Characters at the beginning are above the average. Character your player gets isn't ordinary person, but a hero of the campaign. He is a bit more capable than average person, so you don't have to spend few first adventures, quests or missions to gain experience to get your character to be capable for doing something more than just kill those rats (for experience).
One thing what makes difference between your character and ordinary people is "gifts". Gifts are special abilities, advantages your character is good at. He might be tougher, more charismatic, cooler or naturally talented in repairing stuff. If you make a police officer, he might be good at spotting things at the crime scene what aren't right. Or if you make a hustler he might be more charismatic and thief could be nimble.
You can personalize your character with these gifts and decide where he is good at.
It is easily described as level based, but that is not the case. You gain experience points from various occasions and when you get enough of them, you can add points to your characters attributes, get new gifts or advace in skills. These levels are also a measure of your characters power. When you get experience, you don't have to think how to use those 10 xp points if attributes cost x times current rating etc. You get package what you can use. Your character's level is a measurement of his power. If your character is level 5, you know he is 5 levels more powerful than level 1 character despite how you spent his experience points. Still levels don't mean power like more hitpoints and things like that. They are still people and can die from a bullet shot (referring to D&D hitpoints). From leveling you can get more points to attributes, advance in skills or even gain new gifts.
Rules are quite simple to use. I am not going to the details how they work, but give a small overview.
Attributes range from 1-6 and skills from 0-3. In attributes 3 is an average person and in skills 0 means you aren't familiar with it at all, 1 is training and 3 is master at it.
When attempting something you need dice for resolution, simply add your attribute to skill and throw a die. Die is determined by the skill level. The lower the skill, the smaller the die.
Now you think, that the lower the skill is, the better the possibilities to success are. That is not true. Highest number of a die is always a miss, and also threat of critical. If you get threat of critical you roll the current die again and if score highest result possible again, it is a critical miss. Something goes wrong. So the lower the skill is, the bigger possibility to critical failure.
You can also decide to target over your skill. In that case if you score higher than your skill, it's critical success, if you score lower, it's critical failure. When your attribute and skill are high, you have better change to success when rolling under, as playing it safe. But when your attribute and skill are low, you might roll over as a risk. Even you success well, or fail miserably. So basically rolling under (normal roll) is playing it safe even if risk in failure might be bigger with poor attribute + skill, but when taking a change with rolling over you might get better change in success but your change in failing critically increases radically.
(If players think that deciding to roll under or over is too complicated, you might just ignore the rule to be able to roll over.)
Rules are quite simple, and they are more easy to describe fully without this extra blabber here.
Damage is not about hitpoints directly. Well, every character has hitpoints, what wear out when you get damage. But in addition if damage is much higher than your stamina, you take a wound. Wounds are the ones that kill you. If you take one point damage every turn (beating another with poor hits) you can take it for several turns, but if you get shot with a shotgun you certainly take wounds and could get killed right away (if shot is good).
So basically, more lethal (more damage weapon does) more likely your character is to be dead from fewer hits. But if you hit another with a stick, your opponent can take several turns worth of damage. Hitpoints resemble also poisoning and tiredness and general health of a character. So there is two ways to die. Your hitpoints go to zero or you get wounds.
For advanced use there is also mental damage for shock and scares. They don't kill you, but reduce your capability or even can make your character go insane. These are described in setting.
Harder and easier
If something is easier or harder to do, you don't calculate all those -/+ scores to your die roll. You just simply roll dice and pick best or worst result. There is 3 steps total.
Advantage 1 for slightly easier to advantage of 3 to peace of cake.
Disadvantage 1 to a bit harder to disadvantage of 3 to nearly impossible.
So basically, if your Attribute is 4 and skill 2, your number to throw under is 6 (when rolling under obviously). If act is slightly easier you throw dice 2 times and pick the highest result. So, no calculating what comes from slippery floor, fog and headache but good weapon and blinded opponent.
Greater successes and worse failures
Criticals does exsist. The better your characteristics are the easier you get critical success. The worse your skill is the higher possibility is to critically fail. Easy to remember, your skill tells what die results critical hit.
I did read this post and whoa, I can explain things in complicated way. Still, I didn't want to give all the details of my rules, so this post might feel harder than the actual rules are. The rules can be explained in less than 10 pages (with examples). Fast to play, not many things to remember and basically all numbers you need during gameplay are in your character sheet. Just throw a die and see the result. Little twist is in rule throwing under or over, but it is easy to understand and remember also. There will also be quick sheet for rules, so everything is in hand without need to read rules book(let) during the game. These rules in quick sheet are:
Easier and harder modifiers
Rolling under and over
What skill is what die
So, don't be intimidated because of this post. I am not good at explaining something when I don't want to reveal too much about this system. I assure you, it is way easier when you read the rules, not this mystery post about it.
One problem I have. Should I make separate rules and not include them in every setting, or put the rules in every setting I write? White Wolf did make only one set of rules in it's World of Darkness core book and every other book is only about setting specific rules. Same goes with GURPS for example. But both of those have pretty heavy rules books! That way you don't have to read or buy the basic rules all over again. Still, if I make these basic rules separate, it's hard to include the character creation. Or the skill part of it. I thought I add character creation for modern characters in basic rules, but then again, setting book(let) overwrites them every time. But still, rules are in less than 10 pages so it's not a big deal to copy paste them in every setting book. That way also if someone is interested in setting X he doesn't need to worry about getting separate rules.
That is one thing I need to think about... Still, if you got my setting X and got the rules there, and then get the setting Y and know already the rules from setting X you can easily just skip that section.
Hard thinking, hard thinking.