the Film Noir tabletop RPG format
Welcome to NoiRPG, the Film Noir RPG. NoiRPG takes place in the universe of every film noir movie ever created. It’s gritty and hard boiled, but aims not to take itself too seriously. Games are heavily story based, and there is as little use of stats and rolling as possible. NoiRPG takes place in the 1940s, in a nondescript Chicago like city in the midwestern United States.
How to Play
To play NoiRPG, all you need are two to four players, four three sided dice (FUDGE dice) per player, completed character sheets, pencils/pens, and a dungeon master.
Maneuvering in the Game World
Players maneuver through the game world by speaking their actions. No checks of any kind are required for player actions unless they require a specific and difficult skill. Actions that would need to be rolled for include picking a lock, cracking a safe, kicking through a door, or moving an especially heavy object.
To determine the difficulty of an event, use the following key. Written below is an example ladder for perception, but the principle can be applied to any skill.
Perception Difficulty Ladder
- You notice something in the room with you
- You notice something outside the room separated by a glass pane
- You notice something hidden in the room
- You notice something extremely well hidden in the room
- You notice something hidden outside the room separated by a glass pane
- Acrobatics: Used for jumping and feats of athleticism. Essentially gymnastics.
- Guns: How well a player can use guns or other projectiles (bows, etc).
- Buff: The level of brute strength a player commands. Used for heavy lifting, and
- Perception: What a player notices in their surroundings.
- Knowledge: Determines a player’s overall knowledge of detective work and the city. If
a player is trying to give directions, they must use their knowledge+roll. If a player
wants to use their detective skills in a specific and difficult way, they must use
- Dodge: Determines a players ability to avoid attacks.
NoiRPG is much more about the story than the combat, but nevertheless, there is fighting in Film Noir. On the character sheet, there are three bullets, two knives, and three police badges. This signifies that the player has the health to withstand three gun shots, two stabbings, and three arrests/unfavorable encounters with the police. All players have the same health regardless of stats. If a player is successfully attacked, they cross off one of the matching emblems on their character sheet. If any of the three tiers (knifes/guns/badges) is completely crossed off, the player dies.
Combat is turn based using an initiative system. Initiative is the same as a player’s dodge value (current luck+truth stage+roll). The character with the highest dodge goes first, followed by the second highest, etc.
To shoot or stab a character, your attack must exceed their dodge. A gun shot is computed with the formula guns+current luck+roll. A knife attack is computed with the formula (fist+current luck+roll)-1.
Players and NPCs may be incapacitated (i.e. held down, picked up etc). To determine if an incapacitation attempt is successful, use the formula buff+roll against buff+roll. Once someone is incapacitated, they do not become free until someone assists them or until their buff+roll is higher than the incapacitator.
As players proceed through the story, they become more powerful. Just like in a classic noir movie, there is a three act structure of The Meeting, The Misdirection, and The Revenge. Each time a truth stage begins, players should tick the appropriate box on their character sheet.
When a player or NPC is successfully attacked, they take damage. Every time they are hit by a bullet, cross off one bullet on the sheet. One knife for knife attack, and one badge for encounters with the police. If any of the three health tracks are completely crossed out, the player character dies.
If all the players die, the movie ends. Death in NoiRPG is permanent, and once a player dies they may not reenter.
In NoiRPG, money is only spent on plot important items. Things like taxi fares, meals, and payphones do not require the player to spend money. Larger things like bribes, plane tickets, and entrance fees all require cash. When a player spends money, they cross off one dollar in the Money box. Players can regain cash at the dungeon master’s discretion, though it should make sense in the context of the story and action.
Being a Dungeon Master
The dungeon master is in charge of creating and running the story of the game. It is up to the DM how much free will they want to give their players, but generally more is more. The story should be detailed and immersive, centered on the mystery. See below for sample adventures. The DM must also run the players through character creation.
- All players answer the Leading Questions on the reverse of the Character Sheet. These
questions are meant to tease out the essence of the character and how the player will be
role playing throughout the game.
- Next, players decide on their character’s name. Something hard boiled.
- All stats start at a default value of 1. Players get to assign 5 points to any of their stats.
Points can be stacked or spread throughout.
- That’s all! Have fun!
NoiRPG was developed by Ben Ehrlich and Jacob Mooney. The first play-test of NoiRPG was done with Matt Baptist, Phil Kimura, Jacob Mooney, and Ben Ehrlich.