Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Process of Elimination

I am the Warden!!

Playtesting can be a strange experience. At the end of our last session, my fiancee (those of you paying attention will know her as "Lady Warden") came to me after the guys left with a consoling tone and a sympathetic rub on my shoulder.

"Didn't go well, huh?"

Confused, I asked why she assumed as much.

"Because you guys didn't roll a lot of dice, you were just talking."

Au contraire, I explained. If anything, this last playtest was perhaps one of the most productive as we branched out from the core system into various alternatives for the dice mechanic. Seeing as this is called the Optional System, having just one method of achieving the same objective isn't mandatory. What came about from our last playtest was a fierce, competitive possibility to the OSRPG's dice mechanics.

Wanna hear about it? OK, you talked me into it.

Eliminating Dice
As of the next update, there will be two dice mechanics for your group to choose from. The first being what has been presented originally: roll a shitload of dice, add them together, divide the result by 10 to achieve a particular number of hits against an opponent. This is known as the Basic dice mechanic.

Our second option will be known as the Elimination dice mechanic. To do so, all dice remains the same and are rolled in one big heap. From there, the defender seeks to eliminate individual dice on a one-on-one basis. To eliminate active dice, you must roll an equal or higher result from the same dice group, meaning in order to eliminate a base die, you must roll another base die with an equal or higher value than the active roll. If the active die reads as "12," then the opposing die can be 12 or higher to eliminate it. The winning die of each elimination counts as a hit.

That being said, there will be additional dice remaining in a roll which cannot face elimination. Those dice determine bonus hits and are added together, divided by 10 (as with the Basic mechanic) to create a total hit value. As before, whomever has the most hits wins by a differing amount.

This calls for an example. One character makes an attack roll against a defending character with each one rolling the following dice;

Attack Roll = 1d20 + 1d12 + 2d8
Defense Roll = 1d20 + 1d12 + 3d6

Each roll results in the following values with their corresponding die in brackets;

Attack Roll = 11 (1d20) + 3 (1d12) + 7, 6 (2d8)
Defense Roll = 13 (1d20) + 2 (1d12) + 2, 4, 3 (3d6)

Let the elimination process begin. With base dice (d20s), the defense roll wins. Focus dice (d12s) goes to the attack roll. We're now looking at 1 hit apiece. From this point on, either side has rolled different dice groups, meaning the d8 power dice cannot be used to eliminate the d6 trained dice, so they are added together to gain bonus hits. The attacker's power dice equal 13, while the defender's trained dice equal 9; the attacker gains 1 bonus hit for a total of 2 hits and the defender is just shy, leaving him with only the 1 hit. The attack succeeds by 1 hit, resulting in the defender taking 1 point of damage.

Explosions in Elimination Rolls
But what about explosions? They still occur. So let's take a defender's trained dice and replace the 4 with a 6, allowing the defender to roll an additional 1d6 trained dice as a result of explosion (giving him another 3). Now the defender has a total of 14, resulting in 1 bonus hits. That gives both characters a total of 2 hits to their roll. This results in a close call: the attack fails.

Why Use Another Dice Mechanic?
During our playtesting, we were rolling into the 40s and 50s. My brain still has trouble handling math while keeping track of combat, series order, and more, so I used a calculator - all of this is a result of cognitive brain damage suffered as a result of my accident. It was at this point one of the playtesters enquired if we should consider a faster alternative to the Basic method to avoid so much math. About one hour later, we had the Elimination mechanic.

For me and others with similar issues (or just younger players who were never taught how to add and subtract in their head), the Elimination mechanic allows everyone to conceive a more tactical approach to dice rolls. This can be especially true when dealing with thugs; under the Basic mechanic, a thug generally only has a base die to roll against, oh, 6 or 7 dice from a hero. Eliminating the base die has demonstrated a huge shift in the thug's favour and made them just a little more intimidating. If a thug rolls higher on its base die than your hero, your hero must now rely on focus, power, and trained dice to overcome. It doesn't turn the game on its axis, but ramps up the challenge just enough to make thugs more endearing as a Director.

Using either the Basic or Elimination method doesn't require massive rewrites of the remaining system. Both methods develop hits towards a successful roll and every corresponding measure of your character's success requires a number of hits. It's entirely possible for your group to alternate back and forth between methods throughout individual episodes, sessions, even scenes without having to tweak your character's options, powers, and so forth. That is one of the greatest attributes of this game - this is never one way to play. There's always an option.