The Resistance Toolbox

The text of this product is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 4.0).

Welcome To The Resistance

The Resistance Toolbox is a system reference document (or SRD) for the Resistance System, a generic roleplaying game system. This document is released under creative commons, so you’re free to use it, copy it, modify it and publish it as long as you credit us.

What Can The Resistance System Do?

We don’t know yet!

At the core of the Resistance system is a focus on loss, change, and - appropriately enough - resistance. The system looks at what characters have to lose and what they’re willing to do to keep hold of it.

We wrote the Resistance system as part of the Spire roleplaying game. In Spire, you play desperate dark elf revolutionaries trying to destabilise, and ultimately overthrow, a cruel and unjust ruling caste of colonialist high elves. There, the system modelled the characters getting in over their heads - going mad from stress, dealing with ongoing injuries, running out of money and forced to perform dubious side-jobs, and avoiding the attention of secret police black-bag squads. We wanted to create a game where failures were as interesting and exciting - if not more so - than successes.

But past that, the stories you can tell with the system are endless; you’ll just need to work out all the moving parts.

What Can’t The Resistance System Do?

We don’t know yet!

That said, there are a few things that you might want to bear in mind.

This isn’t a plug-and-play system that you insert into a setting and get started right away. This is a toolbox, and you’ll need to use the tools we provide to define the game world and write abilities for the characters.

The Resistance system is a story-game, so it isn’t well-suited to tactical, simulationist games. We abstract a lot away - especially in physical terms - and focus on outcomes and consequences over approaches and skills.

It’s also about losing things, rather than gaining them - and by things we mean equipment, resources, parts of yourself, and people. If you were interested in a game about getting lots of stuff and keeping hold of it, the Resistance system might not be the best fit for you.

What Do You Need To Do?

Firstly, you’ll need to read through this document. Once you’ve got a handle on the rules and thought of a world to use it in, you’ll need to fill in the blanks around them - decide what resistances characters in your world have, what skills and domains cover their aptitudes, and so on.


We’ve tried to illustrate the flexibility of the Resistance system with the examples, but we didn’t want to stick to a single world (or a single set of worlds) in case we ended up accidentally defining a “default” setting for it. As such, our examples might refer to _implied _rules - that is, resistances or skills that don’t exist anywhere else in the document, but should be clear enough to suss out through context.

The main reason we’re saying this is to stop you from fruitlessly looking for more information on the IRON resistance you saw on page whatever, because it isn’t here.

How To Use This Document

As mentioned previously, this is a toolbox - not a complete games system. As the designer, it’s your job to use the mechanical concepts within to provide a foundation for your game world. This boils down to answering the following five questions; however, feel free to rewrite and change your mind as you progress and the setting grows under its own steam.

What Is The Setting?

First things first, you’ll need a rough idea of what your setting is. You don’t need more than a few sentences to get enough to go with - don’t worry about writing reams and reams of backstory. You can also put down some notes about tone and content, too.

For example: This game takes place on the high seas in the golden age of piracy - it’s full of rollicking adventure and derring do. _Or: _This game is a cyberpunk story of insurrection and struggle against megacorporations.

Who Are The Player Characters?

The characters are the most important part of the game - after all, it’s going to focus around them more often than not. Work out what sort of people the player characters are going to be, their place in society, their motivations and goals, etc.

For example: The player characters are separatist forest creatures rebelling against the machinations of the Wicked Witch. _Or: _The player characters are demon-summoning warlocks on the lowest rung of the occult mafia.

What Are The Resistances?

What do the characters have to lose? How can they be hurt? Not just physical pain, either. The Resistance system is powered by resistances (appropriately) and they form the core of the game, so this is an important decision.

You can find examples of resistances in the Resistance section later on.

How Do The Characters Grow?

Characters advance when they fulfill the narrative requirement of your game - what is that requirement? What sort of in-character behaviour to you want to promote? What counts as a meaningful achievement?

You can find examples of advancement conditions in the Advancement section later on.

What Can The Characters Do?

This is the hardest part of the process. Primarily, you need to determine what the skills and domains are in your game - these power the basic actions and knowledges that the characters will perform.

You can find examples of skills and domains in the Skills and Domains chapter later on.

Secondly, you’ll need to determine abilities. Abilities are powers, earned by advancing, that give a character additional mechanical or fictional advantage in certain situations as explained in the Abilities chapter later on. This is the most labour-intensive part of the process, but often the most exciting and rewarding, as you’ll hopefully come to discover.

As you can see, there’s a lot of work involved in designing a new game using this core system, but we think that the results can be well worth it.

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