Saturday, May 24, 2014

X-Dice for D&D: Part II

Fleshing out the X-Dice Mechanic.

I. Tables. 

Here they are.

II. X-Dice: Rules for all Characters

How many dice do you have?
Characters have the highest number of Dice available to any of their classes, based on level. Do not sum the Dice pools. As example, an Elf F3/MU4 would have 3 HD, 1 SD, and 4 MD.

Hit Dice
Hit Points: Each time you advance a level in any class, roll HD and add Con modifiers. If the new total is higher than your current number of Hit Points, note a new Maximum Hit Points.

To-Hit: Add the number of HD you have to your attack roll. [This replaces attack tables/ThAC0]

Combat: When a player seeks to perform a non-standard attack (pushing an opponent off a cliff, disarming him on his weapon, tackling someone to the ground, etc.), opposed Hit Dice are rolled (add modifiers for high Strength to each HD). Also add any bonus from using a magic weapon to the total. Before the roll each combatant states their goal and the higher total wins. This action uses the characters attacks for the round whether they succeed or fail.

Magic Dice
Use Scrolls: Any non-cleric character with MD can attempt to use Wizard scrolls. If necessary, roll MD (adding any Int modifier to each MD) and on a total of 1 or 2 the spell fails catastrophically.

Spell Damage: When a spell that causes damage is cast, the damage is equal to either half or all of the character's Magic Dice (as noted in the spell description).

Learn Spells: Each level that a character has MD they learn 2 spells of a spell level equal to their number of Magic Dice. [Each "standard" spell level would be divided in half; e.g., Sleep now 2nd level]

[Optional] Magic Points: Each time you advance a level in any class, roll MD adding any Stat modifier to each die. If the new total is higher than your current number of Magic Points, note a new Maximum Magic Points. Magic points are used to cast spells.

Skill Dice
Exploration: Every character can try to do the following things: Climb, Find Traps/Secrets, and Hide/Surprise/Notice. Roll the dice against a static number (some traps are hidden better than others, and some trees harder to climb) or an opposed group's total (such as Surprise vs Notice).

  • Climb: This roll is primarily to determine how quickly you climb. Failure means you cannot climb the surface. You fall for damage (height determined randomly) if all Skill Dice come up 1.
  • Surprise/Notice: Always roll 1d6 (regardless of SD) unless actively on watch/trying to be stealthy.

Trick Moves: Jumping ship to ship from the topgallant? Making your way across rooftops parkour-style? Throwing a grappling hook through a window? Roll Skill Dice.

III. X-Dice: Race/Class Abilities 

Human Fighter:
Deadly Swordsman: Weapon damage equals 1/3 your HD, rounded up.
Killing Stroke: On a natural 20, roll full HD as damage.
Bash Heads: When fighting opponents with 1/3 or fewer the Fighter's HD, make a number of attacks equal to number of HD.

Human Thief:
Backstab: If the Thief is unknown to his target and strikes from behind, add HD to the damage roll.
Thief Skills: Thieves can use their SD for the following skills: Pick Locks, Pick Pockets, Remove Traps, Read Languages.

Human Cleric:
Wisdom: Clerics modify MD rolls with Wisdom.
Learn Spells: Clerics automatically know all spells from the Cleric's Church spell list.
Cleric Scrolls: Clerics can read and cast cleric scrolls.
Turn Undead: Roll MD on the Turn Undead Table.

Human Magic User:
Wands and Staves: Can use Wands and Staves, and make his own.

Spellunker: A Dwarf may roll Skill Dice to: Determine Depth/Slope, Open Doors of Stone, Bypass Traps of Stone.
Hated Foes: Dwarves add a damage bonus equal to their number of HD when fighting Orcs and Goblins.

Hidden Folk: Halflings roll 6d6 SD to Hide or Surprise in natural terrain (unless their actual SD pool is greater than that). They must be alone or only with other Halflings and not wearing metal armor.
No Magic: Halflings never gain Magic Dice, regardless of what classes they take.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Proceduralism vs Inductive Reason

This is a continuation of the conversation initiated by Brendan S. on Proceduralism and continued by Arnold K. on the difference between Proceduralism vs Consensus

If I might compress and summarize the points in those two posts, 

Brendan makes the case that the difference between old school, new school, and indie RPGs are the sorts of procedures the game has stated in the rules. OD&D and B/X have very low-level, granular procedures like determining if a trap is found, or whether an attack hits, but the games do not provide any procedures for actually playing the game. Actions like stocking up on supplies, gathering rumors, and going on adventures are implicit procedures that are passed from gamer to gamer by personal interaction. You might call them cultural procedures.

The new indie RPG scene uses procedures too, but at a higher level. The procedures tell you have to play the game with rules like "Roll dice or say 'Yes'." As Brendan describes, this makes the game easier to pick up just from reading it and you don't need the sort of personal interaction that is necessary to pick up what D&D is about quickly. But the downside is it limits the sorts of games you can play while still being true to the rules.

So far so good.

Arnold then picks up from there and tries to describe the difference between Proceduralsim versus what he calls "consensus" rule making. But personally I don't think this is a useful distinction. It's all procedures. The only question is whether they're in the book or if the group has to make them up on the spot. We call these house rules, and that's hardly a new concept.

So what's this post about? 

The more interesting question to me, when comparing old school, new school, and indie games is when we stop needing procedures entirely and can rely on inductive logic.


Consider that you're playing an elven thief named Mariel. Here are four things you might have Mariel do-
1. Pick up the rock.
2. Throw rock at yonder goblin with intent to harm.
3. Hide the rock under a blanket so it cannot be found.
4. Convince the goblin guards the rock is a valuable bribe. 

What's your chance of success of doing any of these things? 

I would say that the primary difference between old school and indie games is when procedures take over from inductive reason.

Can Mariel pick up the rock?
In old school games this is always answered logically. The rock has a weight and the PC has a Strength score. Absent the use of levers and fulcrums, that's all you need to answer the question Yes or No. If the answer isn't obvious however you fall back to the procedure - make a Strength check. 

Indie Games tend to rely on logic less and procedures more. Maybe a Test of Strength is always required (unless the answer is Yes).

Can Mariel hit the Goblin with the rock? 
Pretty much all games rely on a procedure for combat. The simple reason is that you cannot inductively reason whether you win or lose, because the necessary information (like how well you swing your sword, or if you leave yourself open to a riposte) is not something the players can perceive and argue - the dice reveal this information.

Indie games aren't so different really, but they do tend to use different procedures than old school games. Old school games are more likely to allow the players to use their "player skill" to tip the odds in their favor, perhaps with clever strategy. New school games take this even further, giving more fine grain control over the tactics of combat. Indie games, generally speaking, go the other way and take a more hand-waivey approach to combat. It might be as simple as a single roll of the dice to decide a whole fight.

Looking at the above you might say "Well, it's all procedure then - no real difference". But that isn't so. Old school games still allow for more "logic" then the new school or indie games. A good example would be the improvised use of a non-combat spell or magic item in a combat situation. What would happen if you tricked a dragon into swallowing Daern's Instant Fortress and then yelling the command word? This situation isn't anticipated by the "effects" blurb in the item description so D&D IV rules lawyers might litigate this all to hell, and an indie game that resolves combat by flipping coins wouldn't even allow you try. But in AD&D? Kablooey, I'm thinking.

Can Mariel hide the rock under a blanket?
This is the question where old school and new school games diverge. In an old school game the DM and player would discuss how big the rock is, whether bumps would be obvious, etc. A new school game would probably just roll a Hide or Disguise check.

Will you let us go if we give you this very valuable rock?
Ah, role-playing. Or as D&D IV called it, Social Challenge. DC 28. And that's all I have to say on logic vs. procedure in this category. 


So that's my input about procedure vs inductive logic. Where you draw the line between using one or the other is the key difference between indie and old school.


Actually, my conclusion was a lie. It's all procedure, from start to finish. Even OD&D is 100% procedure. And do you want to know what the old school procedure is?

Use your brain. Look at what your character is (stats, race, class, level) and what tools they have - and figure it out. And if you can't figure it out, roll some dice. Here's some dice-rolling practices we've developed to resolve the more common can't-figure-it-out situations. 

An X-Dice Mechanic for D&D

This is a rough sketch of an idea, not a full implementation. Just putting it down here.

Hit Dice. Every character in D&D, no matter which Edition, has Hit Dice. They're an integral part of the game.

At least since AD&D (and maybe Greyhawk?), different classes have had different size Hit Dice, but originally all classes had D6 HD, and gained them at different rates. Only Fighters got one every level.

What if we built on this original conception, but expand to new kinds of Dice? The first two categories that immediately jump out at me are Skill Dice and Magic Dice.

Classes are now differentiated in two ways - 
1. Classes gain Dice at different rates. Fighters have the most HD, Thieves the most SD, etc.
2. Classes can use their Dice for special abilities. Anyone can "Find Traps", but only Thieves can use their Skill Dice to "Remove Traps". Only Clerics can use Magic Dice to "Turn Undead" and Paladins use them to "Lay on Hands". 

Hit Dice become a more widely applicable mechanic than just rolling Hit Points. Instead they're a general stand-in for your combat ability, and might be used to disarm someone of their weapon, push them over a cliff, or otherwise perform a combat "stunt".

Multiclassing is easy and painless. You simply have the greatest number of dice available to you from any class (not the sum). A Fighter 5/MU 5 would have 5 HD and 5 MD.

Spells effects (such as Fireball damage) are determined by the number of Magic Dice you have, not your level.

More ideas to come as I flesh out the concept.