Core mechanic

The basic roll

Push-powered games apply a single mechanic to all types of conflict resolution. Let's see how it works.

Whenever your character attempts something that you consider dramatically interesting, roll 1d6. Check your result:

  • On a 7 or higher, it's a MISS.
  • On a 5 or 6, it's a STRONG HIT.
  • On a 4 or lower, it's a WEAK HIT, but you can choose to roll +1d6. If you do so, you must add it to your result.

And this is the human language version, the one I'd use when explaining it to someone in person:

So, when you want to do something cool, you roll one die. If you get a 5 or a 6, that means you get what you wanted. You did the thing. If you get a 4 or less, you also get what you wanted, but some sort of complication happens too. However, you can decide to roll a second die and add the two results together to try and get a 5 or 6 and avoid the complication. But here's the catch: if your total reaches 7 or more, that's a miss. You get what you didn't want, and that's usually bad.

What about modifiers?

There are none. The core roll is not affected by skills, talents, abilities, advantages, difficulty ratings, attributes. Why not? Three main reasons:

  1. It has been done before. Extensively. If you need an SRD that does that, you can find great examples out there, such as LUMEN by Gila RPGs (, 24XX by Jason Tocci (, The Caltrop Core (v 0.0 Early Access) by titanomachyRPG (, Charge SRD by Fari RPGs (, and many more (I recommend you visit Fari Community - Free and Open RPG Resources for a vast collection of SRDs). My intention is to offer an alternative (albeit not original) take on how dice rolls work in a game.
  2. Probabilities don't matter as much as we'd like to believe. Unless you're rolling hundreds of times in a single game session, that +1/+2 modifier might not make much of a difference. You can prove that yourself using a dice roller simulator.
  3. I want the core mechanic to be as easy and accessible as possible. You can explain the above rule in less than a minute, even to someone that has never played an RPG before. I don't want (and don't need) modifiers to get in the way of that. It also frees designers to focus their creativity on the narrative aspects of the game: devising compelling character choices and thrilling quests.

Breaking down the roll

Dramatically interesting

The core rule states you should roll *when your character attempts something that you consider dramatically interesting.* Note that this is a purposely vague and personal definition. You, the player, decide when to roll. You never need to roll, but you may want to. It doesn't have to be a risky, high-stakes effort. If you're excited to roll for an action, do it. The dice won't punish you—at least not mechanically. Because of how they work, when you go for the dice, you're inviting drama into the scene.

On the other hand, if you don't feel invested in the potential surprising consequences of an action, simply don't roll for it. In case you're not sure whether you should or shouldn't roll, check with the other players or with The Oracle.

Remember that there's no target number, difficulty level, or other mechanical restrictions for what you try to do. Instead, the game relies on its cooperative nature to determine the plausibility of what you're attempting. Does it make sense in this context, considering the world's truths and your character's traits, that you would be able to do it? Does it sound fun if you did? Again, if you're not sure, ask the table and/or The Oracle.

Strong Hit

If you get a 5 or a 6 as a result of your die roll, you get a Strong Hit. That means you get what you want from that action. Whatever your character set out to do, they did it successfully, with no further consequences. Describe how you perform the action and set up the scene for what happens next.

Weak Hit

If you get a 4 or less as a result of your die roll, you get a Weak Hit. That means you get what you want from that action, but there's a cost or a complication. Whatever your character set out to do, they did it successfully, but with unwanted consequences. Describe how you perform the action and how the complication manifests itself in the situation. If you can, use it to set up what happens next in the scene.

Alternatively, if you want to go for a Strong Hit, you can choose to roll +1d6 and add this second roll to your previous result. Three things to keep in mind:

  • If you decide to roll the extra die, you run the risk of getting a 7 or higher, which is a miss
  • If you roll the extra die, you must add it to your result. You can't decide not to add it after you roll it.
  • If you roll the extra die and still get a Weak Hit, you can choose to roll another extra die and add it to the previous two. You can repeat that as many times as you want until you get a 5 or higher.


If you get a 7 or more as a result of your die roll, you get a Miss. That means you get what you don't want from that action. Describe how the complication manifests itself in the situation. If you can, use it to set up what happens next in the scene.

Let me reiterate this: it's "You get what you don't want", and not "You don't get what you want". Whatever your character set out to do, it brought about unwanted consequences. The situation changes somehow. "Nothing happens" is never an option. Something always happens when you roll the dice. If you're trying to decipher weird scriptures, a Miss is not "you don't understand what it is" but rather "you learned something you didn't want to know" or something like that. You get the point.

Costs and complications

Most of the time (at least in theory), your die rolls will bring costs and complications. That's the foundation of the Push engine. It serves two main purposes:

  1. It invites players to push their luck and roll an extra die every time they get a Weak Hit, which in turn provides dramatic scenes and relevant choices.
  2. It pushes the narrative forward with that "out of the frying pan into the fire" effect we love from pulp adventure stories.

However, coming up with new costs and complications every other roll can be taxing on players, and the fun snowballing of consequences may become an avalanche of frustration. Here's how to avoid it:

  • Don't overthink it. There's no need to come up with intricate consequences every time. They should serve the story, yes. But if you can't come up with something, say your character twisted their ankle and move on. Don't bog down the game over a single roll.
  • Diversify. Consequences can happen to you, your allies, the environment, the enemies, the story as a whole. There's no need to attach a complication to the performed action. If you want to declare that, as a result of a roll while picking a lock, it suddenly starts to rain, go for it. A consequence can even happen off-camera, in a completely different place.
  • Cooperate. Invite other players to make suggestions. You don't need to decide what the complication is before every roll, but every now and then you can go, "Ok, I'm about to pull that lever, what do you think should happen if it goes south?" Just be reminded that you have the final say over the consequences of your own rolls.

If you feel your players would benefit from more guidance to come up with consequences, you could provide a list they could check (or roll 1d6 on) like the one below:

Table 01 - Complications

  1. A character is negatively affected (hurt, stressed, sick, afraid, sad)
  2. A character is put in danger
  3. A character loses/breaks an item/resource/opportunity
  4. A current threat/obstacle is worsened/intensified
  5. A new threat/obstacle appears
  6. A twist or inconvenient truth is revealed

PRO-TIP: The list above can be customized to further highlight the themes of your game. Grittier games might have more severe consequences, whereas light-hearted ones could remove any kind of harm whatsoever. The list can even mention specific threats of your game world and how they make a move every time characters make a mistake.

The Oracle

The Oracle is a mechanism that answers those questions you would normally shoot the GM about lore, rules, truths, and so on. Here's how it works:

Whenever you have a question for which the group does not have an unequivocal answer, phrase it as a Yes or No question. Decide which one is more likely to be true and then roll 1d6. Check the result:

  • On a 7 or higher, it's a MISFORTUNE.
  • On a 5 or 6, it's the UNLIKELY outcome.
  • On a 4 or lower, it's the LIKELY outcome, but you can choose to roll +1d6. If you do so, you must add it to your result.

Let's dive a little deeper into it. Consulting the Oracle should take just a few seconds, but we will take this opportunity to look behind the mechanics and understand how it works in detail.

A question

What kinds of questions would you ask the Oracle? Well, any kind, really. It can be about the story of the game world, a detail in the scenario, the limits of a character's ability, the fate of a foe, the reaction to a character's action, and so on. They can be a simple circumstantial doubt or a large world-building factor. If you've played a traditional RPG before, think of a moment where you would ask a question to the GM. Since there isn't one in Push, you ask it to The Oracle instead.

Here are a few examples:

  • Is he dead?
  • Can elves fly?
  • What do they say?
  • How long before winter?
  • Do we know the name of the prince?
  • Can I cast fireballs?
  • Is it raining?
  • Are there zombies in this world?
  • Have I been here before?
  • What do we see?

Oracles are a common technology of solo and cooperative games, but in Push they may also answer one very important question: Is it done?

See, since enemies and other challenges don't have HP or any other "life tracker", how do we know when we overcome the challenge? Was a single roll enough to knock the guard out? To crack the safe open? To cross the river balancing on a rope? In other words, the thing you set out to do: is it done? Or is the challenge still up?

From all the questions you may ask the Oracle in this game, that's the most important one. This is a very peculiar game design choice, and I'll talk a little bit more about it below.

An unequivocal answer

Before you ask the Oracle, check with the group. Maybe the answer is obvious, and you all agree upon it. Don't roll on the Oracle if you have a strong gut feeling about what the answer is (or should be).

Remember the old saying: Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to. And by that I mean, if one of the possible answers of The Oracle does not interest you, don't roll for it! Just talk it out and decide it. If you don't want vampires in your game, don't ask if there are vampires. If you feel the Big Bad should be dead, don't ask if they are, unless you are open to being surprised by the dice.

And this also applies to the big question, "Is it done?". If you roll to jump over a chasm and get a Strong Hit, this particular challenge is most likely over, right? Don't need to check the Oracle for it. The inverse is also true. If you hit a dragon for the first time with your dagger, it's probably not dead yet, right? No need to check either.

In terms of game design, the ability to determine when a challenge is over gives the players the narrative authority to decide how much "screen time" a scene deserves. Are you still invested in this negotiation with the Dwarven lords? If so, just declare it's not over yet, and keep talking and rolling the dice. If not, just wrap it up and move the story forward. If not sure, ask the Oracle. Are they convinced yet? Roll and find out.

Without numbers telling you when a challenge is over, there's no need to drag out a scene after it offered what you expected from it, and also there's no need to cut short a scene you're still enjoying. And you can always resort to the Oracle if you can't make up your mind.

A Yes or No question

Right, now that you decided that you don't have the answer and you want to ask The Oracle, you need to phrase it as a Yes or No question. To be honest, most of the time, that's already the kind of question you'd normally ask. "Can I...", "Is she..", "Have we..", Is there..", "Do we...", all of these are straight yes or no questions that form the majority of inquires players usually have.

If you have an open-ended question (usually the ones starting with How, When, Where, Who, What, and Why), then you need to rephrase it. "Where is the castle?" becomes "Is the castle nearby?". "How are they dressed" becomes "Are they wearing fancy clothes?"

As you can see, you need to come up with at least a hypothesis for an open-ended question, and then check if it is true using the Oracle. If you're playing in a group, that's a good time to invite your friends to collaborate. You shouldn't spend too much time on it, though. The first idea that comes to your mind will usually be the best. The only thing you need to make sure of is that you're truly interested in both outcomes, otherwise it wouldn't make sense to ask the Oracle in the first place.


Now that you have your question, you need to decide whether Yes or No is more likely to be the answer. That's not always obvious, but again, you shouldn't overthink it. Just go with your gut. If you feel both answers are equally plausible, choose the one you're more excited about as the likely one.

Now simply roll the die! Again, this whole process shouldn't take more than a few seconds to complete.

Reading the results

If you get a result between 1 and 4, the answer is the more likely option. If you get a 5 or a 6, it's the unlikely option.

Now, if you get the likely answer and it doesn't favor you, you can try and push your luck, roll an extra die and bend the fate in your direction. If you do so, you must add the results together. Careful, though. If you get to a total of 7 or higher, you have a misfortune: not only the situation does not favor you, it is worse than you anticipated.

Let's say you're trying to get into a dinner party without an invitation. You ask the table, "Are there guards outside?", and since you don't have an unequivocal answer, you check the Oracle. You decide that the most likely answer is "Yes". You roll the die and get a 3, so yes, there are guards. That's not good. You choose to push your luck and roll an extra die, maybe you can increase the total result to a 5 or 6 and declare there are actually no guards! You roll and get a 5, so the results combined give you an 8—a misfortune. You talk to the table and determine that not only there are guards, but one of them is an old enemy of yours! Oh no!

You might want to determine what the possible misfortune is before you decide to roll the second die, so you know what kind of risk you are taking. And as with the core roll, you can keep rolling extra dice if you want to until you get to a total result of 5 or more.

Notice that you can only confront the Oracle (roll +1 die) when you get the likely result. If you get the unlikely answer and it does not benefit you, tough luck. You already had the odds in your favor but the dice decided otherwise.

Chaining questions

If you're not familiar with Oracles or feel that you need to include more guidance in your game about them, here's a good tip I learned a while ago: chaining questions.

If you originally had an open-ended question and had to rephrase it as a yes or no question, you can keep testing your hypothesis if the Oracle gives you a no for an answer.

Imagine you're asking "What is this tall building we see?" So you check the Oracle:

  • "Is it a castle?", if not, then
  • "Is it a fortress?", if not, then
  • "Is it a temple?", yes!

I don't recommend going for more than 3 chained questions at once, otherwise you slow down the game too much. If you get to your third hypothesis, go ahead and come up with two alternatives before rolling, like "Is it a temple? If not, let's say it is a tower".

You can also use chained questions to increase drama in a significant situation too. Instead of making a single high-stakes Oracle check, break it down into smaller questions and chain them together.

Let's say you come across a treasure chest and you want to know what's in it. Instead of asking, "Is it the Scepter of the Galaxy?", if you feel that would be too Deus ex machina, you could divide it into three questions, like so:

  • "Is it a magic item?", if so, then
  • "Is it really rare?", if so, then
  • "Is it the Scepter of the Galaxy?"

This way, if you do get the Scepter, you feel that you deserved it, and didn't abuse the narrative authority you are given. Of course, this resource is to be used for those climatic points of your story, not at every mundane question you might ask.

The Quick Oracle

The idea for the Oracle above is to use the same core roll as the one you use for character actions. But if you feel that's too much for your game, you're welcome to use the quick version below.

Whenever you have a question for which the group does not have an unequivocal answer, phrase it as a Yes or No question and then roll 1d6. Check the result:

  • On a 3 or lower, it's a NO.
  • On a 4 or higher, it's a YES.

This version does not require deciding which is the more likely outcome, and in return does not offer the ability to challenge its result, nor the opportunity of a misfortune. It's much faster, though.

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