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Dragons and Dreamers - My take on the anti-pool rules

Started by Mark Withers, November 06, 2002, 05:47:30 PM

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Mark Withers

Hi again!

Here are the rules that I'm planning to use in Dragons and Dreamers - and all future games that I write.

They are written with inexperienced roleplayers in mind. In my book I will provide numerous examples at every stage, and also a 'what is roleplaying section'.


Write a story of around 100 words to describe your character and create a list of the 3-5 most important character traits that turn up in your story.

You have 7 bonus dice to spend on those traits (maximum 3 per trait!)

At the start of every session take a pool of 6 dice. Your pool represents your ability to influence play, the more you have the more chance you have of getting to narrate what happens!

The total number of bonus dice that your character possesses remains constant, and at the end of a session you may spread your bonus dice around to best represent what is most important to your character. This can involve adding entirely new traits or getting rid of old ones. The narrator may also give you an extra dice to add to your total. This bonus dice means that your character is becoming more and more important to the story, take this as a sign that you've been entertaining the narrator and the other players. Well done!

The narrator may require that you keep your story up to date with what has happened to your character in play. This is a great opportunity to review your characters experiences, try to make the most of it, as a good character story will be fun to read when you look back on it in later life!

Action and Drama

Players 'reach for the dice' when they want to resolve a conflict that has arisen in play, or add something to the story, in the form of taking over the narrative for a while to introduce some new plot element.

Here is the method for resolving a conflict or new plot element;
1) Briefly describe to the narrator what you want to achieve.
2) Take a dice from the common pool.
3) Work out if what you're doing is connected to one of your traits. If the narrator says it is, then you can take a number of dice from the common pool equal to the value of the trait.
4) If you have no dice in your pool, take another from the common pool.
5) If you do have dice in your pool, you can take any number of them.

You will now have a fistful of dice to roll. If you get any ones, you are in luck! You get to narrate the outcome of the conflict, or introduce your plot element. Unfortunately, you lose any dice that came from your own pool.

If you don't get any ones, the narrator tells you what happened, which may not always be what you wanted! On the positive side, you get the dice from your pool back, and an extra one for your troubles!

In this way, everyone gets a chance to influence play, because, every time you manage to miss rolling a one, your dice pool gets bigger, making it easier to roll that crucial one in the future!

Well, that's about it. This version of the pool has good points and bad points, just like any other. I think, though, that it's well explained, fun and very 'fair' on the players, who all get to contribute several pieces of narrative each session. With this version of the pool neither the vision of the narrator or any single player will dominate, creating a true shared experience.

Whether you play the pool in another form, or don't play it at all (shame on you!) give this one a try. It's different enough that it might just surprise you...

Have fun,

James V. West


Have you had a chance to play this yet? If so, how did it go?

The interesting bits here are how you limit Trait bonuses to 3 (starting) and base improvement on the entertainment value of your narration. The improvement method isn't to my liking for The Pool because it isn't tied to the core mechanic. But this method has been used in many other games and is fairly popular with a lot of folks.

What I think is the most striking difference between The Pool and Anti-Pool is obviously the reversal of lost and gained dice. The method you're using here will probably result in more balanced play (fairness), but I think the edginess will be diminished. That's not a problem, of course, just an observation.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where this goes. Please keep posting!

Mike Holmes

Quote from: James V. West
The interesting bits here are how you limit Trait bonuses to 3 (starting)
To be fair, James, so does The Pool.

I am on the fence with the extra dice for "development".

But otherwise, I am, unsurprisingly, also very interested to see how it goes. :-)

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Mark Withers

In a recent playtest, Paul's character had 5 dice in his pool. He played a wealthy vigilante crime fighter trying to make up for his misspent youth. He'd been chasing a mugger for a few minutes and ended up in an alleyway facing the punk and his two buddies. He decided to roll on his 'making amends' trait to introduce a new plot element, a young mother and her baby held at knifepoint by one of the punks, but he also wanted to save dice in order to take the punks down with his super powers. Missing either roll would have resulted in tragedy. How do you split your dice?

Lacking edginess?

I'm not so sure....

Paul's actions bring up another point for me. He used his narrative control to introduce a difficulty for himself. Now, Paul is a good roleplayer, but would other people have done the same? Maybe not. However, this is exactly the sort of thing that I want to see happen in my games. How can I reward players for this?

I couldn't have given out any extra dice there and then, since that would have reduced the drama of the scene as his second roll would have been much easier to make. However, everyone at the gaming table was enthralled by Paul's actions, it was easily the most memorable and exciting scene in the game. At the end of the session, I gave him an extra dice, which he spent on a new application of his super powers that he had used in play. Now, I hadn't originally intended to give out 'experience' in the game, but everyone applauded my decision and agreed that the extra dice was an incentive to good play.

What does everyone think?

Andrew Martin

Quote from: Mark WithersPaul's actions bring up another point for me. He used his narrative control to introduce a difficulty for himself. Now, Paul is a good roleplayer, but would other people have done the same? Maybe not. However, this is exactly the sort of thing that I want to see happen in my games. How can I reward players for this?

Give the player several dice as a reward, but note that the player can't use these dice to resolve the difficulty immediately -- the character is stuck with the extra problem.
Andrew Martin

James V. West

Bravo to Paul--nice use of narrative powers. It's cool to see people take the reigns with this kind of game rather than fall into the old standby of hoarding power and rolling to hit.

As far as the edginess goes, touche. However, what I refer to as edginess in The Pool is the simple fact that there is no net and so the risk is always very real. With Anti-Pool you have a positive effect no matter how the dice fall so the risk factor is diminished.

But please note that I'm not criticising it! It's a wonderful reversal and it seems like it would be a smooth and easy system to use--your playtesting is the first testimony to this.


James V. West

QuoteTo be fair, James, so does The Pool.


This is true :-)

Henry Fitch

This is just random musing, but wouldn't it be cool to have a campaign that used Pool rules in some situations and Anti-Pool in others? Maybe a cyberpunk world where VR scenes are played out in Anti-Pool and real-world scenes in Pool, or something like that.
formerly known as Winged Coyote