Introducing "Year Zero Mini" • 9littlebees

Introducing “Year Zero Mini”

Tabletop Roleplaying on the dark side

Introducing “Year Zero Mini”

12-Mar-19 Gamemaking Year Zero Mini 0

[Update] The Year Zero Mini ruleset is now live and can be found here.

Two game designers I have a lot of respect for have recently shared rules-light games that they want to play with their children. Diogo Nogueira has started working on Adventures in a World of Imagination, which is designed to play with his 3 year old. Richard Woolcock has created a one-sheet game called Tricube Tales, which is designed to play with his 4 year old.

Well, I’ve also got a 3.5 year old, and making a rules-light game of my favourite system (the Year Zero Engine) has been on the to-do list for a long time. With an OGL for this system being imminent, I decided to hop on the bandwagon and share the bones of what I’m calling Year Zero Mini, or YZM for short. This isn’t actually meant to be a kid’s game, but with some very small tweaks, it can be made so. I’ll mention where the differences would lie in the notes below.

So without further ado, let me share the bones of the game! The keen-eyed among you will notice that it has a very strong resemblance to Tales From the Loop, which is a game for adults about playing kids.


There are four Attributes and starting characters have between 10 and 14 points to spread across them. These numbers determine the number of D6s you roll (aka your “pool”).

The wording below shows both the standard and kid versions:

  • Strength / Strong
  • Agility / Quick
  • Wits / Clever
  • Empathy / Friendly

The maximum value for Attributes is 8, though the GM can raise this cap for a more heroic game.


YZM won’t have skills. Instead, each player creates a Concept. This is worded very similarly to a FATE High Concept. There will be many examples given, such as “Poetic Vogon Slicer” or “Jaded Cockney Private Investigator”.

If your Concept can help you with a roll (i.e. a Socialite haggling with a market stall owner), gain +1D (add 1 dice to the pool). If you are expertly-trained (i.e. a Socialite charming a crowd), gain +2D.

Other Traits

  • Conviction – what your character strongly believes in – gain a Luck Point when it is acted on.
  • Impulse – knee-jerk reaction to certain situations – gain a Luck Point when it lands the PC or party in hot water.
  • Friend – the PC you are closest to. Sacrificing something or putting yourself in harm’s way for them gains a Luck Point.
  • Asset – a single signature item that your PC has which gives a +2D bonus when it is used. Most other items will give a +1D bonus.


Sometimes the GM will tell you that Trauma will be inflicted if you fail the roll. If you suffer Trauma, you must tick one of the 4 Trauma boxes to show how your PC is hurt in some way.

When you have 1 or 2 Trauma boxes ticked, you suffer a -1D penalty to all dice rolls. When the 3rd and 4th boxes are ticked, you suffer -2D to all dice rolls. Once all 4 Trauma boxes are ticked and you take another Trauma, your PC is Broken (see below).

Broken & Scarred

Being Broken means you are out of action until you can recover Trauma. In addition, each time you become Broken, you gain a permanent Scar. Mark it on your sheet and roll 2 dice, discarding the lowest die. If the remaining die is under or equal to the number of Scars you now have, you are dead.


In YZM, your Attributes increase as you use them. Each time you roll the dice, put a tally in the success or failure box next to the Attribute you just used. When both your success AND failure tallies equal two times that Attribute’s current rank, you can increase that Attribute.

Your Conviction, Impulse, and Friend can all be changed during a period of downtime, but any change has to align with the story that has so far been told.

General Rules

  • Don’t roll often – only roll when failure would be interesting, especially since failed dice rolls are tied to advancement.
  • 6s are Successes – more than one 6 is a critical success (“yes, and”). While failure is a key part of advancement, there should also always be a complication (“no, and”).
  • Luck Points – these can spend a Luck Point to reroll (holding as many dice as you wish), though this can only be done once per roll. You only start the first session with 1, all others must be earned. In the kids version, you start every session with at least 1 (you get a free one if you ran out last time).
  • Modifiers – if something grants an advantage, gain +1D. If there is some form of complication or disadvantage, suffer -1D.

This is very much first draft, and will undoubtedly go through several revisions before I share the first playtest PDF, but the bones are now there and now it’s just about adding meat.

If you want to be alerted when the playtest is ready, please sign up for my newsletter by clicking on the link below and selecting “Matt’s game updates”. I will only send a newsletter when the first playtest and the final version of a game is ready, which should equate to only a handful of newsletters a year.