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Random Thoughts on the Pool

Started by Cassidy, January 22, 2003, 08:33:02 PM

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After playing the Pool I threw a question to James about GM dice.

Quote from: Cassidy
Question about GM dice. I handed out 1-3 GM dice as per the rules and I find myself why? Why am I handing out dice to the players on every roll? What is the reasoning behind using GM dice at all? To make it easier for the players to succeed? To make it more likely that they will fail? I just don't get GM dice.

Quote from: James V. West
GM dice have a couple of purposes. First, they allow the GM to sort of help out, or sort of not help out depending on how he or she feels about an impending roll of the dice. True, the 1-3 dice don't make much of an impact on a throw that already has 9 gambled dice, but they do affect a roll of fewer dice. Which is another of their uses: when a player's Pool is destroyed. The GM dice combined with a +2 Trait can give you 5 dice to throw when you have nothing to gamble.

I see your point. Being able to exert a level of influence on the outcome of the actual dice roll might be desirable to a GM.

So if I, as GM, feel success would be a more desirable outcome than failure I can utilize GM dice to shift the odds slightly in favour of success by handing a player 3 dice. Conversely, if I view failure as being more desirable than success I'll only hand out 1 dice. If I'm not really bothered one way or the other about success or failure then I could take the middle ground and hand out 2 dice.

In actual play though I must confess that I found I was reticent about using GM dice in that way. I didn't wish to convey to the players that I favour either success or failure in any given instance that dice are rolled. I want to leave the possibility of success or failure totally in the hands of the players.

My feeling is that if players really want something to happen then they should be using their dice pools to sway the odds in their favour rather than relying partly on freebie dice courtesy of the GM.

If a player risks all their pool dice and fails, then c'est la vie, they gambled, they lost. Sure things may look grim for a while but remember the player will get their die pool back to 9 next session anyways. Yes, a 0 pool means your character is likely to be beset by adversity for the rest of the session. Is that so bad?. Adversity may not necessarily be a bad thing for the character or their participation in the story. Granted a 0 pool dice lessens the players ability to influence events in precisely the way they want but that's the risk they take when they max out a gamble.

For me the most significant effect that GM dice seem to have is to help create reasonable odds for success dice rolls. With traits typically ranging from 0 to +3 and an additional 1-3 GM dice thrown in a consistent level of success is obtainable without players needing to dip into their pools and gamble pool dice.

If players determine that the GM is routinely handing out 2-3 GM dice when their pools are empty then it's possible that the prospect of an empty pool will lose some of it's bite. With an empty pool the player still has a reasonable chance of acheiving success since they will usually be rolling 4-5 dice.

James makes another point...

Quote from: James V. West
And that's another argument for rolling more often. Frankly, I always feel like there aren't enough die rolls in my sessions of The Pool. Next time I play (maybe before I'm eligible for a senior discount) I plan to have a lot more dice clattering about.

I know that narrativist-leaning players have often complained about "role-playing" vs. "roll-playing", but in The Pool you want a lot of dice noise. The thing that makes the game tick is the quest for MoVs and you can't get MoVs without throwing a lot of dice.

So I suggest right now to anyone who is playing or wants to play the game--be proactive about requesting or suggesting die rolls. You can sit and play a whole session with The Pool and never touch the dice (I did a session with one roll--man that sucked--and it was all my fault!). If it's been 7 minutes since dice were cast, make something happen. The characters are entering the hall of King Uppsy and one of the players says "Do we see Magdaline Mullharer in the hall?"....hand him 3 GM dice and say "Let's find out.".

It's not necessarily about creating more MOVs or creating more dice rolling though.

It's about prising those great little plot ideas from players heads. Getting the players to THINK about whats happening and about what they would like to SEE happen. Giving them a tangible incentive to verbalise those ideas that buzz around in their heads is a key to promoting their involvement.

Idea time.

"Do we see Magdaline Mullharer in the hall?"

Imagine if that simple statement opened up the possibility of a great little plot twist.

What to do?

How about requesting the player to roll a straight GM dice + Trait dice roll, no gambled pool dice.

On success OR failure reward them with a die for their pool.

In fact any time a player makes a statement that creates an opportunity to develop the story in a hitherto unforseen way a "no gamble" roll is requested and the player is rewarded with a die from coming up with a good idea irrespective of success OR failure.

If, "Do we see Magdaline Mullharer in the hall?", offers nothing in terms of story potential then no need to ask for a roll at all. "She doesn't appear to be present." is all that needs to be said.

As soon as players realise that proffering authorial suggestions to the GM aimed at driving the story forward is going to bag them a die for their pool then all those great little ideas in their heads will start popping out.

To be honest I don't think this idea would work with the current Pool, although it might with an anti-pool variant.

I need to think this one out a bit and go twiddle with a speadsheet.

James V. West


You should write up that idea and post it here as a Pool variant. I'm still planning on putting up a page on my website featuring all the variant rules that people have come up with.


I'll have to do that sometime.

Working title: "The Puddle" :)

Bob McNamee

Another reason to give out GM dice is to do create a better chance for a Player MOV. Not from the standpoint of "success" (in a victory at a task sense) but from a "stir the pot" (lets see where the Player(s) would like things to go).

Or in my case...I'm running a bit low of ideas for what to do after they get past this scene, Let's see if the Players drop any juicy plot threads in some MOVs... so I'll more dice for the next few rolls
Bob McNamee
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