Dice Rolls and Skill Checks
Scenes, Roleplay and Exploration Items and CurrencyParty Bag
Range and Movement
Actions and Combat ReactionsAttacksDeath
Rewarding the Players
Characters Hit PointsAbilitiesSpells

Story Mode is a game for weaving awesome stories and exploring exciting new worlds. 

The narrative should be at the forefront of gameplay, rather than the mechanics.

The rules on this page serve as tools to help propel the story forwards and create fun at the table, but that’s all they are.

When they stop doing their job, you should stop using them.

It is never the intention that gameplay should stop while a rule is looked up. In instances where an outcome is unclear, the guide has the final say and should make the decision based on what is most fun for the table as a whole.

Feel free to flex or break these rules as you see fit to give everyone a good time.

Getting Started

Story Mode is best played by 4-6 players.

Each player will require a d20 to play. (A twenty sided die).

As well as the rules contained in this book, it’s good to have:

  • A pencil and some paper or a notebook for each player.
  • Drinks, snacks and a comfortable environment.
  • Some awesome background music to get you into the mood for adventure!

First things first, choose one player to be the Game Master (GM). The GM narrates the story, portrays all of the non-player characters (NPCs) and acts for the monsters during combat.

Next, each other player must choose a character, or have one assigned to them randomly. These characters will form ‘the party’.

The guide will choose a plot hook – the starting point of your adventure. Take some time to think about where the adventure will take place, what sort of monsters the party might encounter and what problems they might have to solve along the way.

Once you’re ready, the adventure begins.

Dice Rolls and Skill Checks

Dice rolling is the core mechanic in Story Mode and should be used to make story-telling more exciting and direct the flow of the action. Any time the outcome of an action is uncertain, when it will add drama or tension to the game or when it’s been a little while since you’ve rolled a die then it’s time to roll!

When the GM decides that a die roll is necessary, they will ask for a skill check. The player rolls a d20 and compares the result to the relevant skill.

Each character has four skills which cover every type of action they could wish to take. Each skill has a rating assigned to it.

Physical
Any check relating to how the character uses their body – moving over obstacles, lifting something heavy or jumping out of the way of a falling ogre. Their strength, agility and dexterity.

Mental
Any check relating to how the character uses their mind, learns or understands situations. Their intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and cunning.

Social
Any check relating to how the character engages with other characters within the world. Persuasion, deception, making a rousing speech – their social aptitude.

Senses
Any check relating to how the character perceives the world around them using their five senses. Detecting things by smell, looking for traps, searching a room for treasure or listening for approaching enemies. 

To succeed in a skill check, the player must roll a number equal to or higher than their rating for that skill.

Any number lower than the rating results in failure to complete the task.

Critical Successes and Failures

Sometimes, you’ll roll a 20 or a 1 on a die. These are critical results.

If the dice roll is a 1, you fail in the most spectacular fashion and could incur a lasting penalty as a result.

On a roll of a 20, you succeed with flair and aplomb. You could even receive a lasting bonus in this instance.

For example, when trying to persuade a stubborn barkeeper to help you in your quest, a 20 on your Social Check could result in assistance now and favour in future too. A 1 could result in the party being evicted from the bar and told not to come back.

Scenes, Roleplay and Exploration

Free-flow scenes

Most gameplay will take place as free flow scenes. 

This is where there is no direct threat to the players and no time sensitive tension.

During these scenes, the GM describes the environment and relevant NPCs and the players describe how their characters react or behave to the world around them, with the GM arbitrating the results with dice rolls where necessary. 

During free-flow scenes, there is no need to track turns or movement.

Action Scenes

When required, the game can transition to action scenes where gameplay progresses in rounds, where each player takes turns to take actions. 

This might be when the characters are engaged in combat or when they need to act quickly to solve a time-sensitive problem or puzzle.

Think of them like slowing down the clock, so the players can better understand what’s happening around them.

Turns progress clockwise around the table during the first action scene, then counter-clockwise in the following one etc.

Decide who gets to go first based on what’s most appropriate within the story and the actions described so far. 

During each turn, a character may move and take one action.

The monsters, NPCs and other non-character elements take their actions when it gets to the GM’s turn. The GM decides where they will move, who they will attack or what other actions they take.

Resting and The Adventuring Day

Sometimes, your session will contain multiple in-game days. Each day, players may choose to take a rest. This is usually taken overnight, when the characters sleep. Players can take no more than one rest per in-game day.

At the end of every rest, every character’s HP, single-use abilities and spell points are reset to their maximum.

Items and Currency

While there is no currency in Story Mode, it’s assumed that the characters have the means of supporting themselves.   

They can cover the cost of food and drink at inns and have the basic trappings of a travelling adventurer to provide food and shelter – a bedroll, water skin, rations etc.

If the players wish to purchase something a little more out of the ordinary, they will have to barter for it and make an exchange of items or services.

Every character begins with a set of items which is unique to them. These items are to inspire and encourage story telling, to aid roleplay and to solve problems. They can be used however the players decide, but the final decision of whether something is possible – or appropriate – sits with the GM.

Players may change their starting items for others which make sense at the GM’s discretion.

Each character may carry a maximum of 12 items.

They also have a weapon, listed with their signature attack. This weapon is just a suggestion and can be changed at the GM’s discretion for something more appealing to the player. 

Other items which have magical effects are included in Items. These are excellent for use as mid-session rewards to keep the game interesting, and can provide a level of character advancement if you are playing over multiple sessions.

Party Bag

As well as the unique items which each individual character carries with them, the party begins each adventure with a ‘party bag’ with the following assortment of items regardless of which characters make up the party. 

  • Two healing potions which restore 10HP
  • A grappling hook and 50ft of rope
  • Two torches which will burn for 1 hour each

Range and Movement

Range

Rather than measurable distances, Story Mode uses abstract ranges to convey how close or far apart things are during action scenes.

Close
Characters standing in a group are close to one another. A creature must get close to another to make a melee attack against them.

Nearby
Characters on opposite sides of the same medium sized room are nearby one another. 

In Range
Characters in range are close enough to shoot or shout to one another.

Far Away
Characters which are far away from one another can’t make out details, shoot or communicate.

Movement

Characters may move to somewhere nearby during their turn. If they wish to move towards another creature, object or location, they can move one movement band closer within their turn.

Any time there is a dispute about distance, movement or how far a character should move, the GM should rule in favour of the party or the character in question.

Actions and Combat

Actions 

Characters can take one action during their turn. I.e. do one thing. This could be an action listed on their character card, an attack or something else like pushing over a table to use as a barricade.

Actions are indicated with the action symbol: ✪

There are some additional actions which all characters can take:

Interact
You can use, manipulate, move or otherwise interact with an object nearby. It may require a skill check to do so. It could be heaving on a lever to open a stone door, picking up a dropped weapon or restringing a bow.

Dodge
Until your next turn, the rating of attacks against you is increased by 5.

Hide
You may attempt to hide from view behind nearby objects or in areas of darkness. Make a physical check, on a success, you are hidden.

Assist
Choose another character, you assist them with their next action. The rating for the next skill check or attack they make is reduced by 3.

Free Actions
In limited circumstances, the GM may rule that an interaction does not require a character’s action for the turn. Such as sheathing or reloading their weapon or performing an action which the character is proficient with – a skill provided by their background.

Reactions

Some actions are lighting fast and can be used on another players’ turn, in reaction to an event happening.

The triggering event and the action taken are noted in each instance.

Reactions on character cards are marked with the reaction symbol:  ϟ

Reactions do not count towards your total number of actions. You may only make one reaction per turn cycle.

Readied Action

During their turn, a player may choose not to use their action, but instead prepare an action to use before their next turn. 

To do so, the player describes the action they’d like to take and the circumstances which will trigger their action.

 “I want to draw my bow and wait to fire until  the ogre comes charging through the door.”

A readied action uses the player’s action and reaction for the round. If they choose to use their reaction for something else, then their readied action is lost. 

Attacks and Damage

Players may use their character’s signature attack, an attack granted by an item or one of the following attacks: 

Unarmed Strike – You make a strike with your fist, kick an enemy or even headbutt them. 

The rating for this attack is the same as your physical check rating and deals damage equal to 10 minus your physical rating – minimum 1.

Improvised Weaponry – You can pick up and throw items or hit opponents with things you’re able to lift. 

The rating for this attack is the same as your physical check rating and deals damage equal to 11 minus your physical rating – minimum 2.

When a character makes an attack, they roll a d20 and compare the result with the rating for that attack, the same as with skill checks.

When a player rolls a 20 (critical success) on an attack roll, that attack deals double damage.

When a player rolls a 1 (critical failure) on an attack roll, their turn ends and they are unable to move or make further actions. They may also drop their weapon, their bow might become unstrung or they may be knocked prone as their opponent catches them off balance.

The damage for attacks is static. This amount is listed with the attack. 

Some abilities may adjust how much damage the attack deals, this will be listed with the ability.

When characters, NPCs and monsters take damage, points are deducted from their HP until it reaches 0. 

Called Shots

Players can increase the damage they do to an enemy by increasing the difficulty to hit at a ratio of 1:1. If the rating is increased by 3, the attack will deal an additional 3 damage. An increase of 2 gives 2 extra damage etc.

The player names where on the monster they’re aiming for and how much they wish to increase the difficulty by before rolling. 

They do not hit and deal regular damage if the result meets the original rating but not the increased rating.

Death

It’s a dangerous world for adventurers and none should leave the safety of the tavern without being prepared to pay the ultimate price. 

The possibility of death as a consequence adds tension to the game and keeps it feeling exciting.

At the GM’s discretion, dropping to 0 HP may result in death.

On the player’s next turn after going to 0 HP, they make a death check. The rating for this check is always 10.

If it’s a success their character is stabilised at 0 HP and they remain unconscious. If they regain any HP subsequently, from any ability, they become conscious again. 

If the death check is a failure, then that character dies. 

If a character regains HP and is still above 0 when they reach their next turn, they don’t make a death check.

Monsters and NPCs do not make death checks and simply die when they get to 0HP.

If a player’s character dies before the end of the session, simply have them grab a new character and slot them in at the next feasible opportunity.

Rewarding the players

Once per day abilities

Every non-spellcaster character has an ability which can be used once per day. These will be refreshed at the beginning of every adventuring day if the ability has been used.

Additionally, the GM may reward the players for getting involved in the game in exciting ways by replenishing these abilities.

This could be for in-character roleplay, creative thinking or even for making everyone at the table laugh.

Players should therefore be encouraged to use these abilities freely and not hoard them for the ‘perfect’ moment.

Spell Points

As spellcasters don’t have once per day abilities, you can reward these players by restoring one of their spell points.

Magic Items

Magic items also provide a great reward during longer sessions or games which run over multiple sessions.

See chapter 4: ‘Items’ for some suggested magic items, including guidance on how readily to present them to the players.

Characters

The characters are the players’ avatars within the game world. 

These pre-made and ready to go characters are the back bone of Story Mode and allow the players to get right into the story without any preparation time. Just grab one, read through the abilities and you’re ready to play.

Head over to the Characters page for full descriptions.

As with the rest of the rules, the GM should feel free to flex these as required to fit within your own tables’ story.

Players should choose the character which most appeals to them, or they can be assigned randomly using this table.

d20CharacterOriginTrait
1BarbarianNobleNervous
2AthleteMischievous
3BardCriminalCalm
4SoliderOptimistic
5DruidShipwrightTalkative
6PerformerImpatient
7MageGuardCurious
8AcolyteLazy
9MonkSmugglerFriendly
10MasonSerious
11PaladinMessengerBrave
12UrchinCharming
13PriestHealerGloomy
14ConvictMysterious
15RangerMerchantCautious
16MagistrateSelfish
17ThiefSageGentle
18MercenaryPatient
19WarriorFarmerSneaky
20OutlanderNosy

Every character has their own strengths and weaknesses and the party will need to work together to solve the problems the adventure throws at them.

When they’ve chosen, players should decide on a name for their character.

Characters have no ancestry assigned to them, and have no defined aesthetic characteristics. 
Players should decide on these details themselves and have free rein to do so. Human, Halfling, Fairy, Cat-person, Centaur and Dragonborn are all fair game. 

They could be clothed in a long cloak, chainmail or winter furs. Their hair, eye colour and distinguishing marks are all things which players can decide on to make their character feel their own.

If you have time, players can think about their character’s backstory – what they did before joining the current adventure. You can also use the table above to provide backstory and character trait inspiration.

Character Attributes

As well as their skill ratings, each character has the following attributes.

Hit Points

Hit Points (HP) represent a character’s health, determination and how much they can go on fighting. 

This total cannot drop below 0 but some abilities allow HP to be replenished. 

Players will need to keep a note of their current HP.

Abilities

Every character has at least one signature attack. These are actions and require an attack roll to complete. The difficulty rating for this is listed, as is the amount of damage the attack will deal if it’s successful.

Unless an ability states otherwise, characters can only make one attack per turn, even though they might have multiple signature attacks listed.

The rating and damage of a character’s attack remains the same regardless of the kind of weapon they use. This means you can re-flavour your character with a slightly different weapon, or pick up others in the course of your adventure. If you’d prefer a saucepan over a sword – no problem.

Every character has an ability which can be used once per day. These will be refreshed at the beginning of every adventuring day if the ability has been used.

Other abilities are listed below these. Some have static effects on Skill Checks or other story elements, some are actions and can be performed any time in free-flow scenes, or on a character’s turn during turn-based scenes.

Spells

Mages, Priests and Druids are able to cast spells. These are listed as actions on the character’s card and can be used any time a character can perform an action at the cost of the number of spell points indicated.

Once a character has no spell points left, they can no longer cast spells until they take a rest at the end of the current adventuring day.

More spells are included within magic items in chapter three. Standard spells can be swapped for other spells with the same point cost, or these spells can be added to the characters’ spell lists for a higher powered game or where niche effects may be necessary.


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