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Game Rules

Sleepers uses a diceless conflict resolution system inspired by the Amber DRPG. This system will one day have a name, but I haven't come up with anything appropriately clever just yet.

The basics will be familiar to Amber players - there are attributes, and conflict generally comes down to a comparison of points spent. Motivation and Karma (explained below) are an addition that adds a degree of uncertainty to conflict.


“Things everyone can do”

There are four Attributes in Sleepers, explained below. Note that there is no Attribute to cover combat skill. This is intentional. PCs are super-spies. Every secret agent has top-notch training in hand-to-hand combat, gun work, knife play, etc. The deciding factor is what else the characters in a conflict are using with their first-rate skills. If a PC doesn't have the standard set of ninja skills, that would be a particular Drawback (Drawbacks are also explained below).

In addition to a number of points, each Attribute should have a descriptor; that is, a couple words that describes how the PC uses the Attribute, or how it is expressed. This gives a good idea of the flavour of the character, and can be used to break ties. The score gives the Attribute a number, but the descriptor tells me how and why the PC has that score.

For point values, 0 means that the PC has the ability of a typical, unskilled, untalented, unexceptional non-spy person. There is no upper limit on attribute point values.


Agility covers speed, grace and coordination. Characters with high Agility will be light on their feet, dodge well, and be good jugglers. Characters will low agility will be clumsy, awkward and slow-moving.

Sample descriptors include “cat-like reflexes”, “hand quicker than the eye”, “Olympic gymnast”, or “has two left feet”.


Brains covers intelligence, wit, and “book learning”. This is the Attribute one would use to crack an enemy cypher, hack the IRS database, reprogram traffic lights, translate from Sumerian to Middle English, or solve sudoku puzzles.

Possible descriptors for Brains include “Human encyclopedia”, “Math wiz”, “code monkey”, “rocks for brains”, “I have a cunning plan…” and “Doctor of… SCIENCE!”


Brawn covers physical strength, endurance, and generally being a Tough Guy (or Girl or Whatever). Characters with lots of Brawn will be the big fella who throws barrels at the bad guys, the iron lady who keeps going with three bullet holes in her, or the person who hangs off a ledge by zir fingertips for two hours waiting for retrieval. Low Brawn characters will have a low pain tolerance and won't be very good at holding a door shut while enemy agents try to push it open.

Sample descriptors for Brawn include “Big Slab of Meat”, “Tough as Nails”, “Hey, I work out”, “Strong Like Bull”, “Strong Like Kitten” or “Over the Hill”.


Charm covers lying, seduction, acting and general social manipulation. High Charm characters will be able to talk their way past guards, make members of the appropriate sex swoon with a wink and a grin, and go from “stranger” to “best buddy” in 15 minutes and a beer. Low Charm characters make people nervous, have folks move to sit on the other end of the subway and either returning drinks sent across the bar or just tossed in their faces.

Sample descriptors for Charm include “Dead Sexy”, “Honest Face”, “Smooth with a capital SMOO”, “Awkward”, and “Smells Like Old Cheese”.


“Skills, gadgets and powers some people have”
Powers and accessories

Edges are those odd little things that your character has that gives them an advantage in their work. Every Edge needs to be negotiated with the GM for two factors - how much it costs, and what the “multiplier” is. Each Edge will have a base cost in points. Each Edge will also have a multiplier - depending on how many different situations it is applicable in, the points in the Edge may be multiplied when they are used in resolving a conflict. General Edges are just Singular - if, for example, an Edge for downloading new skills was used in conjunction with Agility for a dance-off, the Edge's point would just be added to the PC's Agility score. More specific Edges can grant a Twofold or Threefold multiplier - an Edge of “Skilled Dancer” might be a Twofold Edge, so its points would be doubled when applied to the dance-off. Threefold Edges will be quite rare.

Common Edges will cost 10-30 points.

Some sample Edges;

  • Perfect Memory
  • Laser Eyes
  • Immune to Pain
  • Can Kill You With My Brain
  • Machine Gun Leg
  • Invisibility field in a bowtie.
  • Can be imprinted with new knowledge electronically.
  • Can change face (with bionic implants? a special device? etc.)
  • Doesn't consciously know he/she is a spy, and hence cannot break cover accidentally.

It is also important to note that “is a badass ninja”, “has, like, a hundred black belts” or “is a ridiculously good shot” aren't valid Edges. See above - everyone is a badass ninja with a hundred black belts, and is an expert marksman. Unless you take a Drawback to give up that ability.


“Things [your character] cannot do”

I know what you're thinking - PCs start with 50 points, there are four Attributes and Edges cost 10-30 points? That's not enough points!

It's true - that's not enough points. That's why there are Drawbacks. Sleepers are not only the best of the best, they're often the weirdest of the weird. To balance out all the strange edges, some times, there are side effects.

Drawbacks give back points to spend on the fun stuff. They are things that will get in the way of accomplishing your mission, or just make life in general difficult.

Some sample Drawbacks include;

  • Will only live for another three years.
  • Has an implanted personality. Does not know zie is a spy.
  • Handlers can induce various reactions with trigger phrases (there are three flowers in a vase…).
  • Schizophrenic.
  • Is a coward - can't fight.
  • Is a double agent.
  • Is a double agent and does not know it.
  • Won't use guns.
  • Is a robot and will set off metal detectors/show on x-rays.

Pushing Beyond

“When you want to do just a little bit more”

Every character has their own personal Motivation. The one thing that drives them, that they want more than anything else. This could be something simple, like “greed” or “hatred”, or something a little more concrete, like “rescue sister from a Russian gulag” or “Find out true identity”. This is the character's narrative drive summed up in a few words.

This comes into play rules-wise with Karma. When a character acts in accordance with zir Motivation, especially when it's inconvenient, the character accrues Karma. Karma can be spent to push one's self beyond one's limits - to succeed in a conflict or action that would otherwise fail. At any point, a player can tell the GM that they want to push and ride their Karma.

There's a catch, though - players don't get to know how much Karma they have. If you're out, your action might fail, or there might be consequences. You win the fight, but you dropped your ID. Your real ID. You sneaked past the guards, but the bad guys caught your Mom. It's a gamble, and a blind one. Just how badly do you want to win?

rpg/sleepers/game_rules.txt · Last modified: 2017/04/28 17:08 (external edit)