Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Down To The Core, Part 3: Containing the d20

This is a gif of my favourite d20, Big Red.
And now I'm facing the dilemma of not using it
in Optional Core. 
I am the Warden!!

After two weeks of intense hair-pulling and stressing out over some of the most complex school work experienced to date, it's finally time to return to the world of game design. While I do have quite a few projects on my plate, there is the matter of how to incorporate the d20 into dice pools for Optional Core.

Last time I wrote something for this series, I addressed the problem of dice pool sizes and how the make the d20 fit this new model. Back in the good ol'Killshot days, it was entirely common to roll anywhere from 6-8 dice in a single roll, attack or defence. It worked just fine for the style of the game - not crazy fast-paced, but strategic and cautious. For Optional Core, speed is of the essence, but the system is still based on the Optional System powering Killshot and one of those fundamentals is the use of dice pools. Considering the issues addressed last time, that leaves me with one invaluable question to finally answer...

How many dice will provide the perfect balance for Optional Core?

I put this question to members of the Optional Core community two weeks ago and the general consensus was 4 to 6 dice per roll was a good average. I'd agree with that, though I'm trying to lean more towards 4 dice as the baseline for your average roll. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. There's a lot more puzzles to solve before going any further, particularly which dice should be commonly used and how many. Cue the easy-to-read point form thought process!!

  • If dice types are broken into assigned groups/sources, it's safe to say players will typically want to gather dice from multiple sources. Therefore, the average roll should apply no more than 1 dice per group. 
  • Within each group, it's possible to draw from multiple focuses, skills, equipment, whatever. To keep the dice to a minimum (or maybe to an average, as the case may be), everyone should be limited to using one source per dice group.
  • What if applying additional dice to your roll comes at a cost? One of the perks may Killshot players have expressed in the game's resource management. This could be an extension of that as a way to increase a character's chances in the game without necessarily guaranteeing automatic success. 

Reducing the Numbers, or What's Wrong With the d20?

There's another issue with dice to consider beyond how many of these pretty little buggers get to roll across the table. The size of the numbers. This method of dice pooling requires some minor math, which is normally not a big deal. However, it's entirely possible the d20 creates too much variety in your average dice roll. Not only that, but when the dice pool shrinks, the impact of a single d20 in the mix can make an exponentially damaging difference. 

Of all the dice making the leap to the Core, the d20 carries the greatest risk. It needs to be contained, but just how in the hell do you do that without altering what makes it a d20? After consideration, I'm planning to move ahead with the Ability Dice concept brought up in the last post (pasted below for your consideration and ease of clicking). 
Ability Dice: This idea is borrowed from 13th Age's escalation dice and then modified so it looks nothing like it. At the start of every series (or a round in game speak), the Director rolls 1d20 and places it at the centre of the table - it's called the ability die. Player can take turns drawing points from the ability die's result to unlock character-based benefits and special abilities, but the Director gains an equal number of points for her own use. There could be character abilities, bonus hits, unlock extra features in a scene, increase the number of opponents, and anything else written into the game to challenge the players. Once these ability points are used up, everyone has to wait until the next series. 
This lets me continue to use the dice that - for me - defines roleplaying and speed up gameplay without bogging it down with a difficult range of predictable numbers. At the start of a series (AKA a round), each Team rolls a d20 and uses that result to boost their efforts as a point-based structure. Oh, and Directors can do the same too. How each character uses the ability dice will depend on the individual character and these abilities will be featured with each pre-generated character provided in the Core. BAM!!

The Core's Dice Groups (v1)

Using these considerations and feedback, here is where I currently stand on dice groups for Optional Core. 

Ability Dice (the d20): What? You want me to write it again? OK then, fine. Each Team rolls a d20 to determine the number of ability points (or difficulty points for the Director) they can use in a series. Everyone must work together to use their points effectively and max out their potential, plus they have to deal with the difficulty points used by the Director as a means of keeping up with the players' tweaks to the game. 

Focus Dice (the d12): Same as before, there are three stats and characters can have individual focuses suitable to their role in the individual game in play. Your average pre-gen will only have +1d12 available to a single stat (Body, Sense, or Mind) and one or more focuses. 

Circumstance Dice (the d10): Same as before, except all circumstance dice are awarded based on one of three categories - minor circumstances provide +1d10, major circumstances provide +2d10, and exceptional circumstances provide +3d10. These category names may chance over time, but the basic principle will likely remain. 

Option Dice (the d8): Same as before, except that most options will provide no more than +1d8 to a roll. 

Trained Dice (the d6): Same as before, except that the default rule will only allow for +1d6 to be added from a single skill at a time. Tacking on additional trained dice will require spending ability points. 

Bonus Dice (the d4): These may likely be the only unlimited dice group in the bunch for the sheer reason that they must be earned during play. You can't start with a set number at the start of a game or session and the only way you're going to get some is by deserving them, so why not allow players to opportunity to go nuts if they choose to on a single roll? 

All of this provides players and Directors with an opportunity to build their dice pool with an average of 4 dice based on character ability, skills, equipment, and situational modifiers. In the next segment of Down To The Core, it's time to start thinking about how the Director gets to build her dice pool.