This week, several other RPG bloggers and I are celebrating Small Press Week, with a look at some of the works coming out of the smaller publishers in our hobby. And I think this week will show that just because a company is small, that doesn't mean they can't go toe-to-toe with some of the big boys. I'll be linking and rounding up other coverage periodically throughout the week.
Today's small press company is Jonathan Hicks' Farsight Games, and the product we'll be looking at is the SKETCH system. This is a free, generic system geared towards one-shot adventures and quicker play. It's available as a free pdf at the Farsight Games website.
SKETCH isn't a hard system to figure out; just remember S & S. Strength is your ability to take damage, and Skills are things your character can do (you know, gunplay, horsemanship, For skills, you have to assign the numbers 1-6 to these 6 skills, using only number once, with a higher number denoting a higher skill aptitude. There are rules for adding more skills as needed.
The mechanic is near-absurdly simple. You try to roll on a d6 under your attribute, plus or minus a GM-given modifier. A 1 always succeeds, a 6 always fails.
There are some excellent free support settings, to include Blade Runner (for entertainment purposes only, though I'm sure Farsight would love the license!), an unofficial Star Wars setting, horror material, a fantasy setting, and others. The settings show a bit more how the system may be used successfully, in my opinion. Links may be found at the Farsight Games website.
If you like what you see out of SKETCH, you can check out The League of Seven, a 129-page pdf SKETCH sci-fi setting that will cost you under $2.
In summary, this is a very rules-light game that is slightly more traditional than Risus, though neither game could be considered inaccessible. Sometimes I think of a RPG "Rules Crunch" Scale, with 1 being freeform roleplaying and 10 being Hybrid. On the Houghton Scale (hey, it's my scale, it can have my name), both Risus and SKETCH would be right around a 2.5 in terms of rules-lite/rules-heavy. And for some people, that's going to be the perfect spot for even more than single-night, one-shot game. The SKETCH system is free, short, and to the point. I'd recommend giving it a look.