Monday, 18 July 2011


I am the Warden!!

Skills!! It's time to talk about skills. Last week's series of posts on opposed rolls and difficulty dice brought up some concerns regarding the simplicity/complexity of a mere d20 vs d20 concept. Some people thought the entire idea was overly simplified while another (who shall remain anonymous here, but he knows who he is) had a rather intrigue calculation I wanted to quote.

So, be careful with costs. Doubling the number of people rolling and doing math on each roll makes each decision take longer.
And 1d20+strength vs 1d20+door quality is the same as (1d20-1d20)+strength vs door quality. And (1d20-1d20) is very similar to (1d20+1d20-21). So what you actually did was take 1d20+strength vs door quality, to 2d20+strength vs door quality+10.5.
It goes a bit deeper than this. When you roll 2d20, you don't get the same distribution as 1d20*2. A better approximation is actually 1d20*square root(2)+6, with "critical" fumble rules for rolls of natural 1 and 20. From the narrative of success/failure in a given game, you won't be able to distinguish between a scaled and shifted 1d20 from a game where you roll 2d20.
Now, I'm not saying that "both sides rolling" isn't a good idea: but rather, "both sides rolling" by itself adds costs without changing outcomes. There needs to be more "meat" to it than just "more people rolling".

This last part brings us to our next segment on the Optional System: skills.

Being A Good Student
Skills have gone through a fair number of alterations since the early concepts of the Optional System. During those early days when I would think about my ideas for a system during dog walks, skills were just an addition to a pre-existing dice roll. You know, the same as everyone else. When I started to seriously sit down and draft up ideas, I started reading through a bunch of independent and popular open license systems and found that this delivery for a skill subset was so popular, I couldn't use it. There had to be something different.

The idea finally hit me about, oh, two hours before the guys were coming over for the first playtest. I was putting the finishing touches on my notes and details for the pre-gens I had set up for them when I looked at skills. Blank. I needed something fast and went with the first idea that came to me. If only all ideas could be written this way.

Skills are limited dice pools capable of enhancing an applicable option based on training, education, experience, and more. Skills are learned applications which can be added to an active or opposing dice roll only so many times per fight. When you train in a skill for the first time, you gain 2 skill uses of +1d6 trained dice. This means twice in a fight, you can apply +1d6 trained dice to two different rolls or mash them together to get +2d6 trained dice once. You can spent additional training points on more skill uses, higher trained dice, and additional skills.

Example time! You train your character in the Swordhandling skill with 2 skill uses and +1d6 trained dice. Anytime you use your sword in a fight (and that doesn't always mean to attack, it can apply to a Parry option, using your sword to pick a lock, impressing a member of the opposite sex, or just showing off and looking cool), you may choose to add your skill's trained dice to a single roll. Once that roll is made and your skill's trained dice used up, that's it until the next fight. Once a fight is over, you can rest for a few minutes, gather up your thoughts, and regain all skill uses again.

It worked like a charm that night and has done so repeatedly. It's the strategic element every game needs, decisions affecting the outcome of your character. When one player says "Thank God I had those trained dice!" and another proclaims "Damn! I'm out of trained dice!" in the same night, I count that as a success. Time will tell if it continues to work as the game evolves into its final form.