Player's Handbook

Playing the Game

Playing the GUTS+ System requires only the occasional D6 roll and a bit of imagination.

The Basics

Role playing is a bit like collaborating with a group to tell a story with special rules in place that prevent the story from going too far off the rails. The GM sets up the world and the situation, and it’s up to you and your fellow players to work through that situation together using your characters.

Oftentimes, the GM will start a play session by describing a scene and some kind of circumstance that would bring your characters together for an adventure. It’s up to you as the players to ask questions both in character (IC) and out of character (OOC) and fill in the blanks so you can be as successful as possible when moving forward.

When your character asks questions and tries to perform certain actions, the GM will sometimes ask you to make a success check. Depending on what you are trying to roll success for, your qualities may influence the outcome, raising the number of dice you roll based on your quality’s level—the GM should tell you which quality to use if you don’t know. You may occasionally roll for success against a non-player character (NPC). The character being rolled against is the “defender.”

As you continue playing, your characters will grow stronger, and the game will get harder. Just keep moving forward, and you’ll win eventually! Or maybe your game isn’t about winning and the goal is to keep playing and exploring the game world—it’s entirely up to you and your GM!

Handling Conflict

Conflict is the cornerstone of plot. The game you are playing will likely have a lot of different conflicts, often happening at the same time, as well as a lot of different kinds of conflicts. Whether you are trying to find someone’s lost cat or trying to work against a dictator, there are many different ways to go about handling conflict.

Conflicts are handled using a combination of die rolls and logical appeals made to the GM. When an appeal is not accepted by the GM, you must roll a number D6s to determine your success. See the Success Scale to understand how success is determined. When you begin, you will only be rolling 1 D6, but as your character grows stronger, you will need to roll more to keep up with the rising difficulty level.

Many role-playing games make heavy use of combat to overcome conflicts, but it might not always be the best option. Try different things to see what the best outcome might be. The GM should be flexible enough to handle whatever you throw at them and respond accordingly. If you come across someone acting strangely, instead of trying to beat the information out of them, maybe try to ask them what’s wrong.

Success Scale

How successful your character is at performing a certain action is determined by what number you roll on a D6 die. Typically, the DM will have you roll using a particular quality your character has, which means that you roll as many D6’s as that quality’s level (for example, if your quality is level 4, you roll 4 dice). The number of dice you roll increases your chances at success (or failure) in both categories.

There are 2 types of success rolls: checks and contests.


Check rolls are what determine your success at performing actions that do not involve other (unwilling) living creatures. Each individual die you roll is measured by this scale, which allows the GM to interpret the results based on what was rolled the most.

The scale for success is:

Die ValueResult
1Negative impact
3Near success (GM decides)
4–5Full success
6Positive impact

For example, if the Quality you are rolling to check is level 3, you would roll 3D6. If your die values were 4, 6, and 1, that equates to 1 Full Success, 1 Positive Impact, and 1 Negative Impact, which the GM could interpret as “Well, the Positive and Negative Impacts cancel out, which leaves a Full Success!” Or if you rolled 5, 2, and 4, then the result could clearly be a success because more successful dice were rolled than failures.

One last example in how these rolls could be interpreted is if your quality is level 2 and you roll 2D6 resulting in 1 and 5, then the GM could interpret that success as somewhere in the middle, i.e. a Near Success. The outcome is determined by the GM based on the current scenario and action being attempted, so if you disagree with their interpretation of the roll, speak up!


If you need to perform an action against an unwilling member, you will need to make a contest roll against them. Both you and your opponent roll the relevant number of dice, and you subtract their roll’s value from yours (i.e. the defender subtracts their roll from the aggressor’s). The success scale is as follows:

Less than -2Negative impact
-1 or -2Failure
0Near success (GM decides)
1 to 3Full success
More than 3Positive impact

For example, if you are acting against an opponent and you roll a 6 and your opponent rolls 4, subtract your opponent’s roll from yours, which gives you 2. Your action would have Full Success, allowing the GM to progress the situation appropriately. If, alternatively, your opponent is acting against you, but they roll 3 while you roll 6, subtract your roll from your opponent’s, which gives you -3. Your opponent would have a Negative Impact failure, which would cause the GM to make something bad happen to your opponent instead.

Note: if you’re not proficient at doing math in your head, you can make the math easier by matching up the defender’s dice to the aggressor’s dice to see how much is left over. For example, the aggressor rolled a 3 and a 2 but the defender rolled a 5 and a 1—the 5 die can cover the values of both the 3 and the 2, leaving 1, resulting in a -1 Failure for the aggressor’s Contest roll.

“Near Success”

Whenever you roll a 3 check or a 0 contest, the result is at the discretion of the GM. They may take the opportunity to advance the situation somehow or they may decide that you need to roll better next time based on the context. Feel free to plead your case with the GM, though!

Using Qualities

When rolling to determine success, the GM will tell you the base GUTS quality to use for your roll, and you can appeal to the GM to pair another relevant quality with the roll depending on the action you are taking. If the quality is relevant, add the other quality’s points to the base quality and roll as many dice as that allows, up to a maximum of 10 dice.

The GM will also give you advantages or disadvantages based on what qualities are used in certain situations. For example, an action like pushing a boulder would use a Gumption roll, but without a quality like “weight lifting” or something similar, the GM would give you a certain amount of disadvantage to subtract from your roll. Using your “weight lifting” quality, would remove any disadvantages.

Rolling Doubles

If any 2 dice are rolled with the same number higher than 1, you have the option to roll an additional bonus die for each double rolled. For Check rolls, distribute the total value of the extra dice among the dice you rolled to increase their value and bring it closer to a successful result. For Contest rolls, simply add the value to your total roll to increase your chances at success.

1’s are excluded from this option, and rolled dice that have been used as a double set cannot be used to create another double, i.e. if you roll three 2’s, you only get 1 double set from that group. You can also opt to not use a bonus die if you prefer.


If another character is trying to do something and your character is near them, you may assist them with what they are trying to do by making a Check roll using the same or equivalent qualities that they are using, but with half of the dice you would normally roll for that Check, rounded up. If any of the dice you roll creates a double with one of their dice (even a 1), they can use your die to roll a bonus die from that double and modify their roll. They can roll bonus dice for each double your dice create with theirs, and 1’s are not excluded.

For example, if one character is trying to repair a broken wire using their Utility quality, you can assist them by rolling half of your Utility quality. Let’s say their Utility is level 3 and they roll 2, 1, and 4, and you want to assist them. Your Utility quality is also 3, so you roll 2 dice (half of 3 rounded up), which land on 1 and 3. The 1 you rolled is paired with the 1 they rolled, allowing them to roll a bonus die to allow them to improve their overall roll.

Voluntary Failure

If you prefer, whether for story/character purposes or otherwise, you can choose to skip a roll and opt to receive a failure. The GM will play out a failure scenario, and you can take one Experience Point for each die you would have rolled. A Voluntary Failure cannot result in a Negative Impact failure, so you do not gain learning experiences, but it is still a good way to get experience when you know a success in a certain situation would not really make sense for your character.


If you do choose to handle your conflicts with violence, combat is a fairly straightforward (and dangerous) affair. Rather than taking orderly turns, combat takes place in roughly five-second “free-for-all” intervals with characters taking 1 turn per round whenever you or the GM feels it makes sense for the character to act. The GM will keep track of who has taken turns and announce when each round ends and the next one starts. Choosing when your characters attack can help you make tactical decisions that can dramatically affect the outcome of the fight.

The only time an orderly sequence of turns occurs is at the beginning of combat: roll Gumption to find how quickly your character reacts to the situation and take your first turns in order from highest to lowest Gumption roll. If there is a tie, the GM will decide who goes first. After this first turn, the free-for-all turn order begins.

When you take your turn, you can: move, perform 1 active action, and perform 1 passive action.


Your character can move a reasonable distance from their current position on their turn. Keeping in mind that a turn takes place at a point within a single 5-second interval, you can move your character however far they might be able to move. The GM will let you know if your proposed movement is too far for the given turn.

Movement can occur before and after an action is taken if there is enough time.

Active Actions

An “active” action is an action that requires some kind of effort, i.e. something that requires a Check or Contest roll. Whether it’s trying to scale a wall, crack a code, or attack another character, that’s an active action. When using your active action, you must clearly declare what you are trying to do. If you are attacking, declare who or what you are attacking, what you are using to attack, and where you are trying to hit your target (or let the GM decide if you don’t care), and make a Contest roll against them. Generally, physical attacks will require a Gumption roll while ranged attacks will require Utility, but the GM will tell you what roll is needed in each case.

Note that you can also choose to take any other action aside from attacking if you wish. Maybe you can defuse the situation instead! Or perhaps you have the ability to heal a partner’s injuries—that’s also something you can do on your turn!

Passive Actions

A “passive” action is something that doesn’t take any time or extraordinary effort to perform, i.e. something that does not require a Check or Contest roll. Whether it’s checking the environment for something you can use to your advantage, handing a friend a helpful item, or turning off a light switch as you pass by, that’s a passive action. When declaring your passive action, your GM must confirm that it is passive, and if it is, they will tell you the result. Even though passive actions generally don’t need a Check roll, your GM may sometimes assign one, for example a Thought roll when trying to look for weak spots on an enemy—depending on how well your character is able to perceive in the moment, they may or may not be able to find something that stands out.


In order to use a weapon, your character must be holding it in their Hand (i.e. not in a Bag), and they must have a place to put anything that they might already be holding instead of their weapon. Beyond this, the effect of the weapon is governed by logic and the Success Scale. For example, using bare fists may not be very effective against metal unless you’ve got a really good reason as to why it actually would be, but a knife might be able to cut through some wood.

Taking Damage

When you are attacked and take damage, your character will receive injuries depending on where, how, and how badly they were hit. Injuries you take can lead to serious consequences later down the line, including losing limbs or even dying! See Health to learn about the health and injuries systems in GUTS+.

Completing Combat

Combat goes until the GM declares that the aggression has passed. This could be by knocking your opponents out or making them run or otherwise convincing them to stop fighting. Alternatively, the party can always attempt to run from a dangerous situation; depending on the opponent’s nature, they just might let you go.


Most role-playing game systems utilize a “hit points” (HP) system, but in GUTS+, a character’s health is determined by the number of injuries sustained to various parts of their body and the strain placed upon their mind and body.


The following chart shows the default areas of the body that can be injured and a baseline idea of how many times an injury can be sustained before it becomes fatal:

Injury Chart

Whenever you take an injury, mark it on your character sheet. If a part of the body sustains the maximum number of Minor injuries that it can have, the next Minor injury instantly becomes a Major injury, and if the maximum number of Major injuries is taken, use of that body part becomes limited and will affect what your character can do. If you receive any Major injuries beyond the maximum number, you lose use of that body part completely. Losing use of either of your character’s Hands reduces your inventory space, and “losing the use of” your character’s Head means your character immediately becomes unconscious. Additionally, if the maximum number of injuries for a body part is surpassed in certain dangerous ways like being cut with a sword, your character can lose that body part permanently!

If your character receives more than 6 Major (non-Head) injuries (i.e. 7 or more), they will gain the “unconscious” status effect. If they are not recovered before enough time passes, they will die, so be careful!


In addition to Injuries, performing a taxing action for a sustained period of time can add Strain to your character. If your character receives more than 10 points of Strain before they are able to remove any Strain, they can either receive injuries or be knocked unconscious from exertion.

Any additional strain received from performing actions inflicts a Minor injury to the body part that is performing it. If you are using magic (Essence), strain received inflicts injuries to the Head.

Status Effects

Beyond Injuries and Strain, your character can also be afflicted by a variety of status effects. These can be mental things like “afraid,” “discouraged,” and “embarrassed” or physical things not representable by injuries like “blinded”, “deafened”, and “nauseated,” which affect how you play the game in different ways. Some will affect the values that you roll while others will affect what your character is able to do in the game world. The exact way they affect your character mechanically is determined by your GM, but the most important factor to keep in mind is that your character should behave appropriately when burdened with these effects. If your character is “disturbed,” keep that in mind when you interact with other characters or react to the game world.

Status effects can stack on top of each other as well as intensify. Some GMs will give you a new status effect to replace an intensified one (eg. “afraid” to “terrified” to “panicked”) and others will simply give you numbered levels (i.e. “afraid x2”). Keep in mind what combinations of effects might do to your character and play it out as it might happen in real life.

Optionally, you can voluntarily apply permanent status effects to your character if you want to play a character with a disability. Work with your GM to figure out what exactly this might mean for how you play the game and ignore regular recovery times.

Note: there is no master list of status effects beyond the table of suggestions in the Game Master’s Handbook, so if you are unsure what the GM means by a particular status effect or if they forget to tell you what the status does to your character, be sure to ask for clarification!


Recovering from an injury is a relatively slow process if not deliberately focused on. Untreated, A minor injury will heal at the rate of 1 injury per in-game day—you choose what injury you wish to be healed—while a major injury will heal at the rate of 1 injury per 5 in-game days.

If you wish to focus on allowing your injuries to heal, resting will allow your injuries to heal twice as fast: 1 minor injury per 12 day and 1 major injury per 2 12 days. If you or someone in your group has any sort of medical qualities, then they can help treat your wound to speed up recovery even more. Some treatments will be instantaneous while others might speed it up to just a couple of hours for recovery. Eating food can also help heal injuries.

Strain is slightly different: once the source of strain is removed, it begins going down immediately at a rate of approximately 1 point per minute. Depending on the type of strain and how soon you resume the stressful task, your strain might be removed all at once or after every couple of turns if in Combat.

Different still, status effects are removed either when the GM says so or when the cause of the effect has been removed for a reasonable amount of time. If the GM doesn’t lift the status after a reasonable time, they might have forgotten, so just ask if your character still has it!

The Passage of Time

Time is only as important as the GM makes it. In most cases, time passes as it would realisitically. For example, if you were to walk from one town to another for several miles, it might take several hours. To make the game more engaging, the GM may make day and night and the things that can happen during each more significant, but in the end, it’s up to your specific group and how they prefer to play.

LAST UPDATED: April 30, 2019
  • Prevent double 1's from receiving bonus dice
  • Allow only Assisting to give a bonus from double 1's
  • Only allow 1 Experience Point to be earned per Check roll
  • Change Combat from turn order to free-for-all order