Die Mechanics

I am a nerd, let’s just put that out there and let it marianate.

Ok, so that is out of the way, I think about games allot. Probably too much, but my mind is just full of ideas, ways to do things, little bits to throw in here and there to improve, etc. I cannot help myself, my mind just does it. So I stumbled upon 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars and it has a die mechanic that I have really began to like, one that I think reflects realism, yet still remaining quite simple and effective.

Essentially you have a skill rated 1-9, you roll a d10 and if the roll is equal to or less than your skill, you succeed. 1 is always a success, 10 is always a failure. One thing I really like about this set up is it allows for someone with a skill to have a much better chance at success without any complicated computations needing to be done (I oh-so-hate complicated die mechanics).

In 3:16 there are no real opposed rolls as the system is written, you simply attempt a task, roll to see if you were successful or not. However, I think if you combined this mechanic with opposed rolls, you could have a real winner here. A quick example:

Joe has a 4 skill while Tom has a 7 skill. Both would roll and whomever was successful, with the highest roll wins the contest.

Simple and quick. It affords a level comparison due to both rolling the same die whereas some systems an unskilled guy will get stomped every time because he rolls 1 die and a skilled guy rolls 10, sometimes there are just not fair comparisons. I would also make the point that ties would either be that…a tie, or the win goes to him with the highest skill, so if both rolled 3s, Tom would win because he has a higher skill.

One problem I see is modifiers. Modifiers add depth to the system and allow some flexibility to the players so they feel like they can manipulate the world in a direction they want and thus have more control over the fate of their characters. From a GM point of view, modifiers allow the GM to apply influence to the gaming world without ‘laying down the law’ and seeming ¬†totalitarian to the players. Most players I have gamed with will accept a harsh, hard ruling from the GM, but that doesn’t mean they will like it. When the GM says “My way or the highway” I think the GM has thrown down the glove in a power struggle, I feel this hurts the game play.

So, we need something that is quick, easy, and affords both sides some manipulation of the world, without seeming too heavy handed.

I struggled with this one for a little while and came up with an idea. GM Modifiers affect the skill of the player, while Player Modifiers affect the die roll. When the player attempts something in a situation that the GM feels is less than ideal, he can apply a -1 to the skill the player is attempting to use, effectively lowering the range of success the player has. Players on the other hand are allowed to apply a number to their roll, thus lowering or raising it to keep it within the range of success.


Tom has a skill of 7 in climbing and he wants to attempt to scale the wall of the castle. He attempts this in the middle of a rainy night, the GM tells him this is a bad time and applies a -2 modifier to his check, leaving him with a Climbing of 5. Undaunted, Tom pulls out his climbing gear which gives him a 1 modifier to his roll.

Tom throws the die and gets a 6, normally he would fail, but the gear allow him to manipulate his roll by one in either direction, he subtracts his modifier and ends up with a 5, a perfect success! This is a great example of someone pushing it to the limit and finding that narrow line between epic success and epic failure.

Tom scales the wall, only to find a second one (evil GM) and now must roll again to overcome this obstacle. The GM applies the same modifier, and Tom opts to use his gear again. This time he rolls a 4, but instead of subtracting, he adds his modifier so he can again gain a perfect score of 5 and spit in the face of the GM.

Now, I am not completely happy with these mods, especially in the way player mods are handled. At an actual table I think this would work ok, but on a vt it might be difficult to implement in a way that is fast and easy. It would be great if there was a way to set a die roll to show the player and afford him the oppurtunity to manipulate the result with in the confines of his modifiers, but that might be a bridge too far and complicated.

Maybe I should just forget the modifiers and go with the straight checks, still thinking on it…


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