Distemper is a sandbox, survival/horror TTRPG set in a world where 90% of mankind have been wiped out. Players become survivors in a familiar but vastly changed reality. They must deal with the basics of having to find food and shelter - to say nothing of staying safe - in a world where everything is in short supply, particularly trust.
Combining robust, simple to learn game mechanics with collaborative storytelling elements that puts the focus firmly on building a compelling shared narrative, Distemper keeps the player firmly at the center of the story without sacrificing any of the crunch.
Set less than a year since the apex of the dog flu, this is very much the here and now and players take on the role of survivors in a realistic, near post-apocalypse setting where there are no zombies, no mutants, no vampires, no alien invaders, no lasers, no magic potions, and no fantastic creatures.
There is just the gnawing cold, constant hunger and, scariest of all, other, desperate survivors to contend with.
Distemper is a classless system where characters are ordinary people, not the hero of an action movie or a super spy. and
Players create characters using the Backstory Generation life-pathing system, spending points to raise their 5 attributes and pick from a selection of 36 skills as they outline their character's development during the various stages of their life.
Players can also pick from one of 15 Paradigms which provide a thematic set of skills and equipment, requiring them to just give the character a name, slap on an attitude and start rolling dice.
Although 90% of humanity died, that's still a billion people left, and they all need to eat. While some groups may be content to roam endlessly, remain insular, and fend for themselves in an ongoing story of survival, for those who wish to create something greater than just their immediate group there is the option of recruiting NPCs to start their own Community and establish a Homestead.
In addition to recruiting NPCs, player characters can take an Apprentice and train them in specific skills and use them as a proxy for tasks such as farming, while the mentor undertakes other tasks.
While some Communities might be built around farming or cooperation or the rebuilding of a semblance of civilization, some groups might decide to Conscript an army or Convert a flock to their cause as they carve out a Territory or empire for themselves.
Although Distemper can be played at a grand scale involving conquest or rebuilding, it also includes mechanisms to keep the characters grounded and real. This includes subsystems for Morality and how characters deal with Stress, Panic, and how to avoid reaching their Breaking Point.
Although playing in what is essentially the real world, background and context are provided around the Dog Flu outbreak and life since, including breakdowns on the major subsets of NPCs and groups the players are likely to meet, including Survivors, Migrators, Militias, Survivalists, Nomads, Bandits, Cannibals, Warlords, Zealots and Government Remnants.
Combat is fast, brutal and unforgiving, and players might want to find other mechanisms for resolving conflict, such as Gut Instincts and Negotiation, to ensure they are alive long enough to thrive.
Based on tried and true 2d6 rules, The XeroSum Engine comes with may predefined systems to speed up game play and help a GM and a group to improvise on the fly, such as Event and Encounter tables, Road-trip tables, and NPC Design and Motivation rules.
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