Introducing "Year Zero Mini" • 9littlebees

Introducing “Year Zero Mini”

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.

YZM will be a rules-light implementation of the Year Zero Engine. Initially, I will aim to fit the playtest version on 2 sheets of paper (I’ll create both Letter and A4 versions), and eventually I’d like to release a little (A5) zine of the game with a small amount of professional artwork to sell as a PDF and POD title on DTRPG.

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 16 points to spread across them (recommended as a 3,4,4,5 pattern). 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 can be set by the GM, and is recommended to be between 8-10.


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 “famous explorer” or “jaded detective”.

If your Concept applies to the test you are attempting, you get a +1D bonus (add 1 dice to the pool).

Example: a “jaded detective” rolls Empathy / Friendly to question a suspect, gaining an extra die to their pool.

Other Traits

  • Pride – worded like a FATE aspect – gain a Luck Point when it is acted on.
  • Problem – also worded like a FATE aspect – gain a Luck Point when it lands the PC or party in hot water.
  • Pal – 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 a Condition will be inflicted if you fail the roll. If you then suffer a Condition, you must select one and tick the box next to it to show how your PC is hurt in some way.

Each box ticked causes a -1D penalty to all dice rolls. This is cumulative, so if 3 conditions are ticked, a PC sufers -3D to all dice rolls. If all 4 Conditions are ticked and you take another Condition, your PC is Broken (see below).

  • Upset – recovery by spending time with your Pal or another friend / family member / pet.
  • Scared – recovery by spending time with your Pal or another friend / family member.
  • Exhausted – recovery by sleeping at least 6 hours.
  • Injured – recovery without treatment after 8 days. With treatment, it will clear in 4 days. Uses an 8-segment healing clock to mark healing progress.


Being Broken means character death. A Luck Point can be spent to prevent this, though all 4 Conditions will remaining ticked.

For the kid’s version, a Broken character is really badly hurt and will try to retreat to a safe place, otherwise they will automatically fail all dice rolls until recovered. Death isn’t an option.


Every time you fail a roll, put a tally in the tally box next to the Attribute you just tested. When you have tallies equal to your current Attribute’s rank, your Attribute increases.

Your Pride, Problem, and Pal 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 be spent to prevent death (see Broken above). They can also be spent to reroll, but only 1 Luck Point can be spent per test, and any dice may be held when rerolling. 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).
  • Opposed Tests – each person rolls their pool. 6s cancel each other out. Winner has most 6s left. If a tie, the next highest die wins. Someone should always win.
  • Combat – an Opposed Test (usually Strength vs Agility or Strength vs Strength) to inflict Conditions. If defender uses Strength, at least one Condition is always inflicted as the two sides trade blows.
  • Social – an Opposed Test (could be Empathy vs Wits, Empathy vs Empathy, or Wits vs Wits). Works like Combat except that one side always suffers a Condition. The Injured Condition is hard to explain in social encounters, so get creative!
  • 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.