DnD Light, Story rich with PDQ#

There was some talk on Twitter last week about simplicity and complexity in RPGs, and making 4e D&D accessible to new players. Here’s an option on the simple end of the spectrum. I ran a game of a spin-off vignette using PDQ# in our ongoing 4e D&D world last weekend, and it was a grand time with fast creative action and pretty much no prep (Instead, I spent all my prep time working up these character sheets: PDF). If you are interested in a little more story and character than tactics in your 4e, explore this option.

My players enjoyed creating unique characters that stretched our 4e expectations. Despite the characters’ simplicity on the page, we all felt that the system allowed them to be richer and rounder than many new 4e characters, perhaps due to Foibles and Motivations, or the broad strokes that are fleshed out in play. We had a fun, off-the-cuff adventure including airships,  pirates, and ancient necro-magiks, and the Simian-shifter PC even got to use his Ballroom Dancing forte in an extraordinary success.

Of course, I immediately began thinking of ways to transpose any 4e characters directly into the PDQ# format, marrying the best of both worlds: 4e’s wealth of fantasy RPG content with PDQ#’s rapid action and narrative ownership. Although some elements of the system we haven’t had enough play to completely get used to (including a few parts I just screwed up as the GM), I think the overall outcome works exceptionally well. In following posts I’ll dive into how to transpose any 4e characters in 5 quick steps (as well as NPCs and monsters) and you can tell me what you think.

The Motley Crew

But first, to demonstrate the fun flexibility PDQ# allows, here are some examples of our motley crew built using PDQ# mostly as-is. As you’ll notice below, PDQ# characters are defined by a number of Fortes (any significant skills, roles, relationships, values, gear, beliefs, ambitions, etc) with Techniques attached to them, and a Foible or two to generate Style Dice. (In our game I had Humans such as Memnon take a free Forte instead of Race, and Boomer used his Race as his Heroic Forte):

We also had a Simian Freelance Ninja and classic hero (with a spare Ballroom Dancing Forte), a noble Eladrin with a Fey Hawk sidekick who eschewed a life of finery for that of a vigilante hunter, and orphan twin-sister rogues/troupers, one focusing on stealth and revenge and one on charm and greed. It was a blast, and I had intended it to be a one-shot, but when we ran out of time on a cliffhanger, and by then, we’d all become too invested in the characters to leave their tale unfinished. I’m pretty sure we’ll have to see these folks through at least one more adventure.


Of course this isn’t for everyone, and we’re not ready to trade 4e for a PDQ# setup just yet. However, since last year I’ve been experimenting with various houserules that allow a more free-flowing, player-driven, and character-centric game in a broader sense than 4e offers out of the box. Ever since Leverage came out the end of last year, I’ve been exploring alternate systems that would do better justice to the story we want to tell in our ongoing campaign. If anyone’s interested, I may explore and review the various options we’ve tried out, both houserules and alternate systems.

Next time, I’ll explore harnessing the abundant 4e character options (“64 classes, 3066 feats, 7791 powers, 9014 items, 547 paragon paths” according to Mike Shea of Sly Flourish) as perfect fodder for PDQ# character-building.

About Adam

I'm a husband, father, explorer of the inexhaustible, and synergy cultivator. Starting with D&D, my explorations into role-playing and game design have brought me to savor mining diverse systems, initially Cortex Plus, then PbtA, ORE, Forged in the Dark, and now anything I can get my hands on.