I’ve been kicking around an idea on G+ lately that I thought I would put down in somewhat more concrete form with some additional meat on the bones.
Take one of each of the usual polyhedral RPG dice (d4 through d20) and put them in the middle of the table. Everyone shares these. When you want to take an action, you can grab any of the dice from the pool on the table, roll it, and add the rating of one of your traits to the result to determine success/failure. Those who have dipped into the horror game playtest (and if you haven’t, why not? It’s free and available!) will recognize a familiar element to this idea.
If you succeed, the die goes back in the middle of the table, easy-peasy. If you fail, though, that die is removed from the pool.
What happens to it? I’m still playing around with ideas for that. Originally, I added the following two rules:
1) If you take an action to betray another player, you can return a die to the pool up to one denomination higher than the one you’re rolling.
2) If you take an action to help another player, you can return a die to the pool up to two denominations higher than the one you’re rolling.
I’m still weighing the ramifications of that. An alternate riff on that idea came to me yesterday. In it, he player who failed the roll gets stuck with that die: nobody else can use it, but that’s the only die they get to roll on subsequent rolls. It makes me think of obsessive fixation on a failure, reliving it over and over until it’s resolved. I was even thinking of the idea of making the die a burden, and applying the help/betray rules to the character burdened with a die, allowing them to work off the burden faster by interacting (positively or negatively) with the other characters.
Another idea that I’ve been pondering this morning, which actually hews a little closer to the horror game’s dynamic, is that the die that’s removed from the pool just goes away – and the pool of dice is your adventuring group’s collective hit points. Rather than individual adventurers living or dying, you’re playing the gestalt entity of “the party” and life/death becomes mission success/failure. (Shades of Hollowpoint, now that I think of it!) The help-betray rules make a bit more conceptual sense in that regard, then, and I can even see a vague outline of how one could have character death or retirement a possible price for restoring “health” to the party.
It’s not enough even to take to a table for playtest yet, but it’s a start, and it feels like a good one.