Generic RPG that could be used as a story system?

This is a probably stupid question but I’m going to ask it anyway. Is there a generic rpg system that I use to create characters and plot by rolling a dice. Feel it may assist me in doing bad things to my characters. Not even sure if such a thing exists.

Basically is there a generic RPG system out there that will help me create my own stories? I struggle to do bad things to my characters sometimes. I could let the dice help me decide their fate. BWAHAHAHA!

Johnn Four


For a while I used Tarot to generate random scenarios for my characters, and sometimes to even design the characters themselves. It’s a pretty good technique because Tarot is specific enough to say something, but at the same time horoscope-flexible enough to adapt to nearly any situation you throw a random set of cards at (which is why it works so well as a “divination” tool). It’s also handy because it has a pretty full range of Things That Might Happen to Humans. Main drawback is that it takes a little bit of study to learn how to use it effectively. The little booklets they usually come with are enough for story building, I’d say. Some basic description for each card, and usually one or two “spreads” you can use to deal the cards into. A very simple one that works well is just three cards for past-present-future.

This made me smile Ioa as I already use Tarot for storytelling! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

I went a little overboard with it for my 2006 NaNo. I developed a 71 card spread, with the 72nd withheld for the protagonist. So I had 71 scenes, all interlocked in a hexagon diagram. It was a lot of fun, but pretty… random. Fortunately the story was told from within the mind of one who had gone mad, so that didn’t matter.

Speaking of going mad…

Worth a look if you’ve not played it before is Call of Cthulhu. It won’t help so much in the ‘auto plot generator’ sense, but given its literary roots (it’s based on the works of HP Lovecraft) it might be inspirational.

It’s suitably generic: the edition I had back in the day had info to play in 1890s gaslight England, 1920s America and the modern day (well, the 1990s as it was then) I think they have since released extra packs for the Dark Ages, Roman Times and the future. As it’s not a fantasy RPG (well, not Tolkien-esque fantasy), character generation is based less on classes such as barbarians, clerics and sorcerers and instead focused on the kind of careers that might cause you to stumble upon novelworthy events (journalists, PIs, etc etc).

The main reason I suggest it, though, is your worry that you have trouble making bad things happen to your characters. As the Wikipedia page suggests… Unlike other RPGs, “CoC assumed that most investigators would not survive, alive or sane, and that the only safe way to deal with the vast majority of nasty things described in the rule books was to run away. A well-run CoC campaign should engender a sense of foreboding and inevitable doom in its players.” Sounds like just the inspiration you need.

If you are a gamer as well, it might be an interesting change of pace from your usual sessions. The rulebook comes with a three or four scenarios to play, and given the subject matter it might be a great one to try for Hallowe’en! I think Chaosium sells a pdf download version.

Scroll down here for lots of Cthulhu stuff: … _10103_0_0

Both GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) and FATE are specifically designed to be generic systems that can be used in any setting, the later one is also free. They both have setting books, but the base rules accommodate easily using them in your own settings and worlds.



That sounds like it would be a fun exercise…

I agree. :smiley:

Heh, I’ll have to see if I can dig up something. I once had written about a hundred pages of documentation on its use. I take procrastination toward levels of full on productivity towards whatever I’m not supposed to be doing.

The hexagonal chart did make a sneak appearance, here:


OK, I am genuinely impressed by that level of procrastination. While I fully understand, and genuinely relate to, procrastination reaching productive levels, the hex is making it an art form. I salute you.

Wandering into this rather late, but the Burning Wheel system is excellent for a focus on characters. It won’t necessarily give you just a die roll to create Evil Event to happen, but as a system it encourages a character-centric story that develops by pushing against the characters’ beliefs, goals, and instincts–basically, the GM endeavors to set up situations in which the character has to make a tough choice, and that choice will continue to affect the character as the story goes on. So from a fiction-writing perspective, taking a little time to step back and analyze your characters to figure out where they are at this moment, what they want, what their deep-inset instincts are, and then come up with some havoc you can wreak to make 'em squirm by pressing those buttons really can do wonders.

For completely random, I use the Once Upon a Time card game. I’ve never developed anything serious with it, but it’s a good lark and gets creative juices flowing. Plus it’s just a fantastic game when you get a good group of people together. I have the Dark Tales expansion to throw in a nice dose of Grimm. :wink:

All at once, those sample projects with all the crazy document titles make sense! … MgodgGcAnA

Those might be helpful when you’re stuck. Can’t come up with a twist? Roll a few dice and plot out your scene. I’ve played with them a couple of times, and they’re kind of fun. I always seem to create a murder scene out of my rolls though. Hmm… Best not to delve too deep into that.

Okay, I’m in. The landlord is having our windows torn out and replaced (yeah, it’s December. Yeah it can get very cold in Massachusetts in December) while the electrical wiring is also being replaced. (Yeah it’s against a few state housing laws.) I need an activity to keep me sane while I’m stuck on the laptop in libraries and cafes. (Or wrangling the new kitty.)

13 and 26 divide 78 equally. 6 cards would give me more to work on. 3 cards per chapter would mean I’d have to fill in more details. I’m thinking the first court card I come across is going to be the main character, 2nd is best friend, etc. I don’t know if your first chapter devoid of characters would work, unless your last name is Steinbeck. I’m thinking if I don’t get a court card in the first 6 cards, I’ll reshuffle until I do.

five bucks says I start emulating the kitten and wind up running around yelling by Thursday, anyway.