'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Friday, July 2, 2021

The Quest for Approachable Narrative Dice

The Quest for Approachable Narrative Dice

 I was introduced to the Genesys system a few years ago, and have since played it a few times with a GM who was experienced with the system.  It took all the things I loved about 2d20 and added to them; success by measure, complications on successes, plus failure with benefit.  Once you played the system the dice were pretty straightforward. Coming into the game for the first time?  woah.  Those dice were cryptic, can we just play D&D 5E? 

Building ideas around how to make a simpler version of this idea rattles around in my brain from time to time, and it appears not only in my mind.  Recently a friend replied to a post on Twitter, which made it clear that other people have it rattling around in their minds as well.  How can we get all of the flavors of the Genesys system in an approachable system that can bolt onto a d20 game?  How can we do it with basic dice?

Ideas on the issue

I think a lot of systems do *PART* of the Genesys narrative dice well.  Generally, the part where we determine how well you succeeded: Savage Worlds with its raises, 2d20 with its momentum, AGE with its stunt dice, to name a few.  2d20 even allows for negative effects on successes.  None that I have seen incorporate everything, and generally don't have any positive outcomes from failing, ie you are climbing a cliff, and you fail the roll, but in doing so make it easier for your party member to climb because you created a handhold as you dislodged a rock.

Further down in the Twitter thread this was suggested...

My ideas

My first thought was that it was an interesting idea, but it didn't scale.  No matter how skilled or how easy or difficult the task was your narrative effects chances were exactly the same, but I thought it had a good idea behind it. 

Keeping with that idea, what if we scaled the number of dice we are rollings?  Add 1d6 to the pool for each of the stat bonuses?  Subtract 1d6 for each step of 5 around the DC of 15, with a minimum roll of 2d6?  In the end, I don't think that works particularly well either.  

My next idea involved the first idea, but using multi-colored d6s.  Start with 2 pools of d6s, one for skill, and one for the task.  Each of these pools starts with 1d6 in them.  Add 1 skill die to the pool for each stat bonus, ie +3 strength gives 3 good dice +1 in the pool for a total of 4 dice.  Add 1 task die to the pool for each step above a DC of 5, ie a DC of 15 adds 2 task dice to the pool, for a total of 3 bad dice in the pool.  When the d20 is rolled the d6 pool is rolled with the d20.  Subtract task die total from skill die total.  A positive total gives an advantage, a negative total yields a disadvantage.  Going back to Jason's idea, we could incorporate double of either yielding a triumph or despair as well.  

My final idea is essentially the same as my second idea. but with no math.  It uses multi-colored fate dice.  One pool for the task, and one pool for the skill.  Compare the two dice rolls, A "+" in one pool can cancel out a "+" or two "-" in the other pool. 1 "-" dice face can cancel out 1/2 of a "+" face. Whichever pool has remaining value determines advantage or disadvantage.  Finally, if there were 2 "+" dice faces n the original roll then we can add a triumph or despair to the roll, depending on the pool it was rolled on.

Let's test this out, and say we have a barbarian named Grunar trying to climb a snake tower.  The GM rules that since they have a rope it will only be a DC 10 test.  Grunar has a strength of 15 giving him a +2 to his athletics check.  

Skill dice = 3.  (2 from a strength of 15 + 1 for default)
Task dice = 2. (1 from a DC of 10 + 1 for default)

Roll 1
So we roll a d20 and 5 fate dice.  
D20 roll: 14+2 = 16 = SUCCESS
Skill dice = _,+,+ 
Task dice = -,+
"+" from Task dice cancels out one skill dice "+".
"-" from Task dice cancels out 1/2 of the "+" from the Skill dice. Resulting in an advantage.
Additionally, since the Skill roll has 2 "+"s a Triumph is also generated.

Roll 2
D20 roll: 10+2 = 12 = FAILURE
Skill dice = _,_,_
Task dice = _,_
Straight failure.

Roll 3
D20 roll: 7+2 = 10 = FAILURE
Skill dice = -,_,_
Task dice = +,_
"-" from Skill dice cancels out half of the "+" from the Task dice.  Resulting in a disadvantage.


I think this might be a good starting point but would definitely need some testing and tweaking.  One of the other large parts of this puzzle would be to determine what exactly an advantage, disadvantage, triumph, and despair look like in your game.  If you have thoughts on this or have implemented something similar in your game, drop a note below.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the whole idea or what you have done. 

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

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