These are the Vanilla No Dice rules originally printed in the Core Book.
Like everything else in our books the system presented here is a suggestion. The first thing you'll probably notice is that it includes no reference to stats on a character sheet. This is because, in its most basic form a No Dice character is a verbal construction. Numeric scores may be suggested for specific games but the vanilla system does not take this into account.
So here it is.
Take a pack of cards and introduce one joker. Shuffle the cards. Whenever a conflict is in need of resolution the player draws a single card.
So what is the player testing against? Well it's a difficulty score that, generally speaking would be between 1 and 10. Where does this number come from? The Host makes it up.
It seems like a simple thing but often when the question of a conflicted action comes up you, as Host, may be a bit stumped as to what difficulty score to set for the conflicted action. So here's a check list of actions to take to mentally set the difficulty before the draw.
The basic conflict in nature is of something a person either will manage or they won't this is equivalent to flipping a coin and getting heads. The chances of heads or tails coming up are more or less equal.
To simulate a coin toss in No Dice with a card draw you could, therefore set the difficulty at 5 i.e. a draw of 5 or below, or a Jack is a fail, a draw of 6 or above or Queen is pass.
Now quickly ask yourself, is the test you're asking them to make that difficult? Or will they be lucky to succeed? Or unlucky to fail?
The 50-50 mechanic is an anchor. It's easier to set the goalpost width once one goalpost is in the ground to provide contrast and perspective. If you are always asking yourself how different this conflict is from a 50-50 conflict you'll be on the right track for fairness.
Degrees Of Success
Of course there are 12 possible conclusive results from every No Dice draw. It's always been the habit of myself and my players that a Queen is not just a raw success but a success with style, a Jack is not just a failure but a proper botch job. If the numbers from 1 to 10 are not just to be lines in the sand you might want to consider the idea of multiple outcomes from a single draw.
For example Kim wants to search a room for evidence of a gangster's involvement in a crime she and her party are investigating. She is turning over the gangster's apartment. Although you decide that she'll get a clue of some nature on a draw of 4 or better to get the real conclusive goods she needs a 9 or 10. She draws a seven so as Host you give her more than the basics but maybe leave out some vital piece of information that would seal the gangster's fate for good and all.
This is entirely up to your discrimination as Host. To be honest it's not always appropriate to offer degrees of success. When Marco is trying to shoulder barge a door he will either bust the door off its hinges or he will not. There are no degrees of success here.
Card draws are a storytelling aid, not an administrative process. They give clues to you as the Host how to pitch someone's success or failure given all the information you have to hand.
Evaluating a Draw
Aces are low, 10s are high, Jacks are knaves and thus signify an automatic failure of the tests, Queens represent lady luck and therefore indicate an immediate success on the test. Kings are kept by the player and traded for redraws on future tests. When a king is drawn it is placed into the possession of the player who drew it and the test continues with a redraw.
After any card that is not a King has been drawn and evaluated it is placed into a discard pile. When the Joker is drawn the discards and Joker are immediately placed back into the pack and the pack is shuffled. The test then continues as the player draws the top card from the freshly shuffled deck. The end.
No muss, no fuss. If you feel that the revelation of these rules was something of an anti-climax don't worry, the game is meant to be the exciting part. If you feel the rules are the exciting part this may not be the game system for you.
On a more serious note the intention of the vanilla system is that it forms a core into which further rules can be added for flavour as setting and atmosphere dictates. We didn't want the rules from games to infect one another and we also wanted the stripped down option for any No Dice game to be rapidly understood and always available.
As a Host, you may never pick up on the extra rules included in future games, we don't think any No Dice adventure would actually suffer from using vanilla as opposed to specific rules. But some people like more and some people like less so there will be more rules to follow by the adventure or by the system.
As a Host you should be focused on your player's desires for the upcoming adventure not on some mechanic or other that may or may not resolve some obscure situation to everyone's satisfaction.