Saturday, October 8, 2022

Game Review: EZD6

Cover, EZD6
Author: Scotty "DM Scotty" Mc Farland

Publisher: RUNEHAMMER Games

System: D6 variable target system

Marketplace: DrivethruRPG

EZD6 is a rules like role-playing game by YouTube's DM Scotty, and released through room Hankerin Ferinale's RUNEHAMMER imprint.

It is a straightforward fantasy / sword & sorcery dungeon crawler in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons. it definitely has strong OSR aesthetics, but is exceptionally rules light. I would say that is only slightly crunchier than Tiny Dungeon 2e.

The System 

Uncertain tasks are resolved by a d6 roll against a variable Target number by the "Rabble Rouser" (GM) between the two and six. Rolls of one always fail, sixes always succeed.

Pushers & Shovers (Player Characters) have a species, class, as well as a set of inclinations, and aspects. Any or all of these might grant a boon on a roll, allowing the player character to roll an extra d6 and take the highest. Likewise, particularly bad situations can cause a bane, requiring the character to roll multiple d6s and take the lowest.

Magic is chaotic, the GM determines a number of dice between 1 and 3 to represent the resistance of the creature or situation to magical manipulation,and therefore the difficulty of the spell. The highest roll sets the target number. The player may choose to roll between one and three dice to cast the spell, but any ones rolled cause the spell to backfire, making spells cast with greater force riskier.

Holy miracles work similarly with the PC rolling a number of dice based on the simplicity of the miracle asked, against a random "aloofness" die. Only one miracle may be asked for per encounter or scene.

Combat has PCs going before monsters. The roll necessary to hit the monster varies by creature. PCs are usually hit on a 3, although halflings and rascals ("thieves") have higher targets. When a PC is hit they may save to negate the damage with a target determined by the armor the character is wearing.

Most PCs can take 3 strikes before they die. Healing can be done with surgery performed between encounters, healing potions, or food and a night of rest. Monsters vary in the number of hits they can take. These are analogous to Hit Dice in D&D.

Sixes in combat explode, allowing a PC to score multiple strikes in a single attack.

Character classes include analogues to D&D's classics: Warrior for Fighter, Friar for Cleric, Conjuror for Magic-User, and Rascal for Thief. Additionally, there is a Brute (much like an AD&D Barbarian), Skald (Bard) and Delver class, which is a generalist. All classes have a mix of boons, special gear, and beginning equipment.

Races also grant a boon and a special ability.

Inclinations give a PC an additional ability. These include reduced-power versions of most special class abilities. Others grant boons on tasks like social abilities, lockpicking, or trapsmithing/trapspringing. The corebook has 29 options.

Aspects are loose descriptions of a character's background, reputation, or hobbies. They occasionally offer boons to rolls at the GM's discretion.

Players have two metacurrencies in the game: the Hero Die and Karma. The hero die is an extra die that can be added on to any roll.

Characters start with 3 Karma, which can be spent to add to any die result on a one-to-one basis. PCs can also buy a new Hero die for 5 Karma. Karma is rewarded for failed die rolls or exceptional role-playing.

What I Loved

Speed of Play

This game is fast. With the least rules, simple mechanics, and the most complicated rules boiling down to opposed d6 rules, this game has very little to bog it down. For me, that's a big selling point. I want to get a lot of game in in the few hours I have in the evenings. When you find yourself looking up a lot of rules, it affects the quality of play. I am always looking for games that move fast and consider it a major selling point. It's why I came back to the osr in the first place.

Circles of Sorcery

I like the way EZD6 handles magic. Conjurer characters have some universal abilities that any one of them can pull off, firing a magic missile from a wand, warding themselves against harm, sensing and understanding magical effects, or using scrolls.

What makes one magician different from another in the system, on the other hand, are the circles. Each circle of sorcery represents a tradition of magical study that the character belongs to. They feel very similar to schools of magic and Dungeons & Dragons with a touch of traditions from Mage: the Ascension.

Each circle includes its own special powers. Necromancers, for instance, gain the aid of a talking skull that can be used as an alarm, message receptacle, and that is knowledgeable in forgotten lore. They also have the ability to animate and control lesser undead. Shadow a weavers, on the other hand in the ability to see in the dark and create obscuring walls of darkness. Seers gain the ability to prophesy about coming events, and use them as a free floating boom to be applied to party saving throws. They also gain the guidance of an invisible spirit that has supernatural acces to knowledge.

On top of these set powers, which give magic-using characters very particular flavors and a lot of variety, Conjurors can weave spells which is a subsystem worth addressing all on its own.

Good for Kids

"Murkstrike" by Sean Bova
The artwork, layout, and complexity levels of the rules makes it ideal for a kid of seven or eight to learn. It can introduce them to almost all of the concepts that they will be using in a more complex game like Dungeons & Dragons, and get them used to the major tropes of those games, well still being very easy to learn.

The artwork doesn't include anything that I wouldn't let my own 7-year old see.

Freestyle Magic

I am always game for a system of magic that let's players make up their own spells on the fly. In EZD6 players may make up any spell that is apropos to their circle of sorcery. An illusionist can come up with almost any illusion or trickery. A necromancer could create almost any still having to do with spirits, the dead, or decay etc., A fire elementalist could resist cold, summon walls of fire, or put out flames.

Book Design

EZD6 uses elegant spread layouts, and makes liberal use of Sean Bova's incredible half-page illustrations and speech balloons that set aside tips. A mix of black and white and green that makes the page pop. It is a pleasure to look at. And very easy to read and search.

Cool Monsters

"Grey Ones" by Sean Bova
EZD6 has no default setting. It only builds the minimum amount in the book. Everything else about setting is left implied. However, it has an amazing variety of new and original Monsters that help set a tone of strange, gonzo, and challenging play. Creatures such as the grey ones come with a backstory that suggests a place and a faction without needing to give you too many details.

The monster section in EZD6 does a better job creating a setting through implication than many setting books do by going directly. It establishes a clearly preferred flavor for the game.

Handy Bits

There is a section at the back of the book past the Rabble Rousing section that includes simple mechanics for answering unexpected (leading) player questions, random NPC charts, rules cheat sheets, and all those other miscellaneous items that are hard to categorize. Is well organized and thoughtful as to what a GM would need running this particular game. A lot of the random tables and Oracle tools are easily hacked into other games, as well.

Growth Points


EZD6 relies heavily on metacurrencies to make the game work. The Hero Die and Karma are driving forces in the game. On the one hand, this lets the game stay simple. On the other, it gives the player characters control over events beyond their characters actions. This is always a trade-off when you were designing a role playing game, as it can come at the cost of immersion.

Buried and Disordered Rules

While the rules are simple and usually clear, they are often presented out of the logical order. During my first read-through, I found myself taking note of where rule was confusing and having to wait 20 Pages for the rest of the rule to be explained. For example, we are told that we cannot spend karma on magic rolls long before we are told what karma is or how do could be spent.

Likewise, in the combat rule we are told that player characters have to meet at target to attack creature based on its general difficulty, but it is not until nearly the end of the Rabble Rousing section what the GM must roll to hit a player character (3). This means it's hard to gauge how good the Rascals increased difficulty to hit is until you have read most of the book, for example.

Of course, this is a problem that can be solved simply by looking things up in the index and skipping around the book. But, I like my first read of a role-playing manual to be covered to cover. I generally read a book three times before I review it, by the way, using the love method by Tim Sanders.

There is a Lot of Potential for Micro-Settings

EZD6 is a game that is begging for a collection of micro-settings. Many rules like fantasy role-playing games such as Index Card RPG and Tiny Dungeon don't give you a fully fleshed out setting for a game, but rather give you a list of several potential settings with just enough information and rules to turn it into a campaign all your own.

This is by far one of the greatest strengths of hanker infernale. And a big part of how RUNEHAMMER has published most of its material. I was a bit surprised not to see it here.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a deal breaker by any stretch the imagination. I pretty much always build a new campaign world every time I kick off a new game. I love building worlds. But, it's definitely one of my favorite things to read, as I enjoy the creativity of others. I feel it is a missed opportunity. We could have had a couple of different fantasy worlds, or perhaps radically different regions in the same setting.

As is, there is a certain amount of implied setting to EZD6, but nothing so concrete that players will feel beholden to stick to lore. The implied setting of ezd6 serves to create a suggestion of the tone of play, and not much more. Leaving everything else up to the creativity of the group.

Odd Linguistic Choices 

One of the most schizophrenic things about ezd6 is its choice of language. It is clearly intended to give you an old-school sword and sorcery gaming experience, and even places enough emphasis on dungeon delving to feel like a new approach to Dungeons & Dragons, much like Tiny Dungeon, Dungeon World, or Tombpunk are. It would be an excellent system for getting new players familiar with the play skills and game loop for a TTRPG.

Given that, I don't know why the game renames encounters to scenes, GMs to rabble rousers, and player characters to pushers and shovers. Using standard terminology would have worked just fine, and even been preferable if you're going to make EZD6 your training game.

Given that you're not trying to create a new and unique role-playing experience, changing the nomenclature doesn't serve the game at all.

Scrolls Don't Quite Fit Freestyle Magic

Another seeming contradiction in the game is the existence of scrolls. Magic is freeform, something that can be invented on the fly by the spellcaster. And yet, there are certain spells that are the common enough that they have a title and are sold and distributed in the form of scrolls.

Scrolls have the mechanical advantage of giving a player a 2d6 spell roll where ones do not cause corruption. Which is a sensible benefit that makes them a desirable item to have. As some less skilled magicians such as Skalds or characters with the hedge wizard inclination can only use magic through scrolls, they are necessarily going to be common.

But how do these spells come about? How are they invented? If any Conjurer of the appropriate circle can create a similar spell, how does the name of one particular magician get associated with a spell? Is it something that has become a signature of that magician in their stories and adventures? If so, is there any advantage to creating such a signature spell?

Are spell titles essentially just hey marketing ploy by a wizard who improvises an effect, likes it enough to turn it into scrolls, and sells it to skalds who cannot use their magic any other way? Or are scrolls created by someone other than Conjurors? And if so, is there a finite number of spells in the world?

There are just so many questions that comes up from the existence of scrolls in this system.

I feel like it might have been preferable to create some alternative disposable magic item to fill the role. Perhaps a trapped spirit InaA bottle, or a special token that allows one to call upon a demon that has been bound to perform the same service over and over again to any mortal who asks.

Potions Need More Love

There aren't 36 types of scrolls in the game, but only six potions. There's such a love given to all the magic items in the game, that seems odd that potions would be the one thing that gets neglected. I would have loved to have seen at least 24 entries. Then they would have a similar variety to the tables used to generate random starting gear. Especially with alchemy being one of the more intriguing inclinations of character can start with, the game practically demands a biigger sleection of potions. 


EZD6 is a passion project of one of the coolest YouTubers creating fantasy gaming content, and published by one of my favorite developers and designers. I was not at all surprised that it had a lot of clever flourishes placed on top of a simple system that was very well presented.

It isn't without its flaws, not everything in the game's design makes perfect sense with everything else. And the rules presentation could use some tweaking to make it as easy to read as possible. But given the simple, robust rules, once you have your basic rules and facts down, you won't be checking the manual very much except to check the cheat sheet.

It also has just enough clever flourishes that clever flourishes and handy tools to make it worthwhile for a rules hacker to take a look.

One of the things I have been doing over the last couple of years has been collecting really simple, easy role-playing games in a variety of genres to have on hand with my son is ready to join a role-playing group or run one. easy d6 has joined Tiny Dungeon, Cypher System, Cairn, and Basic Fantasy RPG on my shelf for that very collection.

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