Endeavor RPG

Endeavor is a general-purpose engine for role-playing games with a "try-harder" mechanic. The main features of character description are three attributes (Effort, Focus, and Psi) and three "traits" defined by the player. The "trait" mechanic is copied from Over the Edge by Atlas Games and replaces character classes and skill lists in other RPGs.

Task resolution is by rolling percentile dice against a trait or attribute, using a system adapted from FuRPiG.

Character advancement is by a "learn roll" system adapted from FuRPiG.

Task Resolution

Roll percentile dice against the level of a trait or an attribute. The level may be adjusted for the circumstances. You want to roll at the level or below. So, if you are rolling against a trait of 47, a roll of 32 is a win, but a roll of 52 is a lose.

A very low roll is a "critical hit." You not only win, you win big. The GM gets creative. A critical hit is 0X, where X is the first digit of the level. So, if you are rolling against 47, 04 or lower is a critical hit.

00 is a "perfect hit." The GM gets even more creative and you immediately go up one in your trait or attribute. So that 47 immediately becomes a 48.

A very high roll is a "critical miss." You not only lose, you lose badly. Again the GM gets creative, but in a bad way. A critical miss is 9X, where X is the first digit of the level. So, if you are rolling against 47, 94 or higher is a critical miss.

99 is a "perfect miss." The GM gets even more creative and visits some disaster on you.

Modified Rolls

Rolls can be modified by circumstances, most notably by Trying Harder.

You have a trait that gives you 47% in marksmanship, but you are shooting at a small moving target, so the GM rules you are at –20%. You must roll below 27 to succeed, and roll 02 or lower for a critical hit.

You have your 47% in marksmanship and boost it by spending 3 Focus points{link}, so you are now at +30%. You only need to roll 77 or lower to succeed, and a roll of 07 or lower is a critical hit.


The three attributes are Effort, Focus, and Psi:

The GM calls for an attribute roll when necessary. You can also use attribute rolls when you have no applicable trait. For instance, use Effort in a fight, and perhaps Focus, when you have no trait that includes fighting. Use Focus in a situation where you have no experience and are simply trying to understand.

Attribute rolls are easy or hard depending on a multiplier for them, selected by the GM. The standard attribute roll is ×3. A hard one is ×1, and an easy one is ×5. Other multipliers are also possible.

Your character has to stay awake late. Early on, at midnight, the GM asks for a roll against Focus ×5, an easy one. At 2:00 AM, the GM asks for a roll against Focus ×3. At 4:00 AM, the GM asks for Focus ×1.

Repeated Rolls

If you fail a roll, you can always try again, as long as the failure leaves you in a situation where you can try again. But you are at –10% for the next try, then –20%, and so on. You have to change the circumstances in some way before you can try again at your base level.

Special Agent Sculder has Karate at 67% and tries to break open a door with a karate kick. He fails. If he just kicks again, in the same way and at the same place, his roll is 57%. Then 47%, and so on down, as long as he keeps failing and not doing anything to change the situation. Of course, if he stops to put on heavy boots, or changes his aim, or otherwise changes circumstances, the sequence stops and he can go back to 67%.

Trying Harder
Resource Points and Boosting Rolls

You have three kinds of resource points, one kind for each attribute. You start with a number of points equal to the level of the attribute, so that if you have a Focus of 10, you start with 10 Focus points.

You can spend points to improve your chance of success on a dice roll. Each point raises the level of your trait or attribute by 10. You can send a maximum of 3 points on one roll, for a total boost of 30. Finally, you must use the kind of point appropriate to the task at hand.

In the midst of trying to knock down the door, Agent Skulder cools down, thinks a little, kicks on the latch side instead of the hinge side (thus changing things and removing the minus for repeated action), and concentrates, his player spending 3 Psi points. That's +30%, so the roll is against 97% instead of 67%.
Skulder could also have used Effort points, because karate would allow for both. If he were just swinging a crowbar, Effort would be the only option. If he were picking the lock, he'd need Focus. If he were using a spell, Psi would be the only option.

Enid needs to stay awake late. The GM asks for Focus ×3, which for Enid means 12% × 3 = 36%. But this is important, so she throws 3 Focus points in as well, for +30% and a total of 66%.

Exhaustion and Regaining Resource Points

If you run out of points completely, you generally have some kind of collapse, even if you aren't doing anything that uses up those points. So:

Normally, you regain points by sleep or rest. With a full night's sleep, you get all your points back. With half a night's sleep, you get no more than half your maximum points back. If you just rest instead of sleep, you get points back at half the usual rate (or not at all, for Focus and Psi, if you are normally asleep at this time).

Learn Rolls

You increase traits and attributes by making "learn rolls." You want to roll high for learn rolls, whereas you want to roll low for task rolls. When you succeed, your stat goes up by one.

You can make learn rolls:

The more you practice with a stat, the more often you get to make learn rolls. The more often you boost a stat, the more often you make critical hits with it.

New Skills and Traits

To acquire new skills or traits, your character must find training time and a teacher. The teacher has to know more than your character, though the two of them don’t necessarily know that.

New Skills

A "skill" here is some ability that can be regarded as an addition to one of your existing traits.

Gus has the trait Soldier by virtue of which he can use pistols and rifles. To add Machine Gun to his repertoire, he needs to add it as a skill.

Once you start learning a skill, you can use it at a minus equal to the number of lessons it will take to learn completely. Thus, with every lesson, the minus goes down by one.

Gus has 85% in Soldier and learning machine gunnery is very easy if you already know other kinds of gunnery, so it only takes ten lessons. He starts at Machine Gun at 85% – 10% = 75%. After three lessons, he will be at 85% – 7% = 78%.

The skill doesn’t get its own learn rolls, but you can roll against your related trait if you make a successful use of the skill during a session, since the skill is part of the trait. This is not an additional learn roll; it’s just the roll you get for successfully using the trait. The number of lessons needed can go down or up if the teacher is very good or bad, or if other conditions are favorable or unfavorable.

New Traits

Traits are harder. A new trait is based on one of your attributes, Effort, Focus, or Psi, usually one of the latter two.

Gus has no magic in his background but wants to learn learn Receptance. So this has to be a whole new trait.

Once you start learning a trait, you can use it at 1 × the attribute at a minus equal to the number of lessons it will take to learn completely (that is to say, take it up to 1 × attribute). Thus, with every lesson, the minus goes down by one.

Gus has no magic but wants to learn Receptance. Not only is magic wholly new to him, Receptance is a hard kind to learn, usually being an in-born knack. Gus has a Psi of 14. But learning Receptance is hard, so, first, Gus will have to find some pretty extraordinary teacher, e.g. a shaman who will forcibly remove his soul from his body to go an astral adventures with him in the hope this will sensitize him. And it will take 40 lessons. So Gus starts Receptance at –26%. This means Gus makes no visible progress for 26 lessons. This will take dedication by both him and his teacher. At lesson 27, he will start to see progress. After all 40 lessons, he will have brought his new Receptance trait up to 14.

The new trait does get its own learn rolls if it’s used while adventuring before lessons are over.

Continuing Education

You can go on taking lessons as long as the teacher knows more than you, but after you work through the course of lessons as described above, you make a learn roll against the relevant trait to see if you go up. This is an additional learning roll, beyond any roll earned by success in adventuring.


In combat, characters take it in turns to attack each other. The highest attack stat goes first.

Before combat, pick your most suitable attack stat. A trait involving combat training is best, but if you don't have one, there's always Effort (punch, whack). Also choose the most reasonable stat to defend with. Again, a trait is best, but there's always Effort (ignore the blows), Focus (dodge), or maybe Psi (lucky).

Attacks and defenses can be made harder or easier by circumstances. E.g., it's hard to shoot a moving target; it's easy to hide in bushes.

Battle Fatigue

Combat is exhausting. Each strike and each defense costs points:

This is in addition to any points spent by Trying Harder or wielding a mystic power.

Damage Levels

If your attacker is successful and you fail to defend, you go down one Damage Level. You get one defense per attack, two defenses per combat round, so sustaining three successful attacks definitely takes you down one damage level. The levels are:

Fog of Battle

The above form of combat amounts to multiple duels. On a battlefield, where at least dozens, possibly thousands, of combatants are engaged at once, you do not fight a single opponent. Instead, the GM decides how many rounds the engagement lasts and you roll to see how well you fare through them.

For each round, roll an attack and a defense. After each round, the GM will describe the on-going career of the PCs in the battle. The attack roll won't change your condition, perhaps barring critical and perfect rolls, but they give realistic practice and can affect your character's reputation. Losing on the defense rolls costs you damage levels.

Character Creation

Write up a short verbal description of your character, including name, race, age, sex, appearance, background, and personality. It is also a good idea to include height, weight, and strength (measured as the weight the character can bench-press). Keep it to no more than half a page.

From this description, distill one to five traits. Two to four traits is much the better range, and three is strongly encouraged. For each trait, write up a paragraph of description on how the character uses it. The character sheet should list a name for the trait (a word or short phrase) and the current level, the percentage number. Then there follows a description of the trait and how it works in the character's life, generally a short paragraph.

At the end, give a "sign" for the trait—something about the character that an observer could notice, relating to the trait even if the trait is not in immediate use. This could be as basic as a uniform or a subtle as a turn of vocabulary.

Distribute 200 points among the traits.

Distribute 30 points among the attributes.

For each attribute, calculate the score ×1, ×2, ×3, ×4, and ×5.

Example Character Sheet

Enid Littlesmith
Paranormal Investigator

Mrs. Enid Littlesmith is a mundane human. She was born Enid Dietrich, daughter of a mechanical engineer. Her father made a hobby of stage magic. From him, Enid learned about the world of the bizarre and occult, and how much flim-flam there is in it. She also learned how lots of the flim-flam works, and has since expanded her knowledge.

She married Edward Littlesmith and became his partner, running a business as estate auctioneers and antique dealers. Shortly after their twenty-fifth anniversary, though, he died. She found that the fun had gone out of her job, and, since she was wealthy enough, she retired early, in her mid-fifties.

Now, she travels. It's one of her main hobbies. She's not hugely wealthy, but she can always afford good clothes, good hotel rooms, good rental cars, etc. She takes a cruise ever year or so.

Her other hobby is investigating the paranormal. She often visits places where paranormal things are supposed to happen – staying at haunted houses, attending channeling sessions, talking to people who've seen a Bigfoot or a UFO. She has come to make a hobby of finding the natural or fraudulent causes behind most paranormal events. She has not always found a mundane cause, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one that she missed. She also sometimes assists other investigators, usually with money.

She may be perfectly pleasant to more arcane characters (not realizing what they are), but if they arouse her curiosity, she will investigate doggedly, and if she thinks they are frauds, she will become crisply hostile and really investigate doggedly. She will take some solid convincing, if anyone wants her to believe in serious weirdness, but once convinced, she will not backslide or go to pieces over the sheer strangeness of it all.

Physically, Enid is a tall, lean woman with greying brown hair, worn short. She has a round, cheerful face and grey eyes. To start with, she is a complete rationalist, not believing in anything weird. She is cheerful, brisk, polite, and decent, with an unflappable, bullet-proof personality lacking in vices, phobias, or conspicuous bad habits.

Paranormal Investigator: 90% — Enid subscribes to the magazines of several skeptical and debunking organization, as well as some of the fringey publications on the pro side of the question. She knows some stage magic, though she doesn't perform. Her library has books on fringe topics, debunking, and stage magic. She knows the usual ways of faking psychic powers, phenomena mistaken for ghosts and UFOs, and similar debunker lore.
Sign: Always carries a small video camera in her handbag.

Wealthy: 70% — Enid can't buy a house, or even a car, at the drop of a hat, but she doesn't have to keep track of money for much smaller purchases. However, she does anyway. She got that money by being a good business woman. She knows sloppy or dishonest business practice when she sees it, and will often comment on it.
Sign: Dresses a notch better than most of the people around her on any given occasion. Big tipper.

Prepared: 40% — As mentioned above, there are no major chinks in Enid's mental health. Nor does she offer a hold for blackmailers. On the physical side, she is in excellent health and quite willing to scramble over rough terrain or endure bad weather. Within sensible limits, she goes prepared and equipped for lots of life's little emergencies.
Sign: Carries a large handbag, containing a small video camera, a cell phone, first aid stuff, a flashlight, or (on a successful Prepared roll) almost any mundane little item that could come in useful at a time like this ... whatever "time like this" it is.

Tall, rangy caucasian woman, 54 years old, 70 kg (154 lbs), 154 cm (5'9")

Languages: English, French.

Effort Pts: 10 __________________________________________
×1= 10   ×2= 20   ×3= 30   ×4= 40   ×5= 50

Focus Pts: 14 __________________________________________
×1= 14   ×2= 28   ×3= 42   ×4= 56   ×5= 70

Psi Pts: 6 _____________________________________________
×1= 6   ×2= 12   ×3= 18   ×4= 24   ×5= 30

Notice that, although Enid has no "special effects" abilities, she has six Psi points. This gives her the chance to develop some "special effects" in the future.

Notice also that Enid's family, friends, home, and contacts are left undescribed. They could have been described, but this way they can be determined later, by mutual agreement of player and GM.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2011