The referee is the world, not the adversary. The referee should portray the rules, situations, and NPCs clearly and neutrally, and clarify when neccessary.


A character’s role or skills are not limited by a single class. Instead, the equipment they carry and their experiences define their specialty.


The characters will improve and get heartier with time and experience, but death is always around the corner, but there’s no tension in “Rocks fall, everyone dies.” The consequences should be real and knowable.

Death is Not the End

A character dies, the player should be able to make another quickly and jump back in. Whether it makes sense (“I was a torch bearer but that PC’s death made me gain a PC level and now I’m also here. Can I have their stuff?”) or not (“I’m Hank’s son, Hank 2, but call me Hank”), keep it moving.

Fiction First

Dice do not always reflect an obstacle’s difficulty or its outcome. Instead, success and failure are based on in-world elements and arbitrated by the referee in dialogue with the players.


Characters are changed through in-world advancement, gaining new skills and abilities by surviving dangerous events and overcoming obstacles.


The game is the story you tell together, not the backstories the players come in with. But even if a character dies, they are not insignificant. A fallen comrade can still have a ripple effect on the party as it goes on: Diaries, small personal effects, stories round the fire.

Player Choice

Players should always understand the reasons behind the choices they’ve made, and information about potential risks should be provided freely and frequently.


The referee and the players each have guidelines that help foster a specific play experience defined by critical thinking, exploration, and an emergent narrative.

Shared Objectives

Players trust one another to engage with the shared setting, character goals, and party challenges. Therefore, the party is typically working together towards a common goal, as a team.

Principles for Players


  • Attributes and related saves do not define your character. They are tools.
  • Don’t ask only what your character would do, ask what you would do, too.
  • Be creative with your intuition, items, and connections.
  • Your choices matter. A bad choice may mean death, but it also means that every choice you make is significant and meaningful.


  • Seek consensus from the other players before barreling forward.
  • Stay on the same page about goals and limits, respecting each other and accomplishing more as a group than alone.


  • Asking questions and listening to detail is more useful than any stats, items, or skills you have.
  • Take the referee’s description without suspicion, but don’t shy away from seeking more information.
  • There is no single correct way forward.


  • Treat NPCs as if they were real people, and rely on your curiosity to safely gain information and solve problems.
  • You’ll find that most people are interesting and will want to talk things through before getting violent.


  • Fighting is a choice and rarely a wise one; consider whether violence is the best way to achieve your goals.
  • Avoid ever having to roll dice. Luck is fickle and your saves are not that good. Prepare and over-prepare. Make your fights unfair.


  • Think of ways to avoid your obstacles through reconnaissance, subtlety, and fact-finding.
  • Do some research and ask around about your objectives.


  • Set goals and use your meager means to take steps forward.
  • Expect nothing. Earn your reputation.
  • Keep things moving forward and play to see what happens.

Principles for Referees


  • Provide useful information about the game world as the characters explore it.
  • Players do not need to roll dice to learn about their circumstances.
  • Only have players roll when the outcome is uncertain. If it’s impossible, don’t make them roll. If there’s no chance it will fail, don’t make them roll. Let them get curious to get to the answers.
  • Be helpful and direct with your answers to their questions.
  • Respond honestly, describe consistently, and always let them know they can keep asking questions.


  • Default to context and realism rather than numbers and mechanics.
  • If something the players want to do is sincerely impossible, no roll will allow them to do it.
  • Is what the player describes and how they leverage the situation sensible? Let it happen.
  • Saves cover a great deal of uncertain situations and are often all that is necessary for risky actions.


  • The game world is organic, malleable and random. It intuits and makes sharp turns.
  • Use random tables and generators to develop situations, not stories or plots.
  • NPCs remember what the PCs say and do, and how they affect the world.
  • NPCs don’t want to die. Infuse their own self-interest and will to live into every personality.

Narrative Focus

  • Emergent experience of play is what matters, not math or character abilities. Give the players weapon trainers and personal quests to facilitate improvement and specialization.
  • Pay attention to the needs and wants of the players, then put realistic opportunities in their path.
  • A dagger to your throat will kill you, regardless of your expensive armor and impressive training.


  • The referee must make the risks clear and threats obvious. Presenting clear stakes to a decision is the only way a player can make a meaningful one.
  • The game world produces real risk of pain and death for the player characters.
  • Telegraph serious danger to players when it is present. The more dangerous, the more obvious.
  • Put traps in plain sight and let the players take time to figure out a solution.
  • Give players opportunities to solve problems and interact with the world.


  • A Treasure is specific to the environment from where it is recovered. It tells a story.
  • Treasure is highly valuable, almost always bulky, and rarely useful beyond its worth and prestige.
  • Relics are not Treasure, though they are useful and interesting.
  • Use Treasure as a lure to exotic locations under the protection of intimidating foes.


  • Give players a solid choice to force outcomes when the situation lulls.
  • Use binary “so, A or B?” responses when their intentions are vague.
  • Work together using this conversational method to keep the game moving.
  • Ensure that the player character’s actions leave their mark on the game world.

Die of Fate

  • Occasionally you will want an element of randomness (e.g. the weather, unique character knowledge, etc.).
  • In these situations, roll 1d6. A roll of 4 or more generally favors the players.
  • A roll of 3 or under tends to mean bad luck for the PCs or their allies.