Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mechanics: The Basics of the Dice (As they stand now)

The dice which are going to drive my game have gone through many iterations. This one is the most recent, and importantly, it's incomplete! The system doesn't accept modifiers very well, and I'm still working on that aspect of it. There's no guarantees that this is how the system will work, but it's what I've been working on lately, and that's what this blog is for, after all.

The basics of the dice system are simple. All characters have two twelve-sided dice to start, and rolling these dice determine whether or not you succeed at a task. Each die individually shows whether or not a "success" has happened. In order to be successful at the task, a certain number of dice need to be in that successful category, depending on the difficulty of the task. For instance, if a task had a difficulty of 2, both dice would need to come up as successes.

As you gain ranks in certain skills, you gain dice for those particular types of actions. The most dice you can have is eight, when you have six ranks in any given skill.

Also, just which numbers on the dice determine whether that particular die is a success or not depends entirely on your character's ability score. Ability scores help group skills into categories, and each ability score governs its own subset of skills. For instance, a character's strength governs skills related to dealing damage with certain weapons, and a character's agility governs skills related to movement.

A 12 on one of these dice is always counted as a success, and whenever you get a 12, another die is temporarily added to your roll, increasing your chances of more successes!

As for your ability scores, they all range from 1-6. Your ability score is treated as the highest number on your die that counts as a success, excluding 12. A character with a strength of 3 for instance would have successes on die rolls of 1, 2, 3 and 12.

I like this system as it stands because it makes skills more important than ability scores. The way it currently works, raising a skill and gaining dice is always a better deal than raising an ability score, though ability scores themselves are still quite important. I also like it because it's easy to keep track of your current ability score, which will fluctuate constantly. I'm going to be treating ability scores as a character's indication of their health, and a character running out of my system's version of "hit points" will simply bring him or her into unconsciousness. Actual death will occur when a character's vitality (one of the ability scores) reaches zero.

A problem with the system is that it's not very modifiable. The balance of the game breaks down once the chance for success raises above 7/12, which is the current limit with an ability score of six. This makes it quite difficult for me to decide how to handle creatures that are very big or very small, for instance, who would deal much more damage or be much easier to hit (or harder to hit). Simply raising or lowering their ability score based on their size would seem off, because it would mean the strongest human was as strong as the strongest dragon, and it would mean that big creatures are always slower than they would otherwise be, because of how agility works.

Also, once you reach a certain number of dice, gaining more starts to make the rolls very unpredictable, while also adding a cushion of "practically 100% chance of success." Avoiding such a success cushion is one of the reasons I avoided d20 rules in the first place - d20 rules are highly scalable towards different encounters, and work well within a certain level range, but there are massive cushions of "will almost always succeed or fail" - so much so that the system itself has a built in "auto-success" and "auto-failure" system which I dislike, and would like to avoid.

One thing I am considering is, for things like armor and such, for an extra die to be added, say, a d4. Rolling this die will do different things depending on the armor you're wearing, but mostly it will simply tell you how much damage has been absorbed by your armor instead of being dealt to you.

I am also considering a kind of stopgap measure where creatures who really should be much, much stronger than a human will have extra re-roll chances. For instance, rolling a 1 or 2 will also add a die to their roll, not just rolling a 12, but this is just a stopgap measure if anything, and I'm not 100% happy with it.

In any case, the things that will come in the next two updates are what I'm really excited about. Even though the information in this post isn't final, it's necessary for the next two posts to be understood. And for that, I thank you for your patience in reading about this incomplete dice mechanic.

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