Dice Mechanics

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This week we have done a lot of work on the addition of a dice roller to allow you to add dice rolls to forum posts!

The work on the dice roller is ongoing, so we won’t go into details about it this week. Instead, we will write a bit about the game-related concept that we are trying to capture with our dice roller.

The role of the Dice Mechanic A lot of role playing system and rule sets include some way to determine the success or failure of an action the Player Character takes. Often, the method chosen for this is to use dice: they are an unbiased and easy way to add randomness to the game.

Looking at a some dice, however, they do not seem directly capable of producing the desired “success” or “failure” choices. Like many, many other dice these feature just numbers:

Selection of dice

Nice dice, but no “success” or “failure” to be seen… This is where the game system’s Dice Mechanic comes in! To go from the face values of a handful of thrown dice to the desired “success” or “failure” choice, the dice mechanic is used to interpret the results of the rolled dice.

As it turns out, there are a lot of ways to interpret a handful of dice. Here we have summarized the basics of four of the dice mechanics we know of — note that these are not necessarily the exact dice mechanics for a specific system, we trying to give an overview, not detail each system.

  • d20 systems As seen in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons 3, D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, and many other systems has at it’s basis the throw of a single twenty-sided die.

    Dice mechanic: Throw a single twenty-sided dice, and add the face value from the die to the roll’s total modifier. If the sum is greater than, or equal to, the difficulty class of the action, the action succeeds.

    Oft-seen variations include rolling 2 twenty-sided dice and taking either the highest face value or the lowest face value, as well as counting the 1 as an automatic failure, and the 20 as an automatic success.

  • Storyteller systems As seen in Vampire: the Masquerade, Exalted 1, Exalted 2, Exalted 3, and many related systems come in many variations. The base mechanic is always the throwing of a “pool” of dice.

    Dice mechanic: Throw a number of ten-sided dice, and interpret each die separately as follows: if it’s face value is greater than or equal to the target number of the roll count the die as a +1 success, if it is not, count the die as 0. If at the end you have gather at least the number of successes required for the action, you succeed.

    There are many variations on this basis, from many different versions and editions of the rule sets: count face value 1 as -1 success, count 0 as +2 successes or count 0 as +1 success but reroll the die to see if another success can be acquired. In older systems the target number is varied, and the number of successes is 1, in many newer systems the target number is fixed and the number of required successes is varied.

  • Savage Worlds tracks a characters traits by improving the dice they throw. Starting out with a four-sided die, they grow to six-sided, eight-sided, ten-sided, and eventually a twelve-sided die.

    Dice mechanic: Throw the die of the type required. If the face value is 4 or higher, the action succeeds. If, at any point, the highest possible face value is rolled, roll again and add the new face value to the result—this is the quintessential “exploding die” that just keeps on going as long as you are lucky.

    Variations: Player Characters and other “wild cards” characters always throw a six-sided die together with their normal trait die, and take the better of the two results.

  • In Nomine using the so-called d666 dice mechanic, a very in-theme name for a game about angels and demons.

    Dice mechanic: throw 2 six-sided dice, and another recognizably different six-sided die (usually of another colour). Add the face value of the first two dice, and compare it to the target number: if it less then or equal to the target number, the action succeeds, otherwise it fails. The different die determines how well the action succeeds, or how badly the action fails.

    In an interesting twist, if the dice come up 666 the results of the action will always benefit the side of the demons, and if the dice come up 111 the results will always benefit the angels—regardless of who rolled the dice!

As you can see, even between these four game systems there is already an enormous amount of variation on how the thrown dice should be interpreted. Because the spectrum of possible dice mechanics is so broad, we take our time and make sure that, when the time comes to implement your favourite game system in RPGpad, we can support the needed dice mechanic as well!

As always, we have this week’s (rather short) changelog ready for you.