You are on page 1of 24


All artwork is from the Skortched Urf' Studios

Modern Figures Sketchbook Series

All artwork is copyright

©2010 Skortched Urf' Studios
All rights reserved.

Artwork is licensed for use in this document. It cannot be reproduced independently of

this work or altered in any way without express permission of Skortched Urf' Studios.
Five by Five
The Free RPG Toolkit by Jeff Moore


About Five by Five .5

Character Creation .6
Traits .7

Ranks .8
Values .9
Health 10

Example Character 11
Action Rolls 12
Combat 13

Using Miniatures 15
Healing and Recovery 16
Character Advancement 17

The Referee 18
Exclusive Actions 19
The Setting 20

Weapons and Armor 21

Example Traits 22


To Rob Lang and Keeton Harrington

undisputed champions of the Free RPG movement.

And to Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson

for creating the phenomena that is the role-playing game.
They brought me out of my shell and taught me how to be confident.
They improved my math and communications skills and got me a better job.
They helped me discover new friends and introduced me to my soul-mate.
They changed my life forever.

Five by Five For example, the referee might say, "You are
In radio communication on a scale of 1 to 5 walking through a cemetery late at night. The
measuring signal strength and clarity, "Five by moon is full and provides you with ample
Five" indicates the best possible strength and visibility through the darkness. The
clarity of signal. tombstones cast long shadows and the grass
smells damp, moistened by evening dew. You
Five by Five are investigating the disappearances of
Perfect; the best possible (slang.) several people in the area. Your investigation
has brought you here. Could there be some
Five by Five evil presence in this grave yard? Before you
An original game system and RPG Toolkit by have time to ponder this question further, you
Jeff Moore. hear a blood curdling scream from somewhere
behind you. What do you do?"
About These Rules
What you hold in your hands is a toolkit. It is The Players
the foundation for a game that you will not Players react to the situations described by
only play ... but build yourself. the referee as if they are the heroes of an
adventure story. The referee will layout the
In these pages you will find a means to create scene, describing the circumstances and
characters for almost any setting or genre. setting of an event and will ask, "What do you
Five by Five does not contain exhaustive lists do?" And the players will respond to this
of skills and powers. It doesn't need them. Its describing the actions of their characters who
systems are designed so that players can are the heroes of the story.
define everything they need to know about
their characters in just a few words. For example, a player might respond to the
referee's description by saying, "I quickly spin
You will find a clean and easy system for task around to "see" where the scream came from.
resolution and combat. Uncertainty is resolved Assuming I don't immediately spot the source
by the roll of commonly found six-sided dice. of the sound, I take a quick inventory ... outer
Five by Five is not a method of tactical jacket pockets ... "Garlic cloves, check!" Cross
simulation. Realism takes a back seat to quick on chain around neck ... "Check!" I pull the
and easy methods of conflict resolution that wooden stake from the inner pocket of my
will not impede story telling. jacket and take off
running in the
Five by Five is meant to be easy, friendly, and direction where
fun. I heard the
This introduction is meant to serve as an
overview of what an RPG (Role-Playing Game)
is. After this are the actual "rules." The rules
explain how to create characters and how to
answer questions like, "Did I jump over the pit
safely?" After you've read through the rules,
grab a few of your friends. Two or three others
besides yourself should be perfect. One player
will serve as the "Referee." Everyone else is a

The Referee
In an RPG the Referee helps to construct an
adventure story. The Referee guides the
"players" of the game through the story using
descriptive narration. The Referee will
describe the circumstances and the setting of
an event and ask the other players, "What do
you do?"

Characters Character Creation
There are two kinds of characters in a role- All players in Five by Five except the referee
playing game: Player Characters (PC's) and adopt a single role within the game's setting.
Non-Player Characters (NPC's.) Players control The player describes the actions of this
the PC's. Each player has one PC under their character in cooperation with the other
control. This character acts for the player in players to take part in an interactive
the story. Each player will have a character adventure story.
record sheet that describes things about their
PC so that they will have an idea of the scope A player's character is their avatar, their
and variety of things their character is good means of accomplishing things within the
(or not so good) at doing. NPC's include every game. Every player needs to spend a little
character, animal, creature, or monster that time defining their character and figuring out
may interact with a PC in the story. All of what sorts of things that character can do.
these are controlled by the referee.
There are six basic steps to creating a
Epic Heroes character in Five by Five.
The PC's are the "heroes" of an adventure
story. The first thing to do is to get everyone These are:
together and talk about the type of adventure
story you wish to tell. Is this the story of 1. Understand your Role.
adventurous youths who battle a secret Discuss with the referee the sort of interactive
society of vampires in the late hours after adventure story the players of this game will
school? Is this the story of rebellious space be a part of. Think about the kind of character
pirates who smuggle goods into forbidden in the story you would most like to portray.
territories under the radar of an oppressive
galactic empire? Is this the story of magical 2. Select three Traits.
elves and stalwart dwarves who battle the Define a few unique things about this
invading forces of evil fairy hoards to win the character. What makes this character special
favor of the royal family? when compared to the average person. List
Decide on your basic story three things that the character is good at
... the "big picture" kind doing. These are special skills or talents that
of epic that you wish distinguish the character within the story.
to explore. Then think
about the kinds of 3. Select a Weakness.
heroes there are in Pick one sort of skill or talent, that most
such an epic. Your people within the context of the story would
character is one of manage to do without much difficulty, that
these heroes. your character has always struggled with.
Weaknesses are just as important to a
character's definition as strengths.

4. Rate your Traits.

Which of your three traits has the most
influence on the way your character is
portrayed in the story? Following this, which of
the remaining two has the most influence on
your character? Put the three skills and/or
talents you selected in step 2 in order from
most influential to least influential on your
character's portrayal in the story.

5. Assign Values.
Discuss your traits with your referee. All traits
define either Action or Intensity. Your traits will
have a numeric value based on how you rated
them in step 4.

6. Finalize your Character.
Make sure you understand how your traits will
work in the story. Also, record your character's
Health value and any equipment your
character may have. If you haven't done so
already, give your character a name.

Traits (What and How Much?)

What makes your character special? What is
your character good at doing? Decide how
your character "fits" into the story. Is your
character a brilliant computer hacker? ... a
fantastic swordsman? ... an ace space-ship
pilot? ... a beautiful seductress? Think about
the character you want to play. Jot down a few
notes about the character. Pick three things
that set your character apart from everyone
else in the story.

What? (Action Traits)

Action Traits are the things that your character
is good at doing. This can be a combat skill
like: swordsman, gunfighter or martial artist. It
can be a career like: Doctor, Lawyer, or Rock
Star. It can be a physical aspect like: strong,
fast or beautiful, or a mental aspect like:
intelligent, brave or charming. It can be
cultural like: millionaire playboy, or Night Elf. A
trait is anything that defines your character as Weak Traits
different from everyone else in the story. Look at the list of traits you have chosen to
define your character. These are likely all
Try not to make traits too specific or too things that your character is meant to be
general. A trait in "wine tasting" might not get "good" at doing. Take a moment to consider
much use during play. "High society" might one thing that has always been an area of
work and could include a quality in "wine difficulty for your character. Weaknesses
tasting" under its umbrella. On the other hand define us all as much as our strengths do. Try
taking a trait like "Good at Everything" would to define one trait that can represent an
tend to be too general. The referee won't aspect of weakness for your character.
allow you to select a trait like this.
Define a Weak Trait as if it were a strong trait
How Much? (Ranks) with a low value. For anyone else, this trait
Identifying things that make your character could be used in a positive and constructive
special is just the first step. You know that way. For your character the intent is to use the
your character has skills when it comes to trait in a constructive way, but achieving this
driving a car, but what does this mean constructive outcome is simply more difficult.
exactly? The degree of proficiency that your
character has in any given trait is defined by For example: "Socially Awkward" is not a valid
its Rank. Ranks are adjectives that help to weak trait, but "Social Butterfly" is. A weak
compare one trait to another descriptively. trait is something your character wants to do
The eight Ranks used to measure your as well as everyone else, but just can't.
character's Traits are Weak, Untrained,
Novice, Competent, Skilled, Expert, Master, Untrained Traits
and Legendary. Generally, traits listed on your character sheet
will not have a Rank of "Untrained." This Rank
Special Ranks is reserved for "everything else." Untrained is
All Ranks define how "good" your character is the default value applied to the average skill
at doing something. However the first two or talent. If it's not listed on your character
ranks deserve special mention. sheet, it's "Untrained."

Skilled - You've done this a lot. You are
successful at this task more often than not.

Expert - This is what you're known for...

people look to you for advice, guidance, and
training. You have advanced your field with
your innovation and talent.

Master - True masters are rare. You are one ...

the best in your field. Only a few other people
in the world are as good as this.

(This rank is attainable only after a period of

role-play, and each character should not be
allowed to have more than 2 Master Traits.)

Legendary - Your ability is almost

supernatural. You do things that others never
thought possible. People tell stories about
your tremendous deeds.

(This rank is attainable only after a long

period of role-play, and each character should
not be allowed to have more than 1
Legendary Trait.)

Ranks are descriptors that measure a trait's Assigning Ranks
acuity, rating them for comparison against Look at the three traits you have chosen to
other traits. Eight ranks measure a character's help define the unique qualities about your
traits. The eight Ranks in ascending order are: character (not including your weak trait.)
weak, untrained, novice, competent, skilled,
expert, master, and legendary. Which of these three traits resonates with you
as being the most important to you in defining
These eight basic Ranks are used to measure your character's role in the story?
all traits. Traits, depending upon their type,
may have different numeric values, but they Assign a rank of: Skilled to this trait.
all use the same rank descriptors for
comparison. Of the two traits remaining which now
becomes the trait that seems the most
Weak - Your character has problems with this. important to you in defining your character's
You aren't as good at this activity as others. role in the story?

Untrained - You may have done this before (or Assign a rank of Competent to this trait.
seen it done on TV)... but no more or less than
anyone else. (Anything not listed on your The last remaining trait is the one you have
character sheet is considered, "untrained.") come to rate a little lower than the other two.

Novice - You are a beginning student of this. Assign a rank of: Novice to this trait.
You know more about it than an untrained
average person but you don't consider
yourself truly good at this yet. You should also select a forth trait and assign
it a rank of: Weak ( -see the description of
Competent - You have studied and worked at "weak traits" on page 7.)
this enough to consider this among your
acquired skills. You think you're pretty good at You should now have a character with four
doing this. defining traits and each of these traits should
have a different rank.

Values Intensity Traits
Ranks are words, adjectives that define a trait Intensity Traits are less common than Action
in a way that makes it easy to understand Traits. In most settings equipment is used to
even outside the context of the game rules. provide intensity bonuses. For example a
Ranks are approximate measures. weapon is used to provide damage bonuses
and armor is used for resistance bonuses.
Values are numbers. Values also define a
character's traits, but they have no function INTENSITY TRAIT RANKS AND VALUES
outside the context of the game rules. Values Intensity Rank Intensity Value
are exact measures.
Weak .-1.
The value you assign to a trait is based on the Untrained .+0.
trait's rank and also what type of trait it is.
There are too types of traits: Action Traits, and Novice .+1.
Intensity Traits. Competent .+2.
Jump! (Action Traits) Skilled .+3.
Action Traits are used to perform action to Expert .+4.
accomplish tasks. In the context of the game
rules, the value of an action trait will tell the Master .+5.
player what he needs to roll on the dice to Legendary .+6.
accomplish a given task.

How high? (Intensity Traits)

Intensity Traits measure degree or severity.
These values effect the amount of damage a
character can deal with a single attack or how
much injury a character can resist from an
attack against them.

Assigning Values
Trait values are determined differently
depending upon if the Trait defines Action or

Action Traits
Action Traits are the most common type of
trait in Five by Five, and chances are, all of the
traits that you have selected for you character
are Action Traits. To find the value of an Action
Trait simply reference your Trait's Rank on the
Action Trait table below:


Action Rank Action Value
Weak ½
Untrained 0
Novice 2
Competent 4
Skilled 6
Expert 9
Master 12
Legendary 16

Super Powers Record Keeping
If you are playing in a world of super-powered When recording your traits on your character
heroes "powers" will often supersede sheet record the information as: Rank TRAIT
equipment, making Intensity Traits part of (Value) for action traits, or: Rank TRAIT
your character design. Intensity Trait values Intensity (Value) for intensity traits.
effect damage dealt and injury suffered in
combat. (Intensity traits can also effect the Examples:
amount of Health recovered following the Competent Energy Bolt (4)
successful use of a healing trait.) Novice Energy Bolt Intensity (+1)
Weak Social Butterfly (½)
For example: Mike is playing in a Five by Five
super-powers game. He wants to create a Special Trait: Health
super hero character with an energy attack. Health is used to measure the amount of
Mike selects the trait "Energy Bolt." injury a character is able to suffer before they
are rendered incapacitated.
Mike's "Energy Bolt" trait is required to allow
his character to shoot out bolts of energy from Health is considered a trait, but it is neither an
his fingers to strike down enemies. This is an action trait nor an intensity trait. Health
Action Trait. doesn't default to a value of 0 when
untrained, and it's value will change during
By default Mike's Energy Bolt's Intensity is play. All characters begin play with a Health
"Untrained," and so by definition, his energy Rank of "untrained" but because of it's special
bolt will have a damage bonus of +0. nature Health is always recorded on the
character's record sheet.
Mike wants to boost the damage power of his
energy bolt, so he adds a second trait: HEALTH TRAIT RANKS AND VALUES
"Energy Bolt Intensity" (adding "Intensity" to Health Rank Health Value
the end of the trait clues people in that this is
an intensity trait related to Energy Bolt.) Weak 5
Untrained 10
When ranking his traits,
Mike gives his Energy Bolt Novice 12
Intensity trait a rank of Competent 14
Skilled 18
Expert 22
Novice. This Master 26
allows his Energy Legendary 32
Bolt attack power to
do +1 damage.
New players should add Health to their
character sheet as: Untrained Health (10).

Your character will now have a total of five

traits (including Health and a Weak Trait.)
These are all the traits, ranks, and values
needed to define a starting character.

What's in a Name?
Your character's name creates impressions
about your character in people's minds. Try to
think of a name that creates a dynamic image
in your mind. Also, try to choose a name that
is appropriate to your setting. "Flash" is a fine
name for a modern or futuristic setting, but
you might want to consider the name, "Uther"
or "Rowena" in a fantasy world.

Example Character Maybe the fiery redhead had trouble in
Mendi is creating a character for a modern medical school. Maybe she managed to charm
day zombie invasion type game with a bit of a and or bully her way through, and has just
tongue-in-cheek quality. The players and graduated. Mendi prioritizes her traits based
referee all discuss the game setting ahead of on this new more impetuous character
time and decide they want something inspired concept.
by the 2004 film, "Shaun of the Dead."
Mendi names her character Penelope Lions
Mendi thinks that someone who can heal but decides she usually goes by the nickname
people if they get hurt might be invaluable in of "Blaze" among her friends.
this setting and decides she wants her
character to be a doctor. That makes her first She discusses equipment with the referee and
trait: "Doctor." She only needs two more. he decides to give her a medical bag that will
help boost the intensity of her healing
Mendi wants a character who can "kick some (Doctor) actions, adding +1 to the total
booty." So, she chooses "Kick-Boxer" as her amount of Health restored.
next trait. Such a trait also implies a healthy,
athletic character which Mendi likes. Mendi adds the untrained Health trait that all
characters need to list on their character
Mendi also, wants her character to be sexy sheet, and "Blaze" is complete.
and a redhead. She puts these together to
form: "Sexy Redhead." as her final trait. Blaze (Dr. Penelope Lions)

Putting the three traits in order of importance Traits:

to her character concept, Mendi chooses:
Doctor, Sexy Redhead, Kick-Boxer. Skilled Sexy
Redhead (6)
These are all three action traits. Mendi may
decide to add a "Kick-Boxer Intensity" trait Competent
later to do more damage, but for now she is Kick-Boxer (4)
happy with the way this character is shaping
up and she doesn't want to change anything. Novice
Doctor (2)
Finding the values for her traits based on how
she rated them, Mendi's character currently Untrained
looks like this: Skilled Doctor (6); Competent Health (10)
Sexy Redhead (4); Novice Kick-Boxer (2).
For a weak trait, Mendi thinks about how Self Control (½)
redheads are famous for having flaring
tempers and thinks that "fiery redhead" might Equipment:
be a good trait. But weak traits need to be
described as strengths with low values rather Medical Bag
than weaknesses, so Mendi changes this to: (Intensity +1
"Self Control." to Healing
result rolls)
She likes this even better because it can apply
to so many things above and beyond her
temper and Mendi begins to form a really
strong mental image of her impetuous,
spirited, redheaded doctor.

One of the other players points out to Mendi

that maybe having a weak self control and
being a doctor don't go together.

At first, Mendi stuck her tongue out at the

"nay-sayer," but then she embraced the idea.

The Game System Rank Value Chance of Success
Now that you have a character it's time to Weak ½* 1 in 6 or 15% (16.67)
look at the way the information on your Untrained 0 11 in 36 or 30% (30.56)
character sheet is used in the actual play of Novice 2 14 in 36 or 40% (38.89)
the game. Competent 4 19 in 36 or 50% (52.78)
Skilled 6 23 in 36 or 60% (63.89)
Dice Expert 9 26 in 36 or 70% (72.22)
Your character's traits will tell you what your Master 12 30 in 36 or 80% (83.33)
character can do and how well they can do it. Legendary 16 33 in 36 or 90% (91.67)
When it comes time to attempt to do
something where the outcome is uncertain, * Notice the value of a Weak Trait is ½. Read
Five by Five uses dice to introduce a random this as, "Roll half the number of dice." That is,
element. Dice are generally abbreviated as dX do not make a 2 dice 5x5 roll to attempt a
(where "X" is the number of sides on the dice.) Weak task; roll
For example: d20 refers to a dice with 20 1d5 only, if
sides. you roll 0 the
task has been
D5 completed
The Five by Five RPG uses its own special successfully!
application of a d6 (the standard cube shaped
die) called the d5. It's simply this: roll 1d6.
Read any value 1-5 normally. Read a roll of 6
as a roll of 0 (zero.) This means that every roll
of every d5 nets a result from 0 to 5. The Five
by Five RPG uses the d5 for all die rolls.

The 5x5 (five by five) roll is the main
type of roll used by the Five by Five
RPG. It's simply this: roll a d5 twice
and multiply the results. For example:
Derek rolls 2 dice. He gets a 4 and a
2. As the referee has called for a 5x5
roll, Derek multiplies the two d5 results
(4x2) getting an 8. Barbara makes a 5x5
roll, rolling a 6 and a 3. Since 6 is read as 0,
Barbara gets (0x3) a 0.

Hint: Throw 2 dice. If you see a 6, the roll

always equals 0. If you don't see a 6, multiply
the two dice together to find the result of the

Action Rolls
To attempt any action, decide which Action
Trait possessed by your character is most
applicable to the task. If you do not have a
Trait that is appropriate you may still be able
to attempt the action (see Untrained Tasks on
page 13.)

Make a 5x5 roll. If the result of the roll is equal

to or lesser than the Action Trait VALUE, then
you have completed the task successfully.

Regardless of a character's trait value, a roll of

0 (zero) will always succeed!

Untrained Tasks
When you attempt to do something that
anyone might be able to do without training,
you are said to have a 0 trait value in the
trait: "untrained task X." Make a 5x5 roll, if
you roll a 0 you succeed at the task. Some
tasks cannot be attempted untrained. Your
character cannot attempt to perform surgery
as an untrained task, for example.

Weak Traits
In addition to the traits that define the things
that a character is good at, there are also
traits that can define something that the
character has always had great difficulty
doing. This is called a weak trait. Anytime you
must resolve a task that is related to your
weak trait, roll only 1d5 to complete the task.
If you roll a 0 on the 1d5 then you succeed at
the task, otherwise the task is failed. Combat
Combat is an important element of adventure
Rank Shifts fiction and RPG's. Combat is resolved through
Rank Shift Bonus - the referee may allow you a sequence of turns each player acts for their
to treat your trait as one rank higher if character on their turn and the referee acts
circumstances are particularly favorable. for all non-player characters on his turn.

Rank Shift Penalty - the referee may require Who goes first? (Seize Initiative)
you to treat your trait as one rank lower if the The first thing that all players in a combat
task is unusually tough or circumstances are must do is attempt to "seize initiative." Only
particularly poor. player characters roll to seize initiative, the
referee does not seize initiative for non-player
If a rank shift bonus pushes a trait above the characters.
value of "Legendary" then no roll is required
and success is automatic. Seize Initiative is a task roll like any other
action in Five by Five. If a player has a trait
If a rank shift penalty reduces a trait below that would allow them to seize initiative more
the value of "Weak" then no roll is required easily, such as "Alertness," or "Combat
and the task is automatically failed. Tactics," the referee will allow the player to
use that trait's value when rolling to Seize
Borderline Traits Initiative. Otherwise, players will need to roll
Sometimes a trait will be "almost" applicable this as an Untrained Task.
to the task at hand. This trait may share some
commonalities with the kinds of skills and After all players have attempted to seize
abilities that a task requires without being an initiative, the turn order is established for the
ideal fit. duration of the combat. The combat sequence
is broken into three phases:
The referee can allow such a trait to be used
to attempt a task, but may apply a rank shift Phase One - High Phase
penalty. An example might be using the trait, Any player whose character succeeded in
"very strong" in combat. Being strong is no their seize initiative roll acts in phase one.
substitute for skill in combat, but the referee
may deem that it will give the character Phase Two - Mid (Referee) Phase
enough of an advantage to be applicable as a All Non-Player Characters controlled by the
borderline trait. referee act in phase two.

Phase Three - Low Phase

Any player whose character failed in their
seize initiative roll acts in phase three.

Unlike other games that are competitive in It's very common for players to select a
nature, players in a role-playing game are combat trait for their characters in order to
working together cooperatively to overcome use that trait's value when attempting Attack
the challenges presented by the referee. For Rolls.
this reason it really doesn't matter which
player acts first in a given phase. The example character "Blaze" on page 11
The referee will just go around has the trait: Competent Kick-Boxer (4.)
the table in whatever manner Blaze's player (Mendi) can use this trait to
is easiest to make sure that make attack rolls against her enemies
everyone gets a turn, before provided the attacks are described as "kick-
moving on to the next phase. boxing attacks."

The referee may apply If a player doesn't have a combat trait to use
a Rank Shift Penalty to to make attacks they must make attacks as an
"seize initiative" rolls under Untrained Task.
special conditions, such as
the characters being A character that is unarmed and fighting using
caught by surprise. "Untrained Task" who is fighting against an
opponent that is armed (using a weapon) will
High Phase suffer a Rank Shift Penalty to attack rolls.
During their phase This penalty only applies to characters who
a player can are fighting Unarmed and Untrained against
generally declare armed opponents. The rank shift penalty
one action. This will reduce the chance of a successful
action will usually attack from "Untrained (0)" to "Weak
be an attack, but (½)." (If your character doesn't know how
can be something to fight and someone comes after them
else provided the armed with a weapon, it's best to run
requested action away!)
doesn't take too
much time. The Damage Rolls
default task of All successful attacks inflict 1d5 in
attempting to strike damage (a roll of 0 is a valid result
an enemy with an meaning the only damage inflicted will
attack is something that be based on your weapon's damage
happens very quickly bonus.) When rolling damage if you
in the context of a roll a 5 (the die roll result shows a 5
combat, and so other before applying weapon bonuses,)
actions if allowed by the referee roll again and add the results. Each
would need to be similarly quick. time you roll a 5, roll again and add
the results of all d5 rolls.
Attack Rolls
In order to damage an opponent, players must
make an attack roll. Mid Phase (The Referee's Phase)
In phase two, the referee will have enemy
An attack roll is a task roll and is resolved like characters declare attacks against the player
any other task. If the task roll is successful, characters. The referee will roll 5x5 Action
the attack is said to "Damage" its target. Rolls to hit and when successful roll d5
damage rolls to inflict injury.

Dodge Roll
During the referee's phase when an attack roll
has been successfully made against a player
character, that player can attempt a Dodge
roll to invalidate the referee's attack.

This "Dodge" can only be attempted once per

character per turn. (A character that is
attacked by multiple opponents will be at a

This "Dodge" roll is treated as an "Untrained

Task" unless the character has specifically
taken a defensive trait designed to evade or
prevent attacks.

Low Phase
After the referee has taken action for all NPC's
involved in the combat, the current phase
changes to the Low Phase. During this phase
any player character who failed their seize
initiative check will take an action.

The Phase Cycle

Once all players have had a chance to take
their turn, the Low Phase becomes the High
Phase again. Continue to cycle the phases,
High, Mid, Low, High, Mid, Low... until all
combatants on one side of the battle are
defeated (are incapacitated or have run

Taking Damage
When a character is the target of a successful
attack that character suffers damage.

Damage temporarily reduces the Value of a

character's Health. Even though a character's
Health Value changes, their Health Rank is not
effected by Damage.

A character that has their Health value not be killed casually by a random roll of the
reduced to 0 is incapacitated. Disregard any dice. A character's death should only occur if
excess damage that would reduce Health to a agreed upon by the players and the referee,
value lower than 0. Health is always equal to 0 and should only occur under the most
or higher. dramatic and heroic of circumstances.

Weapons and Armor Using Miniatures (Optional)

Damage rolls are subject to intensity If playing with miniature figures a few
modifiers. A weapon increases attack damage additional rules are provided.
by its value, while armor will reduce damage
suffered by its value. Movement Trait
A the beginning of a player's turn, the player
Unconsciousness and Death can move their figure up to their movement
Generally speaking a character that has been trait value in inches on the tabletop before
incapacitated is said to be "unconscious." Five taking their action.
by Five is a game of heroic high adventure and
the characters who live these epic tales will

Note: Weapon designations are not always
obvious. A dagger designed to be thrown may
have a (r) designation while a light pistol that
is best fired at point blank range may have a
(c) designation.

Healing and Recovery

A character might select a trait that allows
them to heal damage, restoring lost Health up
to its base value (as determined by the Health

A character can only be the target of a Healing

attempt once each day (as time is recorded by
the characters in their fictional world) whether
this attempt is successful or not, no more than
one attempt to heal a given character can be
Movement Rank Movement Value made each day.

Weak 3" If the target of the healing trait task roll has a
Untrained 6" Health value greater than 0 (at least 1 or
higher) treat the healing task as you would an
Novice 8" attack roll. First roll to see if the heal check is
Competent 10" successful at all, then roll to find the amount
of health restored. This is rolled like a combat
Skilled 12" damage roll. Each time you roll a 5, roll again
Expert 16" and add the results of all d5 rolls.

Master 20" Healing Tasks can be attempted untrained, but

Legendary 24" a character with a Healing Trait can also buy a
Healing Intensity Trait to improve the amount
of Health they are able to restore.
Breaking Away
If a character starts their turn "close" to an
A Healing Intensity Trait provides the player
enemy figure, they must perform a successful
with an additional benefit. When attempting a
"dodge" action before they are allowed to
Healing Task on a target with a Health of 1 or
move their figure. This is called Breaking
greater, The healer's Healing Intensity bonus
Away. If the break away task fails the player
is added to the amount of Heath restored
may take their turn normally but they may not
even if the Healing Action roll is failed.
move their figure.
Health can never be restored to a Value
Ranged and Close Weapons
greater than its maximum value (indicated by
When using miniatures, weapons (or traits
its Rank.)
that act as weapons) need to be defined as
"Close Combat" (c) or "Ranged Combat" (r)
Incapacitated Patients
Healing works differently when applied to a
target that has been incapacitated. When
When using a weapon against an enemy
attempting to heal a target with a current
figure, any figure less than an inch away is
Health value of 0, the healing character
considered "close" and any figure an inch or
suffers a rank shift penalty for the added
further away is "at range."
difficulty. Also, no roll is used to determine the
amount of Health restored.
When using a weapon in a manner for which it
was not designed (throwing a sword to hit a
If the healing action fails, no Health is restored
ranged target, or firing an arrow at an enemy
and the target character is still incapacitated.
who is right next to you, for example) the
If the healing action succeeds, the character is
player suffers a Rank Shift Penalty to their
no longer incapacitated and has a current
Attack roll.
Health value of 1.

Medical Supplies Doubles Pool
Special medical supplies and facilities can add Any time the referee rolls Doubles he records
to the amount of Health restored just as a a "double" in the Doubles Pool. At the end of
weapon can increase damage. an adventure the referee divides the Doubles
in the Doubles Pool equally between all
Poison and other complications can act to players. Any left over Doubles in the pool
reduce the total amount of Health restored should be awarded to the player who (by vote
just as Armor can reduce damage (this effect of all players) presented the most appropriate
would likely last until Health was fully or entertaining role-play during the session.
restored... then the effect would end.)
Using Doubles
Natural Recovery Doubles are spent like money to improve a
In addition to the benefit of healing tasks, a character's traits.
character that is NOT incapacitated will regain
1 point of lost health at the start of each day Untrained to Novice costs 25 Doubles.
for each day spent doing nothing but resting.
Poison and other complications could slow this Novice to Competent costs 50 Doubles.
natural healing to 1 point each week.
Competent to Skilled costs 75 Doubles
A character that is INCAPACITATED and has
been the target of an unsuccessful Healing Skilled to Expert costs 100 Doubles.
task attempt can at the start of each new day
attempt "Untrained Natural Recovery (0)." To Expert to Master costs 150 Doubles.*
gain a health of 1 and no longer be
incapacitated. Master to Legendary costs 250 Doubles.**

A character that is INCAPACITATED and has * Each character should

NOT been the target of any attempted not be allowed to have
healing, can at the start of each new day more than 2 Master
attempt "Weak Natural Recovery (½)." To gain Traits.
a health of 1 and no longer be incapacitated.
** Each character
It would be possible for a character to possess should not be
traits that improve their chances of recovering allowed to have
from being incapacitated, or to possess more than 1
intensity traits that would increase the Legendary Trait.
amount of total health restored through
natural recovery. Players cannot
improve their
Traits like these might be rare and would need Weak Trait to
to be approved by the referee. Untrained, but
they can remove
Character Advancement a Weak Trait from
As you play Five by Five you will bring the their character
same character back again and again to sheet by trading
experience many grand adventures. As you that trait for a
play, your character will evolve, gaining new different Weak
traits and improving existing traits. Trait, taking on a
new weakness to
Doubles replace the old
Rolling "Doubles" (both dice show the same one. Some role play
number) has special significance in Five by should be involved
Five. Any time a player rolls Doubles they in overcoming one
should record this on their character sheet. weakness and also
in gaining the new one.
Rolling doubles of any value (double 0's Trading one Weak trait
through double 5's) allows the character to for a different Weak Trait
record one "double" on their character sheet. costs 25 Doubles.

The Referee As referee take a peek at the traits your
In most games a Referee is counted on to players have chosen for their characters.
know the rules of the game and to adjudicate These are expressions of the things the
their proper use. In a Role Playing Game a players are interested in doing. Be sure to
referee does this and more. include some challenges that will allow the
players to use the traits they have chosen.
As the referee you will "set the scene for
adventure" providing an impetus to the other Bonus Doubles
players so that they can react to the situations Some game sessions will involve a lot of role-
you present. The players will take control, playing and problem solving without much die
responding, acting, and emoting as their rolling. If the distribution of Doubles after a
characters would. This interaction will serve game session seems a bit lite, consider adding
to tell the characters' stories. some bonus doubles to the doubles pool.
Game sessions will vary in length and
Story Teller frequency depending upon your group, but a
As a story teller, the referee plots out a few good rule of thumb is 25 doubles per player
key scenes to help get the other players (enough to buy 1 new novice trait) for every 2
involved and engaged. These scenes should game sessions.
challenge the players by asking them, "What
do you do?" Understanding the Game
Action Traits are the bread and butter of this
Challenges game system. Decide what trait is best suited
Scenes will often include challenges. to an action. Roll the value of that trait or less
Challenges are obstacles for the player to succeed.
characters to overcome and will give the
players the opportunity to bring their It's a simple system, but it's one that can be
character's traits into play. easily abused. Traits that are too general that
might be applied to many types of tasks are to
The most common challenge is combat, but be discouraged.
other challenges could include a social
challenge where a player must convince an As a referee it's your job to nix traits like:
influential NPC to assist the characters, or a "Jack of all trades," or "Omniscient."
technical challenge where a character must
repair a vital piece of machinery. Challenges If a player picks something like this, try to
can be almost anything. offer alternatives that narrow things down a
bit ... perhaps "Handy-man" instead of "Jack of
all Trades," or "Scholar" in place of

Depending on the setting and the tone of the

game you may decide that these too are too

Feel free to experiment and don't be afraid to

make mistakes. If you decide after play has
commenced that a Trait is too powerful,
talk it over with the player.

The point of this game is to

facilitate everyone's enjoyment,
but not to make things too easy. Part of being
heroic and in telling heroic stories is being
able to solve problems bigger than yourself.

Also, if a player has chosen a trait that is

simply too specific, or never gets brought into
play, allow them to change it to something
that they will be able to use more often.

Exclusive Actions
Certain traits are used to improve the chance
of success when dealing with game system
specific tasks. These tasks (such as rolling an
attack action to strike an enemy) are
Exclusive Actions.

A trait cannot be defined to enhance the

ability of more than one Exclusive Action. For
example: Super Speed might arguably be
used to enhance a character's attack action,
dodge action, and seize initiative.

That makes the trait too powerful. The referee

should require the character to narrow "Super
Speed" into a collection of more specific traits
so that each one will enhance only a single
Exclusive Action.

The Exclusive Actions are:

Initiative Action
This action is used to seize initiative during
combat enabling characters to act before their
enemies. Recovery
Traits that could be used to improve a This
character's initiative action include: Alertness, action is used to
Combat Tactics, etc. regain consciousness after
being incapacitated. Especially important if
Attack Action medical assistance is not available.
This is the action a player declares to have
their character strike an enemy character in Traits that could be used to improve a
combat. character's recovery action include: Die Hard,
Regeneration, etc.
Traits that could be used to improve a
character's attack action include: Martial-Arts, Health and Movement
Swordsman, Archer, Hand Gun, Sharpshooter, Health and Movement are Exclusive Traits, but
etc. aren't actions. Like any other Exclusive Trait a
Trait that improves Heath or Movement cannot
Dodge Action be used to improve any other Exclusive trait.
This is the action a player declares after being
the successful target of an attack to try to Intensity Traits
evade the attack. It is also used to "break Intensity Traits are all Exclusive Traits. There
away" when moving using miniatures. are four types of Intensity traits.

Traits that could be used to improve a Damage Intensity

character's dodge action include: Lightning This applies to attacks and increases the
Reflexes, Danger Sense, etc. amount of damage inflicted by the attack.

Healing Action Resistance Intensity

This action is used to help a character to This reduces the amount of damage suffered
recover lost health. A character can only be from an attack.
the target of one healing action each day.
Healing Intensity
Traits that could be used to improve a This applies to healing traits and increases the
character's healing action include: First Aid, amount of Health recovered from the use of
Paramedic, etc. such traits.

Recovery Intensity Technology Tiers
This increases the amount of health restored Decide on a Technology Tier for your setting.
through natural recovery. Primitive swords and plate mail won't be as
effective in a world of futuristic lasers and
Intensity Traits are uncommon except in a force fields. To represent this, equipment is
game with a super-hero setting. In most other divided into three technology tiers.
settings Equipment (especially weapons and
armor) takes the place of Intensity Traits. Archaic Tier (Tier 1) - Primitive technologies:
swords, bows, and chain mail.
The Setting
Five by Five is designed to be flexible enough Modern Tier (Tier 2) - The stuff of today's
to be played in a variety of different game world: hand guns and Kevlar vests.
settings. As such it does not contain a setting
of its own. Futuristic Tier (Tier 3) - The stuff of science
fiction: energy weapons and force fields.
When choosing a setting, get with your
players and talk about your favorite books, When a weapon or armor is matched against
movies, and television shows. What sort of the weapons or armor from a higher tier, the
world have you always wanted to experience? lower tier equipment has its bonus reduced to
Who are your favorite adventure heroes? How 0. Damage is still rolled and applied, but the
might your own adventures differ from theirs? bonus for the weapon or armor is ignored.

Tone Power Tiers

Is your setting dark and gritty or light and Power Intensity Traits ( -see Super Powers on
fluffy? Is it lusty and sexual or noble and pure? page 10) are divided into Tiers just like
Discuss the weapons and armor. Generally, the power tier
tone of your will be the same for every character in a
setting with campaign.
your players to
determine the Power Tier 1 (Gritty Tier) - Tough Normals, Pulp
kind of game Heroes, Save the girl.
wants Power Tier 2 (Heroic Tier) - Street Level
to play. Supers, Save the city.

Power Tier 3 (Cosmic Tier) - Galactic Supers,

Save the planet.

Intensity Values from a lower Power Tier are

ignored when matched against the Intensity
Values of Traits from a higher tier. Also if a
weapon or armor from a lower Technology Tier
is matched against a power of a higher Power
Tier their weapon or armor bonuses are
similarly ignored. Treat Technology Tiers and
Power Tiers as interchangeable for this

Power and Technology Tiers do not need to

share the same values although fantasy
campaigns might consider sticking to a Power
Tier of 1 so as not to eliminate the
effectiveness of fantasy weapons and armor.
(Although as the campaign evolves, magic
weapons and armors could be elevated to
higher technology tiers to demonstrate their
mystical natures, thus opening the door for
higher power tiers as well.)

Weapons and Armor
A character can begin play with whatever
equipment can be explained according to their
role in the story. However, weapons and armor
have special rules and should be discussed
with the referee prior to play.

Weapon and Armor Intensities

Weapons increase damage by the value
indicated. For example: a short sword (+2) will
add 2 to the total damage inflicted. Armor
reduces damage by the value indicated. For
example: soft leather armor (+1) reduces total
damage taken by -1.

Weapon and Armor Technology Tiers

Weapons and Armor are divided into tiers
based on their technology. Weapons and
Armor from a lower tier have their value
reduced to 0 when matched against the
weapons or armor from a higher tier. D5
damage is still rolled and applied, but the
bonus for the weapon or armor is ignored.

Archaic Weapons (Tier 1) Weapon

Description Intensity

Unarmed / Untrained 0
Dagger, Improvised Weapon ++1
Short Sword, Mace, Staff, Short Bow ++2
Long sword, Long Bow, Crossbow ++3
Great Sword, Battle Axe ++4

Archaic Armor (Tier 1) Armor Modern Armor (Tier 2) Armor

Intensity Description Intensity
No Armor / Untrained 0 Light Ballistic Vest (concealable) ++1

Heavy Cloth or Soft Leather ++1 Medium Ballistic Vest / Flak Jacket ++2

Studded Leather or Light Chain ++2 Heavy Ballistic Vest ++3

Chain Suit or Breast Plate ++3 Combat Suit / Riot Gear ++4

Full Plate Mail ++4

Futuristic Weapons (Tier 3) Weapon
Description Intensity
Modern Weapons (Tier 2) Weapon
Description Intensity Light Energy Pistol ++1

Light Pistol ++1 Med Energy Pistol, Lt Energy Rifle ++2

Med Pistol, Lt Rifle ++2 Heavy Energy Pistol, Med Energy Rifle ++3

Heavy Pistol Med Rifle, Shot Gun ++3 Heavy Energy Rifle ++4

Heavy Rifle, Modified Shot Gun ++4

Futuristic Armor (Tier 3) Armor
Description Intensity
Shields and Off-Hand Weapons
Shields and Off-Hand Weapons do not Light Protective Clothing ++1
increase weapon or armor intensities. They Personal Force Field ++2
instead equip the character to be able to Environmental (space) Suit ++3
"Dodge" or prevent two attacks each turn
Powered Combat Armor (Mech) ++4
instead of the usual one. ( - see page 15.)

Example Traits
Below is a list of some possible traits that a player could choose to define their character. This list is
in no way complete and not every trait fits every type of setting. Players can use this list as a guide
to help them create a character. The referee will exercise the final say regarding which traits are
appropriate for the setting selected.

Acrobatic Brawling Martial Arts

Actor Broadcast Journalist Mechanic
Animal Training Carousing Medicine
Artist Carpentry Memory
Astrology Cars Musician
Astronomy Celebrity Contacts Observation
Athletic Charisma Occult Knowledge
Axes Charm Parry
Bluff Chemistry Pharmaceuticals
Bows Climbing Pick Pocket
Boxing Computers Pilot
Bravery Conspiracy Theorist Pistols
Contortionist Police Contacts
Cooking Political Contacts
Criminal Contacts Politician
Dancing Professor
Deduction Psychiatry
Disguise Quick Reflexes
Doctor Reporter
Driver Research
Electronics Rifles
Endurance Robotics
Engineering Rock Star
Evasive Action Royal Contacts
Extraterrestrial Studies Running
Fencing Sailing
First Aid Scientist
Flirtation Sculptor
Gambler Security Systems
Graceful Shadowing
Handy Man Ships
Herbalist Singer
Horses Space Craft
Impersonation Stealth
Instructor Street Contacts
Interrogation Street Smarts
Intimidation Strength
Investigation Surgeon
Jumping Surveillance
Knives Swimming
Lawyer Swords
Leadership Trivia
Legal Knowledge Wealthy Contacts
Lock Picking Wilderness Survival
Magician Wrestling

Five by Five (version 2) by Jeff Moore is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Text content may be reproduced and modified freely for private or

commercial use provided Jeff Moore is credited as the original author.

Visit us on the web at
Five by Five
The Free RPG Toolkit
by Jeff Moore

"It takes a lot of the grind out of

gaming. You can use the
system across a ton of world
templates too. Well done sir!"

Destiny Equality Lalande -


"Of the many free

RPGs I've downloaded
and read through,
'Five by Five'
is my favorite

Nason -