Pulse & Pressure

For those curious about how Martian Muckraker RPG is doing, please note that based on my playtest I have made a simplified dice system. A 3 page ruleset is ready that I will be playtesting with a group early November. If you want to take an early look at it, it is the Streamlined Hybrid rules here. Based on the results I will incorporate the dice system into the longer rulebook.

My RPG group has a playtest coming up in November (we are all busy before Halloween) so I am looking forward for seeing the new calamity rules in action.

But because I can’t just do one project at a time, here are the rough draft rules of a One Page RPG I am working on called Pulse and Pressure.


Pulse and Pressure is genre agnostic, but it presumes your characters are in a high stakes situation where they under constant pressure. Possible examples include daring heist stories (whether done in a fantasic, sci-fi or modern style) or horror stories where the character’s are being constantly chased by an unspeakable evil. The game depends on a Pressure Level which represents how close the situation is to destabilizing for our heros.

The rules are as follows:

  1. You will need a Game Master and 2-4 players. The GM explains the quest/scenario/source of impending doom and narrates the actions of the NPC’s and environment. Players narrate their character’s actions. Risky Actions are decided by rolling 2D6.
    • On a Lucky 7 the character succeeds and the pressure level is set to zero (see below). Or for an added challenge the pressure level just drops two levels.
    • On double trouble (any doubles) the character fails epically and the GM can initiate a plot twist. The player that rolled the doubles gets an XP point
    • On anything else The character succeeds if they rolled above the hazard level number. Otherwise they fail. Anytime anything else is rolled the hazard level increases by one. Else the character fails and suffers a consequence proportional to the hazard level.
  2. The higher the pressure level the worse the consequences of failure are. If the pressure level goes higher than Oh Shit! Either the character’s fail at their quest, someone dies or some other dramatic plot twist occurs. Then (if there are survivors) the pressure level drops back to zero. The Pressure Levels and corresponding pressure level numbers are:
    • Zero: No hazard numbers
    • Very Low: 3
    • Low 3, 4
    • Moderate 3, 4, 5,
    • High 3, 4, 5, 8
    • Very High 3, 4, 5, 8, 9
    • Deadly 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 , 10
    • Oh shit! 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11
  3. Based on the setting, the GM will define seven skills. A default list is below. On a piece of paper write the skills. You can place seven checkboxes, representing training, on your character sheet, but at least two skills must be untrained. If you are doing an action related to a skill you have training in before you roll you can check one of the check boxes associated with that skill to be able to roll three dice and choose which two will “count” as your roll. Checkmarks are removed between game sessions. Or on a successfull roll, a checkbox can be checked to gain an extra benefit or added information.
  4. Your character has an area of expertise – on action rolls related to their area of expertise the pressure level is treated as though it were one level less than it currently is. Players work with their GM to come up with a genre appropriate area of expertise for their character.
  5. Your character has a weakness or vice (depending on what fits the game genre best). The GM can offer a (negative) plot twist to the player that could come from this weakness or vice. If the player accepts they gain an XP point.
  6. On a successful roll 2 XP points (from the same player) can be used for an extra benefit or added information. 3 XP points (From the same player) can be used to lower the hazard level by two levels. 4 XP points can be used to permanently purchase a checkbox in a skill.
  7. Give each player seven checkboxes of pulse. When the Pressure Level is Zero, Low or Very Low each consequence, besides it’s narrative impact, requires one checkbox to be checked. On Moderate or High 2 checkboxes are checked for each consequence. On Very High, Deadly, or Oh Shit! three checkboxes are checked for each consequence. When all are checked the character, they are overwhelmed by the pressure they are under. Optional: For a more complex game have a different consequence track for mind, body and spirit and have the players choose to have 4, 5 and 7 checkboxes distributed to those areas as they see fit.
  8. Default Skill List:
    • Athletics For breaking open stuff, strength and competitions
    • Parkour For Acrobatic stunts
    • Science For handling technology and scientific matters
    • Diplomacy For reading peoples intentions and influencing them
    • Investigation For Finding Clues
    • Trickery For moving silently, hiding or pulling pranks/cunning plans
    • Genre Knowledge For Dealing with Magic, aliens, cultic items or monsters or whatever is most relevant to your genre of game.

A PDF version of the rules is on my Itch along with an early draft of this dice system called That Which Hunts Them.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Unsplash

Copyright 2020 Gabriel Relich

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