Pip System Basics

The Pip System has been around for years now, bringing new players into the hobby, some old and some young. It’s an easy-to-learn system with enough flexibility to handle just about any game genre or setting you can throw at it. For those of you unfamiliar with how the Pip System actually works, here’s a rundown of what basic mechanics.

The Pip System uses six-sided dice of two different colors (generally denoted as White dice and Black dice, but it could be any two colors you have at your disposal) to determine if a character’s task succeeds or fails. White dice are positive for the character (marked as W), representing their degree of skill in a task. Black dice (marked as B) are negative dice, representing the difficulty of the challenge presented. For example, 2W means the player would roll 2d6 white dice and 2B means the player would roll 2d6 black dice. Using the Black and white dice gives an immediate look at your chances of success. Lots of white dice and you’re more likely to win. Lots of black dice and it’s obvious that the cards are stacked against you. Players, especially kids, respond really well to visually knowing your odds.

Using an example from Infestation: A bug with Knowledge 3 tries to find the way through a Challenge Rating 2 (CR2) junk maze in The Above. The player would grab 3W (equal to their Knowledge Skill) and 2B (equal to the CR) and rolls them together to determine success. 

When rolling dice, players are looking for successes. In the Pip System, a success is a 4, 5, or 6 rolled on your 1d6. A success on a white die works in favor of the player, while a success on a black die hurts the character by nullifying successes on White dice. A character needs at least 1 success on a white dice to succeed at their Task. It sounds simple, but there are also a lot of factors that can take dice away, add to the CR or otherwise affect a player’s chances at success.

The core of the system is built on Skills and Qualities. Here’s a bit of knowledge on those aspects of the Pip System.

Skills

The Pip System doesn’t have Attributes like a lot of other games do. This game uses only 14 Skills, each rated Rank 1 to Rank 5.

  • Aim – Handles ranged attacks (i.e. archery, throwing, firearms, etc.)
  • Athletics – Measures the physical aptitude of the character (i.e. running, jumping, etc.)
  • Charm – How they use social Skill in a positive way (i.e. showing empathy, negotiating, etc.)
  • Coerce – Handling social Skill in a negative way (i.e. lying, intimidation, etc.)
  • Coordination – Being precise and speedy (i.e. flexibility, reflexes, etc.)
  • Crafts – Putting things together/taking them apart (i.e. mechanics, computers, etc.)
  • Investigation – Your knowledge of what’s around you (i.e. searching for clues, eavesdropping, etc.)
  • Knowledge – How knowledgeable the character is (i.e. medicine, history, streetwise, etc.)
  • Magic – The range of magical studies (i.e. casting spells, sensing magic, etc.)
  • Perform – Handles any type of performing (i.e. acting, instruments, etc.)
  • Resist – A catch-all for resisting things trying to harm/change you (i.e. fighting fear, pushing off poison, etc.)
  • Sneak – Being overall sneaky-like (i.e. hiding, shadowing, etc.)
  • Strike – Handles close fighting (i.e. unarmed, sword-fighting, etc.)
  • Survival – Shows off your character’s wilderness knowledge (i.e. tracking, navigation, etc.)

Qualities

Beyond the basic Skills a character possesses, they get points to spend on other aspects of their character, called Qualities. These can be used to enhance their existing Skills, add on new special abilities called Advanced Qualities, craft specialty weapons and armor, or even earn themselves a companion (there’s more than this, but this is just a summary after all, right?).

So, for example, a player who wanted to make a wealthy playboy type of character could spend a few points in the Attractive and Haggler Qualities, adding to their ability to Charm, and then buy the Socialite and Wealthy Advanced Qualities. Then he decides his character has a favorite suit that he wears to all his house parties, adding a suit to this character and giving it the Lucky Quality (which allows him to reroll 1 black die on a fail). Then, because the character doesn’t like to do anything himself, he spends the rest of his points to gain a Companion, making it his personal bodyguard. 

Using a system like this, there is an almost limitless combination of Skills and Qualities to make just the concept you want! If anything here appeals to you in any way, we invite you to check the Pip System Corebook Kickstarter out when it launched on March 7, 2017.