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Author Topic: Need help with a core mechanic  (Read 2155 times)
Xibalba
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« on: October 06, 2006, 05:26:22 PM »

I have two ideas for the core mechanic for a fairly traditional swashbuckling rpg of high adventure, and I cannot decide between the two.  Please give me some advice and input.

Option 1 – Only Six Sided dice.
Each character has scores in nine Traits (measured in "levels"), further divided into skills (measured in "ranks").  In addition, characters have five Effort dice and a single Mojo die.  Using Effort dice represent the character's focus and energy on a task.  The Mojo die is a bonus die used in certain situations. 

When a character takes an action that has a chance of failure, he makes a skill check: the player rolls a number of dice equal to his corresponding skill rank.  In addition to these dice, he may roll up to an equal  number of Effort dice. Players may want to roll fewer Effort dice to save them for a later purpose.  In this way, the player decides where his character is focusing his effort by spending more or fewer Effort dice on the action.  (Effort dice "refresh" later so they can be used again).

Each die is individually compared to the character’s corresponding Trait level.  The roll's result (called the "success count") is the total number of dice that are equal to or less than the Trait. 

In addition, if the character rolls at least one 1, he triggers his Mojo.  This means he may roll his Mojo die as a bonus die and add its value (from 1 to 6) to the success count.

Example: Foster wants to pick a lock.  The GM tells him that this requires a Thievery skill check and that the lock has a difficulty of 5. Foster has a DEXTERITY of 3, and a Thievery of 3d. He makes a roll with his 3 skill dice and 3 Effort dice and gets a  1, 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6. So far, his success count is 3.  Since he rolled at least one 1, he rolls his Mojo die and gets a 4. His final success count is 7.  Since the lock has a difficulty of 5, he was successful and opened the lock.


Option 2 – dice used are d4s up to d12s
Each character has scores in nine Traits (measured in "trait ranks"), further divided into skills (measured in "skill ranks").  In addition, characters have five Effort dice.  These Effort dice are in a variety of sizes from d4 up to d12.  Using Effort dice represent the character's focus and energy on a task.

When a character takes an action that has a chance of failure, he makes a skill check: the player rolls a number of d6s equal to his corresponding trait rank plus a number of Effort dice up to his skill rank. In other words the maximum total number of dice rolled is equal to the corresponding trait rank + skill rank.  Players may want to roll fewer Effort dice to save them for a later purpose.  Trait dice are always d6s while skill dice are Effort dice and therefore may be d4s up to d12s.  In this way, the player decides where his character is focusing his effort by spending more or fewer Effort dice on the action. (Effort dice "refresh" later so they can be used again).

The roll's result is the single highest die rolled, BUT dice "explode" if they roll their highest value.  This means they are re-rolled, adding their new result to the previous.  Dice continue to explode until they do not roll their highest value. (Similar to Deadlands and Savage Worlds).

Example: Foster wants to pick a lock.  The GM tells him that this requires a Thievery skill check and that the lock has a difficulty of 5. Foster has a DEXTERITY of 3d, and a Thievery of 3d. He makes a roll with his 3 trait dice (all d6s) and 3 Effort dice ( a mix of types) and gets a  1, 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Assuming the 6 was rolled on a d6 and the 4 was on a d4, he re-rolls both of these dice and gets a 2 (on the d4) and a 5 (on the d6). The d6 rolled an 11 (6 + 5).  This was the highest and is therefore the result of the roll.  Since the lock has a difficulty of 5, he was successful and opened the lock.



In both systems, Effort dice need to be kept separate from other dice, so need to be a different color.  I think option 1 is hard to explain and it is a little confusing because you want to roll low initially, but you want to roll high with your Mojo die.  An advantage to option 1 is that you only need d6s and the Mojo die gives some interesting options with additional rules (like critical successes, etc.) A problem with option 2 is that every player needs his or her own set of "gaming" dice (they cannot share because Effort dice are tracked as "spent" or "refreshed"). What do you think?
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Chad Davidson
CommonDialog
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2006, 10:51:50 PM »

On the whole, I think that the D6 mechanic works better.  I think it's less confusing, but like a lot of people will say, pick the system that works best for the feel of your game.
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2006, 02:42:46 AM »

The first one is definitely the simpler and more streamlined of the two, so perhaps you should reconsider your perspective alltogether. If it's difficulty is the only reason to avoid it, then there's little reason to pick the second mechanic.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2006, 05:07:23 AM »

I think option 1 is hard to explain and it is a little confusing because you want to roll low initially, but you want to roll high with your Mojo die.
So reverse it:  Say that low traits are better, and any die which rolls the trait or above is a success.  Any six rolled invokes a Mojo die, which adds as before.  The statistics remain exactly identical.

Then you have to figure out whether you want to correlate high skill numbers (lots of dice) with low/good trait numbers (high rate of success per die), which would involve some thought during character generation ("Okay, you've got a 2 Dexterity, so your lockpicking base is 6-2 = 4d").

Alternately, you could correlate high skill bases with high/bad trait numbers.  Compare Bumblin' Bob, with 6 Dexterity (terrible!) and 6d Acrobatics, vs. Fancy Dan, with 1 Dexterity (spectacular!) and 1d Acrobatics.  Both Bob and Dan will average one success (though Dan will be 100% assured of his, and Bob has much more of a random spread, and will bumble far more often) but Bob is vastly more likely to get his Mojo die, and so will have more spectacular accidents.

Anyway, just something to think about.
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Xibalba
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2006, 07:06:08 AM »

CommonDialog and Eero
Thanks for the input.  I prefered option 1 as well, but was worried about its difficulty. Hearing that it seems more streamlined makes more more confident it will work.

TonyLB
Great idea about reversing the mechanic.  I will play around with it like you suggest, but I am worried about the other difficulty that you discovered, i.e. that low trait levels are good (they set the "target number" or each individual die, and you are trying to roll equal to or over this number), while high skill ranks are good (they set the number of dice to roll).  This seems similar to Riddle of Steel (but in reverse, in Riddle of Steel, the skills set the target number).

What do you think? Is the core mechanic improved by making this switch to option #1?
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Chad Davidson
TonyLB
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2006, 10:18:25 AM »

I honestly thought it was fine the first way.  I don't have a problem parsing that low rolls (for successes) are good on one type of die, but high rolls (for bonus) are good on another.  But you were worried about it, so I offered an alternative.
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TroyLovesRPG
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2006, 11:59:09 AM »

Hello Xibalba,

Without knowing what kind of game you are making, its difficult to just arbitrarily pick the best dice system. The randomness may be desirable or not depending upon the reality you want. Games that focus heavily on dice seem to lessen the roleplaying experience. When an expert thief plans out how to open the lock and has the right tools, its possible to fail with the dice because of bad rolls. Conversely, a completely unskilled person could pick a lock out of sheer luck with the dice. Try to work out the chances of success in different situations involving various tasks. Its important to know if the dice system you choose supports the realism and fantasy you set.

The first option reminds me of the Legends system in which you roll a number of dice and count successes.  The difficulty of a task indicates how many successes you have. A wild die creates amazing successes or failures. I like that system and your's is similar. I agree with TonyLB that low rolls mixed with high rolls is confusing. D6 are great because they are easy to handle, read, count and total.

The second option is difficult, but I like the use of different types of dice. Exploding dice adds another random element that puts more emphasis on chance instead of roleplaying. The industry makes the dice, so why not use them? Requiring players to have a certain number of dice in different types will slow the game if those are unavailable.

What kind of game are you developing that requires either one of these systems?

Troy
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2006, 01:00:33 PM »

Hi,

Quote
When a character takes an action that has a chance of failure
Will it go where you want, if it's triggered on chance of failure? By that I mean, what if no one can really think of anything notable that will happen on a failure - then nothing will happen and there was no point in rolling.

Alternatively the GM may have thought of some interesting failure before the question of a roll came up, and initiates a roll so as to have a good chance at getting the interesting thing he wants. There wasn't really a chance of failure, the GM just had an idea he was excited about, so he demands a roll happen.

I think the latter actually has some good qualities, the only issue being that the power balance is entirely lopsided - the GM can get a shot at what he wants at whim (costs him nothing to demand a roll), while the player has to juggle dice and get lucky for what he wants. I'm getting ahead of myself with this suggestion: but should you want to balance this out, its easily done by having the GM have to spend some points of his own before he can ask.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Xibalba
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2006, 06:29:15 PM »

TroyLovesRPG
The game, tenatively called, Heirs to the Lost World, is set in 1665 in an alternate history America where Cortez and the conquistadors were defeated by Aztecs wielding magic. Characters are pirates, Aztec jaguar knights, voodoo piests, American Indian shaman, escaped slaves, etc.  You can check out more info at http://homepage.mac.com/wcdavidson/LostWorld (along with my Power 19). I wanted a dice mechanic that involved a dice pool that represented the character's Effort.  Characters do not refresh all his or her Effort dice each turn so that they "get tired" in a scene (their Effort dice generally do not refresh as fast as they are used).  This adds tactical options in combat without having to resort to having lots of modifiers.  Effort dice are also spent to move, on Initiative, in damage rolls, on defense, etc.

I have been using option #1 for playtesting, but was worried that it was too difficut to explain.  From the input I am hearing, it seems like it is better than option #2.

Callan S.
I'm not sure I completely understand.  When I said "an action that has a chance of failure" I was talking about things like firing a musket at a pirate or climbing a smooth wall.  The core mechanic would provide a way to determine if the character succeeds or fails in the action. I do like the idea of requiring the GM to "spend" something, but I don't think it should be required for the core mechanic for my game (as I said, it is a fairly traditional RPG so far).  My experience with GMs spending something is limited to drama dice in 7th Sea, but I really liked it and am trying to figure out a way I could add it to my game as an occasionally occuring element.
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Chad Davidson
Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2006, 08:37:57 PM »

I mean the smooth wall/musket things as well. Say you fall off a few feet up the wall...well, you dust yourself off and try again. Say you miss with the musket. Well, you reload and try again. Nothing significant has happened, because although there was a chance of failure, failure is not interesting*.

However, what if the GM thinks up the interesting result that the smooth wall fall will mean you fall into a nearby crocodile pit? Well, this is an interesting idea, but as it stands the GM just looks like a big bully. All he has to do is demand a roll (costs him nothing) while the player has to juggle dice and get lucky. It's a disproportionate balance of power. Which spoils the croc pit idea, which really is a genuinely fun idea.


* Although if you insist on a roll because thats genuinely how the dream of the game world would work, that's a different focus from the one I was anticipating. Tell me if I'm way off or not.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Xibalba
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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2006, 11:23:51 AM »

Callan S.
I think I understand you now.  It seems you are bringing up issues of Balance of Power, Credibility, and Authority.  I'm not really worried about this.  The game is fairly traditional with the GM having most of the Authority.  He creates the adventures, runs all the NPCs, etc.  I was really just worried about the dice mechanic. 

As I mentioned earlier, I am toying with a way the GM would have to spend something in some situations, or where the (non-GM)  players get a chance to have some Authority.  I will post a more detailed question about this soon, and I would love your input on it.
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Chad Davidson
Falc
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« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2006, 01:48:03 AM »

The one thing that strikes me about your first mechanic is the huge impact of the Mojo die. You gave an example where the core mechanic gave a roll of 6 dice that resulted in 3 successes, and then the little add-on Mojo die generated another 4. In other words, one die was responsible for more than half of your total success count. That's a lot.

This is, of course, a matter of scale. The relative value of the Mojo is lessened the more dice you roll from your skill ranks, but if you intend to, say, give skills a rating between 1 and 6, then Mojo is about as important in determining success as skill.

Now, the question is, do you want this? And is this supported by your setting? Because if the people in-game believe that skill matters and Mojo makes some difference but less than skill, then you should probably tweak your mechanic a bit to reflect that.
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Xibalba
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« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2006, 12:29:33 PM »

Falc
That is a good point. The Mojo die has about an equal effect as all the skill dice, but remember, the more skill dice you roll, the more likely you will trigger your Mojo die.  Characters will little skill still have some chance to trigger their Mojo (if they get lucky and roll a 1 with their few dice), but more skilled characters will trigger it frequently. Very skilled characters with lots of dice will trigger their Mojo almost every time and do not need to rely on luck.

The setting is cinematic so that characters should occasionally succeed even when it seems (realistically) they should not.  This would be represented by the character with only a couple of dice gets lucky and triggers his Mojo.
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Chad Davidson
TroyLovesRPG
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2006, 03:08:19 PM »

Xibalba,

It looks like you have created a dice system that has nothing to do with role-playing. I'm not saying that's bad, because I think your system would work for skirmishes and miniatures battles. Its puts emphasis on randomness, which is not to be confused with cinematics. To incorporate cinematics, you may want to start with the number dice set by the skill, then add effort dice when the player comes up with a creative action or idea. Then add the mojo die if the character wants it. The mojo die simulates the amazing things that happen in movies (both good and bad). The mojo die adds that many successes, but a 6 indicates something unexpected happens to the character: the sword breaks, the car goes over the cliff, the alarm is tripped. The character still succeeds but at a price. Otherwise, the players don't have to role-play, just roll dice and hope for the best.

Troy
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Xibalba
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2006, 06:09:26 PM »

TroyLovesRPG
You have almost exactly described the critical success system, except the I have the Mojo die only doing something positive!  When the Mojo die rolls a 6 in a successful action, the character gets a critical success.  This means the player becomes the narrator for that action and can describe his action in a creative way.  In addition, if the skill roll result is zero, the action is a fumble.  Again the player becomes the narrator for that action (and describes his or her cinematic failure).  I was hoping these chances to become the narrator will add cinematics to the game.  (I am a little worried about this shift in Balance of Power / Authority / Credibility, and I will post a more specific question about this later.)

You do bring up a good point, though.  Players should be rewarded when they "come up with a creative action or idea", not just when they have a good roll.  I like your idea of the additional dice to be rolled when the player has the creative idea, but should the GM be the one to decide that the cinematic description was good enough to deserve the bonus dice? 

How about this idea:

What if the players in the group share a pile of "cinematics" dice in the center of the table.  Perhaps the number of dice is equal to the number of player.  Whenever anyone describes an action in cinematic fashion, they may add one of these cinematic dice to their roll.  The player making the description of the action decides for himself if he deserves the die.  After the roll, the player gives the die to the GM who can use it in the same fashion for NPCs (giving the die back to the players for their later use).  The dice go back and forth like drama dice in 7th Sea.

This could be a add-on to the dice mechanic as is.
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Chad Davidson
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