Peasants & Pitchforks: Part 2 — Gameplay

Note: This is part two of a series about my homebrew game system, Peasants & Pitchforks. In this post, we take a look at the gameplay mechanics. Please see post number 1 to learn how to generate a P&P character.
To recap from last post, every P&P PC will have the following written on their character sheet:
  • Three stats (Handy, Tricky, Lucky) with values ranging from 1 to 6 (with a possible +2 in Lucky)
  • Three descriptors: a physical characteristic, a character trait and an occupation
  • One piece of gear
With that in mind, let's move onward to the game mechanics:
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Doing Stuff

Throwin’ Dice: During play, just tell the Elder what you want your character to do. If it’s risky, you’ll have to roll for it:
  • Roll Handy to perform most actions:
    Throw 1d8. You want to score equal to or lower than your Handy stat. Success only applies to your single action, and creates little extra benefit beyond that action. Fail and you just fail.
  • Roll Tricky to carry out any sort of fancy plan with a single die roll. At your option, you can also roll Tricky for nearly any single action, as long as you describe it well.
    Throw 1d8. You want to score equal to or lower than your Tricky stat:
    If you pass, take +1 Lucky. The results of a successful Trick are also usually more spectacular and meaningful than that of a single Handy roll, but this depends on the narration.
    If you fail, you’ll suffer a negative consequence of the Elder’s choosing. If your Trick was dangerous or foolhardy, maybe you’ll just die.
  • Lucky comes into play when stuff just happens to you irregardless of your character’s actions:
    The Elder will roll a die against your Lucky stat. The size of the die rolled depends on how dangerous the situation is, ranging from a d4 all the way to a d20. If it rolls over your Lucky, bad stuff happens to you. This could be anything, but you’ll probably just die.
Advantage & Disadvantage: Your peasant’s actions can be affected by various factors. Anything written on your character sheet—your traits, your background or even your gear—can grant and advantage or disadvantage to your rolls. Such factors may also arise from environmental elements or result from your tricks.
If something creates a real solid benefit to enhance your action, throw two dice and use the lowest roll. You are responsible for explaining how the advantage is relevant.
If something makes problems for your action, throw two dice and use the highest roll. If you succeed the roll despite your disadvantage, gain +1 Lucky. You may ask for disadvantage if the GM forgets to enforce it!
Advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out, and you can never have more that +1 die. It also applies to Lucky rolls, but in reverse: your advantage gives the Elder disadvantage on rolls against your luck, and vice versa.


Spending Luck: You may spend 1 Luck to immediately take an extra action of any kind you are capable of performing. This may give you the chance to retry a failed roll if the action is the kind that allows retries, or can be used to act quickly before someone else, etc. When the Elder asks for a die roll, you may sometimes be able to spend 1 Lucky Point to get off an immediate action before the requested roll, but sometimes not, depending on the Elder’s judgement. You can’t spend 2 Luck to get two back to back extra actions.
You may also spend ALL your remaining Luck (minimum 1 point) to retroactively reroll a disastrously failed roll or take an action to avoid a detrimental effect (such as sure death). For example, if you miss the monster with your attack, you can spend all your Luck to retry the attack. Likewise, if you get hit in combat, you can spend all your Luck to roll Handy or Tricky on one last chance for survival.
So for example, if you step on an acid-spraying trap and get nailed, you could spend all your Lucky points and roll Tricky to retroactively grab onto the windowsill and swing out of the way. You could also spend 1 Lucky point to gain an extra attack on an especially tough enemy, or to combine a cool trick with a standard attack, etc. Your imagination is the limit, be creative!
Gaining Luck: Luck takes the place of Experience Points in this system. There are no levels or classes or cool powers. You just gain Lucky points for doing cool stuff, and spend it to do cool stuff. That’s the extent of it. Note that you can only have a maximum rank of 10 Luck at any one time, so you should start spending it if you hit this cap. Following is a list of ways to gain Luck points (always only a 1 point reward):
  • Roll Tricky and succeed
  • Pass any roll in which you have disadvantage
  • Be the first to discover an amazing place
  • Personally claim a valuable treasure
  • Land the killing blow on a monster
  • Escape a dangerous situation in a clever way
  • Roleplay a great social scene
  • Get chosen as the leader of the peasant mob (lose all your Luck if you are replaced)


Hittin’ Enemies: If you score a direct hit in combat, you will probably hurt your enemy a bit. You don’t have to roll damage in this system. The damage you deal depends on the what you are using to hit them with:
  • Fists or non-deadly weapon: 1 damage
  • Small deadly weapon: 2 damage
  • Big deadly weapon: 3 damage
  • Attack with a Trick: +2 damage
Most opponents require 1 to 4 damage to take down, although some may require more or may even be impossible to kill with physical attacks. For some monsters, the Elder might roll on a random table to see what effect your attack has instead of applying damage directly, and certain monsters might even be impossible to kill.
Combat is deadly in this game. Running is usually the better option, because…
Gettin’ Hit: If you fail a Tricks roll in combat, you might get hit as a consequence. Otherwise, monsters roll against your Lucky to attack you on their turn.
Peasants always die if they suffer a single hit in combat or from a damage-dealing hazard. You don’t have any hit points. You get hurt, you die.
That said, if you have armor of some kind or any Luck points remaining, you may have a chance of survival:
Armor: You have a chance of surviving a hit if you have armor (but you probably won’t have that unless you loot it somewhere). This also includes improvisational protection of all sorts, from wearing two thick jackets at once to putting a pot on your head. (A single jacket won’t cut it.)
If you have armor, roll a d6 to avoid damage from a successful hit. Roll <= your armor value (AV) to ignore the hit entirely! However, if you roll a 6, whatever you were being protected by is wrecked, and you get hit. A shield and/or helmet stacks with body protection, so you choose which gets ruined if you roll a 6. (If you spend your Luck, the armor is still ruined. If you don’t have any Luck, your armor is ruined and you are dead.)
In all cases, the players are encouraged to be creative in how they attempt to protect their peasants, but the GM always gets the final say as to what counts as a “shield” or “helmet” and what level of protection value applies (if any).
  • Light armor: AV 1
  • Medium armor: AV 2
  • Heavy armor: AV 3
  • Helmet: +1 AV
  • Shield: +1 AV
Cover: Peasants can hide behind things to avoid getting hurt. Hiding behind partial cover gives opponents disadvantage on attacks against you. The GM may declare that your cover is insufficient, in which case all bets are off. If you’re totally hidden behind a solid object, you (usually) can’t be attacked at all.

The Peasant Mob

There is also a ‘peasant mob’ that accompanies the player peasants in their struggles—the mob starts with a number of nameless peasants equal to twice the number of players to four times the group size, depending on the difficulty level agreed upon before the session begins. Should anybody’s peasant die, they just assume control of another peasant from the mob (subtract one from the mob size), quickly generate stats and a name for their new peasant, and jump back into the action! (In essence, the peasant mob acts as a limited “hit point” pool shared by all the PCs.)
The Elder can also prepare a bunch of pre-generated peasants to speed things up. However, all pre-gens are created with the Ironman rules without the +2 Lucky bonus.
Players can choose a pre-gen or roll their own, as they see fit.

The Leader

It may be hard to choose a Leader when everybody is bickering about who would be best, but no peasant mob should be without one. A Leader gains certain benefits from their position, and can also help the peasant mob:
  • The Leader gains 1 Luck when another peasant gains Lucky by following the Leader’s orders.
  • The Leader can spend her Luck to give another peasant within sight a free action.
  • As a full round action, the Leader can roll a d8 against her own Lucky (no expenditure needed) to direct the mob: if she passes, the mob will follow her orders (to a certain extent). Mobs always have a value of 3 for all three stats, and their Luck never rises or falls.
  • The Leader can use “Leader” as an extra functional background, if the player can think up a creative way to apply it.
  • The Leader always deals +1 damage on a successful hit in combat.
  • However, the Leader loses -2 Fate whenever one of her mob members or another PC dies, and loses ALL her Fate if she is ever replaced as Leader.
If the mob can not choose a Leader with a majority vote, a tough guy can try and wrest control by declaring himself Leader. He remains Leader until somebody else puts him in his place. (PvP unarmed attacks do not kill in this case, unless you want them to.)

Carrying Stuff

Each peasant starts with one item. You can also carry up to one extra item. (You have two hands, right?) If you have a container of some sort (sack, backpack, etc.), you can carry a bit more stuff within it.
The mob can also carry items, although their starting items are not available in play until they become PCs. You can give the mob one item per peasant, and they will carry them for you. If any of the peasants in the mob die, the carried equipment may be affected, although this must be determined at random.
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And that's generally it! The rest of the rules will always be hardbaked into the modules themselves as GM notes, so these are all the rules the players should need to play a full game.
In theory at least. It's getting its first playtest this Sunday! So, we shall see. ;)
In a forthcoming follow-up to this series we will take a look at adventure module design, but I won't be writing that for some time. Until then, if anybody actually tries these rules out, please hit me up in the comments on FacebookTwitter or MeWe and let me know how it goes! I'd be very interested in your take on a P&P adventure. (Hint: It definitely can't be anything like your standard D&D adventure.)


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