Dice Mechanics Draft for A3.X

Even if it scares the hell out of my current players who think that I have gone insane and will ruin their game, I decided that I will start posting rules ideas here even if I never decide to use them. And at the moment, that mind is slowly but surely moving towards something using dice instead of the current playing card based resolution mechanic for the eventual 3.X Alpha of New Horizons.

Roll Dice, ??, Profit

The reasons behind this are as follow:

  1. Dice are much easier in terms of production values than the custom deck of cards constructed from 3 decks of cards. Unless going for custom ones, but that’s just silly.
  2. The current tokens (that are also cards) lack the tactile feeling you get from fiddling something that’s concrete. And the tokens before this were lacking in meaning – “Why do I have different things in front of me?” “What does this one mean again?”
  3. The damage mechanic from cards lacks finesse.

The big reasons not to switch from cards to dice are:

  1. Cards have a somewhat predictable curve – if you’ve gotten the two Queens in the deck, you know for sure that you will not be getting a third unless the deck resets.
  2. Cards are pretty, and when printed, could allow more custom information on them than just the basic value. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately with my need to come up with a proper corruption mechanic for the game.
  3. And well, all this.
  4. (a bonus late edit thanks to one of my players pointing this out on FB) Cards aren’t as familiar territory for the player, so a card draw creates a much more intense and scary experience than good old dice.

The basic Powered by the Apocalypse mechanic (2d6 + stat) is something that the current card+stat mechanic of +H emulates quite religiously. Thing that I’ve found really annoying with it is that the short scale gets hard to work with in a game that makes the players face the world, instead of other players — teamwork brings a constant momentum to the rolls; the characters get experienced and gain stat bonuses; and the players let the professionals focus on the things that they are good at. And all of this skews the scale assumptions a lot.

Add to this a good season of playing Blood Bowl, a wonderful miniatures board game by Games Workshop, that also loves its 2d6 rolls (even if the dice are wonky-looking) and too many deaths in the tentacles of some Great Old One in Arkham Horror from FFG. And me looking at the probabilities of rolls in those said games. Suddenly I’m thinking a lot of “what ifs?” — The basic scale of PbtA is “nope”, “yes, but…” and “yes.” (with a bit of “yes, and..” sprinkled in between from the 12+:s to basic moves). The probability spread of basic successes is not that far of from those of rolling certain things in BB or AH. I could tinker with the mechanic without losing the effect quite easily.

I thought about dice pools and target numbers. These were always a pain in the butt in Storyteller System games (one of the big flaws they corrected with the future versions was to have a static target number), so the idea was a bit painful. But with a limited amount of dice, it could be manageable, even tolerable. The system version I have in front of me (doodled on a napkin, more or less) says:

  1. Roll 2 six-sided dice.
  2. If you have the advantage die in front of you, roll that as well. (The easiest way to get this is for someone to help you in whatever you’re doing)
  3. If you have a #hashtag relevant to the situation you can spend and roll one of your confidence dice as well. (These are passed around like candy, so it’s more a question of having a relevant #hashtag)
  4. Look at the (2-4) dice you just rolled. Any dice showing a number that is less or equal to your relevant stat is a hit.
  5. Consult your move card to see what your success actually means in this situation.
    • The card will tell you that if you have one hit, you get the “yes, but..” result for the move.
    • If you have more than one, you get the “yes” result.
    • Investigation moves will let you ask a number of questions based on the number of hits you get.
    • No hits means that the GM gets to make a hard move against your team.

Thing to note is that this mechanical chance means switching the stat range from the old -2 to +2 (or -3 to +3 if you’re crippled or really experienced) to 2 to 4 (or 1 to 5, cripples and legends, again). Characters starting with two 2s, two 3s and one 4 for their stats.

Super special advanced and complicated difficult extra rules (only for real pros):

  • If you are damaged in the stat that you are rolling with, roll a special disadvantage die with the other dice, but don’t count it as a hit if it comes up less or equal to the relevant stat. Instead, if it comes up more than the stat, the GM gets to make a soft move (one of these is giving one of the current threats a soft move later, so this doesn’t really mess with the pace of a situation, but can add pressure nicely).
    • If someone helps you, you don’t need to roll the disadvantage die, and probably get an advantage as well.
    • If your damage has been healed in the stat you are using, only a 6 rolled on the disadvantage die counts.
  • If you have trust towards another team member, you can spend it before they make a move. If they get more than one hit, nothing special happens and you get your trust back. If they get just one hit, they get a second hit, and you lose your trust point. If they don’t get a single hit, the GM gets a soft move, you lose your trust point, but they get to re-roll all their dice. The second result sticks.
  • If you have flow, you can spend it after a failed roll to re-roll your original 2 dice (not your advantage or confidence dice)
  • If you have unlocked the possibility of a critical success (a “yes, and…” result, 12+ in ye olde AW) in a basic move, if you roll doubles (two or more of the same number, like two sixes or two ones, disadvantage die doesn’t count) and get at least one hit with your roll, the result is a critical success.

And I think that’s where I am at the moment with the probability mechanic revamp. It is quite player-friendly. Advantage and Confidence are easy to get, and that puts the balance towards the players getting most of the rolls to the “yes, but..” or better territory, but still there aren’t situations where a bad result can’t happen – no amount of bonuses will make it sure that you get a hit.

And even if it’s starting to feel like something that is alien to the 6-/7-9/10+ mothership that is *World games, it still stems from the same basic ideas. I will have to see where this line of thinking takes me, if anywhere.

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