Tag Archives: Hexagram

Hexagram Path of Steel Draft

Image from Wikipedia

Here is the first of the Hexagram paths, for the warrior traits.

Traits all range from 0 to 6 and describe some core capability (broadly understood) of an adventurer. The design is built around the idea of niche protection, popularized recently by Lamentations of the Flame Princess. For example, characters do not get better at melee combat in any way other than taking ranks in the melee combat trait. That being said, unlike Lamentations, the ability to take off-path traits (with diegetic assistance) allows any character to get better at anything, though at a greater cost, and only up to a certain limit (that limit being 5 by default). Thus, a sorcerer can get better at using a sword, but at the cost of an entire level’s worth of learned trait progression (as the choice is between 2 path trait improvements or 1 off-path improvement).

The limit of 6 on any trait combats the tendency toward numerical inflation and keeps the range of any specific trait reasonable (preventing problems like falling off the RNG). E6 was one attempt to solve that problem that works okay in the context of 3E, but feats and multiclassing are not acceptable solutions to me (I believe the path, prototype, and trait system models the same thing with superior approachability and flexibility). Thus, hexagram emphasizes broad development at higher levels over deep development. A 20th level 3E fighter gets +20 to hit. A 20th level Hexagram path of steel character will have a collection of traits accumulated over their career.

You will note that the style of the traits is not a list of powers that can be used, one per level of skill, but rather a particular kind of benefit or talent that increases with the number of points in the trait. This is maintained, by the way, in the sorcery traits too. I think you will find that cool things to have or do are present in all the paths.

I’m still not sure exactly what the best term to use for trait units is. Points have an association with point buy systems that is connected to a “character build” style of play that I don’t want to emphasize. “Ranks” is another potential term (as in: 4 ranks of spells, 3 ranks of melee combat). In any case, in the final draft I’ll normalize the language to only use one term, once I decide what is best.

Many of these trait names are still insufferably bland and will certainly be improved. For example, certainly there is a better trait name than bonus HP. (Yes, toughness would work, but I don’t want to use the same name as a common SRD feat.) The exact number and ordering of the traits is also not final (the order is important as the table may be rolled upon with arbitrary dice, and the more iconic and common traits should be toward the bottom).

I think it should be easy to create either a generic traditional fantasy game fighter by concentrating improvement on the first few traits (this is encouraged with the prototype system and ease of advancement in starting traits). Further, using the guided randomness of rolling d6 (for example) on the trait table upon levelling will result in an interesting and viable character. And a large diversity of character concepts should be possible using this list of traits, all while staying within the domain of the traditional fantasy game (no need to resort to “melee spells” or something similar, as was done with 4E powers).

I am particularly happy with the implementation of tactical superiority (forced movement and mobility without the need to use a grid) and warband (a small group of fiercely loyal followers that derive their combat skills from their leader and also create obvious hooks into domain level play). And, if you just want a fighter that gets really good at hitting things, the first six traits on the path table provide 18 levels worth of advancement.

T is the number of ranks in the trait. So, melee combat 3 means T = 3 which means +3 to attacks with melee weapons (in this case). I think this is clear in context, but let me know if it isn’t.

The Path of Steel

  1. Melee combat. +T to attack rolls with melee weapons.
  2. Missile combat. +T to attack rolls with missile weapons.
  3. Damage. +T to weapon damage rolls.
  4. Bonus HP. +T HP on top of normal hit dice and constitution bonus.
  5. Defense. +T floating AC bonus (may apply to companions).
  6. Cleave. T extra attacks usable after taking an enemy down.
  7. Unarmed Combat. +T Attack, max damage T, and T cleaves while unarmed.
  8. Tactical superiority. T x 5′ worth of reaction/forced movement.
  9. Warband. Attract T loyal followers.
  10. Frenzy. Use berserk rage in combat.
  11. Animal companion. T HD worth of animal companions.

Image from Wikipedia

Melee combat provides +T to attacks with melee weapons. Melee combat is also used for improvised thrown weapons. Weapons designed for throwing (such as throwing knives or shuriken) may use the most advantageous of melee combat or missile combat.

Missile combat provides +T to attacks with missile weapons such as bows, crossbows, and slings.

Damage provides +T damage on any attack with melee or missile weapons (but not unarmed combat; see the unarmed combat trait below for details).

Bonus HP. +T HP on top of the normal hit dice total.

Defense. Experienced combatants learn tricks to more easily dodge blows and turn deadly blows into minor wounds, even when unarmored. +T AC. This bonus does not stack with armor, and using this bonus requires active engagement with combat (it is not, for example, useable when picking a lock or casting a spell). This trait allows warriors to fight effectively when lightly armored. Defense is a floating bonus that may be applied to companions as well. Assistance to companions must be declared on the warriors turn, and must make diegetic sense (for example, a warrior must be adjacent to a companion, or able to move into an interposition).

Cleave. +1 free weapon attack per round. A free attack may only be used after taking down an enemy.

Image from Wikipedia

Unarmed Combat. Training to fight without weapons. Allows more than 1 HP damage to be inflicted with unarmed strikes (max = T, re-roll any damage results higher than T), and damage may be lethal. In addition, functions as melee combat and cleave for unarmed attacks (i.e., grants attack bonus and cleave attacks when unarmed). Allows one free parry per turn while unarmed. If T = 6, parries of missile weapons may be attempted. See combat section for details about untrained unarmed combat and parrying.

Tactical superiority. Experienced combattants know how to move about the field of combat while keeping their defences up, and also how to force enemies into the position of their choosing. T x 5′ of extra movement per round, which may be applied to either the character or enemies the character is fighting (following a successful attack roll, which may also do damage as normal). Forcing a large opponent 5′ costs 10′ worth of forced movement (or more for even larger creatures). All uses of tactical superiority must make sense within the particular situation (no shifting through force fields or levitating across pits, for example, unless the character has some other method of accomplishing those tasks). This extra movement may be used in reaction to an enemy’s action, for example to become the target of an attack meant for a companion, but may only be used once per round (remember that everything during a round is really happening at the same time, so this should not be considered dissociated).

Image from Wikipedia

Warband. Warriors of repute often attract followers who wish to partake in the glory of adventure. Up to T warband members will gather to your standard. Warband members do not consume XP as normal retainers and derive the following traits from their leader (-2, minimum 0): melee attack, missile attack, defense (only personal), damage, HD, HP, unarmed. Thus, a master archer’s warband will also have skill with the bow. Slain warband members will be replaced gradually, at the rate the referee deems reasonable (for example, it may be several months following a great defeat before new warband members arrive). For very experienced fighters, warband members often become trusted lieutenants. Warband members are fanatically loyal, though they will not needlessly endanger themselves (by, for example, sampling random potions or walking forward to trigger a likely trap). They never desert due to fear or betray the warrior they follow for money. If mistreated (referee discretion), they may leave, but in time a warrior will be able to recruit replacements. Further, each warband member can lead up to T x 100 trained soldiers and hold a cleared 6 mile hex worth of territory. Warband members do not expect treasure (fighting alongside a great warrior is enough) though they will be more valuable allies if well-equipped.

Frenzy. Rage is a gift in combat to some. This may be mundane berserkergang or the channeling of dark spirits. Initiating a frenzy might require rituals, stimulants, or other forms of preparation (referee discretion). Characters will only use melee weapons or unarmed combat while in a frenzy. Minimum damage T with any successful attack. +T attack (does not stack with melee combat bonus). Intelligent enemies with fewer HD must immediately make a morale check when confronted with a frenzying warrior. Will not retreat or flee while frenzying. At the end of a frenzy, the warrior takes 1d6 damage and must succeed in a saving throw versus paralyzation or fall unconscious. All actions for the next 6 turns (one hour) take a penalty equal to the post-frenzy damage.

Animal companion. The character has an extremely well trained animal or mount. In some cases, there may even be some sort of subtle mind-link. One creature of T HD, with special abilities being worth 1 HD (such as poison or flight). Animal companions are not subject to normal morale rules (unlike standard mounts or dungeon dogs), but can only be given simple and direct commands, which they will seek to accomplish to the best of their ability (players may direct movement and attacks in most cases, but exact actions are always subject to the referee, as the animal companion is still strictly speaking an NPC). Animals slain may be replaced (diegetically). Animals are given the same saving throw versus death at 0 HP as are PCs (see combat section).

Hexagram Character Generation Draft

Learned traits are referenced in the lists of prototypes, but definitions will need to wait for posts focusing on the different paths. I am not satisfied with all the trait names yet (or even all my terminology in general), so in some cases I have simple descriptive names which may be replaced later (such as “listen”). Prototype names may also change, but should get the basic idea across.

Note that by default prototypes provide pretty much all of the game benefits of traditional classes, and default (though not set in stone) advancement up to at least level 9 if players focus only on improving the starting path traits (3 traits to begin with, two improvements per level, leading to three traits at 6 by level nine). This, then, is your stereotypical mechanically simple fighter, magic-user, thief, etc. The variety of traits (hopefully not overwhelming) should, however, give a sense of how more specific character concepts could be represented (or, even better, developed through play).

I like the idea of backgrounds, but they are certainly the least core element of Hexagram so far, and could easily be omitted (though I like having a named thing that differentiates one soldier from another, for example; it gives players an easy descriptor to hang meaning on). Still considering how to handle them exactly, but I have some ideas about plugging them into the scenario design system (as a way to quickly communicate the tenor of a particular game).

Zero level play is supported by not picking a prototype or any learned traits at the beginning. In this mode, all advancement is considered off-path and requires diegetic justification (finding an item or teacher) for every point gained. Path may also be selected at any point diegetically in a similar fashion. Gaining 100 XP is perhaps a good threshold for path selection (and is how I’ve been determining when zero level humans get a class in my OD&D game). To summarize, a player need only perform stems 1, 4, 5, and 6 in the checklist below to create a zero level character. See also the section on scenario design to work diegetic goal features into the beginning campaign (basically, one can place a few options for how to pick up a prototype within the game beforehand as a kind of treasure).

As always, I expect the language to tighten up in future drafts (I always start out too wordy). Also, thanks to Paul from Dungeonskull Mountain for the trait name thrall-binding.

Character creation checklist:

  1. Ability scores (3d6 in order or arranged to taste)
  2. Path: steel, guile, or sorcery
  3. Prototype (or distribute three +1s among path traits)
  4. Background
  5. Possessions, both general and trait-specific
  6. Intrinsic and derived traits (HD, AC, saving throws)
Talisman of Saturn

Ability scores are the measure of basic character potential, and consist of the traditional 6: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, charisma (see ability scores section). Unlike many fantasy roleplaying games, ability scores do not have a strong determining effect on character power, potential, or survivability. They do not control things like maximum power attainable, do not provide large modifiers to other tasks, and are not used in life or death situations such as catching yourself if you fall off a cliff (saving throws, which are dependent upon level attained, are used to resolve those sorts of situations). However, ability score checks are used to resolve the outcome of less critical actions, such as how many characters are required to lift a heavy gate and provide minor modifiers (such as +1 to missile attacks for extraordinary dexterity). They are also an aid to individualizing characters. 3d6 in order can assist you in developing characters that you might not otherwise play, but if you have a clear concept in mind, feel free to arrange them to taste. In general, below average ability scores (less than 9) will come with a small penalty, and above average ability scores (above 12) will come with a small bonus.

Path determines what capabilities characters have to confront adversity. There are three paths, in service of three broad traditional fantasy archetypes. The path of steel, for characters than focus on solving problems through force of arms; the path of guile, for characters that focus on solving problems through cleverness and misdirection; and the path of sorcery, for characters that focus on solving problems through magic and the intercession of arcane powers. Path controls only what traits characters advance in most easily, and the final degree of power attainable; it does not limit which traits may be taken. For example, in the default mode of play, Hexagram characters may only attain level 5 (of 6) in any off-path trait. See the section on advancement and the sections on specific paths for further details. The specific selection of the three starting traits is governed by prototype (see below) or may be selected directly by players.

Prototype is a selection of starting traits in service of a narrow archetype. Selection of traits by prototype will support progression up to ninth level with no player choice required (though, of course, players may deviate from expected prototype progression at any level gained). Characters who draw all or most of their traits from a single path will end up advancing slightly faster due to their focus, but at the cost of flexibility. A prototype is not required, however. Players may opt instead to select three initial learned trait improvements. No trait may be selected more than twice at the beginning. Note that off-path traits will advance more slowly (see the section on advancement). Off-path traits are noted in italic.

Path of steel prototypes:

  1. Soldier: melee combat, missile combat, HP bonus
  2. Archer: ranged combat, defense, stealth
  3. Commander: defense, melee combat, warband
  4. Barbarian: melee combat, frenzy, defense
  5. Knight: melee combat, missile combat, defense
  6. Paladin: melee combat, defense, banishment

Path of guile prototypes:

  1. Scout: tracking, stealth, missile combat
  2. Assassin: assassination, stealth, missile combat
  3. Thief: climb, stealth, pick locks
  4. Acrobat: climb, tumbling, unarmed combat
  5. Antediluviest: listen, pick locks, antediluvia
  6. Infiltrator: listen, stealth, pick locks

Path of sorcery prototypes:

  1. Sorcerer: spells, magical devices, scrolls
  2. Warlock: supplication (demons), spells, thrall-binding (demons)
  3. Necromancer: thrall-binding (undead), spells, magical devices
  4. Witch: potions, spells, banishment
  5. Artificer: magical devices, potions, thrall-binding (constructs)
  6. Spellblade: spells, aegis, melee combat

Some prototypes may draw from all three paths:

  • Demon hunter: banishment, assassination, melee combat

In such cases, path determines which single starting trait is “on path”; the other two will advance more slowly and have extra diegetic requirements. Such is the cost of flexibility.

Note that it’s relatively easy to put together fun goofy prototypes, which should work within the game framework just fine. For example:

  • Ninja: assassination, stealth, unarmed combat
  • Super villain: thrall-binding, assassination, warband
Note: these prototypes are preliminary, and will probably change as I work more on the traits.

Background determines what your character did prior to adventuring. A small list of potential backgrounds is provided here, based on the idea that the referee will grow the setting slowly through play (see scenario design section). In general, all backgrounds should be an answer to the question: why is my character an adventurer? Note that any die may be rolled on this table, including d1, providing for a reasonable default “treasure hunter” type background. (The background table is still incomplete, and will be included in a later draft.)

Possessions at the beginning of the game are a function of path, prototype, and background. The general idea is that you get one thing relevant to each learned trait in addition to a random selection of adventuring gear satisfying some basic needs (such as light sources and at least one weapon). For example, a character with ranged combat +1 starts with a bow or crossbow. “Possessions” should be understood broadly as anything external to the character; for example, a sorcerer with the thrall-binding trait begins play with a thrall. I plan on building a default table per path for people who want to pick the three starting traits directly, plus more specific tables per prototype (players roll on one or the other, not both). Background will also add one or two items, or, if I’m feeling ambitious, perhaps there will be a random table of extra equipment per background.

Intrinsic and derived traits are the finishing touches. All characters begin with 1 hit die at first level, so write that down on your character sheet (characters with extraordinary constitution and/or the path of steel bonus HP trait will add a small amount of bonus HP). You don’t need to roll for hit points until your first session; maximum HP is transient (the number of HD and bonus HP is the persistent measure of a character’s survivability). Write down the AC based on your armor (which should have been determined from the equipment granted by prototype, background, and any purchasing) and your starting saving throw numbers (which will all be 15 to being with other than the one path-specific bonus).

Hexagram Advancement Draft

Here is a draft of the way Hexagram characters gain levels and accumulate traits, which are the measure of bonuses, powers, and pretty much everything else associated with progressing. Tables of traits will be included in future posts about the specific paths. The three paths are: steel, guile, and sorcery. I’m sure it should be clear which archetypes the various paths should represent. Right now, there are approximately 10 traits per path, each trait being measured from 0 to 6.

A future post will also cover character creation, but for our purposes here just know that beginning characters have two or three different learned traits, making the choice set for improvement eminently tractable, but flexible through the mechanism of diegetic quests for new traits or off-path traits. Please let me know if the distinctions are not clear in the text below. Also, all five saving throws begin at 15, with one trait-specific bonus (that is, one of the five will start at 13, based on the character path). That will also be covered in more detail in the character creation and saving throws sections.

Hit dice end up being limited to 6d6 (reached at 7th level) for most characters. Constitution potentially offers +1 HP per die, and the path of steel offers a specific “bonus HP” trait, which allows the HD for the toughest characters to potentially reach 6d6+12, upon reaching the medium levels (which, as you will see below, come slightly faster than in the traditional XP progression, though of course advancement speed is ultimately determined by referee placement of rewards).

Quick summary: gain a level every 1000 XP, either improve two path traits or go on a quest to improve an off-path trait. If improving path traits, you can either advance in traits you already have, roll on the trait table for your path, or go on a quest in search of an item or teacher to help you learn a specific new trait.

Checklist for gaining a level:

  1. Improve one inherent trait (+1 HD or +⅙ ability score)
  2. Improve saving throws
  3. Improve 2 path traits or 1 off-path trait


Inherent traits are things all characters have that can also improve, and include hit dice and traits associated with ability score advancement. All characters begin with 1 hit die (HD). The number of hit dice is the number of six sided dice rolled at the beginning of each session to determine hit points (HP). After gaining six levels, characters will have maxed out their hit dice trait and can no longer gain any more hit dice. Note that an extraordinary constitution score also provides a small bonus to HP (see the section on ability scores and the section on combat for more details). Additionally, there is a path of steel trail which provides another small HP bonus.

Each ability score has one associated inherent trait for advancement. After that trait has been improved six times, the ability score increases one point. Improving ability scores by mundane means may only be done once per score, to keep the initial 3d6 in order meaningful. (Diegetic features, like enchanted fountains, are another matter, but are generally just as likely to hurt a character as they are to help.) For example, if a character improved no other inherent traits, it would take three levels to improve one ability score one point, and it would not be possible to improve that ability score again. This option is mostly available for high level characters who have already maxed out their hit dice. How characters work within their limitations is one of the most interesting consequences of the game, so unlimited ability score progression should not be possible, but limited and gradual improvement of ability scores fits the Hexagram philosophy of logarithmic advancement.


There are 6 intrinsic traits for improving saving throws. Every level, players may choose one to improve. The first is a general saving throw bonus which applies to all saving throws. The other five are each specific to a particular saving throw. For example, there is a specific bonus trait for the dragon breath saving throw. So for the first 6 levels, all five saving throw categories improve at every level. After that, the saves improve individually; a single +1 bonus per level may be allocated to the save of the players choice.


Upon gaining a level, characters may improve two path traits or one off-path trait. The same trait may not be improved twice per level.

Players may choose to improve any two learned traits that the character already has numbers in. For example, if a path of steel character has melee combat +1 and damage +1 the player may just choose to improve both of those traits by 1 (each to +2).

To learn new traits, more is required. Instead of improving existing traits, players may instead opt to gain training in new traits. There are two ways to go about this. The first is to roll on the path trait table for the chance to begin advancing in a new trait. The tables are designed with the most general and archetypal traits at the bottom, so any die may be used for this roll (including d1; the first entry is always available for improvement, assuming it is not already at 6). Traits selected randomly in this way that are already at 5 or 6 may be re-rolled (if desired).

Another option is available if the player wishes to improve a particular trait that they don’t already possess any skill in. To do this, the character must seek out a teacher or item diegetically which will allow them to progress. Note that such self-directed quests are the only ways a character can advance in a non-path trait. Additionally, such quests are always required for advancing to 6 in any learned trait, even path traits.

The default mode of Hexagram is to support non-path trait advancement up to 5. For example, a character on the path of steel may learn to prepare spells, but the spells trait may never go above 5, will take 5 dedicated levels of advancement (5000 XP) and will require locating special items or teachers (to be determined by the referee) before each advancement is attained. Referees, see also the section on setting up scenarios for advice in placing such diegetic advancement necessities prior to play. For a game that privileges archetype role more, consider limiting off-path advancement to 3.

The increase in the number of XP required to gain a level in most games is a numerical illusion, because the reward for defeating a high level challenge (whether it is a powerful monster or a valuable treasure) is usually scaled as well, yet the inflation of numbers to support such illusionism affects all the other aspects of the game, including the economy of both threats and rewards. One of the primary goals of Hexagram is to eliminate numerical illusionism, so that approach is no good. Instead, gaining a new level always requires 1000 XP. Improving traits, however, becomes more and more specific, and very high level characters can always advance in non-path traits (though the advancement is even slower, due to the fact that non-path traits can only be advanced at the rate of one per level and in place of normal path trait advancement, as described above).
Why 1000 XP and not some other number? Some degree of granularity is required for objective reward based on value, and 1000 gives a nice resolution and allows the traditional 1 GP of treasure = 1 XP equivalency. The fact that levels always require 1000 XP also means that treasures do not need to become necessarily ever more valuable as the game progresses. A somewhat objective standard can be maintained. For example, a 5000 GP emerald will always be a fantastic reward, because it is objectively worth a level for an entire small party of adventurers.

Further, as treasure is the primary way to gain XP (the other ways are through exploring hexes and conquering hexes), money will likely remain somewhat scarce, meaning that spending character money is likely to be done more carefully (though note that it is also possible to gain more GP in ways other than just recovering treasure; such earned GP does not award XP). The one downside of this approach is that referees will need to adjust treasure values downward if using modules, but generally modules require numerous adjustments in any case, so I don’t see that as a significant problem.

Hexagram Introduction Draft

I’ve been working sporadically on an RPG system. Well, it’s not exactly a system. It’s more like my gloss on traditional fantasy gaming. Bits and pieces have already seen light (like the recent post on weapon abilities, and several trait ideas shared on G+, like this post on frenzy and this post on potions). I made good progress working on this over the past weekend, and now feel like I have enough of a real thing that I can start sharing parts and getting feedback from people. The text is still necessarily rather rough, so please excuse the unfinished edges.

This is a draft of the introduction. And for players of my OD&D game, no I don’t intend on changing anything about how we have been playing, though small things may creep in as optional rules now and again (like the weapon details).

Hexagram: A Fantasy Roleplaying Miscellany

Contained herein are a set of subsystems ready for use with any traditional class and level fantasy roleplaying game. Hexagram also constitutes a complete set of rules, with a particular philosophy, and may be played it as such.

This is what hexagram is about:

  1. Character advancement that tapers off, but never halts. 
  2. No numerical inflation or numerical illusionism in game mechanics. 
  3. Recognizable jargon where possible. 
  4. Balanced choices through trade-offs. 
  5. Lack of requirement for or benefit from system mastery. 
  6. Fantasy archetypes, but with flexibility. 
Image from Wikipedia

Character advancement that tapers off, but never halts. Advancement of specific traits is limited, but there are often further traits available that have lesser or more specific impact within a given domain. Thus, character advancement should be logarithmic rather than linear, but there should always be something that a character can improve. Complexity should not be overwhelming, because the more specific traits only become relevant when the general traits have been maxed out, and are slowly introduced throughout play. This design also allows characters to remain at the human scale throughout their entire career, even as they accumulate magic, treasure, and political power.

No numerical inflation or numerical illusionism in game mechanics. (To be expanded upon later.)

Recognizable jargon where possible. Hexagram character sheets should be mostly intelligible without needing to read any word of this rule set. The following is a valid Hexagram character: HD 3+1, AC 12 (leather), melee combat +3, floating AC bonus +3, sword, standard six ability scores, standard five saving throws, some adventuring gear (yes, the real character sheet would explicitly detail the last few things, but you get the idea). If you don’t already know what those things mean, they will be explained, but if you do, you should already feel at home.

Balanced choices through trade-offs. Though roleplaying is about immersing yourself in an imaginary reality and being awed the the wonder therein, it is also about solving problems. Potential solutions, at the mechanical level, should not generally be clearly optimal or suboptimal when divorced from specific situations. Game mechanical choices should always have interesting trade-offs, or they are not worth inclusion.

Lack of requirement for or benefit from system mastery. Options at any given point should never be overwhelming, but ultimate potential should be limitless (in terms of uniqueness if not character power). Choices are facilitated by random determination (dice rolling), but can also be guided by the player if desired. That is, random by default but not requirement. Limiting system mastery also keeps the character sheet small. It is intended to focus the game on problem solving and interaction with the diegetic environment, rather than management of character features.

Fantasy archetypes, but with flexibility. Beginning characters should be easy to create, but able to grow into unique variations on classic archetypes. All types of characters should be interesting to play at all levels. In addition, various character abilities can be gained at different times during a character’s career, depending on what makes sense for the particular campaign. This should allow some aspects of endgame content to be present throughout the entire game, rather than being cloistered in the high levels, since few games last that long. For example, sorcerers may brew potions at first level if they choose to focus on that activity, and some warriors may accumulate loyal follows immediately. In addition, characters are not limited to advancement within their primary archetypal domain, but advancement within that domain is easier and more direct.

Most game information (including potential character backgrounds and abilities) are presented in the form of random tables. There are several reasons behind this. The primary (practical) reason is to allow players to get started quickly. The secondary (theoretical) reason is the creative power of juxtaposition. Seemingly contradictory results can be the beginning of something memorable, and is related to the idea of synthesis out of thesis and antithesis.

It is possible to play Hexagram as a game built around character options (and it should work just fine that way) but it will really shine if you surrender to the dice and allow the character concept to emerge through play, rather than planning beforehand. That is why so much of the game (on both the referee and player sides) is built around guided randomness. A fully actualized Hexagram character should be a complex amalgam of player desires, setting opportunities acted upon, and dumb luck that nobody could ever see coming.

Even if that vision doesn’t do anything for you, there should be plenty of variant rules useable with your favorite class-and-level fantasy RPG.

The name Hexagram was not chosen arbitrarily. It represents several important aspects of this design. The hexagram, as a six-sided figure, embodies a limited number of short term possibilities. As a map division (from wargaming history), the hex also represents the starting point of a limitless and unconstrained journey. The juxtaposition of two triangles shows the reconciliation of opposites through synthesis. The number six has a lot of power and resonance. It is also the number of faces on the most common die, the number of the original set of ability scores, and the number of spell levels in the original game.

This document expects basic familiarity with tabletop roleplaying jargon (PC, NPC, referee, d20, etc) and also traditional fantasy gaming (HD, HP, XP, AC, etc). Here are a few other terms that either may not be in as wide usage or have specific meanings in the Hexagram context.

  • Diegetic: within the game world. Something a PC could reason about. 
  • Extradiegetic: often used in film theory for things like music which only the audience can hear. In roleplaying, it means something that is for players to reason about (rather than PCs). 
  • Trait: some character aspect, ranked from 0 to 6. May often be used as a bonus to a die roll. 
  • T: As in, +T or -T. This is a variable intended to refer to a trait value. Use should be clear in context. 
  • Path: a collection of related traits in service of a broad archetype. All characters have a primary path. 
  • Path trait: a learned trait that belongs to a character’s primary path. 
  • Off-path trait: a learned trait that does not belong to a character’s primary path. 
  • Prototype: a small set of traits for starting characters in service of a narrow archetype.