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DoubleZero: Action Thriller Emulation


Okay, I’ve already addressed this question once publicly and about a dozen times privately. I’m going to do it one more time here. On my list of potential future projects I’ve penciled in a DoubleZero Guide Manual, which will include essays along these lines as well as tips on running adventures. There is one key design decision behind the system used in DoubleZero: action thriller emulation.

A Veteran character has a 12, the default difficulty is 3, so they only have a 36% chance of success. Yes. Affirmative. Correct. That is a true statement. It is not an error, it is not a flaw, it is an intentional design choice. If you read the whole thing, you will see that it is intended to be a grittier, more realistic game, DoubleZero was not created to play superheroes in God Mode. It goes back to those two words in the subtitle: action thrill.

Yes, there are action movies where the main character just runs amok and beats the hell out of everyone they meet. To me, that is not interesting to watch. There is no suspense, no feel that they might lose. It’s not particularly interesting for me to play, because the stakes are low and it just feels like icky wish-fulfillment fantasy. There have to be consequences to choosing a life of violence; that’s not so much a design choice as a reflection of my personal beliefs and values.

There are two things in the system that offset the difficulty: Hero Points, and the process of Character Death.

Hero Points

My first in-system response to this is Hero Points. Roughly 10% of the time, you will roll well and the character will earn one. Use them when you need them to survive. Bank them to use on the rolls that matter the most.

Watch one of those thriller movies where the character struggles through at least the first half. Nothing goes right. They get the crap kicked out of them, they crash the car, they make more enemies than they do allies. When they do succeed later, the victory will feel earned. It will be sweeter because they had to work for it. You will cheer for them.

In that big finale, they will be using the Hero Points they saved along the way. When they punch, it will do damage. The shots they fire will hit their target. Stunts during car chases will be executed smoothly. Because those are the beats of an action thriller adventure.

Character Death

I realize that people raised on a steady diet of murder hobo games equate failure with character death. If you’re read the rules, you’ll see how hard it is to actually kill a player character. Again, by design. You put the work into creating a character. The character has put in the effort to pursue the adventure goal, whatever it may be, and is willing to risk a lot to achieve it.

So they effectively get plot immunity, in the form of making it difficult to kill them. Other things will happen. They’ll suffer injuries, sure. Instead of dying they might get captured, or arrested, or they’ll have to do some time in the hospital. Milk that for drama. The cool part is when they get back up, not the fact that the mechanics allow them to get knocked down.

DoubleZero: Action Thriller Emulation

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New Release: Spectres of Mars

Spectres of MarsA Cold War with Mars

Set in a gloriously retro-future 2068, Spectres of Mars follows the Cold War between Earth and the Strangers, a race of incorporeal Martians able to possess human bodies. When the first human explorers accidentally desecrate a sacred dead city on Mars, the Strangers vow revenge and launch a series of reprisals against Earth. These are countered by Myriad, a global defence organization created to root out alien infiltrators and terrorists.

About Spectres of Mars

Spectres of Mars is an espionage and counter-terrorism setting with a science fiction twist. Player characters are agents of Myriad, a joint operation of the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. It’s inspired by Gerry Anderson’s Captain Scarlet and UFO, the mythology of The X-Files, the film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and every conceivable version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

About DoubleZero

DoubleZero is a percentile based, skill-driven modern action thriller tabletop roleplaying game. All manner of suspense and intrigue are possible. This sourcebook requires the use of the DoubleZero Core Book.

Download your copy of now from DriveThruRPG
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New Bundles Added at DriveThruRPG

Dancing Lights Press

As with all bundles at DriveThruRPG, you only pay for the title you haven’t previously purchased. It’s a great ay to round out your collection and save money at the same time.

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New Release: MOLOCH – A Setting for DoubleZero


Conspiracy and Political Intrigue Ripped from Tomorrow’s News

In MOLOCH, players characters are members of an underground resistance movement fighting the machinations of a secret occult conspiracy determined to rule the world. Named for the folkloric metal that can harm malevolent supernatural creatures, the Cold Iron movement fights to wrest control of factual reality from those attempting to replace it with lies, disinformation, and propaganda.

In the 21st century MOLOCH a mystery cult comprised of privileged and wealthy individuals. Feeding upon human suffering, they seek to remake the world in their own image. The cult’s leaders view themselves as absolute monarchs, with the rest of humanity no more than servants, serfs and slaves at best. To further their own ends they control corporations, media outlets, and entire political parties.

This tabletop roleplaying setting explores the themes of compassion versus greed, selflessness versus selfishness, and critical thinking versus blind populism. It asks what constitutes good and evil in this modern era of divisiveness, falsehood, and social upheaval.

Download your copy of MOLOCH now!

About DoubleZero

DoubleZero is a percentile based, skill-driven modern action thriller tabletop roleplaying game. All manner of suspense and intrigue are possible. This sourcebook requires the use of the DoubleZero Core Book.

About the Setting

A version of this setting was previously published under the title Revelations in Cold Iron. Aside from the game system, there are other fundamental differences. That game takes a dark urban fantasy approach, where magic exists. This version leans into the political thriller aspect and is grounded in the real world, as befits the DoubleZero system.

For ease of reference, this book is divided into seven sections:

Believe What You Read

This section covers the premise of MOLOCH and the concept of tabletop roleplaying. Come back here if you need a refresher or to know where to start.

A World of Conspiracies

This section has useful background information on the setting. Its purpose is to help the guide in conveying important ideas, and to walk the players through important background information.

The Cold Iron Movement

Ready-to-play player characters created for this setting can be found here. There’s also information on how to customize those characters, if you want to play something a little different.

The Cult of MOLOCH

In this section you’ll learn about the setting’s main antagonists, how they operate, and what they want. Enemies that create ongoing problems for the player characters are detailed here as well.

Rules Changes

New rules and changes from the core book. This includes new professions, additional skills and concentrations, mechanics for pandemics, and how the setting’s magic system should be handled.


An expanded selection of weapons, vehicles, and other gear available within the setting. This includes equipment used by militarized police, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Allies and Enemies

Full statistics for characters described in the Cold Iron and chapters. This includes Novice, Standard, and Veteran characters, as well as a selection of supporting characters.

Download your copy of MOLOCH now!

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DoubleZero System Reference Document


The DoubleZero System Reference Document (SRD) is now available for download from the Dancing Lights Press website. It is a single zip folder with 13 plain text files, and contains all of the material from the Core Book released under the Open Gaming License. You can download the DoubleZero SRD from the Shop. The complete game is available at DriveThruRPG.

About DoubleZero

DoubleZeroDoubleZero action thriller roleplaying is a percentile based, skill-driven modern action thriller tabletop game. Keep players on the edge of their seats with dramatic gunfights, thrilling chases, and nefarious death traps. Be anything from a secret agent to a world-weary cop, a hard-boiled private eye to a petty criminal, a trained assassins to a victim on the run. Adversaries range from corporate sociopaths to organized crime rings, political terrorists to serial killers. Possible adventures span forensic investigations, solving cozy whodunits, foiling acts of international espionage, and uncovering vast conspiracies. Protect deadly secrets, handle ransom demands, or plan clever heists and cunning revenge plots. All manner of suspense and intrigue are possible with DoubleZero.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes creative aids and story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

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