Friday, October 16, 2020

Action Rolls

 It's well known in the OSR that skills are dangerous in that they tend to cause power creep and a drop in player agency. There's a slippery slope from thieves to spot-check rolls and many people choose not to have thieves in their games for this reason at all.

Thieves are one of my favorite character types, so I can't just let them go. Instead, I choose to change how I handle player actions.

Instead of having skill rolls or ability checks you have action rolls. The base level of action rolls is 1-in-6. If the player wants to do a thing and we're not really sure let's throw for 1-in-6, which is roughly 15%.

If we think there's a good chance then 2-in-6, if it's 50/50 we'll do 3-in-6. Above that I don't see much of a point in rolling. If the players have done enough work of convincing me they have a 4- or 5-in-6 chance of succeeding I'll generally just give it to them, unless they seem like they really wanna throw some dice about it. Sometimes in these cases it's better to just have the affected party roll a save to see if they avoid negative effects.

Sometimes bonuses are given for action rolls. Elves have a naturaly 3-in-6 (or +2 bonus) to searching for secret doors. Maybe if you can convince me your background helps you at an action roll we'll add a a bonus and raise it to 2- or 3-in-6.

Unlike skills players don't generally get better at their action rolls. Any bonuses are determined by character type and they're mostly set in stone. Maybe this changes, if the Fighter is taken in and trained in woodland survival by the League of Rangers or whatever, but this isn't common and is more of a treasure (character sheet adjustment) than a skill path.

These work pretty well, too, in place of ability checks. Add your ability modifier. Instead of a 1-in-6 your +2 Wisdom lets you roll for 3-in-6. Good odds! 

Though often I tend to lean towards the Apocalypse World thing w/ 2d6+mod because it gives you a nice curve and a gradient of possibilities, instead of a binary success/fail. Maybe you succeed your dive off the balcony, but you miss the rope and end up dangling from a chandelier.

Anyway, I don't like to rely on too many different kinds of rolls because I want my players to get a feel for what kind of odds their actions have. If they're fairly confident they can guess what I'll ask them to roll they get a better feel for being 'in' the world.

Plus, the less mechanisms I have to explain the better!

1 comment:

  1. "if something is better than 50/50 rolls, it makes no sense to be rolling anymore"

    That's the core thing I keep for studying further