Paper-Free RPG

Paper-Free RPG is a roleplaying game for situations in which character sheets are not very feasible, such as during nature hikes or night-time car-rides. Without character sheets, Paper-Free RPG is designed to be easy to remember, which makes it easy to play, especially for inexperienced players.

Session Zero

    Any participant can pitch an idea for the premise of the game. A good format for proposed premises would be: "In [the setting], our protagonists are a team of [agents] who [perform a function]." An example premise would be: "In a mythic past, our protagonists are a team of mercenaries who specialize in retrieving rare magical artifacts."

After the participants have settled on a premise for the game, each player then describes a member of the team with a descriptive sentence; a good format for such would be: "In our team of [agents], my protagonist is [a colorfully described team member] who [is known for something] but [has a quirk]." An example protagonist-describing sentence would be: "In our team of artifact-retrieving mercenaries, my protagonist is the loquacious resident occult expert who 'dabbles' in divinitory/psychic magicks, but who gets queasy at the sight of gore."

With the versatility of magick to potentially solve any problem, in order for a mage to not unfairly have advantage on any roll by default, a mage's description should specify a particular flavor and/or scope of magick such that her/his magick has a limit to its versatility.

Once every protagonist has a descriptive sentence, have each pairing of players relate an anecdote of a time one of their protagonists helped the other. Roll dice if needed to determine who helped whom; highest roll is the helper.


    Firstly, note that not every action requires a dice roll; the automatic success or failure of some actions will be obvious, or simply unanimous.

For the middleground when some randomness is needed or wanted, Paper-Free RPG uses three six-sided dice ("d6") (or DoubleSixes). To make the dice portable and useable during a hike etc. you will need a lidded clear plastic/glass container minimally large enough to roll three d6 dice, but still small enough to fit in a pocket. To enable play in low-light conditions such as night-time car-rides, the d6 dice ideally would be glow-in-the-dark. A small handheld blacklight flashlight does a very good job of charging glow-in-the-dark dice.

A default roll is the mid-value die of the three rolled d6 dice. If a protagonist's descriptive sentence or the situation justifies an advantage, then the highest-value die is used. If conditions put the protagonist at a disadvantage then the lowest-value die is used. Multiple advantages and multiple disadvantages are possible; advantages and disadvantages cancel each other on a one-to-one basis, possibly putting one back at the mid-value die, etc.

d6 Results Chart

                             6 = "Yes, and..."
                             5 = "Yes"
                             4 = "Yes, but..."
                             3 = "No, but..."
                             2 = "No"
                             1 = "No, and..."

    In the above d6 Results Chart, four of the six dice outcomes have additional modifiers which narratively either soften ("but...") or intensify ("and...") the result.


    Turn order will often emerge organically, but if initiative rolls are needed to sort turn order in a scene such can be standard Paper-Free 3d6 rolls (with advantage or disadvantage) but then ignoring the "but/and" modifiers and simply comparing numerical values, highest going first, with descriptive sentences then rerolls to break ties.

The granularity of encounters can be scaled to preference; dice rolls can be used per action, per opponent, or even per an entire battle or societal infrastructure change. Smaller granularity will be more immersive, so more interesting scenes should employ the smaller granularity.

A player-versus-player conflict uses basic encounter mechanics except that the granularity of action is always as small as possible: "I draw my blade to stab" to start, not "I kill", etc. If player-versus-player conflict is problematic, to discourage such the gamemaster can declare a Divisiveness Penalty such that the aggressor's rolls are at disadvantage.

Essence Points?

    If your group is okay with additionally lugging around small bags of small beads on a nature hike etc., you could use beads to represent Essence Points, which could serve as health points, Drama Points, and/or mana points all rolled into one. Expended beads go to the gamemaster.


    Gamemasters traditionally have two functions: to run the game world, and to be the final arbiter of disputes. The default mode of Paper-Free RPG is to have a gamemaster, but note that the d6 Results Chart makes it possible to optionally run the world of a Paper-Free RPG game without a gamemaster.


    Paper-Free RPG by D.L. "Juwelgeist" is a minimalist hack of Freeform Universal RPG by Nathan Russell, and shares with it the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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