This is the first part of an ongoing series about Grimm. Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
In a week I will be running a one-shot of Grimm, a game of children trapped in a world of twisted fairy tales. This seemed like a good opportunity to delve a little bit into the system, character creation and give some idea of what to expect. After the actual session I will try to give a post with actual information on how it plays - this can be a very different creature than how it reads.
The basic system to Grimm is straight-forward, called Linear D6: Determine the most appropriate trait for the task at hand; each trait has a Grade Level associated with it, this is how good you are. Roll a D6 - on a 2-5 your Grade Level is unchanged, on a 1 it is reduced by one and on a 6 it is increased by 1. If you roll a 1 or a 6 you will roll again. If you roll the same number (a 1 rolls a 1 again, or a 6 rolls a 6 again) you will adjust the Grade Level accordingly and continue rolling until you do not roll that number. If you are re-rolling 6's and roll a 1, it does not reduce your Grade Level, just as if you are re-rolling 1's and roll a 6 it does not increase your Grade Level. A lot of words to express a fairly simple concept. What it all boils down to is that most of the time (~67%), you will be operating at your average level, with the chance for some minor variation.
If the kids are working together on something, which will hopefully be a common occurrence, the first thing that needs to be done is figure out who the acting character is. This should generally be the kid with the highest Grade Level in the relevant trait. Every kid that has the same trait within two Grade Levels of the acting kid can help out. To do so they will hand their die to the acting kid who gets to roll all of them and keep the best. This means that you will only be re-rolling 1's if allof the dice come up that way, and re-rolling all 6's until they aren't. This starts to weigh things heavily towards out-performing your Grade Level. The previous rules regarding rolling multiple dice apply to any situation where it comes up, teamwork just being the most common. It is important that when you are helping out, you physically hand your die over; it's about trust.
Combat, like in so many systems, is far more detailed than anything else. It's not crunchy by any stretch, but it still does have the most potential for things to go wrong. These are a bunch of kids in a fairly horrible world. Initiative is simple: Unless ambushed, kids go first. This is a pretty important advantage. There is an initiative system from there, but I'm more in favor of letting them sort out who gets to act when (within a reasonable period of time); disagreements can be solved by applying the normal initiative system (highest Scamper wins, going down from there). Straight-up combat is very rough on kids and actually doing damage to larger things poses a significant hurdle. Which means, in the end, children should be running from threats and trying to solve them through creative teamwork rather than holding the line (this is not Sparta, kids). This works for me.
Character creation involves selecting one of seven archetypes: the Bully, the Dreamer, the Jock, the Nerd, the Normal Kid, the Outcast and the Popular Kid. Each one gives some starting traits, unique abilities and a flaw, as well as a list of future abilities unique to that archetype for future Grades (cute name for levels). The archetypes provide a clear niche for a given character to occupy that no other kid can every really occupy. What it means in practicality is that you will likely never want two kids of the same archetype and at least a little discussion should go into what archetypes will be selected (I have six players for a one-shot, so this isn't a major concern). After the archetype is selected, you have some points to spend on your traits. The traits are divided up between Core (Cool, Pluck, Imagination, Luck and Muscle), Playground (Hide, Seek, Scamper, Scrap and Throw) and Study (4-H, Book Learning, Boy Scouts, Country Club, Gaming, Home Ec, Industrial Arts and Juvie). You start with 8 points to advance these and gain an additional 8 points whenever you advance in Grade. The costs are 3, 2 and 1 for Core, Playground and Study respectively and no trait can be higher than your Grade + 3. Next is your iconic Core trait; this will define what you are truly great at and you may expend levels in that trait to accomplish tremendous feats related to the trait. Finally comes an Origin Talent, if you want one, and a Talent. The Origin Talent gives a bonus and penalty based on where you come from, while the Talent is a special ability of some kind. You will gain an archetype ability at each even Grade and a Talent at each odd Grade (I'm going to start people off at 4th Grade to have a few more toys at their disposal).
The Bully starts with 4th Grade in Muscle and Scrap, and 3rd Grade in Industrial Arts. They always roll an additional die on Scrap tests, but have the chance to become scared if wounded. They also have the ability to issue threats to those that are a) of lower Grade, b) have lower Muscle, or c) have smaller Stature. As they advance in Grade they can become more intimidating/threatening, focus on teamwork or protecting their friends.
The Dreamer starts with 4th Grade in Imagination and Seek, and 3rd Grade in Gaming. They always roll an additional die on Imagination tests, but have a penalty to resist charm and illusion. They always have Imagination as an iconic Core trait and can select another, or have Imagination twice. Advancing in Grade gives them generally more/better ways to use their Imagination. This seems to be an appropriate place to talk a little bit about the role of Imagination: It's the way you can alter the fabric of reality in the Grimm Lands, though how to apply most effectively may require some creativity and being proactive.
The Jock starts with 4th Grade in Scamper and Throw, and 3rd Grade in Muscle. They always roll an additional die with one of those three traits (as selected at character creation), but they are severely hampered when acting on traits outside of those three. They can also expend their Muscle trait to improve their tests in those three traits for a scene.
The Nerd starts with 4th Grade in Seek, Book Learning and Gaming. They always roll an additional die on all Study trait, but are severely hampered when rolling Cool, Muscle or Scrap tests. They also get free Study traits every Grade. Nerds are really all about casting spells (based on Gaming, go figure) and breaking the fourth wall regarding the "rules" of the Grimm Lands at times.
The Normal Kid is average as enforced by the rules. They cannot be particularly good or bad at anything, also they are always the first one monsters want to eat. They get to choose one trait and always roll an additional die with that trait and they get a bonus talent. As they increase in Grade their options focus around being able to fill in whatever gap has come up. What at first seems like a disadvantage, always being the first target, can be employed as an asset in the right situation.
The Outcast starts with 4th Grade in Hide and Juvie. They always roll an additional die on either Hide or Juvie (as selected at character creation), but have issues with any kind of social situation outside of kids. They are the opposite of the Normal Kid in that they are the last one to be attacked.
The Popular Kid starts with 4th Grade in Cool and Country Club, and 3rd Grade in Book Learning. They always roll an additional die on Cool tests, but are at a disadvantage when trying to resist temptation or despair. They also have the ability to ridicule others and give them penalties, which can grow into even denying certain actions/avenues as they increase in Grade.
The Origin Talents are: Art Student (bonus to Cool for storytelling and non-confrontational empathy, disadvantage on Book Learning), City Kid (bonus on Cool and Pluck in civilization, penalty to the same in the wilderness), Exchange Student (bonus to Home Ec and Industrial Arts, penalty to Cool), Farm Kid (bonus to 4-H, Boy Scouts and Muscle, penalty to Cool), Home Schooled (bonus to Study traits, penalty to Scamper and Throw), Orphan (bonus to Juvie and against ambushes, penalty to Imagination and Gaming), and Shrimp (bonuses to defense and throw, penalty on Muscle).
There are a lot of Talents, so I won't really be going over those. If there are any questions, leave a comment. In a couple of weeks I will try to give an update on how things went and my thoughts on the actual play. Those involved are more than welcome, in fact encouraged, to give their thoughts as well.