Latest playtest version of Primer

Had a great session a couple of weeks ago where the players and I created a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adjacent setting. The first part of the adventure that night was the mutant animal heroes dealing with a couple of humans cooking meth in an RV parked outside their abandonend warehouse lair. Later that night there was an ambush by Dr. Moreau's mutant animal minions to capture them and bring them back to the island for more experimentation...

Here are the rules we used:


  • a substance used as a preparatory coat on previously unpainted wood, metal, or canvas, especially to prevent the absorption of subsequent layers of paint or the development of rust.
  • a cap or cylinder containing a compound that responds to friction or an electrical impulse and ignites the charge in a cartridge or explosive.
  • Primer is starter kit for your roleplaying game. A base coat to add your beautiful settings, characters, and stories on top of. A potent mix of rules to ignite the imaginations of you and your friends.

What you need

  • These rules
  • 2-6 players, one of them to be the referee who adjudicates these rules and comes up with challenges for the the other player’s characters
  • 4-6 six-sided dice to share, or preferably 4-6 dice matching dice for each player that are a different color shape than other player’s dice
  • 1 six-sided die for the referee to use as the Die of Fate
  • Paper and pencils for everyone to write down details about your setting, characters, and situations
  • 2-4 hours to create your setting, characters and have an adventure, 
  • Future play sessions are optional

What the referee does

What the other players do


Starting Situation

Player Characters

  • Make up a name and three traits
  • Traits are skills, equipment, weapons or vehicles
  • Assign a value of 2d (2 dice) to your traits
  • Create a flaw which is set at 0d (zero dice)
  • Start with one hero point

Example character

  • Name: Jordan Quinn
  • Trait 1: Inventor 2d
  • Trait 2: Running 2d
  • Trait 3: Experimental Rocketship 2d
  • Flaw: Terrible with People 0d
  • Hero points: 1

Action resolution

  • Only players roll dice
  • Only standard six-sided dice are used
  • Select a trait or flaw that covers the situation
  • If your character does not have a trait that covers, make up one on the spot, write it on your character sheet, it starts at 1d
  • Roll # of dice in a trait minus # of conditions you have
  • Add 1d for each helper - helpers hand over one of their dice for the roll, suffer consequences of bad rolls, and get their dice back after the roll
  • Take the highest result, or if trait + help - conditions = 0 or less, roll 2 dice and take the lowest result.
  • When rolling a flaw, roll two dice and take the lowest result. 
  • 6 = full success, more than one 6 = critical success
  • 4 or 5 = a mixed result
  • 1-3 = a bad result, all 1s = a worse result - roll a second die to check if a 1d roll of 1  goes from a bad result to a worse, if the second die comes up 1 then you get a worse result
  • Spend a hero point to re-roll any number of dice once per roll - if characters are super-heroes, then they can reroll as many times as they have hero points to spend
  • Take a condition to re-roll any number of dice once per roll
  • Any final result that is bad or worse gains the character a hero point
  • Table decides on the results, gm is final arbitrator


  • Angry
  • Scared
  • Exhausted
  • Injured
  • Dazed/Distracted
  • Unconscious
  • Broken
  • Roleplay any conditions your character has
  • Conditions each subtract one die on rolls
  • Conditions are cleared during refresh scenes or at gm's discretion
  • Dazed/Distracted characters will miss an action then recover, or can spend a hero point to recover immediately
  • Unconscious characters will recover in the next scene or can spend a hero point to recover in the same scene
  • Broken characters are completely incapacitated and will need either hospital, and/or psychiatric care, or the equivalent to recover

Refresh scenes

  • Occur during character downtimes, travel or can be flashbacks
  • Can involve any number of the player characters
  • Participating characters gain one hero point and mark off any appropriate conditions at the gm's discretion

End of session

  • Gain a hero point
  • Record your hero point total on your character sheet for next session
  • Gain an experience point (xp) for each "yes" answer
    • Did you participate in the session?
    • Did your flaw come into play?
    • Did you add at least one new trait to your character sheet?
    • Did you put yourself at risk for another character?
    • Have you learned something new? (what is it?)
  • If you have 5 or more xp, trade in 5xp to increase one trait by 1d, or take a new trait at 2d (Maximum trait limits are to be set by the gm) Equipment or weapons acquired previously may be turned into 2d traits at this point
  • If you can justify it to the gm, you may change one of your traits to something new, especially if the trait represents a piece of equipment, a weapon, or a vehicle
  • If something happened in the session that justifies it, you may change your flaw to something new

Vehicle Traits

  • Vehicle traits start with a first trait at their die level, two other traits at one level below, and a flaw at 0d
  • The gm can award additional traits to vehicles as play goes on
  • Vehicles also have any or all of the following conditions
    • Needs Fuel
    • Needs Supplies
    • Slowed
    • Crippled
    • Busted
  • Characters operating vehicles can use the vehicle traits to aid their rolls

Example vehicle

  • Name: XR-1
  • Trait 1: Experimental Rocketship 2d
  • Trait 2: Rayguns 1d
  • Trait 3: Stealthy 1d
  • Flaw: Easily Damaged 0d


  • Over the Edge by Jonathan Tweet
  • Blades in the Dark by John Harper
  • Tales From the Loop by Nils Hintze & Tomas Härenstam


  • Alex Mayo
  • Brian Renniger
  • Scott Faulkner
  • Alice Yuan
  • Reagan Taplin
  • Mike Lindsey
  • Martin Rayla
  • Phil Nadeau


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