With so many new, robust systems coming out, it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller, indie releases that have come out over time. Today, I take you back to early 2013 and the release of a rules-lite RPG named Folklore, by Seth Zaloudek.
Folklore is as rules-lite as it is lovable, fitting a fully fleshed out RPG onto a single page, though it does make use of some pretty small font. The best part though, is the way it was integrated with the character sheet. The cover, rules, and character sheet all fit onto one double-sided portrait-oriented paper, folded in half so to create a very long and skinny pamphlet. On the front, you see Seth’s great artwork, the inside contains all of the rules, and the back is the lovely character sheet.
The game uses a simple dice pool mechanic, three core stats, freeform traits, simple item quality bonuses, and easily resolves its rolls.
Since Folklore doesn’t include any real structure to its character creation other than three stats, which are Body, Mind, and Social, you’re free to think up whatever character you choose. There’s nothing that even depicts genre, or preventing cross genres. You can just as easily and enjoyably build a archmage, a cowboy, and an alien- and then have them all in the same game. It just works that way.
Since the game is rules-lite, I don’t want to give away too much, but after you follow the very simple concepts of allocating your stats among the three skills, you then get to choose a handful of traits. These are freeform, and can be anything from Strong to Sharpshooter to even something that resembles a race/class, such as Elf or Druid. Each trait has a number assigned to it, and you can apply the trait to any roll that it is applicable.
After this, you give you character some starting equipment- all of which is Average quality, and then write down your character’s personal quest, up to 5 people that have relationships with your character, and note that you have the standard 3 starting Wealth. The character sheet also has spots for your name, race, profession, gender, and age. Note that you can still have Elf as your race and a Trait; having it as a Trait just means you’re extra elf-like.
Gameplay is very simple- it’s a d6 dice pool game. Whenever you take an action, you first find the applicable stat. So, lifting something heavy would be Body. If your Body stat is 5, add 5 dice to your pool. Maybe you have a trait of Strong at a level 2, so if you use that add 2 more dice. If you have any equipment, you add a die equal to it’s quality- Average is another +1. Also, if the task is directly related to relationships or your Personal Quest, add another dice for those. Once you have this total, you roll all the dice. A 4, 5, or 6 is a Success, while 3 or lower is a failure. Generally, based on the task, the Game Master will assign how many successes you need, but note that 3 Successes is Average, and most tasks will likely require this.
There’s another aspect here, in opposed rolls. Let’s say similarly, you’re attacking a goblin. Instead of a target number of successes, you need to beat their own defensive roll. Assuming you’re swinging your sword, you would still add your body, Strong could still be applicable, and if your sword is of Average quality, add another die. The goblin similarly might use their Body, maybe they have Dodge as a Trait, and perhaps they carry a shield. You both roll, and the winner is the one with more successes. In the case of dealing damage, any excess successes turn into wounds or an effect. Effects basically make the character miss a turn, while wounds detract from the applicable stat pool. So, if a Goblin with Body 3 takes two wounds, they lose 2 dice from any Body rolls until they can get healed. Once you got down to 0 in any stat, you are considered defeated, and the opponent decides the consequence.
Other rules cover healing, movement, wealth, and experience points, and the feature that really sets the game apart- Gamble. While I’ll skip over those first four, Gamble is fun in that it allows you the chance to succeed where you would fail- or fail even more spectacularly! At the top of the character sheet are 6 dice picture, starting at 1 and going up to 6. The first time you Gamble, you must roll a 2 or better to succeed. And every time you succeed, you circle the next number and must roll above. So, if you succeed once on a Gamble, you then must roll a 3 or better, and so forth.
Gamble resets at the end of every session, while the group receives 5 experience points to spend on increasing your traits, and wealth found can be spent on better equipment. Beyond this, everything is up to the imagination of the players and Game Master.
Quality and Basilisk!:
For a game this small, the quality is great. The game is well written, the cover artwork looks great, and the character sheet is simple and visually appealing. Oh, also the game only costs $1.
There is only one supplement, also for $1, called Basilisk! It’s a nice introduction session to Folklore, featuring a small town, simple maps, a decent narrative and NPC, as well as stats for the eponymous monster. It’s fun, easily usable in any other RPG, and also can double as a Game Master Screen as the adventure fits on a Landscape sheet of paper with the adventure on one side, and more nice artwork on the back.
Folklore is exactly the kind of game I want to bring and play on a camping trip or if I was staying in a cabin with friends. It’s simple, fun, easy to carry, and allows you to make a 1-shot in mere seconds, or a mini-campaign to play each night around the fire. And, for only $1, I think you’re crazy to not purchase it, and even Basilisk! for yourself.