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Author Topic: On Dice Pools  (Read 1930 times)

RPGPundit

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On Dice Pools
« on: September 07, 2006, 05:58:01 PM »
I don't honestly know how anyone can believe that Dice Pools are a "lighter" system than straightforward checks.
 
Now, I understand that certain people have certain types of brains, and others have other kinds of brains, and that certain brains may be more predisposed toward the more linear mechanics of a straight die + rank vs. difficutly or even simpler percentage or roll under check; whereas other brains are more connected to the concrete visual characteristic of rolling lots of dice.
 
But there are ways to address that which do not involve the complexities of the typical dice pool system.  Whatever they might gain in terms of mathematical simplicity (which usually isn't that much anyways) they lose in terms of the complications and time  involved in a typical die pool system. Its certainly not condusive to the system "just fading into the background".
 
The best dice pool system, and the only one that isn't really a hassle to play, is one where you roll a number of dice (either set or variably modified by the action/skills etc) against a flexible target number (difficulty) and then only consider the highest die rolled. Optionally, you can have a high roll "explode" (re-roll and add to the original value). This is easy enough, because you are only considering the highest die, the others can be totally ignored.
 
But very few die pool systems work that way. Octane is the only one I can think of offhand.
 
There are some, like Over the Edge or the D6 system, that work with a pool of dice, where you add the whole pool together and compare it to a difficulty.  This kind of system is alright, as long as you don't end up having pools of too many dice, where adding becomes a serious hassle (this and other reasons cause the D6 system to suck ass).
 
But the default systems most people think of when they think "dice pool" are the WoD or Shadowrun style of dice pools; where you have a fixed or variable difficulty, roll the pool and then have to count up the number of "successes" (dice that overshot the difficulty) to determine a "degree of success". This essentially creates two different difficulty thresholds, the original difficulty number, and the number of successes. This essentially means you're figuring out two mechanics, which takes twice the time.
 
What really baffles me in all this is that recently both WW and Fanpro have thought to "simplify" their mechanics. But how have they done this? By replacing a variable difficulty
number with a fixed difficulty number.
 
This is the least useful "fix" imagineable. Its the kind of thing I would expect from WW, but it disappoints me that Fanpro is going that way with it, and there appears to be some truth to the claims some have made on Dumpshock that Fanpro is "imitating" the WW concept.  I certainly can't believe the Fanpro boys just thought of the very same "fix" (which is hardly a fix at all) in a total vacuum.
 
This fix won't really be doing much to streamline the complexity of the system. You still have to check the difficulty, you still have to count successes. While having a fixed difficulty number is something of an improvement, it would have been a vastly greater improvement to get rid of the idea of "counting successes".

Have a mechanic where you have a variable difficulty, but ONE success is enough to succeed, always.
You want to make it a harder test? Raise the Difficulty.
Want to be able to judge whether something succeeds just a little or by a lot? Compare the single result to the difficulty; the higher it was, the better you succeed.
 
This is what seems to be the smoothest way to handle a die pool mechanic.
 
So why doesn't anyone have the guts to do it?

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Silverlion

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2006, 06:08:36 PM »
Interesting the mechanic you call simple is one I'm working on for a game.


Providence used something similar as an option (Roll all dice compare top 2, OR roll 2dice and "sell off" all other dice for bonus)

For some people rolling and adding is easier to them than rolling and sorting (because there is no extra chaff to weed out, it "all" counts to the final value.)


I personally don't find single die, pools, etc alone problematic, its often what is done with them that makes them more or less fiddly and difficult to deal with.
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GRIM

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2006, 02:31:00 AM »
Dice pools give a nice, visceral thrill when you roll them, like rolling massed fire in Warhammer.
There's also an immediacy to seeing 'successes' and a built in degree-of-success that can be seen/felt straight away.

I think they're often used in light systems because of this and because of the general lack of calculation required.
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mythusmage

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2006, 08:01:56 AM »
Both parties roll their respective dice. Highest die or dice is/are found. Whoever rolled the highest wins. In the case of a tie compare the number of dice that rolled high. The highest number of high rolls wins. If both parties have an equal number of high dice, nothing happens to or for either side.
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Hastur T. Fannon

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2006, 12:30:02 PM »
I've been playing dice pool games for so long I don't get the problem.  Maybe I'm "brain damaged".

nWoD has combined to-hit, dodging, armour penetration, damage and damage resistance into a single roll.  There are games where that would be five separate calculations - surely that's more complex?
 

Sojourner Judas

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2006, 02:34:00 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
What really baffles me in all this is that recently both WW and Fanpro have thought to "simplify" their mechanics. But how have they done this? By replacing a variable difficulty
number with a fixed difficulty number.
 
This is the least useful "fix" imagineable. Its the kind of thing I would expect from WW, but it disappoints me that Fanpro is going that way with it, and there appears to be some truth to the claims some have made on Dumpshock that Fanpro is "imitating" the WW concept.  I certainly can't believe the Fanpro boys just thought of the very same "fix" (which is hardly a fix at all) in a total vacuum.
 
This fix won't really be doing much to streamline the complexity of the system. You still have to check the difficulty, you still have to count successes. While having a fixed difficulty number is something of an improvement, it would have been a vastly greater improvement to get rid of the idea of "counting successes".

Have a mechanic where you have a variable difficulty, but ONE success is enough to succeed, always.
You want to make it a harder test? Raise the Difficulty.
Want to be able to judge whether something succeeds just a little or by a lot? Compare the single result to the difficulty; the higher it was, the better you succeed.
 
This is what seems to be the smoothest way to handle a die pool mechanic.
 
So why doesn't anyone have the guts to do it?
Under both the fixed-target dice pool systems you mentioned, one success is enough to succeed in most routine tasks. It's a marginal success, but a success nonetheless. Some more involved tasks may require more successes, but it's still rather simple. Beyond that, adding and subtracting dice to represent bonuses and penalties is much quicker to keep track of than changing the target number.
 

Caesar Slaad

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2006, 02:51:58 PM »
Quote from: GRIM
Dice pools give a nice, visceral thrill when you roll them, like rolling massed fire in Warhammer.
There's also an immediacy to seeing 'successes' and a built in degree-of-success that can be seen/felt straight away.


Yup. I don't share that visceral thrill, but I beleive it to be true.

I also beleive what Brian had to say in his Rationales for Mechanics essay linked in the theory forum: they preserve the validity of different players options by shielding them from analysis.

Of course I don't like them as a GM because I like to understand the flow of the game and don't ever want to be caught off guard when it comes to playing the odds.
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On Dice Pools
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2006, 11:28:06 PM »
By rolling more of the same, rather than adding a bonus, you can increase the likelihood of success(es) without increasing the numerical value of success. This is great in games where such numerical values don't scale, such as in classless/levelless games (such as the one I am currently working on). You can get ahead in what you're good at without falling behind (too far) in what you suck at (pretty much equivalent to the wizard still having *something* to show for his hp, BAB, etc where scaling is bonuses based on level).

Just some thoughts. Maybe I'm wrong.

mythusmage

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2006, 12:02:43 AM »
I once converted the d20 system to a dice pool. Basically you rolled one die, but one more for each plus you had. You had to get equal to or better than a target number, and each success meant you did better. In combat it meant the weapon you used did an extra die of damage. So a longsword with three sucesses would do 3d8 in damage.

In the case of those characters with minuses the number of dice needed to get a success went up. So that someone with a -1 on spot checks would need to roll equal to or higher than the target number with two dice to get that single success.

Visualizing epic characters rolling great gobs of d20's put an end to that idea. :)
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laffingboy

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2006, 08:10:17 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
I don't honestly know how anyone can believe that Dice Pools are a "lighter" system than straightforward checks.


Are there many people declaring this belief? I only ask because, of all the arguments I've heard in favor of them, I don't often run into this one.
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gleichman

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On Dice Pools
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2006, 08:14:47 PM »
Quote from: laffingboy
Are there many people declaring this belief? I only ask because, of all the arguments I've heard in favor of them, I don't often run into this one.


I've certainly seen it used.

Generally the assertion is that it's more visual than straight bonus systems and that modifiers are either addition/subtraction of objects (i.e. dice) or very small numbers (if modifying TNs).

If true, the people making such claims have minds that work significantly different than my own.
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laffingboy

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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2006, 06:08:20 PM »
I guess I can kinda see it with something like Godlike or Wild Talents, where you're just looking for high numbers/matching numbers. It's lighter than adding them all together, at least.
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