Monday, June 3, 2013

Rule Zero

I've had more than a couple questions pop up in the comments section of the blog regarding the "custom dice" that will be included with the print version of 5AK. I probably should have been more explicit about this earlier, so as not to get things "too hyped up." These aren't anything super-fancy with dragons or swords or skulls...just simple six-sided dice with the "1" pip replaced with a single word:


Snake-Eyes in 5AK

This is the initial mock-up image from Chessex. The actual dice have the word written horizontally, not diagonally.

See? Nothing all that gaga, but still pretty cool. The game doesn't need custom dice...and until Thursday never used them during the play-tests...but they're nice to have as it's easy to otherwise forget Rule Zero and count the ones, especially for us long-time gamers.

Oh, wait...I haven't explained Rule Zero? Hmm, yeah, about's the game text on the subject (from Volume 1, copyright 2013):

No matter the number of dice rolled, ANY ROLL OF “1” ON A DIE IS COUNTED AS ZERO. This is a very important difference from other games you may have played. Any D6 that comes up as a “1” should simply be removed from the roll, as if the player had rolled 1 less die. In other words, the result of a D6 roll will always be a 0, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. When rolling a D3 the result will always be a 0, 1, 2, 2, 3, or 3. 
If all dice rolled come out as 1s (i.e. “zeroes”) then the entire roll is considered a ZERO regardless of any bonuses or adjustments that might have been made to the roll. This is called “zeroing out.” For example, when making an attack roll, a player adds her attack adjustment to her attack roll of 2D6. If the player rolls two 1s, the roll is considered a 0; the player is not allowed to add her attack adjustment because she has “zeroed out” and thus failed in her attack. 
Sometimes the rules will call for a player to roll a “D66.” In this case, the player rolls two D6 dice to generate a two-digit number, with the first die counting as the 10s and the second die counting as the 1s. For example, a roll of 3 and a roll of 5 would be counted as a roll of “35.” When rolling D66, die rolls of 1 are still counted as 0, so the number generated will be from 00 to 66.
Rule Zero is ALWAYS in effect. A roll of 1, never counts as “1.” If you’ve purchased a print version of this game, it should include dice with a “zero” side where the 1 would normally be found; this is to remind you of Rule Zero.
[that last sentence was only added after I had actually placed the order with Chessex]

The Rule Zero mechanic allows a lot of interesting system effects from a design point of view, not the least of which is giving me some extra numbers to play with (for example, on a normal 2D6 roll you have an eleven number range...2 through 12... but with Rule Zero you have a twelve number spread, including zero). It emphasizes the built-in consistency (in my rules) of high rolls = good and low rolls = bad. It doesn't skew probabilities downward when it comes to "high" dice rolls (for example, adding Rule Zero does not diminish the chance of rolling an 8+ on 2D6, not the chance of rolling a 14+ on 3D6), and it provides a means of automatic failure (like D20's "natural 1") that is self-evident..."Oh, yeah...I rolled a zero." 

Also, since the main roll in 5AK is the 2D6, the chance of that auto-fail is generally LESS than that of D20 (1 in 36 as opposed to 1 in 20...2.7% compared to 5%). A little less random clownishness, in other words. 

Anyway...more on 5AK and design stuff later. Hopefully, I've satisfied the curiosity of folks that were wondering. 
: )

[oh, BTW, I am well aware of the whole "Rule Zero" definition generally used in RPG design circles and MY rule was indeed conceived as a deliberate stab in the face of that particular monstrosity. But I'll have to explain my opinion on that at a later date...right now, I've got a bunch of stuff to do and not much time to do it in!]


  1. This is really cool. I love that it also adds tension by potentially negating even a high bonus.

  2. @ Brendan:

    Yep. I should have pointed out that my players have expressed enthusiasm for the mechanic for the same reason.
    : )

  3. Alrighty then, I am ready to throw money at you, any idea when you will open up for orders?

    Cannot wait to see what you came up with, as long time reader of your blog, I like a lot of your ideas, and 5k looks to be more than just another dnd clone with a handful of houserules bolted on.

  4. @ Harv:

    I am hoping to be ready to take orders in the next couple months. I *could* get it printed and out the door in the next two weeks, but after my "rush-to-print" last book was found to be chock-full of errors, I'm taking a little more time with the proofing/editing process.

    Plus, I might be adding a little "somethin-somethin" extra to the mix...but no promises at this point!
    ; )

  5. How doy you have 12 numbers while roll 2zero6? You still only get 11 numbers:
    0,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11, and 12 is 11 numbers. The zero6 does do some interesting things with the old bell curve however, clever idea indeed.

  6. @JDJarvis, you I believe you missed '3', obtained by rolling a '3' and a '0'

  7. @ JD:

    You left out the "3."
    ; )

  8. Aha...there ya go. Pesky 0's screwing up the curve.

  9. TAKE MY MONEY (in maybe two months when we have some breathing room)

    I'm absolutely getting the print version. Count on it.

  10. I like treating six as zero myself. Then 1d6 is 0–5; 2d6, 0–10; 3d6, 0-15; etc. Plus you can have open-ended rolls without skipping a number and with fairly easy arithmetic.

    And you can take a Sharpie and connect the pips on the 6 face to create a square zero. ^_^ (Although a have a few d6 number 0–5.)