkness, it’s on purpose. The game uses a d10 system and is very tailored for the world I am creating.

The game is called Grace & Glory, and features a high fantasy setting set in slightly post-modern times. Players will create new recruits to join the Guardians United Alliance, a city-state and paramilitary that recruits and enlists the best of the best to guard the world from various threats. Players have a lot of freedom in their characters, allowing them to be nearly any race like elves, dwarves, halflings, ect, and have any power (or none) that they want. It’s very ambitious, and very tailored to this game that I want to run.

The response seems largely positive. One player wants to play a young female wind elemental. Another wants to control gravity to an extent and be a martial artist. All together it looks like I’ll have around five players, which is a good number to me. Everyone seems to have a power, which isn’t too shocking, but a bit disappointing. The players wont be alone, however, as I’ve already created 40+ NPC operatives of the GUA that the players can interact with, learn from, or fight if they so choose.

This character sheet is largely divided by “attributes”, “talents”, and “elemental affinity”. Unlike World of Darkness, players do not roll their talent + their attribute, instead, they rely solely on their attribute for all dice roles. Putting exp into talents means unlocking bonuses and feats that make doing that skill better/easier. Having two dots in powers allows for players to start using their powers in battle. Having three dots in “Develop” allows the players to craft and customize their gear. If the players have one dot in “Pilot” they can only drive basic vehicles they are proficient in such as cars, trucks, or standard motorcycle.

To balance only using attributes for dice rolls, I have eliminated “critical successes” and made successful dice rolls start from 6 rather than 8. The point for this is to make the players feel powerful and feel like they are growing as they play.

I’m still not quite ready to play test it just yet, as I still need to sort out an armor system and I need to solidify the gun and spell system, but overall it’s looking good, and I’m excited to implement an ordinance system.

So what do you think? Would you want to play a game like this? Do you think maybe I’m in over my head?

For those that want to create a character for funzies, list the order of importance between Physical, Social, and Mental attributes, and then put 5 dots in the most important, four dots in the second, and three dots in the least important. Players cannot exceed 4 dots in character creation in anything. Then, in talents, players can freely put five dots in anything (again, not exceeding 4 in anything), and based on their back story for their character, they will get an additional eight dots. Or, if you want to skip that, feel free to describe the type of character you would play. Would they have a power? Be a dwarf sniper? Be the modern equivalent of a wizard? Swing a huge sword? Nothing is quite impossible in this modern fantasy world.

About Chris "Kodoku" Detrick

Hello, my name is Chris Eric Detrick and I'm a currently a student at Virginia Commonwealth University and a freelance video game writer. I'm stationed out in Richmond, Virginia and looking for work. My blog has been featured in Freshly Pressed and since then I have only grown as a writer and journalist. You can contact me via email:
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4 Responses to Making My Own Tabletop Role-playing Game

  1. Drew says:

    I remember trying to make board games as a kid, but never attempted to do a role playing game. I might just suggest you look at the Phoenix Command style of resolving gun combat since you have guns in your world. We came across it while playing the Aliens role playing game and it’s fast and effective.

    Some day I should go back to trying to make a board game version out of Wing Commander, concentrating on the strategic side of things instead of just pure combat.

    • I took a quick look at the Phoenix Command system, or PCCS as it’s called in forums. It’s very interesting, but it would make guns way too powerful compared to martial arts or weaponry. In a not-so-realistic fantasy land I have the luxury of being able to balance the three main ways of damaging others. PCCS seems to make guns a little too lethal, which would be interesting in its own game, but unbalanced in mine.

      Luckily, I think I have my gun system worked out. Guns will have the highest base damage, but require players to role a percent die in order to see if they hit. One point in firearms will likely increase their base percentage by 10-15%, as well as any modifications and distance from the target. Body armor can also have a small chance to make lethal damage into non-lethal damage.

      So that’s the abridged version. We’re starting the game Friday so here’s hoping it all goes well.

  2. Timlah says:

    Having read the description, I really love the simplicity of this. I love how you don’t need to say “you need x + 10 to succeed”. I like how it’s all about the flow of the story which to me is always the most important.

    Whenever I DM, I usually house-rule like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve had a few non-combatitive games, too (Didn’t mean things couldn’t be killed, mind you). As such, I love this simple yet elegant design. Kudos!

    I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress 🙂

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