Playwright is a 3d20 setting-inclusive tabletop RPG system. It is mostly finished, but currently in beta as character abilities and level progression are being tested. Since the rules are still rapidly changing, the Playwright PDF is currently not available for download (yet).

Playwright started as a collection of homebrew rules meant to mechanically solidify the rules-lite TTRPG Tavern Tales and eventually grew to be a system on its own. The intent was to design a condensed system that produced theatrical-feeling game sessions with straightforward, math-light rules.

I achieved this by increasing the lethality of combat, adding character types that compress features for managing non-player characters, and by giving Directors (game masters) tools to craft purposeful encounters with. During years of playtesting, this kept combat from being a ‘you hit me, I hit you’ slog and inspired a wide variety of memorable, non-combat challenges and player decisions.

Playwright is inspired by some of my favorite tabletop RPGs: D&D 1st, 4th, and 5th, 40K’s Deathwatch, and Burning Wheel. It has been developed by myself as a hobby project for over 4 years.


> Bounded accuracy and gradient result system
The 1-20 result chart below is used to determine rolling outcomes and cap the die ceiling so that players are always aware of their own chances of success. This also forces Directors to create challenges that play more on a situation more than increasing numbers (as a 15-20 will always mean a success for a roller). Ease and difficulty for a roll is primarily established through an advantage / disadvantage system, which cancel each other out and determine which die from the 3d20 roll can be chosen (high, middle, or low).

Success: 15-20
Mixed: 7-14
Failure: 1-6

A Mixed result lets the roller decide between a half-effective success, or a forward-failure that grants them advantage on their next turn. Having outcomes beyond the standardized pass or fail binary produced more engaging results and memorable encounters from what were initially mundane dice rolls.

> Distinct and customizable character kits
Characters progress through unique Career ability trees and gain simple-yet-powerful Traits of their choice as they level. Having characters progress through open-ended ability trees and providing an open catalog of versatile Traits created a great range in customizability for character builds.

As characters level, their ability loadouts intersect more often and become mechanical ‘kits’ similar to hero shooters or MoBAs, where abilities from early levels stay strong but grow in playstyle depth more than number strength.