There are lots of role-playing systems that do lots of things really well. And yet, there are still some things that no systems do really well. For players, Forge Engine does one thing really well. Forge Engine gives you, the player, complete control of every aspect of your character and your character’s actions. For game masters, Forge Engine allows you to use the same system and content for historical, fantasy, modern, and sci-fi campaigns, and even those that combine all four. That is all.

When modern soldiers are transported to ancient Rome, law enforcement officers fight inter-dimensional intruders, post-collapse humans scavenge for alien technologies, or heroic warriors and wizards battle monstrous evil, Forge Engine is there to quickly and seamlessly support your stories. The Forge Engine universal RPG system puts full control of your character and your game into your hands. The system supports fantasy, sci-fi, historical, and modern settings, and delivers tactical play while remaining streamlined and fast. Forge Engine’s innovative energy system lets you channel your combat effort. You can make multiple attacks, hold energy to boost your defenses, move into better position, or make your attacks even stronger. Forge Engine has the following features:

  • Attribute and skill system gives players freedom to build their characters
  • Support for medieval fantasy, historical, modern, and sci-fi play
  • Opposed d10 dice pools for attacks with degrees of success
  • Attribute tests against static difficulty numbers for simplicity
  • Energy system gives players control of number and strength of characters’ actions
  • Increased power gives larger dice pools with higher chance of multiple successes
  • Combat rolls combine attribute, skill, weapon, evasion, and armor in one step
  • Tactical combat system with meaningful decisions in critical situations
  • Concurrent combat turns allow fluid and dynamic battles

Core Rules

The first section covers the core principles of the Forge Engine, then character creation and development, and then rules for skills and attribute tests, adventuring, and combat.

Game Content

The Forge Engine character content is collected in the game content section. This stand-alone section includes all the content that players need to create, develop, and run their characters: traits, general skills, martial skills, magic skills, and equipment.

Game Mastering

The final section of this book includes instruction for game mastering Forge Engine games, advice for creating custom Forge Engine content, and adversary templates.


This section covers the fundamental elements of the Forge Engine system.


Forge Engine uses diamonds ” ♦ ” to represent dice, attribute and skill ratings, energy, action and defense pools, and equipment costs and ratings. For brevity, diamonds are abbreviated: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ❖ ❖ ❖, etc.


The Forge Engine uses d10 dice for attacks, defenses, and attribute tests. Each die is numbered from 1 to 10 (if your dice have 0, then this is counted as 10, not 0).


Attributes, skills, and equipment have ratings, represented with ♦. Low ratings are cheap or easy to acquire, while higher ratings require significant investment.


Attributes represent a character’s underlying physical and mental capabilities:

  • Physical attributes: Strength, Agility, and Stamina (STR, AGI, STA)
  • Mental attributes: Influence, Intelligence, and Acuity (INF, INT, ACU)

Attributes have a minimum rating of ♦ and increase to ♦♦♦♦♦ or more. A character’s attribute ratings are initially determined by spending character points at character creation and then developed during the course of a game.


Traits are the inherent capabilities of characters that fall outside of the normal six attributes and aren’t learnable skills. For example, traits include unusual types of vision (low-light), abnormal hearing (acute hearing), additional senses (tremor sense), different physical shapes and sizes. Additionally, each school of magic requires a trait before learning that school’s spells.


Skills are expertise that characters can learn and practice over time. Most skills are related to an underlying attribute, and those skills cannot be higher than that attribute. As with attributes, skills are first purchased with character points at character creation and then developed in the course of a game. Characters can also learn new skills during play by spending character points. The number of skills a character can develop is only limited by their character points. By default, characters are untrained in all skills, and simply rely on their attributes. Skills all have ratings from ♦ (novice) to ♦♦♦♦♦ (master) and higher.

Energy Pool

Characters have an energy pool that reflects how much effort they can use in a short period of time, such as in combat. This is their capacity for action. Energy is expressed in diamonds ♦, which are often the equivalent of dice. Each character’s maximum energy is equal to the ratings of their three highest attributes. This gives a range for the maximum energy of ♦ to ❖ or higher. Physically and mentally taxing actions use energy. In strenuous situations, the effort required for a character’s actions is ‘paid’ for from the energy pool. This energy is all replenished from round to round.

Variable Energy Costs

Simple physical actions, like moving 5’ or using an object, use just ♦ energy. More strenuous actions (like physical or magic attacks) allow the player to choose how much energy they can add to their action pools. By adding more energy, characters have a larger chance of success, but energy is depleted and regained from round to round, so high-energy actions can leave characters unable to react to their enemies’ actions and attacks.

Using Energy

When an action or reaction includes instructions to use energy, it is underlined. When characters take actions, they spend energy (keyword: spend) to pay costs, add energy (keyword: add) to their action or defense pools for extra effort, or expend energy (keyword: expend) for extraordinary actions.

  • Spend: Spent energy represents the initial effort that is required to start the action (attack, defense, or spell). Spent energy is set aside instead of going into a pool.
  • Add: Added energy is the variable additional effort that the character can employ to make the action stronger. This energy goes into a dice pool.
  • Expend: Energy that is expended is extraordinary effort that is used in the action and cannot be recovered until the character rests.

Spent or added energy is all regained at the start of each round. Expended energy is set aside until the character rests, and is not regained at the start of each round.

Action Pools

Action pools are dynamic dice pools that are built when a character performs an action, such as an attribute test, an attack, or a spell. The size of the action pool is based on the character’s attributes, skills, equipment, and the amount of energy that is used, and follows the S.A.G.E. mnemonic below. As the SAGE steps are followed, the pool is built. At each stage of the process, dice are added or removed from the pool.

Defense Pools

Characters have defense pools that are used when they are targeted with attacks. Again, the number of dice in the defense pool is based on the character’s attributes, skills, equipment, and available energy, and uses the same SAGE mnemonic (below). Defense pools reflect the character’s ability to resist physical or mental attacks. Both the physical defense (PD) and mental defense (MD) pools can be improved by skills and equipment that give flat bonuses or allow characters to add dice to those pools.

Physical Defense

A character’s physical defense (PD) begins at ♦, and then armor and other bonuses are added. The PD pool is augmented through reactions like Dodge, and skills such as Brace and Shield Training. Finally, modifiers from externalities, like cover, are applied.

Mental Defense

The character’s mental defense (MD) is based on the middle value of their Intelligence, Acuity, or Influence attributes. Additional dice can be added to the MD pool through skills like Iron Will and Empty Vessel.

Constructing Action and Defense Pools

The S.A.G.E. (spend, add, gain, externalities) mnemonic is used for constructing both action and defense pools:

  • Spend or Expend the energy cost of the action, reaction, or equipment and gain the equipment’s rating as bonus dice into the character’s action or defense pool.
  • Add extra energy up to the relevant attribute rating into the action or defense pool.
  • Gain bonus dice from the relevant skills into the character’s action or defense pool.
  • Externalities adjust the pool based on any external factors (e.g. positioning and conditions for action pools, and range, visibility, and obstructions for defense pools). Advantageous externalities add dice to the action and defense pools, while disadvantageous externalities remove dice from the pools.

Dice Pools

In Forge Engine games, these pools are used to determine the outcome of character’s actions. There are two types of tests:

  • Opposed pools: Used when an action is opposed by another character. In this situation, the action pool and defense pool are rolled against each other.
  • Fixed challenges: Used when an action needs to overcome a static difficulty. Here, the action pool is rolled against a static difficulty target.

Opposed Pools

In normal combat and magic the action pool and defense pool are rolled as opposed pools. Both the attacker and the defender roll their pools against each other: action pool versus defense pool. The attacker gains a success (or hit) for each of their dice that is equal to or higher than the defender’s single highest dice. Action Pool Defense Pool Successes [3] [3] [6] [7] [9] [9] [10] [1] [6] [9] 3 [8] [9] [9] [9] [1] [10] None (miss) [9] [9] 1 [10] [6] [7] [10] 1 [1] [2] [2] [3] [3] Critical fail (optional rule)

In combat, each success translates directly into 1 damage. In an opposed attribute test, multiple successes mean the character achieved the task better or more quickly.

Fixed Challenges

In attempting actions against fixed challenges, such as climbing a rope, balancing, or deciphering a code, the player rolls their character’s action pool against a set difficulty target, which is usually between 7 and 10. Once again, the character gains a success for each of their dice that is equal to or higher than the difficulty target. Action Pool Difficulty Target Successes [3] [4] [7] None [1] [8] [9] [9] [8] 3 [7] [7] [8] [9] None [10] [10] 1 [1] [1] [6] [7] [8] Critical fail (optional rule)

For each of these successes, the character achieved the task better or more quickly.


Equipment is the physical weapons, armor, and implements through which characters channel their attributes, skills, and effort.


The simplest category of equipment is items. These have endless variety, and may give bonuses to attribute tests or improve other actions.


Armor provides bonus dice to the character’s PD. However, armor can impose penalties if the character doesn’t have the required skills.


Weapons have a cost and a rating. The equipment’s cost represents the effort required to use the equipment (such as a pistol that requires minimal effort, compared to a heavy sword), while the equipment’s rating represents the force that it imparts when used. Weak weapons have ratings of ♦, ♦, or ♦♦, while powerful weapons (sniper rifles or crossbows) have ratings higher than ♦♦♦♦♦. With this in mind, the equipment’s cost is the energy that must be spent to use it, and its rating is the number of dice that go into the action pool for the attack. Equipment costs and ratings are represented with diamonds: ♦. A simple club is represented like this, ♦♦♦/♦♦, and abbreviated like this: ♦/♦. For example, our club costs ♦ and has a rating of ♦, while a massive two-handed greatsword has a cost of ♦ and rating of ♦. This ratio between the cost of the equipment’s use and the number of dice that it grants reflects the weapon’s effectiveness. While powerful weapons are inherently effective, lightweight weapons allow characters to use their energy to add extra effort, which rewards them with bonus dice from their skills. For best effect, combine an effective weapon with a high-rating skill.


A character’s maximum health is derived from their physical size (tiny, small, normal, large, huge, and gargantuan), their Stamina, and any other relevant traits. Maximum health ranges from 5 to 13 for a normal human.

Character Points

Character points (CP) are the currency of character development; they are used in character creation and later earned through play and spent on improving attributes and skills, and to learn new skills. The player can choose when and how to spend CP to improve their character.

Character Creation

Making Your Character

Your first step in playing a Forge Engine game is to create your character. When creating a character, you first determine the character concept, and then build out the character’s three main aspects:

  • Traits
  • Attributes
  • Skills

And then you go on to determine the character’s extra details:

  • Energy
  • Defense Pools
  • Health
  • Movement Speed
  • Starting Equipment

Finally, you can bring your character to life by developing their unique aspects, including their personality, background, moral code, and life goals.

Character Creation Steps

Character creation follows these steps:

  • Step 1: Character Concept
  • Step 2: Traits
  • Step 3: Attributes
  • Step 4: Skills
  • Step 5: Energy Pool
  • Step 6: Defense Pools
  • Step 7: Health
  • Step 8: Movement Speed
  • Step 9: Starting Equipment
  • Step 10: Final Details

Most character aspects are purchased with character points (CP), split between:

  • Attributes and traits: 15 CP
  • Skills: 30 CP

The GM can increase or decrease the CP budget for these areas, restrict trait choices, or limit the maximum rating of attributes. Furthermore, the GM can allow unspent attribute and trait CP to be spent on skills or held over into play.

Step 1: Character Concept Before diving in to the mechanical aspects of your character, it is important to have an idea of the sort of character you wish to play and how that character fits in with your adventuring group and the game world where they exist. A little forethought and planning here will save you the embarrassment of showing up to a post-apocalyptic wasteland with your halfling tinker.

Step 2: Traits Rule: Traits are bought with CP.

Rule: CP are shared between attributes and traits.

Rule: Traits are usually only chosen at character creation.

Rule: All characters start with a species trait. Traits are purchased with character points shared with the character’s attribute ratings:

  • Characters have 15 CP shared between traits and attributes

Each trait has a CP cost, which reflects the relative value of the trait. Highly beneficial traits have higher costs, while comparative mundane traits have lower CP costs. The GM can also include or exclude any traits that don’t fit in the game’s setting. By default, characters have the Human species, which means they have the Medium size trait and a free trait from this list: Muscular, Lithe, Fit, Sensitive, Incisive, or Astute. If the game’s setting supports varying character species, like elves, orcs, and dwarves, these are selected as traits. The selected species then includes traits that reflect that species’ unique characteristics.

A description of the types of traits is in the Traits section.

Step 3: Attributes Rule: All characters have six attributes with a starting rating of ♦.

Rule: Attributes are determined by spending CP.

Rule: Each attribute rating increase costs CP equal to the rating.

Rule: Each attribute rating increase is purchased separately.

Rule: CP are shared between attributes and traits.

Rule: The GM sets the CP budget for a character’s attributes and traits.

Attribute ratings are purchased with character points shared with the character’s traits:

  • Characters have 15 CP shared between traits and attributes

Characters begin with ♦ in each attribute, and rating increases are purchased with CP. Each attribute increase costs CP equal to the rating that is being purchased; so increasing an attribute from ♦ to ♦♦ costs 2 CP and increasing an attribute from ♦♦♦♦ to ♦♦♦♦♦ costs 5 CP. These increases are purchased separately, so increasing an attribute from ♦ to ♦♦♦♦♦ costs 14 CP (2+3+4+5). Note that most species traits come bundled with traits that affect the cost of attribute increases. For example, the Human species trait allows the player to select a trait that reduces the improvement cost of one of the character’s six attributes.

The full description of each attribute is in the Attributes section on page 15.

Step 4: Skills Rule: Skills are purchased and increased by spending CP.

Rule: Each skill rating increase (or new skill) costs 1 CP.

Rule: The GM sets the number of CP for a starting character’s skills.

Rule: Skills cannot have ratings higher than the underlying attribute.

Rule: There is no limit in the number of skills that characters can train.

Rule: The GM may limit the maximum rating for each skill. The first ♦ for a new skill costs 1 CP, and each subsequent skill rating also costs 1 CP.

  • Characters have 30 CP to spend on skills
  • At least 15 CP must be spent on General skills

Furthermore, characters are assumed to know their own language and have basic common knowledge without spending CP:

  • Characters have Knowledge (Language: Native) equal to their Intelligence rating
  • Characters have Knowledge (Common) equal to their Intelligence rating

At their discretion, GMs can adjust the characters’ CP budget for skills, they can further separate the CP budget between general, martial, specialized, and magic skills, and they can set a maximum rating for the purchased skills. As with attributes, the GM can allow unspent CP to be held over into play.

General skills are listed in the General Skills section on page 58, martial skills are listed in the Martial Skills section on page 64 and the Basic Martial Skills ” Modern section on page 66, and magic skills are listed in the Magic Skills section on page 76.

Step 5: Energy Rule: Maximum energy is the sum of the character’s three highest attributes.

The character’s maximum energy is calculated by adding up the ratings of the character’s three highest attributes. If the character is created with the standard budgets, then they will likely have 8 energy. A low power character (or a character with a lot of traits) could have 6 or 7 energy while a character that is developed through campaign play ” or a powerful game character ” could have 15 or more energy.

Step 6: Defense Pools Rule: Physical defense (PD) pool is ♦ + equipment.

Rule: Mental defense (MD) pool is the middle rating of Influence, Intelligence, or Acuity.

The character’s defense pools are:

  • PD: ♦ plus equipment (such as worn armor) plus any optional skills
  • MD: Middle rating of Influence, Intelligence, or Acuity, plus any optional skills

The defense pools can be augmented by reactions like Dodge (which requires energy) or with optional skills that the player has bought for their character; such as Iron Will to increase their mental defense.

Step 7: Health Rule: Maximum health is based on the character’s size trait and Stamina attribute.

The character’s maximum health is based on their Stamina and their size trait, which is normally bundled with their species. For example, the Human trait means a character is Medium size. Other traits and species choices affect the character’s maximum health.

Size and Maximum Health

Small 2 + twice Stamina Medium 3 + twice Stamina Large 5 + twice Stamina

More character sizes are listed in the Size Traits section.

Step 9: Equipment: The GM may determine starting equipment a character has, and whether he or she has money to spend on additional items.

Equipment lists are included in the Equipment sections, starting on page 85. Step 10: Final Details The finishing touches for a character are to work out what makes them tick, where they’re from, what they’ve experienced, and what drives them:

  • Personality
  • Background
  • Moral code
  • Life goals