||This review was originally posted on Roleplayer's Chronicle on March 2nd, 2012.
Cards and RPGs were once at war with each other in the early 90s as Magic the Gathering began to dominate and traditional games struggled, yet peace was established across the table and the two genres have merged together in many unexpected ways. Or to be less dramatic… Dude, you wanna play a card-based RPG?
The 6d6 System is a new universal role-playing mechanic incorporating card decks, as a substitution for the standard character sheet, developed by 6d6 Fireball. For this review, I was provided with a free copy of their initial bundle, including 6d6 Core (the complete rules for understanding and playing the game), 6d6 Outbreak (a zombie apocalypse module), and the Starter Decks for both Outbreak and 6d6 Modern.
The biggest struggle in developing a universal mechanic is being able to handle a wide variety of applications based on genre, timelines, technology, magic, and more. This is complicated when designing a new concept in RPG delivery – a complete card-based version of the traditional tabletop game. Right off the bat, I can tell you 6d6 Core delivers with extreme confidence. Anyone who purchases the game and registers through the proper channels will receive free PDF updates to ensure everyone has the latest version of the game as it continues to grow and adapt with upcoming supplements, such as 6d6 Magic.
All characters are built using a Character Deck built by the player using Character Points (CP). Each card offers 1d6 plus a modifier to apply to your roll when played and this offering determines the CP cost to add it to your deck. Within the deck, you’ll have access to Life Cards, Ability Cards, Equipment Cards, Path Cards, and more. Leaders (GMs) have access to additional cards such as Effect and Circumstance Cards. Each card contains everything you need to know to apply it when played and are categorized under keywords demonstrating when they can be played, how frequently they can be redrawn, and more.
There are two concepts to 6d6 allowing it to function more as a RPG than a simple card game: flow and pseudo-cards. Without these, 6d6 would just be another Magic. Each character has two flow to use on their turn, either to return a card to their hand or perform a pseudo-card. Pseudo-cards represent basic actions any character can perform with the need of a card, such as movement. While there are special cards allowing enhanced movement, you can simply spend one flow to move as a pseudo-card. There are additional possibilities as well creating the possibility of a truly imaginative RPG experience.
During play, there are 4 pools each player keeps at hand: Static (only cards with the Static keyword), Mechanic (such as discarded cards and Character Cards), Dynamic (your actual hand), and the Deck (all your remaining cards yet played). When it’s time to play your cards from the Dynamic pool, you can total up the number of d6s and their modifiers for your roll which is then opposed by another character’s roll built from their own Dynamic pool or against resistance (a number based on the overall difficulty of your attempted action). Effects such as damage are then based on the difference.
At 170 pages for 6d6 Core alone, there is a multitude of information available to create a truly vivid and exemplary RPG experience you can attempt using the 6d6 Starter and Modern Packs offered with the initial purchase or you can run the 6d6 Outbreak module as an introduction to the mechanics. The amount of information and detail offered in the rules is impressive and creates what I would equate to a deck building version of D&D 4th edition – it’s that detailed and simultaneously simple once you get down to actually playing. While I was reading 6d6 Core, I did find myself flipping back and forth to ensure I understood the mechanics and after spending time with a few printed cards organizing pools, I found myself itching to find players ASAP.
That being said, I have to admit I was dismayed at the presentation of the PDFs made available through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG for the price offered. Especially with the cards. They are basically text with colored borders designating card types. At the time I received the 6d6 Bundle, it was priced at $15 and has since gone up in price. While I can completely understand the incredible amount of work, testing, and revisions put into such an impressive game, the lack of artwork (especially in the cards) makes it overpriced in my opinion. But don’t let that dismay you from trying this game. If 6d6 Fireball were ever to pay for artwork and some sharp graphic design, my thoughts on 6d6 would go from impressed to floored.
A truly incredible adaptation of the standard RPG taken to new directions I never thought I would be impressed by (I’ve never been one for cards in my games). The presentation is crisp, concise, and thoroughly tested to give me confidence as a player and Leader to put a group together and start building a deck.
If you’re interested in taking a glance, you can access free-to-read content for 6d6 from the website (http://6d6rpg.com/wiki/doku.php?id=landing).
Publication Quality: 3 out of 10
It’s the only weak link, but it can be an incredible deficiency when dealing with a deck building public used to full color artwork and textures on their cards. The 6d6 cards themselves have no artwork other than a color border and consist of nothing more than text. For the price these sets are offered, it seems too much. The text of the rulebooks is also a bit amateur with titles appearing on the bottom of the page and looking like nothing more than a Word file converted to PDF. If this area were improved, even slightly, 6d6 could literally take off like a rocket.
(Since originally published, it has come to light these PDFs are drawn from the 6d6 Living Document available from the publisher's website and hence never intended to represent a typically designed publication. That being said, I stand by my original statement on layout as the purchase of the 6d6 Core PDF from all OneBookShelf sites and affiliates is made in comparison to those released by other publishers.)
Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Absolutely brilliant. Reading how to play can be intimidating at first, but once the cards are down on the table, it flows like water.
Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
I’ve never been one to play a card-based RPG – let alone any card game – and this one has been tucking at my mind since I started reading it. Highly recommended, particularly if you’re a Magic player looking to try a real game and build a story rather than just a deck.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Once again, the word I use to describe 6d6 is “impressive.” As a fan of RPGs, this game truly encapsulates the roleplaying experience with cards and dice while simultaneously stretching the possibilities of a traditional RPG using flow, pool, and pseudo-cards. With some professional-looking layout in both the books and cards, this game can become a powerhouse in the independent gaming industry and I really hope it becomes the success it deserves to be.
[4 of 5 Stars!]