Friday, November 26, 2010

Mini Six Continues D6 System Legacy

The Mini Six Cinematic Roleplaying Game from AntiPaladin Games serves as the next iteration in the more than 20-year history of the D6 System. The 36-page rulebook with a color cover -- available as a free PDF download or an $8 print copy -- streamlines the essentials of a D6 System roleplaying game engine, provides several innovations, and offers options to customize the system to one’s tastes, including retaining mechanics from previous D6 incarnations.

This rulebook isn’t for newcomers; it’s a basic framework geared toward experience roleplaying gamers, especially those looking for the next iteration of the D6 System. Four pages cover the basic character creation and task resolution mechanics of the Mini Six system: four attributes, skills customized to the setting, the usual list of weapon damages, difficulty numbers, wound levels, and even a scale system. The authors offer two kinds of combat mechanics: the traditional D6 System roll skill to hit and roll damage, and a “Fast Static Combat” where opponents roll against pre-determined defensive target numbers, with the difference acting as a measure of damage.

Mini Six displays some other key differences from past D6 games, though optional rules allow one to easily play with the traditional D6 mechanics. The “Fast Static Combat” alternative further streamlines fights with one skill number as the determination of hit and damage; this relies on pre-calculated values for block, dodge, and parry for “to hit” Target Numbers, and soak for resisting damage. Hero Points work quite differently in Mini Six. Spending one grants one of several bonuses: gain a +6 to any roll (up to three times if you have points to spend), lower a wound level by one, make a small change to the immediate location or availability of items, or “buy” a clue (though optional rules allow one to return to the traditional “double all die codes for one round” Hero Point mechanic).

Beyond the basic mechanics of character creation and task resolution, Mini Six retains perks and complications (nicer-sounding alternatives to the advantages and disadvantages in the last incarnation of the D6 System), a version of the wild die (sigh…), and traditional target numbers, weapon damage, and wound levels.

Mini Six makes several interesting game engine choices beyond these. It omits using character points as boosters for individual skill rolls, using them exclusively for experience points. Damage rolls revert to the old Strength dice plus weapon die code formula, instead of a pre-calculated Strength value added to weapon damage (though Strength in Mini Six is called Might). The game prefers the variable wound level system of damage effects rather than the Body Point system.

Of course, all these other mechanics receive mention as optional rules along with notes on renaming and expanding attributes, increasing attribute range, getting rid of attributes altogether, adding paranormal abilities, and varying starting skill dice. If all else fails, a handy “Mini Six to traditional D6” conversion section outlines all the differences, including internal page references.

The rest of the book offers stat examples for vehicles, magic, characters, and creatures across numerous genres (useful at a glance for quick encounters or as guidelines for creating your own stats). Four pages devoted to the magic system cover not only basic spells but magical perks and complications, sorcerer’s tools and spell books, and enchanted items. Five brief, original settings outline suggested characters, adversaries, and vehicles, just enough to get gamemasters going with the right atmosphere and plot elements.

In lieu of any officially published and supported version of the D6 System, Mini Six offers a game engine familiar to D6 fans, but one that still allows a degree of customization in the gameplay styles (classic D6 System or even more streamlined Mini Six) on a rule-by-rule basis. Mini Six is a worthy successor to the long line of D6 System games, one that honors the past mechanics, respects the prerogative of gamers to tailor the system to their own tastes, and puts its own unique stamp on further streamlining the cinematic rules.

My Involvement with D6

Of course my observations are biased. I am a longtime fan of the D6 System and have worked professionally with published D6 material. I enjoyed the Star Wars D6 roleplaying game, first as an enthusiastic player, then as a writer, editor, and game designer at the late West End Games. After Purgatory Publishing’s acquisition of West End Games and the D6 System, I contributed to several D6 System supplements. I have followed the system’s tumultuous development and history.

In 2005 I set out on my own to form Griffon Publishing Studio, and have since released two sourcebooks, Pulp Egypt and Heroes of Rura-Tonga. At first I was intending to use the D6 System as published by West End Games’ incarnation under Purgatory Publishing; but after careful consideration, I decided to publish the material under the Any-System Key, a system-neutral means of describing character skills and task difficulties customizable to almost any game system (setting and adventures being more my strong suit than game system work).

Nonetheless, when I run scenarios based on my own material, I default to the D6 System. It’s easy to teach to both newcomers to the system and newcomers to roleplaying games. The rules remain intuitive without slowing gameplay or story development. Despite seeing other systems worth trying (most notably Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Savage Worlds), I continue using D6. I’ve even developed homemade versions to cover media properties in which I wanted to game (such as Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who) before officially published games released. After seeing Mini Six, I may start running games using this streamlined version of the D6 System, customized with my own preferences for past rules that worked (or didn’t work).

Other D6 of Note

Although Mini Six is a slick-looking, PDF- and print-published endeavor, one can find other useful D6 System resources online. The Open D6 Wikia contains a host of D6 resources, including free PDF downloads of the Purgatory Publishing D6 System books, links to the WEG Fan Forums, and an entire page of links to D6 materials, many customizing D6 to various media settings.