The last couple days have been spent mostly researching ancient history, and the pseudo-science "archaeological" study of goofy, woo-woo lost cultures (like Atlantis). It would just be so useful if we had real, working time machines and an ability to go back and truly document ancient history (you know, when exactly did the dinosaurs die, who built the damn Giza pyramids, who was mining copper out of the Americas and exporting it to Eurasia to fuel the bronze age, etc.). I don't even need to go back and see Jesus healing lepers and such...just let me fly around the globe circa 9000 BCE and see what was going on. I promise I won't try to put modern Egyptologists out of business. Heck, I'll even agree to stay west of the Prime Meridian; I never had much interest in China anyway.
*sigh* So many people arguing so many crazy things on the internet. So much history tainted with bias and agendas. And so so soooo much of our history unknown. Radiocarbon dating isn't wholly accurate, and our written material (what we can translate) just doesn't withstand the forces of entropy for more than a few centuries. Unless they're inscribed in gold, or other precious metal, that is...but then, such "books" of that type were likely melted down for ready cash long ago by folks who couldn't decipher them anyway. Or confiscated by the Vatican. Or whatever.
But you folks don't want to to hear about all that stuff...let's talk about games!
SO...one of the purposes in writing the new fantasy heartbreaker (recall that I've already got a pseudo-heartbreaker under my belt with Five Ancient Kingdoms), was to get something down that was more like "Basic" D&D. Yes, funhouse-style gaming...though, now the specifics of the setting are starting to make this look like a long-term sandbox-style campaign setting. ANYway...part of getting back to "basics" was going back to those funny-shaped dice that D&D helped popularize...all those D8s, D4s, and D12s (not to mention D20s!). I wanted to make a game that people would recognize, even if it was a "little different."
Then I started looking at Star Wars.
Specifically Fantasy Flight Game's new Star Wars RPGs (Edge of Empire, Age of Rebellion, etc.). I could find surprisingly little posted on-line about these games (considering the production value and general popularity of the setting)...then again, I didn't spend time perusing the FFG forums. I know there are people playing it. I know there are even more people who simply own it (I want to own it...the artwork and production values are stunning!). The main knock people seem to have (and there aren't all that many negative reviews out there, please realize) is the proprietary dice required to play with their weird symbols (as opposed to numbers or pips).
Personally, I'm not terribly into a this kind of gimmick (says the guy who has special "zero dice" commissioned for sale with 5AK...hypocrite, much?). *AHEM* Personally, I am NOT really into this kind of gimmick when it leads to overly-complicated mechanics that are hard to decipher (how hard is it to read "zero" on a six-sided die? Not bloody-damn hard!), but the REASON behind it (to introduce narrative aspects into the standard mechanics of the game with a single simple dice roll) isn't a bad one. Just one that was kind of clunkily executed.
So I started brainstorming an easier way to do the same thing. And that's where my "basic" idea starts to fall apart.
See, one thing I really wanted to return to was the "roll D20" to hit, to save, to everything. People love those little 20-sided dice and I wanted to give 'em to them. There were three main mechanics in Moon, and all of them used a D20 mechanic. I was intending to keep these mechanics for the new iteration. But now...well, now it's going to be a "roll 2D10" instead.
Bell curves. Nerds like me who look at dice and percentages (well, and maybe some hard-core gamblers, too) know that rolling 2D10 is a lot different from rolling a D20 (and not just because 'you can't roll a 1'). When rolling a D20, each number (1-20) has an equal chance of being rolled (5%) and all "+"s and "-"s from, say, ability scores or level move the needle in simple increments of 5%.
2D10 is different. The percentage chance of rolling very high or very low is much smaller compared to numbers "in the middle." Which, when considering a "roll over target number" scenario (as is my basic mechanic), means easy rolls get easier to make, and harder rolls get harder.
Blah blah blah...what does that mean, JB? Let's look at a basic example: combat. Attack rolls versus armor class (though I'm not sure if I'm going to stick with the "AC" term in the final document). At the moment, you've got three basic target numbers when fighting an armored man:
13 (light armor)
16 (heavy armor)
with a shield adding +1 to those numbers (11, 14, and 17, in other words).
Needing to "roll over" the target number to hit means a dice roll of 11+, 14+, or 17+ against non-shield wielding opponents. Since all PCs get at least a +1 to their attack roll (bonus is level-class-based), this means that, effectively, each character type needs to roll a result equal to the actual AC of the target to make a successful attack (for example, if the PC tries to damage a dude wearing heavy armor and a shield, she needs to roll 17, as 17+1 = 18). We can see that with a straight D20 roll the chance of success for each AC is:
10 (11) - 55% (50%)
13 (14) - 40% (35%)
16 (17) - 25% (20%)
With the bell curve of 2D10, this looks fairly different:
10 (11) - 64% (55%)
13 (14) - 36% (28%)
16 (17) - 15% (10%)
Armor becomes substantially more effective, and the +1 AC bonus from a shield makes a bigger difference...though with a diminishing "rate of return" (only a 5% bump if already wearing "heavy armor" - but you're basically forcing your 1st level opponent to roll the equivalent of a 19+ on a standard D20 to do damage).
Because of the bell curves, smaller adjustments (a +2 versus a +1) make a bigger difference. While at the "top end" (+5ish) it works out to be about the same success chance against hard difficulties as a D20 system, the success against easy target numbers is much greater...in the +10%-15% range. That's the equivalent of giving the D20 character an extra +2 or +3 against easy-medium targets without needing to resort to inflation of effectiveness by making sure everyone has more potent magic weapons (if sticking with the combat example).
For DMs that don't want to clutter their campaigns with needless enchanted items (just for the sake of meeting expectations of character effectiveness) this is a bit of a godsend...and at the same time makes sure that the harder challenges remain appropriately hard (plate armor doesn't suddenly become useless unless upgraded to mithril, etc.).
Of course, that's just the effective outcome of switching from a D20 base to a 2D10 base for "stunt" rolls (what I call the action mechanic: attack stunts, magic stunts, and physical stunts). The whole reason for switching to a 2D10 mechanic was to enable me to create additional outcomes (similar to FFGs "advantage," "threat," "triumph," and "despair" results) at the same time as determining success/failure. Rolling two dice instead of one allows me to do this by allowing me to compare the results of each die separately (to its partner) in addition to examining the sum total of the roll.
At this point, I'm keeping it simple (it's supposed to be a "basic" game, right?) and just looking at "doubles" rolls (double 10, double 4, etc.) in relationship to two factors: whether or not the end result was a success-failure, and the character's level (I'm tempted to add a 3rd factor: a comparison based on class and type of stunt, but haven't developed the idea yet). Since doubles get rolled 1 in 10 times on a 2D10, that gives a 10% chance of "something interesting" happening on any particular stunt roll...not particularly over-whelming and not much different from saying a D20 roll of "20" is a "critical" and a roll of "1" is a "fumble." It just allows me to be a bit more nuanced with my effects.
SO...I've decided that I'm going to stick with it. The 2D10 thing instead of D20, that is. I realize this puts me outside the normal FHB model (again, jeez...just like what happened with 5AK), but I think the end result will better model what I want it to model.
Which is treasure hunting descendants of Atlantean colonists fighting the monstrous creations of older Atlantean migrations in the South American wilderness with orcichalcum spears and bronze armor, 11,000 years before present. Oh yeah...and sorcery, of course. Got to have sorcery.
|A little too long in the jungle.|