Monday, 19 October 2015

To roll, or not to roll, that is the question: Part 3

Continued from Part 2.

An analysis of why I might be wanting to roll some dice...

11. Random effects
If you want a random side-effect for drinking a potion, using a wand, or perhaps spell-failure, then have fun creating a random table!

12. World Events
Anything from weather to an infestation of rats. Anything goes! Again, most systems are based on tables.

13. World Creation
Anything goes - random tables for populating rooms, geomorphs for dungeon layout, random characteristics for a demon. Use other people’s stuff for inspiration, and (this is important here) don't feel compelled to obey the dice here, this is only for inspiration.

14. Mass Battles
Two armies are battling, possibly the characters are involved, maybe one of the armies is controlled by the characters. Your players are typically roleplayers, not wargamers, so you want a lightweight system to resolve the battle. Importantly the resolution of the battle should be with rules compatible with the rules for your normal combats. Delta's Book of War is a good example for D&D.

15. Quick Resolution
For example, resolve a combat with only a few rolls, or a battle. Most widely useful for determining events that affect the players but the players aren't directly involved, such as a combat between two other parties without having to play out the whole scene. I should work on a system for this as the other day my players observed a battle between a Giant Spider and a bunch of Lizardmen which I didn't play out but just ruled that the spider won, but it was afterwards argued the Lizardmen would clearly have won if the battle had been played out, and I think they were right.

16. Character Creation
Traditionally character creation had random attributes, some systems added a larger random element (e.g. the entire character creation mini game for Traveller), and some drifted towards removing it entirely. The advantage of a random system is it avoids "cookie-cutter" characters. The possible disadvantages are that it *can* massively restrict your choices, and it *can* make very uneven parties of characters where one clearly outshines the others or falls behind the others. I tried to steer a path between the two extremes - a little randomness to add variety.

So in summary...
There are a *lot* more situations where you might want to roll dice than I thought initially; I wonder whether proponents of diceless systems eschew dice in *all* these situations. I had thought of restricting my attention to resolving tests of character skill, but I realised with listening at doors that I'd been lumping it in with character skill and I wanted to avoid any other miscategorising.

The outcome of this for me for Explore is:
- I've split skills into different categories depending upon how swingy I want the results to be. For example language skills have no roll associated with them, they just state how well you can speak that language.
- You don't roll for listening at doors, you roll to see what the monster's doing.
- Perception rolls have been relegated to a lesser role.
- Surprise is mostly determined by situation, not be a dice roll.

In particular, I'm surprised to conclude that for me systems *shouldn't* have a universal resolution mechanic, and that "let it roll" or "only roll when it's important" don't address the core issues.

If you're looking for random inspiration, how about The Dungeon Dozen, The Dungeon Alphabet, or the geomorphs at Dyson's Dodecahedron.

In future I'll give a resolution mechanic for skills like climbing, and a skill points system where attributes make it easier to learn rather than giving a bonus on rolls (e.g. for languages).

A Special Forces Zebra parachuting in behind the lines.

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