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Year Zero Nano (YZN) is an even lighter off-shoot of Year Zero Mini -- both of which are designed to provide lightweight frameworks for quickly jumping into your favourite setting. 

Where other rules-light games might emphasise action or heroics, YZN is more down to earth - telling stories of a more gritty and relatable nature.


Using the Year Zero Engine as its basis (covered by an OGL from Free League Publishing), YZN uses a pool of standard six-sided dice, but differs slightly by looking for both 5s or 6s in the rolled dice pool. 


While YZN is best experienced in one-shots, conventions, or short campaigns (around a dozen sessions), it's also suitable for longer-term play.


YZN is inspired by a whole host of games. Whilst its core is based on the award-winning Tales From the Loop, it is also sprinkled with a bit of FATE Core, Abenteurspiel, and the FKR.


The PDF is provided as a "phone PDF" -- designed for seamless vertical scrolling on mobile phones. It is both bookmarked and fully hyperlinked.

YZN has 20 pages (1 title page, 15 pages of content, and 4 pages of OGL) formatted as  a phone PDF (4.25 x 6.875 in). It weighs in it at roughly 2,800 words (ignoring the title page and OGL text).


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Click download now to get access to the following files:

YearZeroNano-PhonePFD-v0.5.pdf 320 kB

Development log


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re: Trauma Rolls

Here's a variant I might play with;

All characters have a Resilience Modifier (RM) which can have a minimum value of -7 and no maximum value. Characters start with an RM of 0.

When a character takes a Trauma Condition, roll 1d6+RM. Use the rules on page 8 under Conditions as usual to determine the result.

Each Advancement Roll (see my previous posts) may result in a +1 RM, increasing a character's resilience to Trauma.

Characters may take Conditions that reduce their RM (to a minimum of -7).

(1 edit)

This is effectively adding a levelling and toughness buffer to the game (which is pretty antithetical to this game’s design philosophy), but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.

By all means, hack and modify YZN to your personal preferences - just be aware that as written it is designed for more gritty games that are more focused on everyday people rather than typical D&D-style adventuring heroes. That’s one of the best features of the Year Zero Engine IMHO.

Oh, yes, this modification would definitely be for a more adventuring heroes style of game, or anything where players want their characters ability to withstand damage to increase as the campaign continues.

Otherwise, RAW, YZN looks great for gritty, "your PC could die at any moment" style games.

re: Advancement

I'll have to playtest this, but I'm considering replacing "After significant story milestones, you may gain additional Traits" with the following;

1) After each session with significant narrative advancement, the GM may award each participating PC with +1 XP. (A character can never have more than 6 XP.)

2) Players may use their character's XP to gain additional Traits when their characters have spent in-game time studying, practicing, or otherwise pursuing an advancement or change in their abilities.

To gain an additional Trait, the player rolls 1d6 (no modifiers). If the result is less than the character's current XP value, the character gain's the Trait. Whether or not this XP roll is successful, the character then resets their XP to 0.

I have other ideas for spending XP, but I'll cover those in other posts. :)

I specifically wanted to avoid XP as I’m not a fan and I personally feel it detracts from the story, but you do you. It certainly won’t break anything if you replace the (very lightweight) advancement system I’ve put in with a more traditional XP advancement system.

Yeah, as much as I'm mostly into GM-less storygames these days, whenever I find an interesting GM-led game, I tend towards wanting some crunch in the advancement system. <shrug> Just the way my brain is wired, I guess. </shrug>

One of the more common character actions in any RPG is the "aid another" action (and it's corollary action, "hinder another"); how would you handle this when a roll is called for?

I see two approaches in the rules;

1) Declare that the primary character gains advantage.

2) Allow the primary character to gain a d6 if the helping character has an appropriate Concept, Trait, or Gear.

I would be hesitant to allow each player to roll their own dice pool for the action - that just seems like the "We'll try it again, and again, and again..." problem, which takes the bite out of "only roll when failure would be interesting."

(Heh, I've probably answered my own question...)

This is inspired by the FKR, so the only right answer I can give you is: however you want to handle it.

That said, my default is (1).

re: Conditions

It took me a couple of re-reads, but there are two types of Conditions, correct? Trauma, which are Conditions inflicted on characters, and Environmental (for lack of a better word right now), which are Conditions inflicted on the world around the characters (which could include Gear, societal perspectives, weather, geography, opposition bonuses in the form of Special Traits, etc.).

And, just because a character fails a roll doesn't mean that the character takes a Trauma Condition; depending on the narrative, an Environmental Condition could result instead.

(2 edits)

No, Conditions are only “Trauma”. A player’s successes can / should certainly impact the environment, but that’s not really addressed with this word.

Can I ask design questions here?


Absolutely - fire away!

Though please bear in mind a couple of things:

  1. I still consider this to be in a beta state as I’m the only one who has (to my knowledge) run anything with it. It’s very new! So it could be that it needs a bit of polishing or tweaking before I consider it ready for v1.0;

  2. it’s designed to be hackable and modular, so tweaking systems is encouraged to get the right feel for your world and table.

(2 edits)

Great! :)

First question; do you have a specific reason for the 6d6 limit on the dice pool?

I'm thinking that each extra success (or group of successes, depending on the narrative circumstances) earned would allow the player to declare a Condition on something in the game - like Aspects from Fate - so allowing the players to build bigger dice pools would result in players being able to contribute more. (I'm extrapolating from page 5 where it simply says, "Multiple successful dice means you succeed with style.")

Or, should the players only get to declare a single Condition, no matter how many extra success they roll? Still, though, more successes could equate to a bigger Condition, right?

edit: The more I think about this, I think the single, bigger Condition is the way to go - particularly when taking into account Failure on a roll. Failure results only when there are no successes on a roll, and the Stakes are set before the roll, so the magnitude of the Failure and it's resulting Conditions are already set.

Still, why the 6d6 limit? :)

Couple of things being addressed here.

First: Accessibility. Not everyone has lots of D6, and while most people can scrape together 6 from board games, it’s also not too tedious to roll a single D6 up to 6 times if you only have the one.

Second: To prevent “dice hunting”. Something that many dice pool games can suffer from (this is pretty table-dependent) is when there is no cap on the number of dice rolled, players will continually hunt for more options to add dice to their pool.

Third: Balance. The success criteria only works if the dice pool is small. The Wild Die adds a bit of extra randomness to the mix.

All that said, if you want to remove the cap, go for it. As for Conditions-As-Aspects, that could definitely work (and FATE is a big influence in both Year Zero Mini & Nano), but I personally agree that a bigger result is better. Not sure why you’re refering to Conditions with success criteria, though. Conditions = Trauma, and that’s not always what a player is rolling successes to achieve.

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re: 6d6 maximum

Thanks for that breakdown - that's quite enlightening. Your point on "dice hunting" also makes me think "Conditions-as-Aspects" is probably not a great idea as it could easily result in players always rolling the maximum number of dice.


re: Successes/Conditions

This is why I ask dumb questions! :) Another re-read has me thinking Successes can be;

1) Numerical, in that you are counting the total number of successes to overcome the difficulty value of an obstacle (Magnitude of a Climactic Scene, Special Traits),

2) A Condition, as Trauma PCs can inflict on NPCs, or

3) Narrative, as a description of PCs overcoming an obstacle or avoiding "interesting failure."

And Failure can result in;

1) Failure Narrative, as a description of a PC failing to overcome an obstacle in an interesting way, or

2) Success Narrative + a Cost Narrative, as a description of PC's overcoming an obstacle or avoiding "interesting failure" but also including a description of an additional cost the PC had to pay to accomplish that success, or

3) Success Narrative + a Condition, as a description of PC's overcoming an obstacle or avoiding "interesting failure" but also taking a Trauma while doing so.

Am I understanding this correctly now?

(2 edits)

Yes, that feels like a good summary. I might expand the “Success” section a bit to expand on handling multiple successes, as this could be a bit clearer.

One thing to also mention here is that if you require more than one success and fail to achieve the full amount - but have at least one success in the pool - you could absolutely treat that as a sort of partial success, or “yes, but” or “no, but”.

In fact, you could go with this PBTA-ish definition:

  • “yes, and” - more successes than required.
  • “yes” - the right number of successes.
  • “yes, but” - at least one success, but not as many as required / failed roll where there is a risk the game could grind to a halt.
  • “no, and” - default failure position.

YZN looks awesome! But I'm a little bit confused about the use of the terms Conditions, Consequences, Stakes and Complications;

Under "Success" on page 5, the last sentence says, "This might mean taking Conditions" - which are defined on page 8 as "physical or mental trauma".

Under "Climactic Scenes" on page 9, step 1 instructs the GM to "explain what is at stake if you fail" (which are defined under "Stakes" on page 11 as "Conditions"), while step 5.b. uses the word "Complications" several times - should those be "Conditions" instead?

(Ditto for the example on page 10, which seems to call the physical and mental traumas "Complications", not "Conditions"?)

(Should "The Stakes" on page 11 say "Conditions and/or Complications"?)

Under "Complications" on page 12, paragraph two says, "it could be gaining a Consequence or Flaw," - should that say "Condition or Flaw" instead? Or should it be "Complication or Flaw"?

As I said, I find this all a bit confusing.

(2 edits)

Good catches! These are leftover draft terms which I missed.

Every use of “Complication(s)” on page 9 and 10 should read “Condition(s)” and “gaining a Consequence or Flaw” on page 12 should be “gaining a Condition or Flaw”.

I’ll fix these ASAP. Thanks for the feedback!

I’ve fixed these typos and version 0.5 is now live. Thanks once again!


Awesome. That helps a lot.