ZeFRS: A mini-review and free character sheet for the Conan retroclone

I recently picked up a copy of the Sword & Sorcery RPG  ZeFRS over on Lulu. I’ll be running a one-shot of this, so I thought I’d put together a quick mini-review and show off my custom character sheet.


In 1985, TSR (the original D&D publisher) released their Conan RPG. The rules were by Dave “Zeb” Cook. The game wasn’t particularly successful, with only a few supplements released. It was soon discontinued.

However, the rules were a little ahead of their time in some ways. They were light and fun, and the game continued to maintain a small following.

In 2007, Mark Krawec made a retroclone version, with all of the Conan IP stripped from it. The new edition was named ZeFRS: “Zeb’s Fantasy Roleplaying System”

It was released under a copyleft license, so it can be freely copied and distributed.
You can get ZeFRS for free at https://sites.google.com/site/zefrsrpg/

Here’s the Lulu paperback version I bought:

The cover is, of course, hideous, and the name is awkward, but the game itself is worth it.

The Rules

The characters in ZeFRS are entirely skill based. There are no classes. During character creation a player is given 35 points to distribute among the various skills (called Talents). They can accept a weakness (a disadvantage) to get 10 more points.

Characters do have stats – Prowess, Fighting, Endurance, Knowledge, Perception, and Insight. These stats are called Talent Pools. Each talent can be classified as being part of a talent pool. For example, Lock Picking is in the Knowledge talent pool while Brawling is in Fighting.

Some of the talents aren’t skills. Strength is a talent that can be bought. Movement, which determines the character’s speed is also a talent to be bought.

The most important talent, however, is Damage. This talent acts as Hit Points. The more you spend here, the more damage you can take. Starting characters can’t spend more than 5 points on any talent.

Talent pools do have values. The player adds up the scores for all of the talents in the talent pool, and divides by ten. This is the general score for that talent pool. If a player wants to use a skill they don’t have, they can use the general score instead.

The basic mechanic for ZeFRS is based on a colorful chart. The player decides on an appropriate skill. The GM decides on a modifier. The resulting number is the column on the chart.

The player rolls a d100, and consults the chart to find the color. Low rolls are better. 

  • White is a failure
  • Green is a minor success
  • Yellow is a moderate success
  • Red is a  major success

This is the basic mechanic for everything, including combat. In combat, the target’s Movement is subtracted from the attackers chosen combat talent.

I haven’t actually run any of this yet, but it seems like it should all run quite smoothly. The game is free to download, so I’d recommend giving it a try.

Character Sheets

As I’ll be running a one-shot of ZeFRS, I’ll need a fillable character sheet for pregens. I’m not crazy about the provided sheet, so I’ve made my own. I wanted separate sections for the armor, weapons, and keeping track of damage.

It’s two-pages, A4-sized, and can import a small image. I’m not 100% happy with it yet, but it’ll work for now. I’ve added it to my ever-expanding list of character sheets.

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