Forensic + Fable: minimal horror trpg

sean f. smith / he, him
3 min readNov 6, 2023

The pulp authors dream of worlds like Pollux, but there’s monsters and villains are here too in this hell-spat town.

Character generation

You’ve three stats: SKILL, STAMINA, and INSIGHT

  • SKILL encompasses competence in traumatic situations
  • STAMINA combines willpower, resilience, and health
  • INSIGHT dictates the strength of your awareness of the real world

(In games with more noir and less horror, rename INSIGHT to MALAISE.)

  1. Roll 3D6 — assign one of those dice to SKILL and sum the others for STAMINA
  2. INSIGHT begins at 1
  3. Determine what you do NOW AND THEN — hobbies or occupations, one for each word in that phrase. What’s your profession NOW, what was your profession THEN, AND what’s your major pastime?
  4. For each point of SKILL, make one mark next to one of your NOW AND THEN specialisms. These will be used to push yourself during the game.
  5. You’ll need a name. It doesn’t have to be correct.

Test your Mettle

When you’re attempting something with an uncertain outcome, the referee asks you test your mettle.

  • Roll 2D6 and succeed if the sum is 9+
  • If you’ve advantage on the roll, roll 3D6 and use the best 2

Advantages come from things like exploiting information you have discovered (eg. if you notice the door is in poor condition, that gives you advantage on trying to break it open), from the action being within your areas of expertise (ie. your NOW AND THEN specialisms), or from spending a resource.

Marks next to your NOW AND THEN specialisms can each be crossed-through to gain advantage on a roll where the specialism wouldn’t usually apply. (eg. I’m using my medical specialism to try and really hurt this guy I’m fighting.)

You can also do this once for each point of INSIGHT if you explain how you’re exploiting your growing awareness.

  • If you would have two advantages on a roll, you’ll succeed outright.
  • There is no corollary disadvantage but the referee may declare some situations too difficult to be able to gain advantage at all.

Recovery

SKILL will rarely change. If it does drop, recover one point each week, except the first week.

STAMINA will often change. Recover one point per day, except the first day after STAMINA loss. If your STAMINA reaches nil, you’re incapacitated; if it reaches negative values, you’re dead.

Marks next to NOW AND THEN specialisms and INSIGHT do not recover during an investigation. When you put the case to bed and take yourself to bed, they’ll be back the next morning.

INSIGHT

When your INSIGHT reaches six, you’ve gone too far to remain a protagonist. You can get taken out, leave town permanently, or give your character to the referee. Either way, their story is over.

Can I reduce my INSIGHT?

There’s not enough whiskey in the world, kid.

Grip tests

Stressful or otherworldly situations call for a special kind of test of mettle called a grip test.

  • If you fail a grip test, lose STAMINA equal to the difference between your roll and the target
  • If you’d lose STAMINA from a grip test, instead you can increase your INSIGHT by 1

Combat

Whichever side is the smallest, or most at home, has the initiative — and can act first.

On your turn, you can do one thing — or two if you’re willing to eschew advantage on any rolls you make.

Test your mettle to attack someone, though your target is their SKILL rather than a flat value of 9. If this attack fails, you’ll take damage from them. If the attack succeeds, you’ll inflict damage.

How much damage?

  • unarmed strikes / improvised weapons deal 1 damage
  • civilian weapons deal 1D3 damage
  • military-grade weapons deal 1D6 damage
  • monsters? who knows bub

Ammunition

Test your mettle after a fight. On a pass, your supplies are good. On a fail, you’ve one bullet left.

Sample combatants

  • sunpocked biker. SKILL 3 STAMINA 6.
  • government suit. SKILL 4 STAMINA 4
  • bloodkin invertebrate. SKILL 8 STAMINA 16
  • plasma being. SKILL 9 STAMINA 9

If you want more and weirder creatures, steal them from QUARREL + FABLE modules or anything else in the skill + stamina family.

Writing and dtp. by Sean F. Smith © 2023

Cover art from the public domain

Nazi slags get in the bin

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