'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

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Showing posts with label Genesys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genesys. Show all posts

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!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Genesys in the Primeval Thule Setting

When I GMed a game of Conan for a group of complete strangers late last year, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. Having recently returned to RPGs and GMing combined with my own fears about not doing a good enough job had definitely given me pause. In the end it was a very positive experience for me and I met some new people. Many of those people I met further this past weekend as we sat down to play a game of Genesys.

I have kept in touch with one of those players and have continued to discuss various RPG ideas. One of the systems he has really grown to like is, of course, Genesys. I was familiar with it as the game with the weird dice. When he said he felt it shared similar game DNA with Conan I was a little dubious, but he explained it all. After reading some more I came to a conclusion? I agree. So he went forward and set up a game of Genesys set in Primeval Thule to introduce a bunch of us who had been at "RPG ALLIANCE CON" in Calgary to the system.

Before I go on any further I have a couple of shutouts to people and I encourage you to all check out their various endeavors.
  • Rpg Alliance - Without this I wouldn't have met these people and I wouldn't have tried something new. Hope we see it become a yearly thing. Blog, Facebook.
  • Galaxy Gaming Gear- Thanks for the use of your figures and terrain as well as a little insight into your company and your goals. Website, Facebook.
  • Titan's Vault Games- Thanks to the use of the space in the store. It is great to have a place to play that we all had fairly easy access to. Website, Facebook.

OK. So lets talk basic mechanics. Like Conan 2d20, everything is based on skill rolls, and like Conan 2d20 we essentially have 5 classifications of difficulty: Easy, Average, Hard, Daunting and Formidable. It also includes 0 difficulty and an impossible difficulty. Mechanically the two systems diverge here, but maintain the same idea in terms of gaining success to completed tasks, it just handles this and what would be Momentum/doom in Conan 2d20 differently.

Celina darts down a dark side alley and pauses, the sounds of pursuit echoing down the street. Her hand grasps a small leather bag containing the goal of the evening. It had all been going so well, in and out and away into the night! Suddenly the alarm was raised and she found her self running for her life trying to escape the city guard. In an instant she decides to climb the wall next to her in an attempt to evade her pursuers.

At it's simplest Celina might have a rating of 2 for climbing the wall, granting her two dice to roll on a skill check. In Genesys you would pick up two custom eight sided dice. If her task was average difficulty you would pick up another set of custom 2d8, however they are a different color. Basically you are rolling your 2d8 vs the tasks 2d8. (Quick note: there is a d12 you get to roll on trained skills as well, but I chose to go with a super simple example).

The skill dice in Genesys show the following icons: Success, Advantage and Triumph(which does not appear on the d8).
The difficulty dice show: Failure, Threat and Despair.

Back to our example skill test, rolling the dice you come up with a total of 3 successes and 1 advantage on your skill dice. The difficulty dice come up with 0 failure and 2 threats.

I used this roller to generate my results.

To resolve the roll we cancel skill vs difficulty. Threat removes advantage and failure removes success. Doing so we see that Celina's roll is 2 successes + 1 threat, and this is where the system is really interesting in my mind. We do see this possibility in 2d20, but way way less often in the form of succeeding while rolling a complication. In Genesys it is pretty common to gain advantage or threat independently of succeeding or failing.

Celina succeeds in climbing the wall but in doing so manages to confer and advantage to her pursuers. There is a list of things advantage and disadvantage can do, including giving extra dice to your allies in the form of a custom d6. But my point isn't to give you an entire breakdown of the system, just to illustrate the basic idea.

With effort Celina scales the wall onto the roof of the building next to her and pauses in the dark as a squad of five men at arms come into the alley and look around trying to find signs of their quarry.

The guards may normally roll 2d8 as well for their skill check, but because Celina rolled that threat the GM has decided to give them an advantage die, so they roll 2d8+1d6 vs their difficulty roll.

As the guards look about the alley, Celina shifts in her hiding spot causing a small pebble to knock loose from the wall, alerting the guards to the direction she is in


The guards gain 2 successes and 1 threat as well!

The GM decides the guards see Celina as she turns to flee and begin to climb up the wall. The guards build their dice pool again, this time with an addition difficulty d6 to make their climb up the wall that much more difficult. The GM will narrate how that advantage is gained: loose walls, guards getting in each other's way or any number of other things.

Even with that level of inexperience with the system at the table I think we all had fun and enjoyed the whole system from combat to social and other tests. It is definitely a system I will look to add to my library.

The single largest entry point to this system is learning what the icons mean and how they cancel each other out, but once you are past that, the mechanic is simple and the dice do guide the narrative much as we would see in a system like Conan 2d20. The group I played with this weekend included an experienced GM, one experienced player and three people who had never played the system before. One of us had even tried the Star Wars version and had not liked it.

Having an experience GM makes things way simpler and overall I enjoyed the session and the system. It was narrative and fit decently well into the Sword & Sorcery setting that is Primeval Thule. Even if you don't have an experienced GM and the system has piqued your interested I recommend checking it out! You can get a copy at your local FLGS or at DrivethruRPG!

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