Getting Started

Where to Begin

So you’re ready to jump into APEX? Great! Reading through this Getting Started section will familiarize you with the basics of the rules system. At this point, it’s assumed that you know how role-playing games work. If you have some experience playing, this section will likely be a breeze for you. If you’re new to RPGs, you’re in luck because APEX is relatively simple compared to the heavier systems available out there. We have tried our best to make the rules easy and digestable. If you plan on being the Narrator for your group, this is the best place to start learning how to run the game. If you’re planning on being a Player, then this will serve as a training brief on how the game works. Let’s talk about what you’ll need to play.

APEX uses various types of polyhedral (a fancy name for multi-sided) gaming dice. You can pick up gaming dice online or at your local hobby shop. APEX uses six types of dice: four-sided dice (d4), six-sided dice (d6), eight-sided dice (d8), ten-sided dice (d10), twelve-sided dice (d12), and sometimes twenty-sided dice (d20). Each player will typically have their own collection of dice, but a group can share if necessary. Your group will need at least one of each type of die, but it makes things much more convenient if each person has their own set. Other than dice, you’ll need some pencils, printed character sheets (download here), a quiet place to play, some snacks, and your friends. There are some optional tools available like a printable Narrator’s Screen, quick reference documents, and Perk cards which you can get from here.

Abilities and Defenses

In the APEX System, the capabilities of your Hero are known as Abilities.  Abilities represent your character’s natural strengths, inborn weaknesses, aquired skills, learned knowledge, and innate resistances. The list of Abilities that are available to your character depends on the setting in which your character exists. A typical list of Abilities for a character is about 18 – 22 Abilities. Some Abilities are generic to all characters and span across all genres, such as Athletics and Awareness. Some Abilities are specific to Fantasy realms, such as Dungeoneering and Husbandry. Other Abilities are specific to Modern and Future worlds, such as Vehicles and Electronics. However, just because we’ve made some assumptions about what Abilities belong in what settings doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match, or create your own Abilities. In other words, if the character or setting calls for an Ability normally foreign to that genre, ignore the preset and add the Ability to your list! It’s as simple as that. If the unique character in your brand new setting can wield some never before heard of ethereal force, you could create a new Ability and call it whatever you think makes sense or sounds cool, like “Wielding” or “Bending”. Since the APEX System was designed to work with homebrew settings, creating new Abilities native to the setting is part of the deal.

When you create a Hero, you’ll assign different Dice Pairs to different Abilities. Dice Pairs are just that, a pair of dice that you’ll roll when using that Ability, ranging from two four-sided dice (2d4) to two twelve-sided dice (2d12). Whenever you want to use an Ability in the game, you’ll make an Ability Roll by rolling the Dice Pair for that Ability, adding up the results, and comparing the total to the Target Number of the action. If your roll is equal to or greater than the Target Number, than the action is a success. The Target Number’s value is determined by the Ability and the circumstances of its use. If your character is acting against a situation, event, or inanimate object, the Target Number is always 10. If your character is acting against another character or creature, the Target Number is usually set by a Resistance, which is a predetermined default Target Number for a character to defend against outside influence. Whenever another character or creature is using an Ability against your Hero, they’ll need to meet or beat your Hero’s appropriate Resistance. There are five Resistances: Reaction, Defense, Awareness, Willpower, and Endurance.

Sometimes your character will be acting under circumstances that make things easier or harder for them, such as when you’re looking for a particularly well-hidden trap door or attacking an enemy in pitch-black darkess. Whenever you are using an Ability and the conditions surrounding the action are particularly beneficial or hindering to your character’s attempt, the Narrator may assign a Modifier. Modifiers are situational bonuses and penalties to your Abilities rolls. Positive Modifiers are called Bonuses. Negative Modifiers are known as Penalties. As a rule of thumb, if conditions are good for your character, add a +2 Bonus. If conditions are bad for your character, subtract a -2 Penalty. If they are really difficult, subtract a -4 Penalty, and so on. This system of rolling Dice Pairs plus Modifers against a Target Number is called the Fundamental Mechanic, because almost all rolls that you’ll make in APEX will revolved around that paradigm.

Fundamental Mechanic:
Dice Pair + Modifiers vs. Default Target Number (10) or Resistance
Roll Equal-To or Above the Target Number to Succeed

To help illustrate how it works when using Abilities, we’re going to present some examples. Let’s take our example character “Spark Morgan – Space Ranger”. Space Ranger Morgan is a brave enforcer for the Galactic Accord and his job is to patrol the border systems for pirates and rebels. Spark is a Hero played by Andy. The Narrator is played by Olivia, so she’s presenting the story to Andy whose Hero Spark is the main character. When we join their story, we find that Spark has been tailing some alien thugs through a black market bizarre on Andromeda-7. Spark doesn’t want to give away the fact that he’s following the thugs, so he decides to use his Stealth Ability to try to shadow the aliens and sneak behind them unnoticed. Spark has a Stealth Ability Dice Pair of 2d8. The Narrator decides that the market is pretty dark and crowded, so she awards a +2 bonus to Spark’s Stealth attempt. Spark rolls a 4 and an 8 on his Dice Pair, totals them up, and adds 2 for the bonus, making his result 14. The result of 14 now needs to be compared to a Target Number. The Target Number for Stealth rolls is determined by the potential observer’s Awareness Resistance. The aliens have the potential to spot Spark because they are naturally and idly aware of their surroundings. Lucky for Spark though, the aliens aren’t all that perceptive. The aliens have a Notice of 10, so since Spark’s Stealth roll was equal to or greater than the Target Number of 10, Spark succeeds in avoiding notice, tailing the aliens all the way to their hideout.

Dice Popping, Crits, and Botches

So there are a few other things to know when rolling Abilities. Whenever you roll the maximum result for one of the dice that you’re rolling, the die is said to Pop. When an Ability die Pops, you keep that result and then reroll the die, adding the new result to your total. As long as you continue to roll the maximum result on that die, you can continue to reroll the die and add the result to your total. When your Ability Roll total exceeds to the Target Number of the Action by 5, you receive a Crit. Getting a Crit means the results of your action are exceptionally successful. You can get multiple Crits, one for each interval of 5 your roll above the Target Number. For instance, if the Target Number is 10 and you roll a total of 20, you get two Crits! The more Crits you rack up, the more potent the outcome. However, if you roll a result of 1 on all of the dice that you’re rolling before any of them Pop, the action is a Botch. When you roll a Botch, the failure is particularly detremental. The Narrator will explain the results of a Botch. It’s important to note that you can’t roll a Botch on a Popping Die. In other words, if you make an Ability roll and one of the dice comes up as a 1 while the other die Pops, then you reroll and get a 1, it is not a Botch! 

Spark Morgan successfully tails the alien thugs to their hideout. After eavesdropping on their plans, Spark retreats only to run into a thug on his way out of the alley. A fight ensues and Spark fires his laser pistol as the big brute charges at him. Spark has a Marksmanship Dice Pair of 2d10. The Narrator decides that the alleyway is dimly lit and the thug is charging wildly at Spark, so she assigns -2 Penalty to Spark’s Marksmanship roll. Spark’s player Andy rolls his Marksmanship Dice Pair of 2d10. One die shows a result of 6, while the other comes up with the maximum result of 10, causing the die to Pop. Andy rerolls the die and gets a result of 8. Totalling that up, his Marksmanship Ability Roll comes to 24 (6+10+8). Andy then subtracts 2 from the total for the Penalty, ending up with 22 (24-2). The thug’s Reaction Resistance is 12, so Spark not only hits the brute, but gets two Crits since his total was two intervals of 5 over the Target Number (12 + 5 + 5 = 22). The laser hits the thug square in the chest, knocking the alien on it’s back and doing some extra nasty damage because of the Crits.


Everything that makes your character unique and customizable comes in the form of Traits. There are two types of Traits – Perks and Quirks. Perks are positive Traits that give you special bonuses and capabilities. Quirks are interesting tidbits of information, personal habits, unique descriptive qualities, notable behaviors, or any other detail about your character that helps flesh them out. Most characters and creatures have some sort of Traits. When you create your Hero, you’ll select from a long list of Perks. Perks often give your Hero special capabilities. They can provide various beneficial effects for your Hero. Some Perks give you constant benefits, such as a permanent bonus to one of your Statistics. Some allow you to use special effects once in a while, like spells, encantations, super powers, or martial arts techniques. If your character’s lineage, species, or race would povide them with special benefits or details about the character, you may want to take Perks to represent that.  If your Narrator approves, you can even create your own Perks! Quirks are more open to creativity since they don’t influence your character’s statistical ratings. Rather, Quirks encourage players to come up with some interesting details about their character that helps make them unique. Quirks can represent a variety of different qualities about the character, some good, some bad. Just remember, Quirks don’t have any effect on the game rules, but they do come into play with story and character development. We will still provide a list of example Quirks, but players are definitely encouraged to create their own Quirks to fit their unique characters.

Let’s take a quick look at what Traits Spark has. When Andy created Spark, he knew he wanted him to be an expert space pilot. To help show this, Andy chose the Ace Pilot Perk, which means Spark receives a +2 Bonus to Vehicle Ability Rolls when controlling a flight-based vehicle. Andy also wanted Spark to be exceptionally persuasive, so he picked up the Influence Aptitude Perk, which allows Spark to reroll a failed Influence Ability Roll once per day. He picked a few more Perks, then moved on to Quirks. For his first Quirk, Andy writes down that Spark has taken the Space Ranger’s Oath of defending the weak. For his second Quirk, Andy decided that Spark is constantly hunted down by his old, bitter enemy General Rasputan and his assasins. For his third Quirk, Andy describes how Spark has a habit of constantly applying new hair tonic at every chance he gets.

By now, you should be fairly familiar with how the APEX conflict resolution system works. You can check the Example of Play and the Sample Characters to get more introductory information on how APEX works.