2013-10-21 : The Magic Trick: Otherkind Dice
The magic trick, recall, is to make combat feel genuinely risky without killing PCs off all the time. Recall also that while it's probably not possible to have your cake and eat it too all the time, the magic trick is to have your cake and eat it too most of the time.
In Otherkind*, a combat roll is a pool of 5d6, and it decides four things. It decides (1) whether you advance toward your objective, (2) whether you hurt your enemy, (3) whether your enemy hurts you, and (4) whether your enemy hurts any of your friends and allies. Each of these is on a scale, like so:
Do you advance toward your objective?
1: You lose ground.
2-3: You hold ground.
4-5: You gain ground.
6: You seize your objective.
Do you hurt your enemy?
6: A lot.
Does your enemy hurt you?
1: A lot.
4-5: No, but your enemy puts you off-balance or on the defensive.
Does your enemy hurt your friends and allies?
1: Yes, badly, all who are exposed to danger.
2-3: Yes, but not badly, or only a few.
To make the combat roll, you pick up 5d6, roll them, throw away the lowest number, and then assign the remaining four numbers one each to the four categories of outcome.
For example: you roll 1 1 3 4 6. This means that you throw away the first 1, and then choose how to assign the remaining 1, the 3, the 4, and the 6. Maybe you seize your objective with the 6 and hurt your enemy with the 4, but that means that now you have to choose whether your enemy hurts you badly with the 1 and hurts your friends not-so-badly with the 3, or vice versa. Make sense?
So here you are holding the dice in your hands, right before you roll. The roll is a genuine risk and it feels like one. The range of outcomes possible with this rolling method is pitched in your favor, what with discarding the lowest die and all, but it's not safe, and when the dice come out low they're absolutely unforgiving. It's possible that you'll get all high dice, and that's what you're hoping for. It's most likely that you'll get a mix of high and low dice, so you're thinking about what you're risking - particularly, what you're willing to sacrifice if it doesn't go purely your way, and what you'd really prefer not to sacrifice. And you know that it's possible that you'll roll 1 1 1 1 1, it's always possible, so you're hoping you don't!
The magic trick is the same as in Dogs in the Vineyard, even though the mechanism is very different: before you roll you're focused on what you're risking, how bad it can go, how much you might have to lose, but after the roll it's not as bad as you feared. Even on a terrible roll**, like a 1 1 1 1 2, you get to mitigate the disaster! Though the costs are high, you get to preserve a measure of whichever thing you value most. You still have a say. It's a bloodbath for your side and your enemy is unharmed, for instance, but at least you held your ground.
I want to emphasize that the magic trick isn't that terrible outcomes are unlikely. Terrible outcomes do happen, and bad outcomes are quite common. These dice are unforgiving! No, the magic trick is that when a bad outcome happens, or even when a terrible outcome happens, you get to make it the bad or terrible outcome you can live with.
1. On 2013-10-21, Vincent said:
2. On 2013-10-21, Josh W said:
3. On 2013-10-21, Vincent said:
4. On 2013-10-21, pigeon said:
5. On 2013-10-21, Judson said:
6. On 2013-10-22, George said:
7. On 2013-10-22, Vincent said:
8. On 2013-10-23, Josh W said:
9. On 2013-10-23, George said: