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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

[RPG] The Plethora of Rolling Methods in Old School games-

(c) Copyright 2009 Kyrinn S. Eis all rights reserved

Everything boils down to Percentile, or a clever die-mechanic for its own sake.
Combat on 1d20 was an afterthought, but it 'stuck', and contemporary games like Swordsmen & Spellslingers' reversion to 2d6, or Tunnels & Trolls' continued use of the 2d6 Saving Roll, illustrate that a tight bell-curve works fine, so long as the limitations of the curve and its havoc on Percentages is taken into account.

In my attempt to remain faithful to the Old School, I occasionally argue with myself regarding the best die-mechanic to employ for a given situation. In general, I emulate existing principles, if only for generic applicability, such as the ubiquitous 1d6 for Ambush, Detecting Architectural Features, Surprise, and Trap-springing.

But, knowing that a '1 or 2 on d6' is really a 33% makes me occasionally want to wander from the simple homage, toward something more akin to ICE's Rolemaster. And then I stop myself.
But, why is potentially deadly combat better on a d20 with its chunky 5% blocks, when less critical 'Thieving Skills' are more precise with their d%?

Tradition, and Portability.

If my game is to be Old School from a mechanics PoV; if it is to be generically compatible with OD&D, S&W, or BFRPG; it 'ought' to follow Tradition for Portability's-sake. Right?
Picking up a neo-Old School adventure module and running it in UWoM is greatly facilitated by having standardised mechanics (although, yes, OS is all about self-reliant and adaptable GMs/Refs), but more importantly, a Labyrinth Lord (etc.) ought to be able to pick up an UWoM adventure or supplement and have minimal conversion work -- if only out of professional courtesy.

So, what's a girl to do, but stick with Tradition?

* UWoM's combat isn't based upon an Armour Penetration 'to hit', but a more Palladiumesque 'physical connect' premise, and this reflects in a lower base number to be scored on the d20, although Str still figures in a modifier for brute attacks, while Dex figures for 'finesseable' attacks and ranged. Once a hit is determined, damage is rolled, and the Armour die is subtracted from the result before Dodge Points are deducted from the target.

* Con still figures into Dodge Points, but (Constitution score + Str mod.) is the terminal Threshold for actual damage, not simply 0 or -10.

* Percentile rolls are made as 'higher is better', rather than 'roll-under', with 100 as the target number, because, psychologically, higher seems better/cooler, and generating a 128 on a Pick Locks just seems to tell me as a Referee that you did it a lot faster than the cat who rolled a 101. Likewise, Binding Wounds are made on d%, and modifies how much damage is actually treated.

That leaves us with the quirky n in d6 rolls, of which I'm of the opinion that 'higher is better' should apply to as well. But, do these rolls on d6 make sense?
I'm this close to switching them out for d%.



  1. I believe there is an important difference between the 1-2 on a d6 and a 33% chance. Percentile dice generate soft numbers. Smaller dice generate successively harder numbers. There is no "38" on a d6. It doesn't recognize or acknowledge anything as vague or dissociative as a 38. 2d6 is a great example too, because people are trained to have a relationship with them. 2d6 says "there are dice to play with!" Percentile dice never say anything like that.

  2. I certainly cannot argue with the first statement, but I don't think the second is necessarily, universally true.

    But, the larger question is (as regards a single d6), 'given that any n on d6 is a %, is there a reason to keep the d6 to generate that function?'
    So far, I am unmoved by the charm-factor.
    If I were, I would just use my beloved Constructive 'Square Enix' d6 system, and be done with it.

    Romance me on this idea. Perhaps you'll sway me yet. :)

    I want my 'Kiss the Third Rail' tee-shirt, damnit!

  3. Like I said on DF, d6 simplifies mundane chores like opening doors. Using % requires a table to refer back too. I am an old school basic gamer, less tables the better.

  4. I beg to differ on the d%.

    In UWoM, the target is 100, and you add your % to the die roll. Some tasks may be achieved at less than 100%, but none require tables/charts.

    Because the Point-Design system allows one to purchase their Technical Skill %s, there aren't even any charts beyond character creation (and in this case, it simply lists the cost of the Skill per %).

    I think you'll dig this system. It's not any more difficult than the d6, it just uses two dice instead of one. :D

  5. Delta (Delta's D&D Spot) has a good article on granularity. He argues that some checks require a high degree of granularity. Combat is one example -- life and death literally hangs in the balance. So using a D20 with its 5% (relatively small) chunks is reasonable.

    Searching for secret doors is much less intense in most games. So, using 16% chunks is acceptable.

    In general I think you should use the LOWEST granularity possible for your mechanic. This is because smaller numbers are usually faster to manipulate. After all, what's easier -- adding +1 to a D6 roll and comparing it to a TN (say, "5") or rolling 2 x D10s to generate a percentage, adding +15%, and comparing to see if it is over a TN of 72%?

    This also has an advantage of telling a player (and a GM) what is really important in your system. Is it on a D20? Its probably important. Is it on a D6? Its probably less of a focus.

    Just my two coppers!