Prose Descriptive Qualities
by Digga Dominus

Prose Descriptive Qualities RPG system by Chad Underkoffler lets you game pretty damn quickly. Being a fast read at 12 pages, there’s no need for an article series on this game. Very good for pick up games but decidedly on the lighter end of system crunch.

This seems to be a trend common to many indie game companies that can’t afford to keep a staff of Game Theory chaosticians in stasis while immersed in tanks of Clearasil being fed Cheetos paste by I.V. The Acne medication stinging their fetus-like eyes explaining how so many mathematical errors still get through editing in their products.

Light rules: Flaw or feature? Really it depends on your game mastering and/or player tastes.

I say feature in a qualified way that extinguishes flames before they build up. Crunchy systems have the benefit of being easily quantifiable, granular and accurate in setting emulation. There’s a dice roll for everything with character skill reducing the chaos often by adding flat bonus the roll. “I hamstring this quick bastard that has the info we need.” Roll box cutter skill versus their evasion stat modified by the size of the body area and roll to see which leg is extended at this point in their stride. Miss? Too bad, but lucky you. No more clunky math is needed. Hit? Subtract 1d4 points from the left leg pool and roll for effect on the severing table under the muscle column. The target limps favoring the left leg; his speed is reduced by 1d6 minus his endurance modifier. Critical hit!…Break out the graphing calculator! I can’t wait until we have holodecks to game in, but doing the underlying simulation physics to this degree isn’t for me.

Contrast. PDQ characters are essentially a list of descriptive qualities, like “Bare-knuckle Brawler” or “Studious Investigator”, which are ranked with each level giving a +2 on a 2d6 roll. Anything you want to do that doesn’t fit under a quality is average ranked, no bonus. Some qualities can be Weaknesses that subtract a number from your roll when applicable. When a difficulty is equal to your mean roll with a quality, like difficulty number 7 with an Average quality that rolls only 2d6 (mean 7), automatic success. Other times you have a higher target number or opposed roll. The amount a successful attack beats defense by determines damage ranks, temporary penalties to qualities of your choosing. Being Badass– describing sweet maneuvers – gives you a bonus to the quality roll; being Lame – disrupting the game, not helping in the fun, being distracted – get’s you kicked out of the game. Another alternative is a good heart to heart to with the GM, if you’re into positive conflict resolution.

That’s about it. The mechanic is so simple you could easily write in more detail if you wanted, but why bother? Rhetorical question, here‘s the answer: the issue with this kind of light rules is that you need to have agreed upon genre conventions in the game for narration sake or the accursed GM fiat. “Bulging Belly” could clearly help with a character’s seduction rolls, but does it also grant a bonus to balancing given the lower gravity center? Are you wearing a belt or free gutting it? No belt. Really, how do your pants stay up?

Do you want to have this conversation?

– From the mind of Digga

Comments (7)

PsalmFebruary 4th, 2009 at 1:27 am

While I end up sighing in irritation when i have to read through X-number of pages concerning combat in a crunchy system; in an extremely rules-lite game it’s hard for me to function.

I guess it’s the years of playing D&D v3.5 that have ingrained this need for rules into my skull. But I think for me something in the middle would be great.

DiggaFebruary 4th, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I’ve got similar conditioning. Being a improvizer GM, the reference to crunch slows me down and I end up making less by the book adjudications just to keep the pacing up.

Of games I’ve run, Wushu is the most freeform, PDQ is a little crunchier than that and 3.5 is the most crunchy. Given this range my rule detail sweet spot is FATE (whose writers really should start cutting me endorsment checks) and I like the shift 4E made towards streamlining.

MountZionRyanFebruary 6th, 2009 at 8:35 am

So lite rules are a by-product of no budget. B.S. Some of us prefer rules-lite systems. And frankly I suspect the reason many indie games have lite rules has more to do with their narrow focus than their budget.

DiggaFebruary 9th, 2009 at 8:25 pm

You’re right on that – BUT the geek stasis tank with Cheetos IV is REAL!!!

MountZionRyanFebruary 12th, 2009 at 8:30 am

Ha! This sounds so much like the Guild Navigators from Dune that WoTC (the only company with the budget to buy orange spice paste–er Cheetos–in sufficient amounts) should be required to put out a Dune RPG.

DiggaFebruary 12th, 2009 at 1:04 pm

The Cheesy must flow …

DarrenJuly 4th, 2009 at 12:58 am

Hey, I can pick up a game anywhere, anytime with PDQ. Most (note that I said most and not all) other systems have a decent learning curve. PDQ is the kind of thing I love: stories. I have played D&D for 10 years or more and could not tell you one of the stories that took months to develop. When it comes to PDQ, I have finished four or five but have only used the system for about 6 months.

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