[NGDM] Tightening things up

So, here’s where we stand at nearly halfway into the month: a system with five defined roles, each of which has a scale of dice that can be purchased in order to construct actions, along with a pair of damage categories (the names of which I settled upon this weekend as “wounds” and “stress”) and definitions for what those damage types do (put numerical penalties on dice and reduce the denomination of dice, respectively).

Some issues that came up along the way: due to the way damage categories work, low-denomination dice are dis-incentivized; the dice imply a task resolution method but we haven’t actually defined one yet; we need to look over the tactical ramifications of what we’ve built so far.

The task resolution method that seems most straightforward would be to roll the dice you have allocated to an action and total them, comparing to a target number/opposed roll. Simple, right? But everyone does that. Granted, there’s a reason everyone does that: the results are intuitive and broadly applicable. But there may be other ways to use these dice. For one thing, I’m of the school that likes to reduce the reliance on task resolution rules in favor of simply narrating the action. I’d like a bidding-style game, and that puts me in mind of some possibilities. For instance, you might decide to not use the highest die available to you for an action for some reason. Maybe you “bought” a d8 but that means that’s your maximum possible die – you can choose to downgrade a die. We need to think about why someone would do that. A low-roll system doesn’t really work for this. Maybe the lower dice get to go first, so you “win initiative” by bumping your dice downward, in exchange for the possibility of a lower roll and failing the action – your speed undercuts your efficacy. Interesting idea! That also gives characters with lots of low dice a benefit, and puts an intriguing spin on taking stress: as you deteriorate, one side-effect is that your actions become more slapdash and rushed. We can additionally conceptualize this as higher dice being more suited to complex tasks that take a while to perform. A model for the combat/task resolution round comes into focus as being twenty “ticks”, being carried out in order of the dice being used.

There’s some interesting tactical stuff going on there. I had been trying to come up with a method of using dice to cancel out opposing dice, but this option seems similar in a way: you can sacrifice the denomination on your die to jump ahead of an opponent. If we’re talking about opposed rolls, then it looks like the rolls will subtract from one another, so a player drops their die, goes earlier in the sequence, and sets up a penalty that their foe has to overcome when their turn comes around.

To speed things up (and to get away from buckets of die-rolling), let’s state up front that a die doesn’t need to be rolled if there’s no opposition: just bidding a die causes an action to succeed unless someone or something is rolling against you. The degree of your success is based on the die you commit, so you can use your best possible die when you’re going solo – pretend you rolled the max on that die. (I’m taking this cue from the old TSR Marvel game – your skill rank came with a flat number that was your level of success that could be used in lieu of rolling.)

The core of the game seems to be together at this point; I wouldn’t put a skill list on this, instead allowing players to offer a justification for why an action fits into a particular role and then putting their die or dice into it. (“I convince the raiders to follow me – I only have a d6 in communication, but my d10 in fighting persuades them through my appearance and stance that I’d be a strong leader.”)

I want to take a closer look at bennies (the “spare points” that can be left over in buying dice), so we’ll do that next time.