Make your game great. Use clichés.

To be honest, I could stop this post right there. “Use clichés” might be the single best advice for any referee, for any genre. About the same time last year, I write about how powerful and universal clichés are.

Let’s use this knowledge and apply it to the post I wrote two days ago: FKR The Expanse, my FKR game for hard-ish science fiction.

As a group, you start with a spaceship. And you are in crippling debt.
Each player rolls 1d20 to determine the enhancements of the ship.

1. Your ship has a brig and oft-occupied cells.
2. Your ship’s navigation systems are top of the line.
3. The crew quarters are lavish.
4. The ship’s armory is pretty decent, although it’s mostly small arms, grenades and melee weapons.
5. The ship’s armory’s operational.
6. The ship has a well-supplied medical bay.
7. The ship’s engines are high-quality.
8. The ship is equipped with an extra heavy turret and a military-grade laser cutter.
9. The ship has extra hiding spots.
10. The ship has a laboratory for analysis.
11-20. none

Character Creation

Name your character. You can get hit about 4 times. The referee determines the gravity of a hit.  Guns reduce your hits by at least 2 points. Your referee may decide to keep your exact number of hits to themselves, so you don’t get distracted by numbers on your sheet.


Roll 1d6 twice. Effects are cumulative.

  1. You are strong.
  2. You are dextrous. 
  3. You are tough. 
  4. You are smart. 
  5. You are educated. 
  6. Pick one of the above.


Roll 1d6:

  1. Navy
  2. Marines
  3. Army
  4. Scouts
  5. Merchants
  6. Others


Roll 1d6:

  1. Navy:
    Roll a d6
    1: Ensign.
    2: Lieutenant.
    3: Lt Cmdr.
    4: Commander.
    5: Captain.
    6: Admiral
  2. Marines:
    Roll a d6
    1: Lieutenant.
    2: Captain.
    3: Force Cmdr.
    4: Lt Colonel.
    5: Colonel.
    6: Brigadier
  3. Army:
    Roll a d6:
    1: Lieutenant.
    2: Captain.
    3: Major .
    4: Lt Colonel.
    5: Colonel.
    6: General
  4. Scouts
  5. Merchants 
    Roll a d6:
    1-2: 4th Officer.
    3: 3rd Officer.
    4: 2nd Officer.
    5: 1st Officer.
    6: Captain 
  6. Others
    Create something new and exciting!

Retirement Pay

(Your Rank times 10) + 20 is the chance you get a yearly retirement pay. Scouts and Others roll 1d6 to determine rank. Pay is 1d10*1000 credits. 


If you’re using clichés in your game, you don’t need skills. A cliché includes all skills you usually associate with it. So, a Scout will have all skills commonly associated with that profession: Observation, Strategy, Aerial Reconnaissance, and certainly a few combative skills. So, in this game, there are no skills.

Weapons and other tools of the trade

The same rule applies here: Clichés always come with the appropriate tools of the trade. For soldiers, those are a weapon or two, as well as (probably) connections and gear.

How to use all of that

Your main cliché is the career you just rolled. Add two more clichés that cover (preferably) other areas, like mental and social capabilities.


Love the characters. Respect the genre. Trust your gut feeling. Try to resolve every action by using common sense. Clarify your players’ intentions, then make a judgment.  Feel free to knock out or injure a character if the narration and common sense warrant it. If in doubt, go with the first idea that comes to your mind. If you want to roll dice, referee rolls 2d6 vs. the player’s 2d6.

Sample character

Santosh Kamal
Tough-as-nails Army 1st Lieutenant
Capable chess player
Elephant in the china store at high society events

Let’s improve this and describe what people can see first (what Over The Edge calls “signs”):

Santosh Kamal
long black beard, turban, deep green uniform
Tough-as-nails Army 1st Lieutenant (several scars in his face, slim, dense muscles)
Capable chess player (wears glasses)
Elephant in the china store at high society events (blushes easily)

2 thoughts on “Make your game great. Use clichés.

  1. Yes! This is how you play a RPG. Always a pleasure to read you Norbert. You made me reread Leviathan Wake and plan a game of The Expanse for my kids.


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