DoubleZero: Second Edition review and my custom character sheet

DoubleZero is a RPG for modern era action\adventure games by Berin Kinsman. It’s particularly suited to the Spy or Thriller genres. I’ve been playing around with it for a bit, and thought I’d post some thoughts along with a custom character sheet.

The Format

DoubleZero, like all of the titles published by Lightspress Media uses what they call a ”Lo-Fi” aesthetic. There’s no art, and no fancy fonts. It’s pretty much plain serif text throughout the book.

This was a specific choice. The author discusses the reasoning behind it at the company home page. I understand the idea behind this, and agree to a certain extent (My favorite model of RPG page design is the original Traveller books), but I think it could’ve used at least a little bit of graphic flair. A few simple logos for the various sections, perhaps bordered text boxes for some of the core rules, might have made it a little nicer to navigate. That being said, it’s relatively well-laid out, and everything’s easy enough to find. There’s no index, but the PDF is well bookmarked, which is always a nice touch.

The original DoubleZero was inspired by the James Bond RPG from Victory Games, originally published in 1983. It didn’t have the exact same ruleset, but was generally inspired by the original game and used a percentile die to resolve actions.

If you’re looking for an exact retroclone of the old James Bond game, try Classified by Expeditious Retreat Press.

The second edition (actually called the “Director’s Cut”), while sharing some similarities to the first version, is different enough that I’d almost consider it a completely new game.

The Basic Game Mechanic

Every action a player might take is assigned a difficulty level from 1 to 10, higher numbers being more difficult. Characters have aptitudes(stats), represented by numbers. If the appropriate aptitude is equal to greater than the difficulty, they succeed automatically and no roll is required. Otherwise, the player will roll a d10. If the roll is equal to or greater than the difficulty, they succeed.

Example: Chasing his arch-nemesis, Flint has to ski down Mount Treachery while a avalanche comes roaring down behind him. To avoid the wintry wall of death, the GM rules that Flint has to make an Athletics roll with a difficulty of 7. Flint has a Athletics of 6, so he’ll have to roll a D10. He’ll need a 7,8,9 or 10 to succeed.

If a player makes a successful roll, they can then make an outcome roll, also on a D10. This determines the level of success. There are multiple examples of types of outcome rolls – Information, Distraction, Resources etc. For combat, the outcome roll is the damage roll. If a character has an appropriate skill, the skill number is the mininum outcome they will get, no matter what they roll.

Example: Flint succeeds at his Athletics roll. He makes a D10 roll for the outcome. Flint has a Skiing skill of 4. He rolls a 1, which would normally be a marginal success, but because of his skill it's a 4, an expected success.

Creating Characters

In DoubleZero, all characters have the following aptitudes: Athletics, Creativity, Fighting, Influence, Knowledge, Perception, Technology, Transportation.

Each of these have a list of skills related to each aptitude. For example Influence has skills such as Acting, Bird Calls, Bluff, Charisma, Comedy, Diplomacy Etc.

Both skills and aptitudes use a point buy system. Players are given a number of points they can use to buy both.

Players can choose an expertise level (Novice, Beginner, Competent, Expert, and Master) to determine how experienced their character is when starting out. The expertise level determines the following:

  • How many points for Skills and Aptitude they start off with.
  • What the maximum value for any individual Skill or Aptitude is.
  • How many professions they can choose from.
  • How many Hero points they start off with.

Professions are just skills packages for certain backgrounds – Assassin, Clergy, Hacker, etc.

Characters can start off with or earn Hero Points. These can be spent to modify rolls (anyone’s roll) after they’re made. They’re also used to put complications onto failed rolls, create resources for the character, or to activate advantages.

There are also advantages and disadvantages. Advantages can be bought with points during character creation, while disadvantages provide extra points.

Injury and Death

Instead of hit points, DoubleZero uses an injury score. For every character, this starts out as a 10. The injury score is the maximum number they can roll on a D10. If they are injured, the outcome of the attack reduces the score. When the score is zero, the character is unconscious or out-of-action in some way.

Example: After being shot, Matt Helm takes 4 points of damage, reducing his injury score to 6. Any rolls he makes from now on cannot be any higher than a 6.

Player characters in DoubleZero don’t die unless the player agrees that they die.

Other Stuff

  • There’s a simple set of chase rules
  • The weapons list – Since DoubleZero isn’t a particularly crunchy system, most weapons only have a damage stat. This is just the minimum outcome on any D10 outcome roll. Some smaller weapons have a Conceal number – that’s the minimum outcome when trying to hide that weapon.
  • A list of modern vehicles.
  • Some advice to running investigations and social interactions
  • A page on gadgets. Not particularly detailed

Conclusion

Basically, I like this system. The core mechanic is simple and intuitive – you can roll 2 ten-siders to determine the success and outcome of anything, and you don’t have to do a lot of math for each roll. All the GM has to do is set a difficulty number. Since a lot of setting difficulty and determining outcomes are judgment calls by the GM, DoubleZero might not a good system for a novice GM. Also, If you wanted something crunchier and more tactical, I’d look elsewhere. However, for a light spy or adventure campaign, I think DoubleZero is ideal.

One of my dream campaigns is to try and run all of the old 1980s TSR Top Secret modules with this system.

My Custom Character Sheet

I couldn’t find an official DoubleZero character sheet, so I decided to make my own. I’ve added it to my ever-expanding list of character sheets.You can still get my sheets for the old version of DoubleZero here and here.

It’s two pages, fillable, and you can import a character image by clicking in the upper right hand corner. I’ve provided both A4 and US Letter versions:

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