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[Hippogryph] System Summary and Core Mechanic

System Summary and Core Mechanic

The following is an abridged excerpt from the Hippogryph Codex on the system summary and core mechanic. References to page ## will of course direct you to actual page numbers in the completed book. 

Tabletop roleplaying is ephemeral. The action exists in the moment of play, and then is gone. It’s not a movie, it’s live theater. It’s about the journey, and those fleeting and spontaneous moments that occur along the way. This book isn’t the game. The game is what happens in real time, around the table.

That’s why Hippogryph is referred to as a system. It’s a methodology, a way of doing things. These aren’t rules, to be strictly enforced. What you’re reading are guidelines to be applied when you need help determine the outcomes of actions. These are tools that can be used to create things that you need and want for the worlds you’re building, adventures you’re unfolding, and the characters you’re playing.

You control the actions of the character you have created. This is the means by which you contribute to the story that you, the other players, and the guide are all telling together. The guide will narrate the world and the actions of supporting characters, and the other players will narrate their individual player characters’ actions.

To act, follow the principle of story first: say what your character is trying to do, then figure out how you’ll do that using the system. Your character’s elements inform what they can attempt, and create the context for interpreting the results. Even without a specific ability that says whether you can or cannot do something, you are always allowed to try. When in doubt, check with your guide and the other players at table.

Determining Success

How do you know if you’re successful? Many times your character will automatically succeed. If the action isn’t hard, nobody’s trying to stop you, and there’s no need to determine a specific degree of success, the guide may declare that the action succeeds. In difficult or unpredictable situations, you will need break out the dice to determine what happens.

When deciding whether or not an action requires a roll, consider the following questions:

  • What’s stopping this action from happening? Are there inherent difficulties present in the task itself, obstacles making the action more harder than usual, or distractions interfering with your concentration?
  • What could possibly go wrong in attempting this action? If you fail can you simply try again, or could something be broken, a resource be wasted, or a person get injured?
  • What interesting things could happen if the action goes wrong? Beyond failure of the action itself, what might (or might not) happen if you fail? Will it affect other actions, other characters, or the arc of the story?

Core Mechanic Summary

Whenever you take an action, follow these steps:

  1. Think Story First: Describe what you’re trying to do.
  2. Determine the Type of Action: Choose from attack, create an advantage, defend, and overcome.
  3. Select Abilities to Use: This includes appropriate combinations of attributes, skills, and features.
  4. Roll a d20: Roll a 20-sided die and see what number comes up.
  5. Add Modifiers: This includes abilities, conditional modifiers, and bonuses from invoking elements. Add them to the die roll result.
  6. Determine the Outcome: Based on the total of roll and modifiers, see if you fail, tie, succeed, or achieve a critical success.
  7. Describe the Action: Narrate the outcome in the context of the scene and the characters involved.

Examples of the Core Mechanic

  • Michaela wants to fight an orc using a sword. This is an attack action, using her +1 Strength attribute and her +2 Fight skill. She rolls a d20 and gets a 7. The total of the modified roll is 10. The orc needs to make a defend action against a difficulty of 10.
  • Bandile is trying to crack the code on a map, so they can figure out where the treasure is buried. This a create an advantage action, using their +3 Intelligence attribute and +1 Language (Decipher Script) skill. The guide decides the difficulty is 15 (Tough). Bandile rolls a 14, for a total of 18. The code is cracked, and they can now invoke a bonus to decipher other text that uses this same code.
  • Greta uses her Craft (Cobbling) skill to make a new pair of boots. This is an overcome action, where the guide has set the difficulty at 5 (Easy). Her +1 Wisdom attribute and +2 Craft (Cobbling) skill are appropriate here. She rolls a d20 and get a 3. Adding modifiers, the total is 6, and successfully creates new boots.

About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.