Cinemechanix Design Journal 19: Everybody Out of the Dice Pool

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 24 June 2016 Written by Steve

As I talked about last week, rolling a big dice pool and choosing the best result does what I intended it to do so well that it causes a whole new set of problems. Namely, the range of likely rolls shrinks so much at high dice pools that it's very hard for characters to cause much damage to one another. For now, my plan is to try to tweak the rules slightly so that the dice pools drop without making major changes to how the game works and how the characters are defined. I've come up with a few ideas that would require big rules changes, but that would require a major rewrite and most of them feel like they'd be moving backwards. So here are the options I'm focusing on (and waiting for playtester feedback about) right now:  

Option 1: Arbitrary Dice Pool Limit

With this option, we basically just declare that you can’t roll more than X dice. Most of the other rules stay the same, but changing the definition of “Penatly Dice” to “remove a die from your pool before rolling” would probably be a good idea to avoid confusion. Since under the current system characters get at least 3 dice for anything they’re at least vaguely competent in before you add situational bonus dice, hero props, etc., X would probably need to be 5. If you’ve got more than 6 dice for a roll, anything beyond the first 5 just offset penalty dice. You can’t roll more than 5. 

Option 2: Change Tropes from Dice to Roll Modifiers

With this option, characters just get the free dice and the Concept Die for most rolls. Some Special Effects, Hero Props, or situational modifiers may give them additional bonus dice, but usually it’ll be in the “5 or less” range we’re shooting for and most of the time players will just be rolling 1 or 2 dice. Instead of giving bonus dice, Tropes give the character a roll modifier, so a “Kung Fu” Trademark would give you a +3 to your roll and your “Bad Hearing” Drawback would give you a -2.  

Option 3: Make All Tropes 1 Die

All Trademarks and Drawbacks are worth 1 die. 

Option 4: Roll Tropes into Hooks

Just get rid of Tropes entirely and base your roll entirely on Concept. The artist formerly known as Tropes become a variant type of Hook. 

Option 5: Single Trope Die, No Modifier

In this version, you have a list of Trademarks and a list of Drawbacks and have a Trope Die that works more or less like the Concept Die.  

Option 6: Single Trope Die With Modifier 

Same as option 5, but Tropes have roll modifiers and you get the Trope Die and the modifier. 

When I started running the math (in the expanded version of this I posted to the playtest group), I realized that option 3 could theoretically be min/maxed to work out about the same as either the current system or, a little more easily, Option 1 (the 5 die arbitrary limit), so I've mostly taken it out of the running. Right now I think I'm leaning toward Option 2. My main concern is that it expands the range of rolls by 25% (since you're adding a Trope modifier as well as Hero Factor), which means re-working things like target numbers, but at the moment it seems like the option that best fixes the problem without radically changing the existing system. You just get a bonus to the roll instead of an extra die for skills. 

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Cinemechanix Design Journal 19: Everybody Out of the Dice Pool .
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