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Designer Diary - Welcome to the Sticks


Game Master
When we care about someone, we want to share their enthusiasm. Say encouraging things like "you're the best singer I've ever heard" or "no, you look good in that dress." But to get valuable feedback to improve and grow, we need honest, an unbiased critique.

Hello everyone! My name is Keaggan, and I'm starting this Design Diary to catalog the progress of my first "for public use" RPG, Welcome to the Stick. It's for public use only in that I plan on putting it out as a free RPG on RPG Now. You see, I've been GMing since I first was introduced to RPGs back in 7th grade. For the past 25 years, like most here, I've played numerous games from a wide variety of settings. And all along the way like many here, I've tweaked rules in every system. After breaking several game systems since it seems I'm never satisfied, maybe I should stop taking other games and shaping them to my own will and just create one that fills all of my needs and style.

That's about as long-winded I want to get before dropping the first part of the game here for discussion. The format I want to use is first the set up of basic rules and introduction to character creation. Since characters are the primary way we interact with the game world and the mechanics, I feel it is a great place to start. After that, regularly, I'll post other sections of the system in greater detail. I'll update the OP with links to the updated section if you want to jump to a new topic.

What I'm looking for from you is feedback and critique of any and all parts of the game.

Thank you for your time :)


Designer Diary Format:
  1. Post new topics on a frequent schedule
  2. Engage in a discussion of each section
  3. Answer all questions as completely as possible
  4. Examine the blind spots pointed out
  5. Iterate the game mechanics as needed
  6. Show appreciation for the reader's time!
Setting & Basic Rules
Character Creation

"Is that a settlement or another mirage? If it's people, what will they be like this time? At this point, it won't matter. Water is running low...only a few bullets left...no food...taking a chance either way." - Jamenson Haller


Welcomes to the Sticks is a gritty post-apocalypse setting where you play flawed people. Not superheroes and maybe not even heroes. Just people. People in a world of desperation, struggling to survive one more day. Marauders, raiders, murders, thieves, liars, betrayers – these are the common names of the denizens that prey on the weak or unfortunate. Against such dire odds, the players would soon be overwhelmed and crushed. But they each get an advantage. Something that would elevate their position to impact the world for the better...or worse. They have access to preternatural abilities that allow them to stand center stage in the wasteland. But like all things in the Sticks, it has a cost. Nothing is for free in a world of scarcity.


Welcome to the Sticks uses the Threshold System to emulate the harsh setting with brutal consequences. This is handled with several skills and attributes modified by the relevant circumstances in any situation. The system is designed to approximate many of the ordinary things we experience daily. Though the setting is different than the one we live in now, it is grounded in familiar logic. Any problem can't be solved by the application of a fist to the right guy's face. Likewise, shooting a "red barrel" won't make it explode. Nor are you protected by plot armor.

Moreover, treating the world as an action hero can get you maimed or even killed. No matter how skilled you are, no matter how great your martial prowess is, a single bullet can kill you instantly. Healing from a broken bone takes weeks to heal. Traumatic experiences can leave your character psychologically scarred.

Taking all of that and emulating it through the use of game mechanics, the Threshold System has a straightforward formula. The basics of every roll are:
  • 2d6 + Skill + Attribute.

Every Skill can be combed with multiple Attributes depending on the situation. There is flexibility within the system to fit all circumstances. Shooting your gun uses Dexterity. But if you want to know how far away a gunshot is standing in a forest or what kind of weapon was used, you would use Perception. However, each Skill will have a primary Attribute that will be called on most of the time.

The following sections will deal with all of the various circumstances that shape and adjust this basic mechanic. Some create additional layers of detail or go into more depth of how the rules will impact the game and how the fiction logically dictates the outcomes.

Character Generation

Your character in Welcome to the Sticks isn't an avatar you pilot through a fantasy world to gather loot. You are a real person; with fears and desires, weaknesses are talents. To magnify these traits you are given fantastic abilities that you may not be a custom to or even want. The setting compounds these internal struggles with a harsh and brutal world that you inhabit. So, while you generate your character with hard numbers the goal should always be to develop a deep and interesting character for yourself to play and other PCs to interact with. With that in mind let's look into each step of the character generation process.

There are several areas and aspects that make up the totality that is human. You will lay the foundation then build upon it as we go through each one. They are:
  • Attributes – Which represent the core of a person. These can be honed but typically don't change much throughout a campaign. There are 9 Attributes; Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Perception, Resolve, Presence, Charm, & Composure.
  • Pools & Thresholds – You have 3 pools that represent the 3 major facets of a person; Health, Strain, and Stress. While pools are the overall total physical, mental-emotional harm we can take, Thresholds are the line that dictates the severity of harm.
  • Skills – These are the things that show what areas of study you are exceptional in and which ones you struggle with. Think of them as skill groups that are organized into several similar types of tasks.
  • Specialties – Skills can be customized with Specialties making every character more distinct and closer to what you had envisioned. They allow you to excel in more specific areas within Skills.
  • Perk – This is the defining bonus that is exclusive to you. No two players may have the same Perk.
  • Flaws – These typify the weakness that ground you. Adding depth to your character by representing the trials you face daily.
  • Defenses – You have two types of defense; close and range. They are the target numbers others but roll to hit you with an attack
  • Initiative – How quickly you adapt and react during intense situations; determining when you can take an action during combat.
  • Capacity – This represents how much you can carry while still remaining unencumbered. It is an amalgam of size and/or weight.

Attribute Points

Every player character has three Attribute groups; Physical, Mental & Social. Each of those attribute groups has three associated attributes ranging from 2 to 12. Strength, Dexterity & Endurance belong to Physical, Intelligence, Perception & Resolve belong to Mental, finally, Presence, Charm & Composure belong to Social.

The first thing you do is assign 8, 5, & 3 each to a single group. Each Attribute in that group will have the given number as their base value. For example, you could give Physical 5, Mental 8, and Social 3. Which would give Strength, Dexterity, & Endurance a base stat of 5 while Intelligence, Perception & Resolve would have an 8 base stat and Presence, Charm & Composure 3.

From there you distribute 8 additional points to EACH group. [If There Is No Campaign Advancement: Each group gets 10 points instead of 8 to spend.] Physical gets their own 8 points to distribute to Strength, Dexterity, and Endurance. Mental gets their own 8 points to distribute to Intelligence, Charm, and Resolve. Social gets its own 8 points to distribute to Presence, Charm, and Composure. (XXX).

Attribute Groups
  • Physical:
    • Strength – Raw physical strength. Used to calculate your Capacity & Health Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Heavy Weapons, Melee, Unarmed, Industrial, Smithing, & Athletics.
    • Dexterity – Speed and ease of movement, covering both full-body movement (i.e. gymnastics) and hand-eye coordination. Used to determine your Initiative & Health Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Gunnery, Melee, Small Arms, Unarmed, Weaponry, Arts, Builder, Tinkering, Medicine, Athletics, & Stealth.
    • Endurance – Physical hardiness, including resistance to disease and physical trauma, and how fast you can recover. Use this to resist physical effects like losing consciousness when hitting 0 Health. Most influential Attribute in calculating your Health pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Survival, Athletics & Biokinesis.
  • Mental:
    • Intelligence – A measure of memory and raw brainpower. Used to calculate your Strain Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Builder, Domestics, Industrial, First Aid, Medicine, Science, Security, Persuade & Telepathy.
    • Perception – General awareness; your ability to notice things, to perceive the world around you, through all your senses. Used to calculate your Initiative score and Strain Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Heavy Weapons, Security, Survival, Boating, Driving, Piloting & ESP.
    • Resolve – Mental determination and will power. Use this to resist the effects of internal strife. Most influential Attribute in calculating your Strain Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Psychoportation.
  • Social:
    • Presence – The projection of a person's force of will. Gregarious. Terrifying. Used to calculate your Stress Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Authority.
    • Charm Subtle influence with guile. Manipulative. Alluring. Used to calculate your Stress Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Empathy, Gambling, Persuade, Wheel & Deal.
    • Composure – The state or feeling of being calm and in control of one's emotional state. Use this to resist external turmoil like extreme interrogations or when if something serious happens to a close companion. Most influential Attribute in calculating your Stress Pool. It is a Primary Attribute for Telekinesis.
Pools & Threshold

To calculate your Health, Strain, and Stress pools as well as the Threshold for each you must first find your Resist scores; Endurance, Resolve, Composure. Then add your modifiers from the other two attributes in the Attribute group; Strength & Dexterity for Health, Intelligence & Perception for Strain, Presence & Charm for Stress.

Example 1: You take your Endurance score 9 (mod +1) and add the modifiers from Strength 12 (mod +3) & Dexterity 6 (mod 0). Health Pool would be 13. Endurance score 9 Strength mod +3 Dexterity mod 0 = 13 Health. (9+3+0=13)

Example 2: You have a Resolve score of 10 (mod +1) Intelligence score of 9 (mod +1) & Perception of 3 (-2). Totally them all together Resolve 10 Intelligence +1 Perception 2 = 9 Strain. (10+1-2=9)

Each pool (Health, Strain & Stress) has a Threshold that determines if a wound is grievous or not. Take your total Health/Strain/Stress and divide it half, rounding up. Details on how damage and recovery effects these pools can be found on XXX.

Skill Points

Each character starts by first choosing 8 skills from the master list (XXX) and give them a Novice rank of 0. That may not seem like much of a bonus but every other skill you are not a Novice is considered Untrained with -3. Being this unskilled in something has consequences that can be just as difficult as it is in our daily lives. Though you still get your Attribute modifiers while rolling an unskilled attempt. Skill ranks are; Untrained -3, Novice 0, Journeyman +1, Expert +2, Master +4.

After this, you may now add 15 skill points to the skills you have selected with a max of 4 to any one skill. Not every skill needs to have skill points added to them. This would allow you to become highly skilled in a few skills maxing them out at 4 while still making a well-rounded person. [If No Campaign Advancement: Start with 10 skills instead of 8]


Next, we have Specialties, this is where you personalize your skills. You start with 6 Specialties. The max number of Specialties can not exceed your bonus for that Skill. If you have an Expert rank with a +2 you may have up to 2 Specialties for that Skill. This would mean that you can't have any Specialties for Novice rank since it has a bonus of 0. [If No Campaign Advancement: Start with 8 specialties instead of 6]

You cannot have more than one of the same Specialty for the same Skill. You can choose Proficient twice but it must be in two different Skills. The only exception is from a Perk.

When you pick a Specialty you will need to define when it applies. (Example: you choose to add Proficient for your Small Arms skill group. Deciding it applies to shotguns.) Now when you use a shotgun you would roll 3d6 instead of the normal 2d6. However, this does not carry over to ALL weapons that belong to Small Arms. Shooting a handgun or SMG will still use the normal 2d6. Go to Specialties under Character Advancement (XXX) to reference how to add multiple ones to the same skill as well as examples for each Specialty.


All characters have two defenses; Close and Range. All types of physical attacks fall into one of these two types. To calculate your Close Defense score add your Unarmed & Melee skill ranks plus your Perception & Dexterity modifiers. For Range Defense, you add the highest two from Small Arms, Heavy Weapons & Weaponry plus your Perception & Dexterity modifiers. Once you have your totals check the chart for what your defense scores will be.

TOTAL-4 or Less -3 to -10 to +2+3 to +5+6 to +8+9 to +11+12 or Above

Your Defense Score is the target number others have to get to score a hit. You always get your defense as long as you are fully ready for the attacker. There are particular instances when your Defense score is reduced such as with multiple attackers, being blindsided, or from certain combat actions. Refer to Combat (p.XXX) on when these occur.


Everyone has a static Initiative which is equal to your Dexterity score and Perception modifier plus your two highest combat skills. This is your ability to act quickly when crap hits the fan. Or when all parties want to take an action at the same time. There is no rolling for Initiative unless there is a tie. Initiative doesn't come into play if someone already has their gun drawn and pointed at you. If they decide to pull the trigger Initiative starts AFTER that action. Initiative is how fast everyone reacts to the aggressive act. For greater details on when Initiative is used and how it works refer to Combat (XXX)


Items have a size that is an amalgam of size and weight. Both of those impact how much you can carry before you are encumbered. An object like a teddy bear as big as a human is as unwieldy as an anvil. One is extremely large requiring your whole body to hold and the other very heavy demanding your full body's attention. XXX has lists of weapons and items with further details on it. Your capacity is equal to your Strength Score.


Each character in your group gets one Perk. This is something unique to them alone. No two players may choose to have the same Perk. Each one will give you a specific advantage that is personal to you and you alone. For the complete list go to XXX.


Nobody is perfect and we all struggle with something. Attributes give us the overall story of how good we are in physical, mental, and social situations but flaws make us stand out. They detail our unique challenges, our personal struggles while adding depth of character. Every time your Flaw is applicable you revive a -2 to your roll. There are some exceptions to this so read the details carefully. When choosing your Flaws there is a max Attribute you can have. In addition, you always ignore all POSITIVE modifiers when the Flaw is triggered. They also can not relate to a Perk. The complete list of Flaws is found on XXX.

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Game Master
Meat and potatoes. It's nothing to write home about, nor is it ever glamorous. But it does get the job done, and everyone leaves satisfied. The heart of a skill-based system is just the same. Skills are the engine that all other parts are built around or upon. We are going to take a closer look at them. It won't be just a list but how they shape the game. Which aspects are emphasized and which are amalgamized.

Critique and feedback are strongly encouraged.

Thanks again for reading,


"This is what we do. We make tea and read books and watch people die." - Megan Crewe


The Threshold System utilizes "skill groups," which can be customized by each player. They are not broken up into individual tasks but instead arranged in a way that players could perform several related tasks using a single stat. For example, if you are skilled in Small Arms, then any time you use a handgun, SMG, or other similar types of weapons, you will use this Skill. However, each skill group can have several valuable specialties that the players themselves will make. The rules are outlined below in the How do you make Specialties? (P.XXX) section.

Below you will find the list of skill groups organized into five categories to make it easier to search for the ones you want, thus assisting you in building the character you want to play. You can select skills from any category. After the name of each Skill in brackets is an Attribute. That will be the primary stat used for the Skill more than 50% of the time though others will be used depending on the situation. The Primary Attribute is listed to assist in building effective characters without the need for system mastery. Rule of thumb: Most skills use most attributes.

Expertise. Each category of Combat, Crafting, Knowledge, Physical & Social has a small advantage you can gain by being well versed in several skills within one category. Once you become an Expert (+2) in 3 or more skill groups within the same category, you gain the Expertise. This addition is to show that you have spent considerable time honing your skills and gaining a unique understanding of the associated disciplines. The Expertise will be listed at the beginning of each skill category along with the description. This tempered ability is not as strong as Perks since anyone can acquire it. They also tend to be very situational, relating to the field of study.

Lastly, at the end of each skill description is a list of Specialty examples. This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible specialties you can have. They are placed there to give players a starting point when developing their own specialties. You can choose from the list but are strongly encouraged to think of your own. Primarily to customize your character the way you envision them to be.


  • Combat: These relate to doing harm to others and contribute to your defense scores. The wasteland is a dangerous place where running from violence isn't always an option. If ever someone is using a knife, gun, board with a nail it, or even their fists, these skills will be used.
  • Crafting: Whether resources are abundant or scarce, if you want to repair something broken or create something from scratch, these are the skills you will need. Valuable skills to have since people will always need someone to fix an engine, construct fortifications, and modify a weapon.
  • Knowledge: Skills found here are mainly cerebral in nature. The "thinking man's" skills some would call them. When you want a greater understanding of both the physical and natural world around us that can help you survive in the wilderness, heal others, or perform lab experiments, then pick skills from here.
  • Physical: If you are born with innate body control, these skills will put them to full use. Choose skills from here to highlight your incredible physical prowess.
  • Social: Do you have the gift of gab? Do you always know just what to say? Are you good at reading the room? Is your personality a force of will? Do you talk your way into or out of any situation? Picking skills from this category will help you keep succeeding then.


Increasing any skill will have an associated XP cost. If your campaign has XP given out during sessions or in periodic lump sums, use this chart to buy new skills or increase existing ones. This chart is to be used ONLY during the campaign. DO NOT use this during character creation. There are separate rules when creating a new character.


"There is only one law out here in the Sticks…kill or be killed." - Hancock

When you possess any of these skills, you gain the knowledge to handle associated weapons safely and provide basic maintenance. You do not get the ability to add significant modifications beyond any premade attachments.

Expertise – Combat Reflexes. After you have an Expert Rank (+2) in three or more Combat Skills you gain Combat Reflexes. Combat Reflexes allows you to never freeze in a combat situation thus you don't need to roll Resolve vs TN to take an action after a sudden and startling violent action occurred.

Gunnery [Perception]
This Skill helps you in the use of heavy vehicle-mounted weapons or fixed guns, whether on aircraft or ground vehicles or on an installation. (Specialty Examples: Rockets, Mounted Guns, Cannons)

Heavy Weapons [Strength/Perception]
You've been trained to be effective with military-grade guns and assault-type weapons. (Specialty Examples: Assault, RPGs, Rifles, Flamers)

Melee [Dexterity/Strength]
This covers the ability to effectively use all manner of handheld blunted or edge weapons. (Specialty Examples: Knives, Staff, Axe, Sword, Club, Whips)

Small Arms [Dexterity]
Use of personal defense non-military types of guns. (Specialty Examples: Shotgun, Handgun, SMG, Cross Bow)

Unarmed [Dexterity/Strength]
Fighting in all forms is messy and chaotic. When you have just yourself to rely on being skilled in weaponless combat techniques can be the difference between life and death...or maybe just a broken bone or two. (Specialty Examples: Striking, Grappling, Group)

Weaponry [Dexterity]
Considered primitive to some these muscle-powered range weapons can be extremely lethal in the right hands. They are also typically very silent. (Specialty Examples: Bow, Throwing knives, Javelin, Sling)


"The only legacies we leave behind are the ones we make." - Daniels

Gaining any of these Skill lets you understand what materials you will need to complete a project along with the right tool for the right job. These skills do let you invent a new piece of hardware but do let you modify or enhance them.

Expertise – Handyman. After you have an Expert Rank (+2) in three or more Crafting Skills you gain Handyman. Handyman gives you an intrinsic understanding of how things are put together and work. You now roll at a 0 for all untrained Crafting Skills. This doesn't mean you bought the Skill. If you want to raise it you will need to pay for the Novice Rank first then the Journeyman Rank.

Arts [Charm/Dexterity]
Life may be harsh but some things make it worth living and fighting for. You have been trained or are naturally gifted in creating works that stir human emotions. (Specialty Examples: Dancing, Music, Sculpting, Painting, Poetry)

Builder [Intelligence/Dexterity]
The ability to build with things from the earth itself such as stone, wood, clay, or sand. (Specialties Examples: Carpentry, Masonry, Glassware, Pottery)

Domestics [Intelligence]
Considered the least glamorous of the craft skills, this often overlooked but the vital Skill of maintaining a home inside and out is an essential part of thriving in this uncertain world. (Specialty Examples: Sewing, Ranching, Farming, Cooking)

Industrial [Intelligence/Strength]
You are skilled in working on mechanical and electrical wares. You are just as at home elbows deep in repairing complex machinery as you are putting elaborate electronics together. (Specialty Examples: Cars, Radios, Power Tools, Energy Systems)

Smithing [Strength]
The fabricating of goods or equipment using metal. An understanding of welding and the use of forges is common for people with this Skill. (Specialty Examples: Armor, Tools, Weapons, Machine Parts)

Tinkering [Dexterity]
Small precise tools and a steady hand are needed when working on things that require a delicate touch. (Specialty Examples: Jewelry, Clockworks, Utensils, Weapons, Traps/Locks)


"To be more than the animals that just exist, we must understand the why and how of the world." - Roslyn Douglas

These skills let you perform very specialized tasks. They do not on the other hand let you, manufacturer, the tools to do so.

Expertise – Intellectual. After you have an Expert Rank (+2) in three or more Knowledge Skills you gain Intellectual. Intellectual lets you give a +1 to any single Skill no matter the category it belongs to. The Skill must have Intelligence as it's primary Attribute.

First Aid [Intelligence]
As the name implies this is the first stage of patient care. Use this Skill to help recover a person's Health or to halt a person's descent towards death. with a variety of specialized tools and equipment. Roll skill vs 8 to help the target regain Health. When trying to stabilize someone (because they are at 0 HP or below) you roll Skill vs 10. (Specialty Examples: Diagnose, Stabilize, Recovery, Animal Care)

Medicine [Intelligence/Dexterity]
Living beings are extremely complex and fragile. This Skill is used to reduce the effects and duration of wounds others may suffer. This Skill also gives you an understanding of pharmaceuticals whether they are healthful or addictive. However, working on someone can be disastrous if you don't have the right tools or understanding. Even with this Skill whenever you try to "fix" an animal or human lasting damage can persist. (Specialty Examples: Surgery Basic, Surgery Advance, Pharmacy, Veterinary)

Science [Intelligence]
The character is a trained scientist and capable of operating laboratory equipment, conducting research, and developing new technology. This Skill covers all conventional scientific applications, but actually building or repairing objects requires the Crafting skills. (Specialty Examples: Biology, Chemistry, Engineer)

Security [Perception/Intelligence]
This gives you the know-how to secure a person, place or thing. This can be accomplished through the use of traps, locks, guards, hidden areas, and misdirection. You not only know how to set these up but also know how to bypass them. (Specialty Examples: Safes, Traps, Locks, Searching)

Survival [Endurance/Perception]
The character is trained in survival techniques for subsisting in hostile environments with minimal supplies. This is used for finding what you need in harsh conditions. (Specialty Examples: Tracking, Hunting, Foraging, Traversing, Bush Craft)


"Train your body." - Bobby Wilks

These skills give you a deeper understanding of how to use body control and spatial awareness to your advantage when interacting with the physical world around you; navigating the terrain better whether it's on the ground in the air or water.

Expertise – Fearless. After you have an Expert Rank (+2) in three or more Physical Skills you gain Fearless. Fearless gives you a +1 whenever you "leap before you look." This could mean driving in the fog, traversing a moonless forest at night, or jumping through a window when you don't know how high you are or what kind of ground there is below.

Athletics [Strength, Dexterity, Endurance]
Feats of body control, endurance, acrobatics, or other types of similar activities fall under this Skill. (Specialty Examples: Parkour, Diving/Swimming, Climbing, Sports, Gymnastics)

Boating [Perception]
You know how to operate and control an assortment of water crafts in rivers, lakes, or seas. (Specialty Examples: Sail, Paddle, Speed, Barge)

Driving [Perception]
It doesn't matter if it has 2 tires, 4 tires, treads, or even hooves, big or small you can drive it. (Specialty Examples: Motor Cycle, Trucks, Animal Riding)

Piloting [Perception]
This is a rare but invaluable skill to have. While finding something that can fly is uncommon, trying to operate one without this Skill could be lethal. (Specialty Examples: Single Engine, Passenger Plane, Rotary, Blimp)

Stealth [Dexterity]
The character knows how to move silently, conceal their presence in shadows, and avoid notice. (Specialty Examples: Forest, Urban, Slight of Hand)


"Everyone likes a good story. What's yours?" - Mark Thomas

Training in these skills assists you in traversing the social landscape regarding interpersonal, relationships, gaining insight into an other's psyche and working within group dynamics. Possessing any of these skills helps you navigate the complex world of human interactions both subtle and overt.

Expertise – Savvy. After you have an Expert Rank (+2) in three or more Social Skills you gain Savvy. Savvy assists you in navigating more effectively during the first encounter. During your FIRST interaction with anyone, you gain a +1 to your roll.

Authority [Presence]
A character with this Skill knows how to motivate others to action whether they think it is in their best interest or not. (Specialty Examples: Intimidation, Interrogation, Command, Torture, Teaching)

Empathy [Charm]
You understand the emotions of others and can sympathize with, feign sympathy for, or play on such emotions. You are an easy hand at discerning motive and might be able to pick up on when someone's lying to you. (Specialty Examples: Befriend, Calming, Insight, Subterfuge)

Gambling [Charm]
The character knows numerous games of chance as well as how to read opponents and has a better than usual odds of winning them. (Specialty Examples: Dice, Cards, Event Wagers)

Persuade [Charm/Intelligence]
The character has a knack for convincing others of the truth and sincerity of their words with subtle logical appeals to their hearts or through force of personality. (Specialty Examples: Seduction, Inspire, Public Speaking, Fast-Talk)

Wheel & Deal [Charm/Presence]
Skilled in the numerous facets that are part of the art of trading. You can assess value quickly and broker amicable deals. (Specialty Examples: Business, Barter, "Grease Palms")


Game Master
We painted with broad strokes filling out the canvas was a swath of different colors and shapes. Now we move in closer to create detail. Specialties go hand in hand with Skill. This isn't a large section but it has some of the most depth due to the sheer wide variety at the player's disposal. I'll put up the next section in a few days since this is a shorter one.

As always your feedback and critique are welcomed.


"I will do as I promised. No matter what, I will not send you into the darkness alone..." - Robert Pierce


Skills represent a number of related tasks showing how good you are in a general way, Specialties let you shine in much more specific areas within a given Skill. Specialties are where you personalize your skills making them truly your own. Two characters with the same skill can feel very different just make modifying them in unique ways. For example, you could have two characters both skilled in Industrial but each could Specialize in different things. One character puts emphasis on cars able to modify and repair them quickly while another could build a radio out of copper wire and & battery. It all depends on what Specialties you choose to make. See below for details.

After your starting Specialties, you can buy new ones if you meet the prerequisite. The cost for each NEW Specialty is 25 xp. Each skill may have an equal number of Specialties as their modifier. If you have a Small Arms skill of 2 then you may have UP TO 2 Specialties for that skill. Thus if you gain Master (Mod 4) you can have four Specialties for that single skill! However, you may never have more than one of each type per skill. If you chose to use Proficient for Shotguns then you may not pick Proficient again for SMGs. The only exception is if you took the Gifted Perk.

How do you make Specialties?

Specialties are a creative endeavor allowing you to personalize your skills more. They are similar to Merits, Advantages, or Feats in other systems except YOU have a part in their creation. This can be a daunting task if you aren't used to but they have been streamlined into a variety of bonuses. Some Specialties may fit one category better than another. Like the rest of character creation, it is good to involve your GM so they can assist you since they will have the final say on Specialty’s application.

When you pick a Specialty you will need to define when it applies within a skill group. Example: you choose to add Proficient to your Small Arms skill group and decide it applies to shotguns. Now when you use a shotgun you would roll 3d6 instead of the normal 2d6 for Small Arms. However, this DOES NOT carry over to all weapons that belong to Small Arms. Shooting a handgun or SMG will still use the normal 2d6. At the same time, you don’t need to overly specify such as describing an exact type of gun. All shotguns whether they are pump, double barrel, semi-auto

While you may never duplicate Specialties in the same skill you can have multiple ones center around the same thing. Example: you have a Master rank (Skill 4) in Small Arms and want to showcase that you aren't just good, you are John Wick with handguns! You have Proficient Handguns (3d6 take top 2), Honed Handguns so when you shoot someone you are more likely to do critical damage, Swiftness Handguns Aim to get your accuracy bonus for free, and MacGyver Handguns so even if you have an inferior or improvised handgun you take no penalties...because you are freaking John Wick.

Specialty List

We all may have been trained the same but it doesn’t mean we can’t be special in our own way.” - Diamondback


Roll 3d6 and keep the top two dice.


Remove up to -2 from the improvised equipment penalty.


Lower critical successes by 1 making them 11, 13, & 15 now.


Gain a single free action such as drawing a weapon and moving quickly or cut the time of a single task in half such as repairing an engine and researching.


Choose a single skill that falls under another skill group in the same category. That skill may be rolled under the main skill rank -1. Say you have Heavy Weapons Master Rank (+4) and Small Arms Journeyman Rank (+1). You can choose SMG (that would fall under the Small Arms skill group but still shares the same combat category) and put it under Heavy Weapons. So now when you use an SMG you roll it at +3 instead of +1 (Heavy Weapons 4 -1 = 3). All other weapons that are Small Arms still roll at Journeyman Rank (+1).


All 1s you roll are now considered 2. Which means you can only roll a minimum of 4 instead of 2. This also means if you roll a 6 & 1 your total is 8 because that 1 is now a 2!


Game Master
Under its scorching heat, the noon sun drains you of vital energy. You are fatigued and wary from your long chase. Those cannibals are hunting you. It's not personal to them; they need to feed there tribe, and they have cornered their prey. With weapons in hand, they move in for the kill. With no more options left, you must turn and face the horror. It's time to fight for your life.

In this part, we will cover how Combat, Damage, and Recovery work. The first part will focus on Combat, diving into what actions you can take, movement, cover, and skill contests. The last section encompasses the types of damage that you can take and how recovery functions. So, let's dive into Combat Rules.

As always, give your feedback and critique.


"Who we are and who we need to be are two very different things." - Carl


Combat is a serious business, and every action can have grave consequences; thus, time is slowed down to a couple of seconds per turn. Most lethal engagements are over in a few rounds; therefore, you typically don't take a lot of actions. Combat is fast and violent, and usually, whoever acts first wins. Most fights can be won BEFORE they ever start. You aren't an action star who can shrug off bullet wounds easily or walk into a room full of people then walk out unscathed. No matter how good you are, no matter how much of a veteran fighter you are, a single lucky shot from a gun or just being outnumbered by far less skilled people will end your day...permanently.

The only sure way to not die in a fight is to never be in one in the first place. But sometimes you have no choice, or you feel it's the best course of action at the time. When that happens, the rules below will help you resolve the process.

Unlike most other tasks in Sticks, the severe nature of combat elicits the necessity of additional rules. The rules aim to emulate the brutal life of the setting and the lasting consequences of your actions. They will take you through the start of combat until the end.

Turn order is typically handled in a logical way. Whoever acts first, goes first. No initiative needed. Whenever two or more parties are fully ready for combat, then Initiative is used. This can mean both sides have their weapons draw or after someone makes the first combative move. Initiative comes into play when multiple people are trying to act at the same time.

Example 1: You are having a stair down as the conversation starts to go south. The person you are talking with an NPC pulls out a knife and tries to stab you. You get your Close Defense because you can see the attack coming. However, even if you had a higher Initiative, the NPC's action still happens first, then you and everyone else get an action based on Initiative.

Example 2: You have your gun pointed at an NPC, you can pull the trigger at will. Then everyone else may take an Action in their Initiative order after your Action is concluded.

Everyone has a static Initiative, which is equal to their Dexterity score + the Perception modifier + your two highest Combat Skills.

Once combat has started, each person, whether they are a PC or an NPC, may take ONE action per round. The Actions you can do are listed here.

  • Aim – Spend one round to gain half of your range combat skill (minimum of +1) to use the next round. You can keep doing this each round till you reach skill max.
  • Blind Attack – When you can't see your target because of darkness, shooting around a corner, or trying to hit a target behind an object roll at a -6. If you hit roll for random location.
  • Defend – Do your utmost to avoid all incoming attacks by taking no other action than defending yourself. Receive a +1 to Defense score or add the same combat skill that is being used to attack you, whichever is higher. You may not attack this round. This is a proactive ability that must be used prior to an incoming attack and lasts until your next turn.
  • Determined Attack – You charge forward toward your target forfeiting your defense score to gain a +1 per 2 defense you lose rounded up. For example, you have a Close Defense score of 7; therefore, you would gain +4 to your attack. 7 divided by 2 = 3.5 rounded up to +4. How much you can gain is decided by what type of attack you are taking. If it is Unarmed or Melee, then used Close if it is Small Arms, Weaponry, or Heavy Weapons use Range. Your Defense score is 0 until your next turn.
  • Grapple –Attempt to grab hold of a person or part of their body. There are three degrees of being grappled—Partial, Advantage & Full. First, follow the Targeted Attack rules. For every success/crit you grapple a region of the body. The different regions are head, torso, left arm, right arm, left leg, and right leg.
    • Partial: If you grappled one region, you have a partial grapple. The target can't use that region and has no movement. The target also has a -2 to their Defense, and you gain a +2 to your next grapple.
    • Advantage: If you grapple two regions, you have Advantage. They take a -3 to all actions other than breaking free. For every success/crit, they get they free a region from your control.
    • Full: If you grapple three or more regions, you have complete control. They can't take any actions other than trying to break free at a -7.
  • Hold Action – Describe the conditions that will trigger your attack. When triggered, interrupt another person's action no matter their Initiative.
  • Sprint – You run as fast as you can up to 50ft on even ground taking a -4 to Defense score. Opening a door, climbing through a window, jumping over something, diving through or behind, sliding, or anything that could pause your momentum ends the Sprint action.
  • Advance/Withdraw – Taking all possible precautions, you can move up to 25ft.
  • Change Position – Going prone, getting up, taking cover, opening a door, climbing over an object, kneeling, etc. Whenever you need to change your position, use this.
  • Lunge – (FREE ACTION) You can attack anyone or interact with anything within 15ft of you or about the size of an average room.
  • Ready Weapon/Item – Drawing a weapon from a holster or pulling out an item from a pocket or outer pouch. If you need to retrieve something from a pack, it will take two rounds.
  • Reload – 1-3 Rounds. The number of rounds needed to reload a weapon is listed on the weapons sheet.
  • Targeted Attack – You can choose to target a specific part of the body. You can choose to target 1) Center Mass, which are the chest, abdomen, shoulders, hips, and upper thighs. 2) Limbs (-2 to hit), which are your arms and legs. 3) Small Parts (-4 to hit / x2 damage), which include your hands, feet, joints, vitals, and head. Look to the Temp Wound part under the Damage section below (XXX) for details on this applies.
  • Second Action – Normally, you can only do one single action in a round during combat. You may choose to try to do two different things in a short time, making both Actions more challenging to accomplish. When attempting to do two Actions in a single round, you receive a -3 to BOTH actions. If either of the actions involves Movement, your Defense score is reduced by -3.
  • Suppression Fire – (Range weapons only). You may not take a second action if you choose this. Cost 3 uses to perform this action. Anyone attempting an Action in the targeted area receives a -4 to all Actions. If their Action fails, they take half damage from your gun and roll for random hit location.
  • Wait & See – Since you had a higher Initiative than others but don't want to take any action just yet, you have the advantage of observing how things are shaking out before committing to an Action. After anyone else's turn, you can claim the next spot in Initiative order at will. If more than one person is using the Wait & See Action and wants to claim the same place, the one with the higher Initiative goes first. This means if two people Wait & See letting three people take an Action, both can then take their Actions before the 4th person has a chance to act.

While not outright combat, sometimes you need to compete using two skills in a contest. There are two types of Contests; Skill vs Skill & Skill vs Resistance. Depending on if your needs social or otherwise, you will use one of the two ways below.

Skill vs Skill – When two people are on equal footing, such as when chasing someone through a Bazaar, they both make a skill roll after declaring their actions. Whichever rolls higher wins and gains the advantage. If you have an advantage, the other party takes a -3 to their next skill contest. The rules for multiple actions and targeting a specific body part still apply. Thus if you previously made an Action before the Skill vs Skill contest, you receive a -3 to your action. The aforementioned also applies if you have already defended yourself.

Skill vs Resistance – Some Skills are used to dominate through power or finesse, like when trying to gain information by interrogation or guile. The initiator rolls their skill, and the target rolls their resist. Unlike Skill vs Skill contests, these can be modified by the circumstances surrounding this contest. Example: You are being interrogated while being chained upside down after have been mistreated for days. Depending on these circumstances, the initiator can gain a +1 to +3. This is at the GM's discretion only.

When guns come out, the best way to not get shot is to position yourself behind something. Taking cover in combat is essential. Not all cover is created equal though so, what is between you and violence is vital. All misses do damage to the object you are hiding behind. Objects have an Armor Rating that soaks damage. If any damage is left over, it goes through the object and hits the target. While behind cover people trying to attack, you take a negative to their attack roll. The three types of cover are:

Minimal – When less than half your body is covered, all attacks take a -2 to the attack. Examples could be small trees, doorways, or other things that obfuscate a clear path to the target but where they are still exposed.

Moderate – When an object covers more than half of your body, and only a small portion is exposed, all attacks take a -4 to their rolls. Cases of this could be when a target is in a bunker or behind a car.

Full – When the attacker can't see your entire body, they must make a Blind Attack (-6) to hit you through the object.


Your character has three pools that track your Health, Strain, and Stress. In combat, mainly, your Health is going to be reduced because of the damage you take from physical attacks. To emulate the harsh world of the Sticks, you don't just take flat damage to your Health to a slow march 0 with no consequences. Instead, the type of injury you sustain, how much it is, where it hits, and possibly how it affects your emotional state are all accounted for.

All damage done above your Threshold has no repercussion beyond reducing the amount of punishment you can keep taking. Whenever you are below your Threshold or when you reach 0 or less in a pool, things start to spiral in dreadful ways. Exceptions to this are if a critical hit is landed with a special effect such as Bleed.

First off, when you take damage, you need to know what kind of damage it is and which pool it is effecting. Damage is broken up between three major areas; Physical (Health), Mental (Strain), and Social (Stress). After that, we move on to what possible consequences befall you. Lastly, if ever ANY of your pools reach 0 or less, you gain a Deficiency that will start manifesting itself within 24 hours after the incident. You can never obtain more than one Deficiency from the same event. Deficiencies give you more role-playing opportunities and struggles that emulate the ordeals of trying to survive in the Sticks. Details on Deficiencies are found on p.XXX.

Health: Falling from a height, being shot, taking a spear to the gut, or being trampled are all examples of things that can reduce your Health Pool. No matter the source of this injury, tracking it is straightforward. Subtract the total from your Health Pool. In Welcome to the Sticks, you don't just idly watch your Health Pool be reduced with no consequences. Along the way, a variety of things can be happening to your body.

Unconscious: First, let's consider what actually does happen when your Health Pool reaches 0 or below. Your body has sustained severe shock, forcing you to fight to remain awake. Roll 2d6 +/- your Endurance Modifier against 8. If you succeed, you can remain conscious for 10 minutes but are now Stunned. In the case you have negative Health, your roll is penalized by the amount under 0. Taking more damage or when ten minutes have elapsed, you must make another Endurance roll. Failing any of these rolls will mean you lose consciousness for 1d4 hours.
SIDEBAR Ex. Your Health drops to -3. You must now roll 2d6 +/- your Endurance Modifier against a target number of 8 at a -3 (your negative HP). If you fail, you are unconscious. If you pass, you are still able to take actions but are now Stunned.

In addition to this, while you are at 0 HP or below depending on special damage effects like Bleeding will determine how long you can survive.

Stunned: Successfully fighting to keep going when your body has suffered severe injuries puts you in a Stunned state. ALL of your actions and Defenses after you reach and/or passed 0 HP have a temporary modifier equal to your negative HP.
SIDEBAR Ex. Your HP is -3, and you can still take actions. You decide to shoot at your attacker. You roll 2d6+1(skill)+1(Dex)-3(for being under 0 HP). So now your roll is 2d6-1.

Temp Wound: Physical damage from a single incident that exceeds your Threshold will result in a persistent injury. This Temp Wound is equal to the damage over your Threshold. Record the amount of damage as a negative modifier on your character sheet. The usage of that body part in a task receives a negative equaling your wound to the roll. If any part of your body has more than three Temp Wounds, it is too severely damaged to be used until it has sufficient time to recover.
SIDEBAR Ex. You are shot with a gun that did 7 damage to you. Your Threshold is4 5, so you would take 2 Temp Wounds. Whenever that body part is used in a task, you roll at a negative equaling your wound. The temp wounds persist until you are back under your Threshold again.

Permanent Wounds: Every day, a Temp Wound is not treated, you gain a -1 Permanent Wound to the wounded body part. Additionally, every time you take wounds equaling your Threshold while at 0 HP or below, you take a -1 permanent would. Wounds are accumulated AFTER Health loss. Thus you can start with positive Health before taking damage but end the round below and receive a Permanent Wound. Any part of the body that has 5 or more Permanent Wounds can no longer operate. It could mean it is entirely crippled, withered, burned, or severed. Whatever the cause, it no longer functional.
SIDEBAR Ex. Your Threshold is 5, and your Health is at 10. You are hit by a grenade taking 12 damage. Your Health is now -2. Your Threshold is 5, which goes into 12 (total damage) 2 times. Thus you would take 2 Permanent Wounds. Whenever that body part is used in a task, you roll at a negative equaling your wound.

Small Part: Some parts of your body such as joints, hands, feet, head & vitals are not as hardy as the rest of your body. Thus when they take damage, double the amount to see if it exceeds your Threshold. This is ONLY used to calculate if the small part of the body takes a Temp Wound or Permanent Wound. In no way does this double the actual damage done to your Health Pool.

Death: If ever your Health Pool drops to a negative that is equal to your max Health, you die. If you have 10 Health, you will die when your Health Pool reaches -10.

STRAIN: Pushing the limits of your mind and all of it's connecting nervous system by utilizing preternatural abilities, expanding the limits of your body, tapping into the potential of grafted on hardware all reduce your Strain Pool. Each type of extraordinary ability has its' own way of handling the cost of use. The detrimental effects become manifested as this fragile and vital pool is diminished.

Unconscious: Upon your Strain, Pool reaching 0 or below. Your nervous system begins shutting down. Roll 2d6 +/- your Resolve Modifier against 8. If you succeed, you can remain conscious for 10 minutes but are now Stunned. In the case you have negative Strain, your roll is penalized by the amount beyond 0. Taking additional Strain damage or the time has elapsed beyond 10 minutes, you must make another Resolve roll. Failing any of these rolls will mean you lose consciousness for 1d4 hours.

Stunned: Successfully fighting to keep going with your mind awake after it has suffered critical injuries puts in you a Stunned state. ALL of your Actions after you reach and/or passed 0 HP, have a temporary modifier equal to your negative Strain Pool in addition to other Cumulative Damage effects.

Temp Wound: When Strain damage surpasses your Threshold, the Attribute that was used receives a negative modifier equal to the damage beyond it. This applies to all tasks that utilize the Attribute as well. If your System Strain is below 0, your Physical Threshold is reduced by that negative amount making you far more susceptible to physical impairments until you have recovered enough Strain to place you at or above 0.

Cumulative Damage: Unlike Health, detrimental Strain effects are cumulative. They aren't based on a single instance of damage to determine the severity of the wounds. If you have taken 5 Strain Damage and your Threshold is 5, taking just a single additional point of Strain damage would increase your total System Strain to 6. You now have a -1 Temp Wound associated with the Attribute that was used to lower your Strain.

Attribute Loss: For every incident, you drop below 0 Strain the Attribute used is permanently lowered by 1. Also, acquiring any more Strain damage while under 0 Strain will give you another permanent Attribute reduction. Remember that your Attribute could be decreased enough to change your modifiers, Thresholds & Pools thus creating grisly long term effects.

STRESS: Witnessing a gruesome act on a loved one. Being exposed to repeated abuse or torture. The disturbing effects of unnatural abilities. Surviving extreme forms of humiliation. Coming face to face with your mortality through intense violence. Along with these harrowing situations, your Stress Pool is primarily reduced from the direct effects of your Health and Strain pools.

Wound Impact: Whenever either Health or Strain Pools gain new wound(s) no matter how many gained during a specific incident, Stress is lowered by 1. Let's say you were in a fierce firefight and took substantial damage to an arm that resulted in 2 Temp Wounds. You would reduce your Stress Pool only by 1 even though you took 2 wounds because it was from the same event. Now, on the other hand, if later such as the next wound your Strain received 1 Temp Wound from the use of a preternatural ability, then again, you would take more Stress damage and lower it by 1. Reaching 0 in Health or Strain Pools is treated as gaining a new wound so it would reduce your Stress by 1. This is the primary way you will lose Stress.

Tormented: If you go through an extraordinary ordeal that could produce trauma, the GM can ask for a roll of Composure vs 10. However, much you fail by is the amount of Stress you lose. These won't happen too often since they represent a significant trial of some sort. Even though this is a GM judgment call, here is a guide of some instances that could result in you being Tormented; an extreme condition that could trigger a Flaw, the loss of a body part, human crisis, the humiliation of self-respect, witnessing terrifying acts, or murder of a loved one in front of you. These are RARE and shouldn't be the primary ways of reducing your Stress Pool.

Flaw: If ever Stress is reduced to 0 or below, you don't gain a Deficiency like you do with Health and Strain but instead gain a Flaw. The new Flaw must be from the Social types; those the are connected to Presence, Charm, and Composure. After you have a Flaw, you go through a Traumatic Reset.


In the harsh landscape of the Sticks, you would inevitably have taken some form of damage. Anything from grisly ax wounds to frightful body ravaging abilities may befall you, and thus you need some means of recovery. There are natural and assisted ways to recover. It is always slow and challenging. Your recovery path would depend first on if it was your Health Pool, Strain Pool, or Stress Pool, then if you have wounds.

Starting with the Health Pool, you naturally gain 1 Health back per full day of uninterrupted rest doing no more than light activities. Any type of exertion will halt the recovery process, and you will have to start all over the following day.

Assisted Health Recovery by someone using First Aid can attempt to recover more initial HP. Every Success/Critical Success vs Target Number of 8 (10 if the target is at or below 0 HP) recovers additional Health. Without adequate supplies and gear, this task will be more difficult or even impossible.

Say you have lost 5 Health, and your friend has the appropriate supplies to perform First Aid on you. They get 3 success! On the first day of your recovery, you would gain 1 HP for resting a full day and 3 more as a result of the First Aid roll for a total of 4 HP! You are nearly back up to full strength. You can only have First Aid applied to you once.

Recovering Temp Wounds takes more time. Someone applying Medical Care on you can attempt to remove more initial Temp Wounds. Roll Medicine vs a Target Number of 12. Every Success/Critical Success removes an additional wound. The patient needs 24 hours of rest without taking any damage to their Health Pool. You naturally heal 1 Temp Wound per week thereafter.

However, there are risks involved when performing these complicated procedures. If you fail, the target loses Health equal to the amount you missed by. This could result in making the patient worse or even lead to their death. Also, some types of wounds are more difficult to work on than others. Intricate parts of the body such as the hands, vitals & head need advanced equipment. Attempting to perform surgery without the sophisticated tools required for this delicate task will incur a -3 penalty.

Ex. You have 5 temp wounds, and your friend performs Medical Care on you. They get 2 successes! At the end of the first week of uninterrupted recovery, you remove 3 more temp wounds as a result of the Medical Care roll. It will take 2 more weeks for the rest of the temp wounds to heal themselves. No one could perform any more Medical Care rolls to aid you further unless you suffered NEW temp wounds.

You regain 1 Strain every day. There are no means to gain more back and a quicker rate. You can not be assisted in the recovery of your Strain outside the sacrificial ability of Neural Surge. And only those with this rare and powerful ability can choose to do it.

Temp Wounds from System Strain recover at a rate of 1 wound per week. Again there is nothing at your disposal to speed up the recovery rate of Temp Wounds to your Strain. There could be highly advanced training or special technology, but they are lost knowledge.

You first need to be removed from the tormenting situation, and your Health or Strain Temp wounds treated before you can begin to recover Stress. After these are taken care of, you began to recover 1 Stress per week.

Traumatic Reset happens when you fall to or below 0 Stress. After you gained a new Flaw, your mind tries to readjust itself, and you gain 1 Stress back per day. Your recuperation ends if either your Stress Pool reaches at least 1 more than your Threshold or something that would cause your Stress Pool to dwindle again.


Game Masticator
Hello everyone! My name is Keaggan, and I'm starting this Design Diary to catalog the progress of my first "for public use" RPG, Welcome to the Stick. . . And all along the way like many here, I've tweaked rules in every system. After breaking several game systems since it seems I'm never satisfied, maybe I should stop taking other games and shaping them to my own will and just create one that fills all of my needs and style.

What I'm looking for from you is feedback and critique of any and all parts of the game.

Thank you for your time :)
I'd like to stop by and criticize once in a while, but it's reading more like a read-the-finished-book post than something that's in its design-phase. If the rules were laid bare (with their design intent), they would be easier to analyze. For example, I was good up through the basic roll, then character creation starts with: design a real person, not an avatar. First on the list are some D&D-like attributes, which seem to lead to a character in a "fantasy world" for "collecting loot." It's hard, at that point, to suggest any design changes because there are already eight other character aspects that may or may not depend on the nine attributes (which already seem to be straying from the design goal), and tinkering with one element could topple the others.

I posted the rules (but not the design intent) for my game here. The rules progress, more or less, in a building-block (Jenga?) order, so I could have designed it starting at rule zero and moving up. (As it happened, I did some reverse-engineering, but my perspective in editing was generally done in one direction.) So if I propose a new rule, or I'm someone analyzing the rules, I just need to make sure that the new rule balances on the top-layer rules, knowing that the underlying ones are sturdy.

The setting and concept for Welcome to the Sticks look great, and offering a free game is always cool. 🤓

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters