Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Number of Conflicts

Started by Cassidy, January 16, 2003, 08:23:01 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


Hey all,

How many times do you find yourself as GM calling for a die roll during play?

How often do you find your players requesting die rolls?

I know that's a bit of a 'how long is a piece of string' question, but I'm really quite curious.

Blake Hutchins

Quite a bit on both sides, actually.  My games tend to be heavy in the dice department.  Some of this is because my players have confused die rolling as task resolution per other RPGs.  Some of it is because I've run simple action-oriented games where some kind of fortune mechanic seems desirable.

We typically make somewhere between, hmm, 12 to 24 rolls in an evening, about four to six rolls per player with a 50-50 split regarding who calls for the roll.  My Pool groups have varied from two to four players.

Hope that helps.



Ron Edwards

Hi Cassidy,

Check out the older thread, How often do you roll your pools? for some discussion about this issue.


James V. West

The first game I ran of The Pool I think we played for 2 hours with 2 players and each of them rolled at least 4 times. But in the second game we played (with 2 players again) The dice only fell a couple of times total.

Since then the games have varied from 5 or 6 per player back down to 2 or so.

My preference is for more rolls because it helps stir the narrative pot, so to speak.


Thanks for the feedback Blake and James. 4-6 rolls per player per session is close to what I'd probably expect to see in our games.

Thanks for the link too Ron. As you can probably guess I've spent some time browsing the many posts related to the Pool here at the Forge.

Judging by the posts I've read it seems that The Pool has gone through a few transitions, issues brought up in older posts have less relevence than they once did. 'Thrashing' for instance is less of problem now since players' pools are replenished to 9 dice at the start of each session of play.

The Pool mechanic is used to resolve conflicts. In other RPGs conflicts are more commonly resolved by employing some task/action mechanic multiple times to resolve elements of the overall conflict and thus arrive at a resolution. A combat scene which may in D&D for instance require a dozen rolls to resolve could conceivably be resolved by just one roll in the Pool.

One stated aim of The Pool, i.e. "player and GM narrative collaboration" would for me necessitate a level of agreement and understanding between players that the creation through collaborative narrative of a recognisable and engaging story is a central goal of actual play. That being the case I can easily see our group utilising Drama to decide the outcome of some conflicts. Sometimes a specific dramatic outcome to a conflict is the most desired of the players and occurs through interactive roleplay without rolling the dice. If the tacit agreement of the players is that something needs to happen - and it's good for the story - then thats what happens. This lessens the need to actually roll any dice even further.

The upshot is that I wouldn't expect to see as much "dice rolling" in The Pool as I see in other games we play.

Let me ask. Of those times that dice are rolled, what would compel a player to gamble (or not to gamble) their pool dice?

It occurs to me that players will only gamble pool dice when the risk of losing the gambled  dice is less than their perceived need for a successful outcome or their desire to make a MOV.

When the player feels they need success to happen or they really want to aim for a MOV, then they will probably consider some sort of gamble worthwhile.

However with certain conflicts players may not be too concerned about the eventual outcome or feel compelled to aim for success in the hopes of taking a MOV.

Perhaps the player concerned considers success or failure to each be potentially desirable outcomes in the context of the story. Or maybe they are quite happy to let the GM take the reins and have them narrate the outcome whatever happens.

If the player doesn't view potential success as being important to the conflict at hand then they have little reason to gamble pool dice and risk losing them. If the conflict is a success then it's like 'Ah a success, I'll have a die thanks you very much, tell me what happens?'. If it's a failure then it's a case of 'Oh well, tell me what happens anyway'.

Quote from: James V. West
My preference is for more rolls because it helps stir the narrative pot, so to speak.

Me too. I use them all the time, 'Plotting Rolls' for want of a better term. In any given instance of play the story could go one way or another and success or failure offers equally good opportunities for advancing the story.

So, where am I going with this?

When players DO feel the need to gamble pool dice, why not gamble all 9?

Because it's risky? How risky though?

Risk assessment time (cue some spreadsheet jiggery pokery)...

Assume a player has a few +1/+2 traits and the GM is handing out 1-3 GM dice. On average the player is rolling 3 dice plus any they gamble from their pool. If they gamble all 9 then thats 12 dice they'll be rolling.

Remember though, they'll only gamble when it's a conflict that they feel they want to succeed at OR they aim to take a MOV with. Assuming that conflicts don't happen often in play, say 4-6 times a session, and that not all conflicts are key conflicts, let's say it's a 50/50 split, then that's 2-3 conflicts a session where the player feels compelled enough to gamble some pool dice.

Assuming that the player always gambles 9 on these 3 key conflicts and always take a MOV if successful (i.e. no waiving of their MOV for a 1 die pool top ups) then...

  * There is roughly a 70% chance that they will succeed at all 3 conflicts and get to make 3 MOVs.
  * There is 15% chance that they'll only succeed twice make 2 MOVs.
  * There is a 10% chance that they'll succeed once and make 1 MOV.
  * There is a 5% chance that they'll crash and burn, they'll fail all 3 conflicts and never get to make a MOV in the entire session.

At the end of the session there is roughly a 70% chance that they'll still have at least 9 dice in their pool and a 30% chance that their pool is empty. Next session their pool is back to 9 ready for more gambling.

When a player really wants a chance at making a MOV, or they just want success more than failure and are happy for the GM to narrate, then maxing out the gamble appears to be worthwhile exercise.

This is something some of my players will undoubtedly pick up on in play. If you need to gamble then gamble bigtime. I wonder what effect, if any, it will have on their perception of The Pool.

Blake Hutchins


Let me offer a comment based on my own play of The Pool.  The mechanics aren't really about conflict resolution at all; they're purely about deciding who narrates at a particular dramatic juncture.  That's it.  Actual conflict resolution is all Drama, with a smidgen of Karma based on character concepts.  Again, the fortune mechanic determines only the source of narration.

Once I started playing purely on that frequency, and communicated the same to my players, our games became more about cool story progression and less about failure/success or conflict resolution.



Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I should probably chime in to say that Blake and I play The Pool very differently. I do enforce the conflict-resolution side of the dice mechanic; character goals/endeavors of emotional weight are indeed at stake when we go for a roll. If Bob says, "I'm [his character Bartholemew] cuttin' off the bastard's head!" then if he gets a 1, the guy's head is coming off, and if he doesn't, it's not.

Different interpretations. My way is more like InSpectres; Blake's way is more like octaNe.



Thanks for the feedback guys.

The words of Mr F. Sinatra seem particularly apt. i.e. "I did it my way".

Fact of the matter is that people inevitably put their own spin on things and I guess the Pool is no different.

I don't see conflicts resolution as purely determining who gets to narrate. Success/Failure determines the probable outcome, the narrative resolves the outcome into something tangible that then becomes part of the imagined story.

To be honest the example Ron gives is not the kind of 'statement of intent' I'd want players to be making. In fact I would actively discourage definitive or narrow statements of intent like that from players.

In a combat oriented I like to see players making fairly broad, open-ended, statements of intent like...

"I'm going to close with the 2 warriors at the front."
"I'm falling back, trying to be defensive, if I get the opportunity I'll try and get to one of the warriors on the right."
"Bollocks to this, I let out a battle cry and charge in to the 2 at the front."

Just enough of a statement to give me some idea of what their general intent is so that if the player does not make a MOV I can still guide things along in line with their initial statements.

If the die roll results in the player making a MOV and thereby guiding the narrative as they want then they can just go ahead at some point in the narrative and say...

"I sidestep his overextended lunge, and taking advantage of the opening I my sword cleaves through neck with ease."

Or to quote Bartholomew...

"I'm cuttin' off the bastard's head!"

Assuming the act of Bartholomew cuttin' off the individuals head makes sense given the established facts in the game then the individuals head is indeed cut off. The player is making their MOV, they are in the driving seat, within limits what they say happens actually happens.

If the player is not making a MOV then I'd like to see them saying things like...

"I sidestep his lunge, taking advantage of an opening I aim a cut at his neck."

Or, again to quote Bartholomew...

"I'm cuttin' off the bastard's head!"

When not making a MOV I would expect and encourage the players narrative to contain statements that are largely intentional and not factual. Some factual statements are ok though if they make sense and help spice up the narrative.

In response to the players intentions I would determine a desired outcome to their statement and interject my own narrative to produce an effect in line with the established facts and tone of the game. As GM I'm guiding the narrative and within limits what the GM says happens, actually happens.

For example, I could just let Bartholomew cut the individuals head off but since I'm guiding the narrative I may decide to draw the combat out a little while longer because I want the player who is playing Bartholomew to make the combat a memorable one.

"His lunge leaves him off balance and with a deft sidestep you aim a blow at his neck to try and decaptiate the bastard!. He's quicker than you recall though, he manages to duck and your blow only grazes his helm. He regains his balance and takes a step back....wary now...he sneers, "You must be getting slow Bartholomew...or maybe I'm getting quicker."

If combat happens in the game then thats how I envisage running it with the Pool.

James V. West

It's wonderful to see so many interpretations and uses of the rules. Very cool.

Pardon my terminology errors (should they arise), but I sort of look at it this way. Rolls can occur at any time, regardless of the existance of any conflict. Should a player really desire to make a MoV or get some dice for his Pool, then he can call for a roll. The how-where-whys of it are really determined situation-by-situation. Maybe the GM mentioned a ruined monastary in the distance and the player wants to explore it, maybe he just wants to spice things up with a little in-party argument leading up to some new twist in the plot.

But if he makes a really explicit statement like "I want to put the Baron Von Ulster on his back." then, should his roll prove successful, I would expect his MoV to include just such an effect. If he merely says "I want to show the Baron he can't push us around." then that leaves the playing field a bit more open.

Note, I don't consider either way right or wrong. This is how I play it. In the words of Steve Dallas (which I tend to use quite often), "Just wing that mother.".


Hey James,

Thanks for the reply. We share some common ground inasmuch that 'casting the dice' in The Pool can (and perhaps ideally should) have a much broader application that just the resolution of 'conflicts'.

The text of The Pool as written doesn't quite create that impression though since 'casting the dice' is always used in the context of resolving conflicts.

I appreciate that you probably don't wish to add stuff to the text of The Pool as it stands. However, the inclusion of a paragraph or two explaining how 'casting the dice' can be used in other ways (such as plot development) would be a worthwhile addition.

Blake Hutchins

I should append that when a player rolls a '1' and elects to take dice, I do narrate the outcome as a success, but not always with the precise effects the player intended.  I view still tend to view this as a Drama-based decision since I frequently narrate successes in the absence of '1's' as well.  With ANY success I as GM narrate, unexpected consequences sometimes emerge, and often the success doesn't go as far as the player would have liked.   On the other hand, it's not unusual for a success to carry much farther than the player expected.  Like Cassidy, I tend to proceed from the specificity and clarity of the player's stated intent.