Hacking Violence

Credit to Luke Gearing for creating Violence, a fast and nasty system for resolving violent encounters which I used to much success in a recent campaign. Here, I’ve adjusted the rules based on personal preference, aligning the dice logic with my rules for spaceship combat, and my players’ desire for more structure in situations outside of combat.

Characters have the following four Stats. Roll 3d6 for them, in order.

  • Wits: Your cleverness, quick-thinking, and motor discipline.
  • Smarts: Your capacity for abstract reasoning and problem-solving.
  • Tough: Your physique, stamina, and pain tolerance.
  • Fight: Your combat training and stomach for blood.

When the outcome of an action is uncertain and the stakes are high, roll 1d20 equal to or under your most relevant Stat.

Advantage and Disadvantage

Whenever circumstances make a check particularly easy or difficult, roll twice and take the better or worse result.


Characters start with four points to spend on Aspects. Aspects represent the occupations, careers, experiences, and accomplishments that define a character’s history and grant them expertise.

A character can have any number of Aspects, chosen by them and agreed upon by the Referee, so long as their bonuses total up to four.

If when making a check, the player and Referee agree that a character’s Aspect provides them relevant expertise, the Aspect’s bonus is added to the Stat threshold. Only one Aspect can apply to a check, but Aspects are not tied to any specific Stat.

Some possible Aspects include: asteroid miner, atmospheric technician, bodyguard, bureaucrat, chemist, diplomat, engineer, lawyer, medical doctor, naval officer, psychologist, retail employee, space marine, union organizer, virologist, etc.


Every player character involved in a combat makes a Wits check.

Everyone who succeeds acts before their opponents, and everyone who fails acts after.

Do this at the beginning of each round.


To shoot someone, make a Fight check. If they are not in cover or moving, roll with Advantage.

If someone is shot, they make a Tough check.

  • Subtract -2 from the threshold for each Injury they have.
  • Rifle-calibers subtract -2.
  • Automatic weapons subtract an additional -2.
  • Shotguns subtract -4 at close ranges and -2 at medium.

If they fail this check, they go Down. Otherwise, they are Injured.


Both combatants make Fight checks.

  • If both combatants succeed, the low-scorer is Injured. The high-scorer is Injured and goes Down.
  • If one combatant succeeds and the other fails, the loser is Injured and goes Down.
  • If both combatants fail the check, both are Injured and go Down.


In a combat, characters can perform maneuvers — fire to suppress, restrain an opponent, use them as a zero-G springboard, etc.

To do this, make a Fight check. On a success, the opponent may choose to either let the maneuver happen, or resolve the attack as per usual (in melee, the opponent also makes a Fight check).


When a character goes Down, they make a Tough check. Subtract -2 from the threshold for each Injury. If they fail, they are dead. Otherwise, they are critically injured and will die without swift medical attention.


I added Aspects and Maneuvers for the same reason — to avoid making lists.

For Aspects, I wanted a way to reward a character’s specific training and expertise. At first, I thought I’d write a formal list of skills or careers, but gave up about 30 entries into a d100 table of backgrounds. I wanted to foreground the fiction and let my players’ creativity guide the mechanics, not the other way around. Traverse Fantasy, taking a page from 13th Age, had a much better take on how to do backgrounds in her game, FIVEY.

As for Maneuvers, I borrowed from Odd Skull’s classic blog post on the subject, taking an I cut, you choose” route and giving your opponent the decision whether to pay in blood to stop you. And since this is Violence, that’s a steep price to pay.

I got rid of tracking individual bullets because it felt too granular for me. And since my setting presumes the widespread use of automatic firearms, there are a lot more bullets flying around in general. I’d rather keep the focus on did you hit or miss?”

For initiative and (dis)advantage I just swapped in some clean, elegant rules I like.

Further Reading

February 7, 2024