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The Story:

Chapter 1plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Chapter 1: Juanda's Cave

We’ve lived all our lives in this bloody canyon, and me can’t takes no more. Me hates the canyon. And me hates me companions.

Anyway, the five of us were huddled in Juanda’s ice cave. Someone tapped on the curtain entrance and Juanda opened it. Outside were two officers of the law. One of them was Glennard. I told the coppers to state their business or taste a lick of me blade.

Chapter 2plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Chapter 2: Chicken Soup

After having agreed to split all of their spoils evenly, Blacksong, Juanda, Bernherd, and Glennard decide to get together to share tales of their past. Bernherd tells the tale of his first companion, a man so much like Blacksong that they are nearly indistinguishable.

Chapter 3plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Chapter 3: Laying Traps

Suspecting that the Traders Guild was going to find Black Song's secret path to the surface eventually, the party decided to lay some traps. Glennard cast a spell that would notify him if anyone tried to enter the cave. Black Song dug a pit. Behnerd made a magically malodorous malady. Juanda used her magic to block off the passage with a natural-seeming wall of stone, which could be climbed over if one knew where to look.

Chapter 4plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big Chapter 4: Time to Make a Deal

Cliffhanger... we picked up weapons and money in our heist and were mid discussion on being criminals.

Black Song wonders aloud if he should leave his crew or go off alone.

Someone has triggered Glenard's trap. We turn to notice a man and woman standing outside of the cave.

Nerds! Role-Playing Game

Nerds! is a rules-light, genre-agnostic role-playing game created by Eli. This document is copyright © 2018.

Printable character sheet

Quick reference sheet

Your Character

The first thing you'll do is create a character for yourself.


Your archetype is a one-line, or even one-word summary of who you are. It can be pretty much anything that fits into the game world – independent sailor, carpenter, starship pilot, cat burglar, philosopher and natural historian, sorcerer who draws power from ancient dragons, etc.

Personality and Backstory

For some games, an archetype is all you'll need, but you may have a more satisfying role-playing adventure if you give your character more depth, including a personality and backstory. If you're not sure where to start, try to answer some of these questions:

What do you look like?

Are you tall or short?

Thin or fat?

How old are you? How old do you look?

Any interesting features?

Is there an item you always have with you?

What kind of person are you?

What are three adjectives people would use to describe you?

Do you have a personality trait that sometimes rubs people the wrong way?

What's something people really like about you?

What are you afraid of?

Is there a person or ideal you'd do anything for?

What's your story?

What do you do for a living?

What do you do for fun?

Describe a time when you succeeded when everyone thought you would fail.

Describe an embarrassing failure.

Do you have a family?

Do you have a mentor or role-model?

Do you have friends? A boss? Co-workers?

The Team

Typically, this game is played with a Game Master and 2-6 players. You may find it helpful to create your characters as a group, then decide what kind of group you are. Here are some questions which might help:

  • How do you know each other?
  • How long have you known each other?
  • Describe a time when another character got you out of trouble.
  • Describe a shared childhood experience between you and another character.

You may also want to discuss any topics or adventures you would like to be off-limits in the game. Maybe you have a real-life fear that you don't want to engage with, or maybe you hate mystery novels and don't want to play out anything like that.

Primary Attributes

Your character will have five primary attributes: Strength, Agility, Mind, Presence and Luck. They range from -2 to +2 for normal humans.

When you want to accomplish something, like attacking, climbing up the side of a house, or persuading a crowd to join your noble cause, you may be asked to roll 2d6 (two 6-sided dice), and add one of your attributes. For example, to attack someone, you might roll 2d6 + strength. If this is at least as high as a number determined by the Game Master, you succeed.

There are effects, such as exhaustion, which can temporarily drain a point from one of your attributes.


This is your raw physical strength, as well as your endurance, health and ability to shrug off damage. It affects how good you are at physically strenuous activities, and at using most melee weapons.


This is your acrobatic ability, your speed, and your skill with light weapons and bows. It is used for anything requiring a high degree of dexterity. It is also used to evade attacks, and to attack with light and ranged weapons.


This is your willpower, intellect, knowledge, wisdom and insight. It is useful for understanding people's motivations, and it may let you know something helpful for situations you get yourself into. It is useful for most magic.


This is your force of will, your persuasiveness, and how others perceive your physical appearance and personality. It is useful for magic used to influence people.


This is rolled whenever an action is largely governed by chance – gambling, avoiding be surprised, spotting hidden things, etc. You can permanently lose a point of luck to prevent your character or another player's character from dying.

You (and a select number of special enemies) start each game session with a number of luck points equal to your luck attribute. Luck points can be used to change the current scene to your advantage. For example, you're falling off a cliff, and oh look! A tree is sticking out of the side at just the right angle to catch you! Luck points can also be used to re-roll your dice.

If your Luck score is below zero, you have Bad Luck points! The Game Master can use them to put you in danger, escalate the stakes of your situation, or force you to re-roll your dice. Bad luck cannot kill you outright, but it can make things difficult for you.


Skills are things that you're good at. They can be pretty much anything, from carpentry to navigation to party planning. When you roll for one of your skills, you add 1 to the roll, in addition to what you add from your attribute. For example, if you have the climbing skill, and you want to climb a mountain, you roll 2d6 + Strength + 1 from your skill.

Hit Points (HP)

This is your life. When you're injured, you lose HP, and when you rest, you recover them. When you hit 0 HP, roll your Strength. If you get 10 or higher, you manage to stay up with 1 HP instead. If you hit 0 HP anyway, you're unconscious, and you have to roll Luck. If you get 7 or lower, you permanently lose a point of Luck. If this brings you to -3 Luck, you die. If you are attacked when you're down, you have to make this Luck roll again.


If you can use magic, you will have Spell Points, which are used every time you cast a spell. Simple spells use up one point, while more complex spells require more than one. Some spells are so simple that they don't need any points to use, but they do require special training in magic. Spell Points are replenished the next day, or whenever the GM decides there's a big enough scene shift.

Magic users start the game with access to one of the six types of magic. To cast a spell, you describe an idea, and how it's related to your type of magic. Then the GM tells you how many spell points it costs. If it costs more than your total number of Spell Points, the GM may give you a suggestion about how to tone it down.

Once you have access to more than one type of magic, you can combine them to make more complicated effects.


Earth magic deals with the physical world. You can create or manipulate materials, create fires, and alter air flow. Earth can't directly affect living things without mixing in Life magic, but you can, for example, trap someone in quicksand, or throw a heated rock at them.


Life magic deals with the living world. It can be used to encourage plants to grow, communicate with animals, or enhance or detract from living things. It can heal wounds, or cause them.


Calling can be used to bring creatures or objects to you, or send them away. Things that are nearby are easy to call, while exotic or distant creatures or objects are more difficult. Powerful Calling magic can be used to create something from nothing.

A called creature is not bound to help you, though you can make deals with it, or promise to release it after a task is complete. Combined with Thought magic, Calling can force creatures to help you, and Life magic can help you find more willing creatures.


Thought magic can be used to create distractions, read emotions and thoughts, speak telepathically, and control minds. It can manipulate the senses, making people see, hear or feel things that aren't there.


Ether is a special type of magic that connects to mystical worlds. It can detect magical auras, or manipulate existing magic. It can see hidden things, including spirits, fey or shadows, and combined with Calling, make deals with them. It can be used to see things at great distances, and even to see into the past or future.


Alchemists create potions and permanent magical objects. Most alchemy requires material resources as well as spell points. Simple, short-lived items cost the least. Sometimes, you can offset the cost by using more spell points. Alchemy works best when combined with other types of magic.

Sample zero-cost spells

If you have the right training, you can cast zero-cost spells. Here are some examples:

  • Earth: Create a small fire (like a match), heat or cool objects a little, or cause a disturbance in a soft material like sand or dirt.
  • Life: Understand an animal's basic motivation, or reduce the toxic effect of a poisonous plant.
  • Calling: Coax a small animal or insect to come to you.
  • Thought: Distract someone, make a quiet sound a few yards away, or make someone tired or more alert.
  • Ether: Read magical runes, or determine that something is magical.
  • Alchemy: Identify the properties of a potion.


Equipment may be bought, made or found during the game. You should write down anything important you have, like weapons, alchemical substances, and expensive things. For everything else, you can make a Luck roll to find out if you have the thing you need. The GM will determine the difficulty of the roll.


A weapon can be pretty much anything. Regardless of what it looks like, it deals 1d6 damage in combat, plus your strength or agility score. Strength is used for clubs, heavy swords and other items that do more damage the harder you hit. Agility is used for bows, guns, light weapons like daggers, and other items where finesse is more important than brute strength.


Depending on the game, you may have access to some sort of protection. Whether it's medieval plate mail, a force field, or a swarm of insects, it follows the same rules. There are two types of armor – light and heavy. Light armor reduces your Agility score by 1, and reduces all damage taken by 1. Heavy armor reduces your Agility by 2, and all damage taken by 2.


Sometimes, you'll get into a fight. You usually act in order of your Agility scores, but the GM might mix it up to keep the action flowing. You can do anything you want on your turn, or even do multiple related things, as long as they could all be done in a reasonably short time. A basic guideline is that you should be able to describe all of your actions in a minute or less, but the GM can make exceptions. There are just a few limitations on what you can do in a single turn:

  • You can't attack or use magic more than once, and you can't do both.
  • You can't move more than 50 feet or so.
  • The GM might stop you if you try to do too many things on your turn.
  • Particularly involved actions might take more than one turn to finish.

To attack, you roll 2d6 + strength or agility + a combat skill if you have one. Your damage is 1d6 + strength or agility. Magic weapons or advanced technology may do more damage, or have other special properties.

Character Journals

After each game session, one player should volunteer to write a summary of the session in his or her character's voice. If you do this, you will have an extra luck point to use in the next session, or you can remove a bad luck point (your choice).

Building your Character

You have a few choices to make at level 1. If you'd rather not, the GM can build your character for you based on the background you chose.


Start with a zero in each attribute. Add a point to one and remove a point from another, as many times as you want. Your final scores will be between -2 and 2.

Build Points

You start at level 1, with 6 Hit Points, no Spell Points and no skills. You also have 15 Build Points, which you can spend on the following:

Hit Points

One Build Point gets you one Hit Point. You can have up to 10 + your level.


Two Build Points gives you a skill with a +1 bonus. You can select the same skill up to two times.

These special skills are only available to certain types of characters:

  • Magic: You are good at casting spells, identifying magical properties, and understanding how magic works. You need 6 spell points to qualify for this skill.
  • Melee combat: You are an expert at close-range combat. You need 9 HP to qualify.
  • Ranged combat: You are an expert at long-range combat. You need 9 HP to qualify.
  • One point: You learn your first type of magic. You can't use magic without this. You can only pick this once.
  • One point: One spell point. You can have up to 5 + your level.
  • Two points: You can cast zero-cost spells.
Example Builds
  • Fighter: 11 HP, 5 skills, no magic
  • Fighter who dabbles in magic: 11 HP, 2 SP, 3 skills
  • Jack of all trades: 7 HP, 3 SP, 4 skills, zero-cost spells
  • Wizard: 6 HP, 6 SP, 3 skills, zero-cost spells

Going up in Level

Every once in a while, the GM will tell you that you've gained a level. This will usually happen at the end of an adventure. When you gain a level, your character becomes more powerful. The highest level is 10.

Build Points

You gain 5 more build points to spend on HP, skills and magic.


At levels 3, 5, 7 and 9, you can raise one of your attributes by one point, to a maximum of +3.

Special Abilities

At even-numbered levels, you can choose a special ability from these lists, or you can work out something different with your GM.

These may be selected any number of times:

  • Lucky: An additional luck point per session. You can have this even if your luck is negative. When you permanently lose a luck point, these points are lost first.
  • New Magic: Access to a new type of magic. You must already know at least one type of magic.
  • Magical Adept: Raise the maximum number of spell points you can have by 2.
  • Tough as Nails: Raise the maximum number of hit points you can have by 2.
  • Skilled: You learn two more skills.

These may only be selected once:

  • Extra Attack: Attack twice on your turn in combat, instead of once.
  • Precision Attack: Add an extra 1d6 to your damage roll. You can only attack once per turn when you use this, even if you have Extra Attack.
  • Spell Recovery: If you are out of spell points for at least 15 minutes, you gain one point back.
  • Always Prepared: You get a new skill, which gives you a bonus on Luck rolls to have equipment when you need it.

Advanced abilities (requires level 5 or higher)

  • Third Attack: Extra Attack now gives you three attacks per turn in combat, instead of two.
  • Advanced Spell Recovery: You can bring yourself up to 2 spell points using Spell Recovery.
  • Sharpshooter: Precision Attack now adds 2d6 to your damage.
  • Survivor: Requires Tough as Nails. You get a new skill, which gives you a bonus to Strength rolls to avoid going down to zero HP.
  • Fast Magic: In combat, you can cast a zero-cost spell in the same turn that you cast a normal spell.

Supreme abilities (requires level 10)

  • Fourth Attack: Requires Third Attack. Now you have four!
  • Endless Magic: Requires Advanced Spell Recovery. You always have at least one spell point!
  • Jack of All Trades: You're good at everything! Any time you make an ability roll and don't have a skill to add, you add +1 to the roll. Requires 10 skills.
  • Assassin: If your Precision Attack brings an opponent down to 1 HP, either naturally or due to a successful strength check, you can make a second attack against that opponent. If your Precision Attack brings an opponent to 0 HP, you can make another Precision Attack against an opponent within ten feet of you. This can happen an unlimited number of times in a turn.
  • Immortal: Requires Survivor. If you permanently lose a point of Luck to avoid dying, you get it back the next game session. You still die if your Luck drops to -3.