Game Basics

Artifice is a fantasy roleplaying game that uses a six sided dice (d6) pool resolution mechanic.  The rules are designed to be intuitive and require a minimum of book keeping on the part of the players and the Game Master.  Only paper, a pencil, and a few d6 are required to play Artifice.  Graph paper is recommended.  Use of miniatures and battle mats is optional.

Following are some formatting conventions of the rules:

Character Creation direction is provided at the beginning of each SECTION which is in all caps.  The sections are organized in order of the character creation process.  The Character Sheet has numbering corresponding to rule sections.
Optional Rules are offset from the body text and start with the text “Optional Rule –“.  Confirm the use of optional rules with the Game Master prior to play.
Examples are offset and indicated with italicized text  “Example:”.
Designer Notes are offset and indicated with italicized text “Designer Note:”

Game Master or GM is the person who prepares the game session for the players and the characters they play (known as player characters or PCs). The GM describes the events and decides on the outcomes of players’ decisions. The game master also keeps track of non-player characters (NPCs) and random encounters, as well as of the general state of the game world.  The game session (or “adventure”) can be metaphorically described as a play, in which the players are the lead actors, and the GM provides the stage, the scenery, the basic plot on which the improvisational script is built, as well as all the bit parts and supporting characters. (Adapted from

Player Characters (PC) are characters controlled by players.

Non-Player Characters (NPC) are controlled by the GM.

Dice are used to resolve actions and events although the GM is the final arbiter.  Artifice uses standard six sided dice (d6).

  • Failure is a result of 1, 2 or 3 for each d6 rolled.
  • Success is a result of 4, 5 or 6 for each d6 rolled.

Dice Pools represent the potential of the factors which will determine the success as well as the degree of success of an action.  Dice Pools are indicated by a number a of dice as #D.

Abilities represent an aptitude in related activities.  There are 3 Abilities each relating to Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Will Power.  In Artifice, it is assumed that all characters have an extensive core knowledge and understanding of their world.  Unless indicated otherwise, any action can be attempted with a reasonable chance for success.  An action that requires some special requisite knowledge would require a Skill.

  • Unless indicated otherwise, Abilities start at 1D and can be increased up to 3D.
  • Class Ability is an Ability that is central to the core proficiencies of a character’s Class. Each Class has two Prime Abilities.  Class Abilities can be increased up to 6D.
  • Racial Ability represents a natural aptitude and innate talent a race has in a particular Ability.  The Prime Ability is listed for each Race and starts at +1D when the character is created.  A Racial Ability can be increased up to 6D.
  • Character Ability is a proficiency that the character is always striving to improve and expand.  After attaining 4th Level, a player chooses a Character Ability.  The Character Ability may be increased up to 6D.
  • No Ability can be increased above 6D.

Skills represent an expertise and/or specialized knowledge that a typical character would not ordinarily possess.  Some actions, like reading or speaking a language has no chance for success without the requisite knowledge.  Besides languages, the GM determines the base level of knowledge in the setting and what actions require a Skill.

Action Success or Failure is determined by rolling number of dice from the character’s relevant Ability Dice Pool.  The character’s total Successes are compared to the total Successes of the opponent (Test) or Difficulty of opposing force (Check).

  • To overcome a Check, the character’s Successes must equal or exceed the Difficulty of the obstacle.
  • To win a Test, the character’s Successes must exceed the total Successes rolled by the opponent.
  • The character who initiates the action is successful in the event of a tie unless the rules indicate otherwise.
  • The defender wins the Wound Test in the event of a tie.

Degree of Success requires a second roll.  Typically, this roll uses a different Dice Pool.  Cascading Dice, Situational modifiers, Critical Successes, Critical Failures or special conditions described elsewhere in the rules can also give a character an advantage and add D to the pool.

Opponent and Opposing Force is the same in terms of the rules.  Character, opponent, opposing force, target, and creature are used interchangeably only to distinguish between the individuals described.  Opponent would switch to Opposing Force when a character is performing an action against a force or inanimate object rather than another character.

Test is a roll where one character rolls the Dice Pool against an opposing character.  The opposing character rolls their Dice Pool to counter the action.  The total Successes of each character are compared.

Check is a roll where the opposing force is static and the GM determines the Difficulty.   Unless provided in the rules, the GM assigns the Difficulty.  The assumption is that the Difficulty is the Successes needed to be achieved in a single dice roll.  For more difficult tasks or where cumulative effort may lead to success, the GM may require that the character achieve a number of Successes within a certain time period.  For example, a barred wooden door may break open if a total of 4 successes are achieved within two turns by one or more characters combined.

  • Difficulty is a set and static level of opposing challenge or force.  Difficulty is a target number of Successes which a character much achieve to overcome the challenge.
Difficulty Examples
Automatic0Notice a guard or object in plain view
Easy1Light a fire with a tinder box in windy conditions Hit an Adjacent inanimate object or target
Moderate2Hit a Near Range inanimate targetFind a secret door
Hard3Hit a Long Range inanimate targetEasiest Formulae Spells
Difficult4Disable a complex trap
Monstrous5Minimum Difficulty when attempting an action that requires a Skill that the character does not have but has a general idea of how to do it or has seen someone else do it


Example:  To open a wooden door that is swollen shut requires a Strength Check modified by Might and has a Difficulty of 2.  When Tenrec attempts to shoulder a heavy barred door open, 3 dice are rolled because he has Strength 3D.  The rolls are 2, 2, and 3.  The 3 is increased to 4 because he has Might +1.  The results are 2 Failures and 1 Success.  The door does not open and Tenrec’s shoulder is now aching. 

Hidden Check or Hidden Test is a Check or Test secretly resolved by the GM when the success or failure of an action might not be immediately apparent to a Player Character.

Example:  When keeping guard, a failed Perception Test may not become apparent until the intruder attacks.  When trying to bluff or mislead an official, failure could result in the official playing along until the truth is known. 

Wild Dice provide additional chances for extraordinary success or catastrophic failures.  Include a single, separate and identifiable Wild Die as one of the dice in every roll of a Dice Pool even if it is the only die in the pool.

  • Critical Failure is a natural or unmodified result on “1” on the Wild Die.  Unless the rules state otherwise, when a character rolls a Critical Failure, the opponent adds 1 Success to the results of their current Dice Pool roll.  The GM has full discretion for how to resolve the Critical Failure in the current turn or next turn and may even to choose to ignore it.
Example:  On the second attempt to open the door, 3 dice are rolled for Tenrec.  There are two Successes but the Wild Die is “1” and results in a Critical Failure.    Because of the two Successes, the door opened.  Because of the Critical Failure, the GM adds 1 Success to the goblin guard’s upcoming Initiative Test as Tenrec staggers into the room.
  • Critical Failure is also when 4 or more dice are rolled for a Test or Check and there are no Successes.
  • Critical Success is a result of a natural or unmodified “6” on the Wild Die. Unless the rules state otherwise, when a character rolls a Critical Success, add 1 Success to the results to that of the current Dice Pool roll.  The GM has full discretion for how to resolve the Critical Success in the current turn or next turn and may even to choose to ignore it.
Example:  Alternately, on the second attempt to open the door, 3 dice are rolled for Tenrec.  The results are 5, 5, and the Wild Die results is “6”, a Critical Success.  This totals 4 Successes  so the door opens. 
  • Critical Success is also when the player’s Test or Check results in 4 or more Successes than the opposing Difficulty or opponent’s number of Successes.

Automatic Successes for an action can be achieved where the opposing force is static.  Half of the Dice Pool can be assumed to be Successes.  Do not roll a Wild Die.  Do not Cascade any dice from Automatic Successes.

Example:  A hover skiff has a Difficulty 2 to pilot. Tenrec’s sorcerous companion Kobor has INT 2D, Arcanum 2D.  Kobor will have 2 automatic Successes for operating the hover skiff. If Kobor had INT 2D, Arcanum 4D, he would have 3 automatic Successes.  Tenrec has INT 2D.  If the task of piloting the skiff were to fall to Tenrec, the player would have to roll 2 Successes for Tenrec each turn or there would be a mishap. 


Passive Successes represent Successes from an Ability that is not actively being used when an opposing Difficulty is needed.  On average, half of the rolls will result in Successes.  Half or the Ability’s D is the quantity of Passive Successes.

Cascading Dice represent an overwhelmingly successful action which enhances the effect of a following action.  Excess Successes convert to additional dice which can be added to the Dice Pool for a following action.   Additional D may be added to the next Test or Check equal to the number of excess Successes from the current Test or Check.  Checks and Tests which do not allow Cascading dice will be specifically noted.

Example:  Tenrec, the human warrior, swings his long sword at the zombie guarding the entrance to the tomb.  Tenrec has 4D Finesse Ability for the Combat Test to Attack.   The dice are rolled resulting in 3 Successes.  The zombie has 2D Agility for the Combat Test to Defend.  The GM rolls for the zombie and gets 1 Success. For the Combat Test, Tenrec has 3-1=2 more Successes than the zombie and scores a successful hit.  The 2 excess Successes cascade to the next roll, the Wound Test.  Tenrec’s Might and Lethality of the long sword total 4D versus the zombie’s Toughness of 3D.  To determine the degree of damage done, 4+2(cascade dice)=6 dice will be rolled.  Tenrec gets 4 Successes and the zombie gets 1.  The zombie takes wounds reducing his Condition by 4-1=3 steps.


Time and Duration are abstracted to facilitate ease of play and to minimize record keeping.  Specific quantities of time are provided as suggestions for the GM if a need arises.  Following are the most common measurements of time used.

  • Round is an amount of time in which two characters can each take a turn.  A Round is nominally 20 seconds.
  • Turn is an abstract designation of time in the game in which a character may perform an action such as a Move or Attack each time they have Initiative.  Nominally a  turn is 10 seconds.
  • Encounter refers to an open ended amount of time from when a problem is presented to a character until that problem is resolved or addressed.   At the discretion of the GM, Per Encounter is nominally equal to a “watch”, two hours, or until the character takes a brief rest or 15 minutes.
  • Day or Daily is until the character rests again.  Nominally this time period is 8 hours or until the character rests for at least 4 hours at the discretion of the GM.

Range and Distance are also abstracted to facilitate speed of play and to minimize record keeping.  Suggested specific distances are provided for using miniatures or if needed for some other reason.

  • When miniatures and battlemaps are used the scale is 1” = 5’,
  • Adjacent is when the object or target is close enough to be touched or reached by a melee weapon with no more than a step or two.  Note that firing a missile weapon at an adjacent foe typically grants them Advantage.  An adjacent object or target is within 5’.  On a battlemap, anyone in a square with a side or corner touching the square occupied by the character is Adjacent.
  • Near represents a distance that is within a spell or missile weapon’s range but would require the character move more than a few steps to reach.  Unless indicated otherwise, the actual distance can typically be assumed to be 30’/6” or less.
  • Far range represents a distance that is less than the maximum effective range of a weapon or spell.  For weapons or spells, this is double the listed range.  Unless indicated otherwise, the actual distance can be assumed to be over 30’/6” but less than 100’.
  • Out of Range indicates the distance to a target is more than the effective range of a weapon or spell.  The actual distance is greater than 100’.
  • Line of Sight typically applies to spells whose effectiveness extends to the limits of the character’s vision.  If the target can be seen, the spell can be cast on it.  If the opponent or object is behind opaque cover or unable to be seen,  the spell cannot target them.
Designer Note:  The GM should take note when two ranged weapons have significantly different ranges.  A character with a long bow may be at Near range while the opponent character with a throwing axe may be at Far range.

Experience Points are awarded by the GM after each gaming session.  A player can use Experience Points (xp) to improve Abilities or acquire Skills.

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