Pdq System

Prose Descriptive Qualities (PDQ) System.

The Prose Descriptive Qualities (PDQ) System has been designed for evocative simplicity, speed, and flexibility in play. Three levels of resolution, suitable for any type of situation.

The PDQ Core Rules is a free PDF (13 pages, 738K) basic game engine used in various PDQ games. There is also PDQ# (PDQ Sharp!) optimized for swashbuckling gaming (such as the Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies RPG). See links for downloads of both.

Character Creation

The elements that make up a character will vary from game to game, but the core element is the concept of prose descriptive, do-it-yourself, wide-ranging Quality which describes a talent, skill or flaw. A quality represents a broad skill or field of knowledge. It is up to the GM to ensure Qualities are not too broad or too narrow and this may vary from game to game.

Five Typical Areas for Qualities: Physical, Mental, Social, Professional, Other (esoteric, psychic and superpowers).

Qualities have ranks from Poor [-2] to Master [+6] with the number in square brackets eing the rank modified added or subtracted from the 2D6 task resolution roll.

A character can have strengths (any quality from average and up) and weaknesses (poor qualities). The game (or GM) must decide how many strengths and weaknesses a character has, but an example is 8 ranks of strengths and 1 rank of weakness. A +2 strength is 2 ranks, a +4 is 4 ranks and so on.

Task Resolution

In Simple Situations the GM looks at the Master Chart and determines the Difficulty Rank and compares that to the Quality Rank. If the Quality Rank is higher it succeeds, otherwise it becomes a complicated situation.

In a Complicated Situation the PC rolls 2D6 and adds the Modifier for the Quality Rank, and must match or beat the Target Number of the Difficulty Rank to succeed.

Upshift: Quality is shifted up one level if player describes attempt in a graphic, flavourful and entertaining way.
Downshift: Quality is shifted down one level if combatant decides to Play Cagey or due to effect of Failure or Damage Ranks.

Conflict Situation:

  • Initiative: Usually determinedd by situation or highest relevant quality rank, but can also be highest rank in Quality not relevant or determined with rolling a die to break a tie. A character can hold an actions as long as they like.
  • Moment of Truth: The initiater of the action rolls attack and the target rolls defence and if successful it results in damage.
  • Damage: Physical, mental, emotional or social. Reflected with a downshift to a Quality called either a Failure Rank or Damage Rank depending on the conflict.
  • Dishing it Out: Difference between attack and defence roll determines Failure/Damage Ranks - and attacker upshifts/downshifts carry through. On tie both take a single downshift. From environmental damage (like falling or fire) the ranks is the difference between roll and target number.
  • Taking it on the Chin: If character has a relevant Good [+2] or better Quality to ignore or resist the damage (Armor-Plating, Iron Will, True Love, Impeccable Pedigree) the character can not only add it to his reaction roll (defence) but can choose to sacrifice a Rank of protection in order to ignore Failure or Damage ranks. In each Scene a character can Downshift the Quality and ignore all Failure or Damage Ranks. Any weakness related to the conflict (glass jaw, math is hard, can't say no to a pretty face) will have to take two extra Damage Ranks the first time they get tagged in a relevant situation. Lastly, a defender caught by surprise or not attempting to defend could add an additional rank to what he takes on the chin. The defending PC decides where to apply the Damage Ranks, and may be applied to any Qualities on the sheet - when any one Quality drops below Poor Rank the character is out of the scene (for whathever reason).
  • Out For Blood: A character can only be killed once unconscious or helpless, but this requires no roll or action, just a simple statement that the attacker on the next turn wishes to kill the victim.
  • Recovering from Damage starts once the scene end, but Ranks recovered depends on whether it was momentary danger or still in continuing danger:
    • Momentary Danger: If safe and relaxed and lacking time constraints all Qualities are restored.
    • Continuing Danger: 1D6 Ranks of Quality is recovered at the end of the conflict scene.

Conflict Jazz:

  • Conflict Strategies: Flip Out grants an Upshift for the attack (and damage), but Downshift on all defensive reactions and non-conflict related actions until next turn. Play It Cagey grants Upshift to all defence, but Downshift on all non-conflict related actions until next turn, Playing It Cagey means the character's next attack action will suffer from this Downshift.
  • Multiple Qualities: Multiple Qualities can be used by combining he Modifiers for the relevant Qualities.
  • Using a Quality against Multiple Targets: Can split Quality Ranks between targets.

Combat Resolution

Handled like any conflict - see Conflict Situation under Task Resolution above.

Character Development

If the game has experience points they can be used to improve a Quality. This costs 4 Experience Points per Rank improved, but cannot improve beyond Master Rank.


Publishing Company

Silver Branch Games


Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies
Jaws of the Six Serpents
Dead Inside
Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot: the Roleplaying Game
Truth & Justice
The Zorcerer of Zo
Questers of the Middle Realms
Ninja Burger


  • Chad Underkoffler


System Analysis



House Rules


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