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The Core Mechanics

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming pen & paper rules for Master of the Rogue Spire.

In Master of the Rogue Spire, your character is made up of three major pieces: traits, talents, and dice. Traits define what a character can do well. It can be training in their background, their culture, or innate ability. Talents are attached to traits - they are special tricks that characters learn as they level; they are what makes each character unique. Dice are the most important part of your character sheet. You use dice to overcome obstacles in and out of combat, but they are also your defense against other character’s mental or physical attacks.

Types of Dice

Vitality Die

A character’s base health and ability (even when completely exhausted) are represented by the vitality die. This is the die that is always available to a character every round, so when it gets taken out, the character is either dead or unconscious.

Skill Dice

The character’s trained ability is represented by skill dice. These dice can be used every round for movement, defense, offense, and reactions, but once they are exhausted, the player’s defenses are weakened and they are vulnerable to injury.

Dice Status


Dice that have been used up for the round are exhausted. They are easier to strain and injure than unexhausted dice and cannot be used to take actions unless refreshed during the encounter.


Dice may be strained when a player is tired, wounded, poisoned, or sick. Strained dice can be exhausted to perform actions like a normal die, but they do not refresh during an encounter like exhausted dice. If your vitality die is strained, your character is unconscious.


Dice may be wounded when taking damage. When a die is wounded it is always exhausted and will never refresh. If your vitality die is wounded, your character is on death’s door.

Taking an Action

When a player declares an action, the Spire Master must adjudicate whether this is a skilled action, unskilled action, or free action. This is an important decision to keep consistent - if a character can take a skilled action once, they should be able to take that same action again in the future as a skilled action. The chief difference between these types of actions is which dice the player can roll.

Skilled Actions

Skilled Actions connect in some way to a player’s traits - a Dwarf swinging an ax, a stealthy character hiding, a deceptive character lying. The player may roll any of the character’s dice. Spire Masters should let the players be creative in using their traits to take actions but also remember to enforce limits so that different characters can shine in different situations.

Unskilled Actions

Unskilled actions are outside of a character’s traits and can only use the vitality die. A non-athletic dwarf trying to jump a chasm, a non-charming outlaw trying to sweet talk the guards or a unintimidating hobbit trying to scare off some bandits are all clear examples of unskilled actions that will have difficulty finding success.

Free Actions

Some actions don’t take enough energy or skill to even count. Like dropping something on the ground or yelling out a few words in combat. Players don’t have to spend any dice to do a free action.

Target Difficulty

Each action a player takes has a target difficulty (TD) either decided by the Spire Master or derived by the talent from which it comes. The target difficulty for a die is half the number of sides.

Exhausting Dice

Once a die has been rolled, that die is exhausted and can’t be used again until refreshed. Any two-sided coin or token may be used to track exhausted vs refreshed dice on your character sheet or players may simply place exhausted dice on their character sheet.

Rolling again

Before the Spire Master narrates the outcome of an action, the player may choose to exhaust more of their dice in order to beat the target difficulty number. These are all part of the same action, the character is just spending more energy to do it.

Types of Results


If you roll over the target difficulty, your action is successful.


If you roll under the target difficulty, your action has failed. The best way to learn is through failure. If your character is not at their Next XP limit, you gain XP whenever you roll a 1 on a die. The amount of XP earned is the number of sides on the die rolled. For example a 1 on a D4 earns 4 XP, while a 1 on a D20 earns 20 XP. This works out to an average of 1 XP every time a die is rolled.

Success AND...

If you roll over twice the target difficulty, your action is successful and has a beneficial consequence. In combat that could turn a glancing blow into an injury, while outside of combat there are many more options. Help the Spire Master out by suggesting a bonus outcome, like adding a status to an enemy or refreshing a die.

Success BUT… | Failure BUT….

If you roll exactly the target difficulty you can choose success or failure. Success will provoke a negative consequence, while failure will provoke a beneficial consequence. Introduce this rule if you want more varied results. As a player, you can suggest your own consequences too.


Quick Rest

A quick rest restores exhausted and strained dice and takes time.

A Good Night’s Rest

A good night’s rest restores all exhausted dice and also heals one strained die, removing the strained status. Healing strain from the vitality die also revives unconscious characters.


If a character has a wounded die, it requires healing to remove the status. The target difficulty of the healing check required is half of the dice’s value. Healing turns a wounded die into a strained die, which must be rested to recover. Only one heal check can be administered per day to a single die unless there is some significant change in the circumstances of the treatment.

Natural Healing

If a character’s wounded die has not been healed, there is a chance it will heal naturally with rest. After a good night’s rest, the player rolls a healing check with a free D4 for every wounded die.

On Death’s Door

If your vitality die is wounded, you are on death’s door and roll a free D4 every minute. When the die rolls a 1, the character dies.


If you'd like to keep on reading about the rest of the game, the Quickstart Guide with sample characters and encounter are available for free on

We will be launching a Kickstarter for the full rules next week. To get updates, subscribe or follow us on Twitter.



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