hippogryph system

[Hippogryph] Types of Actions

Types of Actions

The following is an abridged excerpt from the Hippogryph Codex on the types of actions that can be performed by characters. References to page ## will of course direct you to actual page numbers in the completed book. 

There are four type of actions you can take, each with a specific purpose and a unique effect on the story:

  • Attack actions carry the intent to do harm to an opponent, including melee combat, the use of ranged weapons, and unarmed fights.
  • Create an Advantage actions allow you to change a situation to your benefit, creating new elements or adding invokes to existing ones.
  • Defend actions oppose another character’s effort to perform an attack, create an advantage, or overcome action.
  • Overcome actions allow you to surmount obstacles with your skills by beating an assigned difficulty assigned by the guide.


Whether you’re looking to kill a monster, or knock out a guard, the attack action is how you try to take out an opponent. An attack can be a strike from a sword, firing a bow, throwing a solid punch, or casting a spell that deals damage to the target.

Determine whether the attack even has a chance of being successful before you start rolling the dice. A number of powerful creatures may have specific weaknesses that need to be exploited. Opponents may have some means of defense you must get through before you can begin to hurt them.

Outcomes when attacking are:

  • Fail: You roll lower than your opponent and the attack fails to connect. It may be parried, dodged, or absorbed by the target’s armor.
  • Tie: Your attack roll and you opponent’s defend roll are equal. You either fail, or choose to have a success at a minor cost (page ##).
  • Succeed: Your attack is greater than your opponent’s defend roll, inflicting stress or complications (page ##).
  • Critical Success: Your attack succeeds unless the opponent rolls a natural 20 to defend, in which case this is treated as a tie. You can immediately create an advantage connected to the attack, or receive a hero point that you can spend later in the adventure.

Examples of Attack Actions

  • Maja wants to shoot a giant with her crossbow. She rolls a d20 and adds her +1 Dexterity attribute and +1 Shoot (Crossbow) skill. The total is 17. The giant makes a defend check and scores less than 17, so Maja’s attack succeeds.
  • Hilarion is tired of the loudmouth in the tavern and wants to punch him. He rolls a natural 20, so he doesn’t even need to add in Strength or his Fight (Unarmed) skill. He gets a critical success, and decides to turn it into an advantage for the next punch he throws at the same opponent.
  • Epaphras has somehow gotten into a duel with a local Duke. They need to hit the opponent with a sword in order to end this. Rolling a d20, and adding +2 Strength and +1 Fight (Martial Weapons), they end up with a total of 6. The Duke rolls higher to defend, and the attack fails.

Create an Advantage

You have two options with this type of action.

First, you can create an advantage using an existing element. An existing element can be invoked or compelled by spending a hero point. This is different from a normal invoke, because you are using some ability to sway the situation to your advantage. Creating an advantage gives you one or more free invokes. A free invoke, as the name suggests, lets you invoke the created element without spending a hero point. You can even let your allies use the free invokes you have created.

Second, you can create a new element. You need to specify if you are attaching the element to an ally, opponent, or the environment If you’re attaching it to an opponent, they can take a defend action to oppose you. Otherwise you’ll face a difficulty.

Outcomes with an existing element:

  • Fail: You either do not create an advantage, or you succeed at a major cost (page ##). Depending on the advantage gained it might not be worth it, but it could create an interesting story point.
  • Tie: You either fail, or succeed at a minor cost (page ##) Again, depending on the circumstances it might not be worth the cost, or it could create an interesting story point.
  • Succeed: You create an advantage and gain a free invoke on the element. This can be used immediately by you or any of your allies. Apply the principles of fiction first when describing the advantage.
  • Critical Success: You create an advantage and gain two free invokes on the element. These can be used immediately by you or any of your allies. Take the fiction first approach when describing the advantage.

Outcomes when creating a new element:

  • Fail: You either don’t create the new element, or you succeed at a major cost (page ##). This may still be worth it because elements are always true and the new element may be beneficial in the long term.
  • Tie: You either don’t create the element, or you succeed at minor cost (page ##) and your opponent gets the free invoke. This may still be worth it because elements are true.
  • Succeed: You create a situation element. This comes with one free invoke on it that you can use immediately. Remember to apply the principles of fiction first when describing the new element.
  • Critical Success: You create a situation element, but with two free invokes on it. These can both be used by you (but not at the same time) or one or both can be used by your allies.

Examples of Creating an Advantage

  • After the group comes across a library filled with books (existing element), Chinwe decides to create an advantage to see if they hold a clue to the hidden treasure’s location. The guide decides the difficulty in 15 (Tough). Chinwe rolls a d20 and adds his +2 Intelligence and +2 Investigate skill, and gets a total of 15. A tie. He decided to succeed at a minor cost. The guide declares that the book containing the information was trapped, so Chinwe takes physical stress.
  • Rhonda decides to bar the door so that the monsters will have a harder time getting in. She creates a new element by pushing the furniture in front of the closed door. The guide decides that moving furniture has a difficulty of 0 (Very Easy) and just gives her the free invoke. Rhonda decides that she’ll use it for a bonus to smack anything that begins to force its way in. The guide agrees to this, so Rhonda will get a +2 to attack whatever attempts to get through the barricade.


Defend is the only reactive action in the Hippogryph System. You use it to stop something from happening outside your normal turn. Often you’re facing an opposing roll rather than a set difficulty. Your enemy rolls, and you immediately roll to defend, so long as you’re the target or can justify your opposition. Elements or features may provide the justification you need, but always think fiction first.

Outcomes when defending:

  • Fail: Against an attack, you take a hit and must absorb with stress or complications. Your opponent succeeds as described for other actions.
  • Tie: The results of a tie while defending depends upon the action that is being opposed. Proceed according to the tie result for that action.
  • Succeed: You deny the opposing action. The attack fails, the advantage is not created, and the difficulty was not overcome.
  • Critical Success: Your defense succeeds unless the opponent rolled a natural 20, in which case this is treated as a tie.

Examples of Defend Actions

  • Nando is on the receiving end of a swinging axe. His opponent has already rolled a 14 on the attack roll. Nando rolls a d20 and adds his +1 Dexterity and +1 Fight (Simple Weapon) in an attempt to parry. His total is 15, so he succeeds and takes no stress.
  • Lysander is trying to throw the bloodhound tracking them off the scent. The dog is attempting to create an advantage, and rolled a total of 12 to locate them. Lysander dumps hot pepper sauce on the ground, rolling a d20 and adding +1 Wisdom and +2 Animal Handling for a total of 12. As a tie, the hound’s player (in this case, the guide) can decide whether this fails or succeeds at a minor cost. The guide decides that in this instance, creating an advantage fails and the hound cannot pick up Lysander’s scent.
  • Jam sees that an enemy mage is trying to cast a spell in the middle of combat. Knowing that an overcome action is required to maintain the proper concentration, Jam wants to defend to keep that from happening. She begins banging pots and pans together to make more noise. The wizard’s concentration roll totaled 8. The guide decides that Constitution (for vigorously smacking cookware) and Rapport are appropriate for Jam’s roll. She gets a 14 total, and the mage is unable to focus enough to cast the spell.


An overcome action is used any time you want to use an attribute or skill but some factor makes it challenging. If the character’s action faces a fixed obstacle rather than a clear opponent, they need to roll and overcome a static difficulty rating.

The guide may or may not reveal what the difficulty rating is. That’s their prerogative. You could be told to roll better than a 10, or simply be asked to roll and told the outcome of your attempt.

Difficulty Rating

0 Very Easy: You don’t even have to roll.
5 Easy: The odds of failing are slim.
10 Average: Better than 50/50 odds of success with modifiers.
15 Tough: Looking like less than 50/50 but still doable.
20 Challenging: Attainable, with a good roll and the right abilities.
25 Formidable: It might be possible if you roll really well.
30 Improbable: This is an extreme long shot.

Your outcomes when overcoming are:

  • Fail: You do not succeed. Common sense and the guide will determine whether or not you can elect to succeed at a major cost (page ##) instead. Do what fits best with the ability and what you seek to accomplish.
  • Tie: A roll equal to the difficulty rating is a tie. You can choose to succeed at a minor cost (page ##), if you feel what you’re trying to accomplish is worth it.
  • Succeed: You achieve whatever it is you were trying to do, and the story moves on without any hiccups. This is pretty straightforward, but you can still put fiction first and describe it as more impressive than it is.
  • Critical Success: The action succeeds regardless of what the difficulty rating was. It rarely hurts to try. You can choose between creating an advantage that can be used immediately, or gaining a hero point.

Examples of Overcome Actions

  • Modred wants to search the room for clues. The guide does not disclose the difficulty rating, but asks Modred to roll a d20 and add Wisdom and Investigate. The total is 13. The guide states that this is a success, and begins to narrate what has been found.
  • Blaguna would like to cook a meal for her friend. She doesn’t have all of the right ingredients, but thinks she can improvise with what she has. The guide decides that with the correct materials this would be average (difficulty 10), but without them it moves up to 15 (Tough). Blaguna rolls a d20 and adds Wisdom and Craft (Cooking) for a total of 15, It’s a tie. She decides to take success at a minor cost. The guide declares that the meal is perfectly prepared, but Blaguna takes some mental stress for the effort.
  • Arevig wants to shoot an arrow into a stationary target. The guide states that this is a difficulty 10 (Average). Arevig rolls a d20 and adds Dexterity and Shoot (Bow) but only gets a total of 9. It’s not worth success at a major cost, so the action fails and the arrow misses its intended target.

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.