About Dead Simple Roleplaying

“Let me explain, no that would take too long, let me sum up…”  – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Like an growing number of roleplayers over the last two decades I have found the increasing complexity and length of most commercial roleplaying systems overwhelming. I’m sorry everyone, but I like to play RPG’s for fun, not as a second life. I like to be carried along by the story, not the dice. I like to spend my playing time finding creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems, not rolling handfuls of dice against skill tables to see if I succeed.

I understand that the commercial authors of rules have mortgages to pay and businesses to run and I applaud the fact that they have found away to do so. However, I do not see why I as a games master have to own several multi-hundred page books, all of the supporting novels, the asssociated figures ranges, the maps and floorplans and a bucket of dice, just to give my friends an evening of fun.

All this complexity is driving the roleplaying out of RPGs. The straw that broke this old camel’s back was when Dullards of the Coast decided that D&D had to become a superpowered skirmish game that mimicked World of Wiffwaff.

Already known for my ability to distill a wargame down to a single page (FUBAR) I decided to try and do the same with a classic fantasy RPG. Well folks I failed.. well not entirely. Dead Simple is indeed a single page, but I couldn’t help myself and wrote a dozen supplements on such things as creating dungeons, villages, cities and monsters, each a single page long.

So the rules now span a dozen pages, but you still only need the first page to play a game. You can create and develop a character and play it in a game with that single page.

I published this game on my blog a few years ago now, and it has gone from strength to strength. With only a single page to mess about with I found it easy to convert to other genres and before I knew it I had about twenty variants on the books. A few of them became very popular, such as Carbon City – 1930’s Superhero Roleplaying.

Well all this has now outgrown my original blog and so I have built a new one to chronicle and support it.

Important Note: All of this is free! Please download anything you like here and bend, fold, staple, mutilate and adapt it to your heart’s content. All I ask is that if you publish it on the interweb that you put a link back to where it came from. Also if you have the time let me know how it is going.

Now, wo ist meine kleine goblin-hammer…?

28 Responses to About Dead Simple Roleplaying

  1. alexandre says:

    awsum work, ive tried nasty-short and machination. i love your rules

  2. Jon says:

    Was looking for a way to get new players up and running quickly without the expense and time of learning a complex RP system – this does the job. Plus it’s given me ample scope for rules tinkering. If you are interested I can send you my results – is there a “Contact Me” option on the site I’ve missed?

  3. Jogi says:

    You`ve done a great job – thank you!

  4. Sean Jensen says:

    Craig, are you still around?

  5. David Johnston says:

    Hey, your work is fantastic inspiring. Don’t stop! Am I being too selfish by asking for more? The simple mechanics clean the table for more fun. We’d all love slightly more populated Monster Manuals, or guidelines for making them. Or more items? Or anything else you think of. Fantasy, Carbon City… your take on these genres is so great.

    Thank you so much for letting us have access to your work.

  6. Ygor Baeta says:

    Do you have any plans of translating it to any other language? I’m from Brazil and I’m currently planning to run this for a group that never played RPG’s, all of them know english but I think it would help other people

    • Craig says:

      Hi Ygor,

      My only foreign language is really bad French I am afraid :(. I have never had the rules translated as it is a free set and honestly I cannot afford the translation costs.

      If you would like to create your own Portuguese version I would be happy to put it on this blog for others to use (?)

      I hope you enjoy playing the game.


      • Ygor Baeta says:

        I have a half translation I’m currently using, I translated part of it and adapted some other stuff, If you are really interested I think I could have it translated to French, German, Spanish and Poruguese by some of my friends

  7. Craig says:

    I am sure a lot of players would thank you for that 🙂
    If you do this please put ‘Translated by Ygor Baeta’ on it, so people know.


  8. Damian says:

    Hey Craig – I was made aware of this system over the weekend. Im building a basic port of it to use with the Fantasy Grounds VTT. Thank you for your work.

  9. barefootdiva says:

    Glad I found you! LOL I played throughout the 90’s, and most of my college buddies still do, But, I’m now in a different state and surrounded by neophytes that have never held a D10. However – there is interest! I was endeavoring to create a “simple” version to get everyone started. Being the only person with RPG background I didn’t want them (or me) overwhelmed with character generation and stat confusion. I’m stoked that I found your site. Thanks for all the work you’ve obviously put in to it.

  10. A.M. Pietroschek says:

    I admire that you valued your individuality and independence. Nowadays too many pseudo-officials claim to have gathered another bunch of toxic personalities, as their players or partners, and even more disturbed people kickstartered it up.

    And my black-humored, Bedlam compatible, answer on this quote by you “I’m sorry everyone, but I like to play RPG’s for fun, not as a second life.” : You got that all wrong. We were born into this torture-prison of bodily existence, science, jobs and consequence to keep us from the one true life aka roleplaying…


  11. Peter says:

    The moment I saw your system, that is where I can say…

    …I was looking for this system my whole gaming life. So simple, less time wasted doing the paper works yet much more fun to play with! Good job my friend.

  12. Esme Took says:

    I started fiddling with this system to tweak it here and there for personal use and thought it would just take a couple hours to retype with my changes. But I’ve got so many ideas! A week later and it has turned into a full-blown RPG writing project that will probably take me weeks or months to complete. It’s still the same system, but it’s not your system, if you get me.

    I’m calling it Just You and Me, because I’m gearing it for Duet roleplaying (one player, one GM), and I’m calling it “a variation on Craig Cartmell’s Dead Simple RPG system”. Right now it’s for personal use (and nowhere near completed), but if I decide to put it online, I’ll check with you first.

  13. sharkerbob says:

    While my Table Top experience is pretty limited, one reason I haven’t gotten into a lot of them is the complexity of the systems. Even the so-called “fast and simple” games usually have some kind of additional mechanics or resource tracking that makes the initial premise more complicated and harder to grasp/get people into than it seems. While I prefer to build my own system, I’m glad to see others doing projects like this. 🙂

  14. Matt says:

    Great game!! I’d love to see a creature compendium and expanded Spell section.

  15. Matt says:

    Bless you, sir

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