Hedrality, is it an issue?

edited October 2012 in Story Games
Hi all

Some of you will know that a gamer buddy and I are working on a game where the resolution mechanic is that the characters always succeed but there will be some negative consequences of their action- being seen and reported on to the Dean/Police etc.- (called demerits). The demerits build up during the game and in the Epilogue get converted into demerit dice, which the GM rolls to decide the ultimate fate of the frat house the characters are members of.

At a skill check the players roll a d6 pool based on their character’s skill point total, with demerits at 1s and 2s. During the last few months of playtesting one or two people have suggested using a different dice or demerit trigger to reduce the demerits a bit. The game is currently regulated by House Points (akin to plot points, style points, bennies or whatever) such that the demerit total can be brought down either by re-rolls and/or reducing the dice pool (which is inversely proportional to the skill point total). I’ve experimented with having demerits at 1s on d6s and 1s and 2s on d8s, instead of 1s and 2s on d6s. The results were interesting. They showed that with only 1s on d6s there were nowhere near enough demerits being produced, but the system worked fairly well with d8s, which is to say that the HPs have less work to do. I’m perfectly happy to go with d8s, but I’m aware that there’s been a bit of a movement away from using hedralities other than d6 unless absolutely necessary.

So, my question is this: would folks prefer a system that uses d8s, where the mechanics work an absolute treat, but you need upwards of 14 dice, or d6s- which obviously most gamers have in abundance, but where the demerit totals are relatively high (but can be brought down using the House Points)? Not everybody will be interested in playing this particular game, obviously, in which case the question is hypothetical, not to say academic, but I’d still like to hear folks’ thoughts.

Can't find a 'create poll' function on this site, so the question would be:
How do you feel about having to (buy and) roll loads of d8s (with an average of around 10-14)?

And the answers:
A: I don't mind rolling lots of d8s if d8s are perfect for the system.
B: I'd rather be rolling d6s, and let the House Points regulate the demerits.


Thanking y’all in advance.
Cheers Leo

Comments

  • It seems to me that option B is a potential opportunity for you as a designer, not a fault in the system. At least I find similar situations a boon in my own design work, as they justify and connect to further mechanical layers, like the House Points in your case.

    That being said, I personally have no problem with d8s, as I've long since committed to owning a sizable dice collection. I play many games that require exotic mixes of dice, a d8 pool system isn't nearly the worst. This is the case with many hardcore hobbyists. You probably should figure out where your market lies - maybe it's here on this site, in which case a popularity poll like this might be helpful. Maybe it is among casual gamers, in which case any pool system is problematic. I would expect that most people who have plenty of d6s are also not above buying some d8s if they don't have them already.
  • Sight unseen, it's hard to say. I do find d8's charming and underused (I feel the same way about d12's), and having to buy a supply of d8's isn't a prohibitive barrier for most gamers, although it might deter new players. It certainly wouldn't bother me, personally.

    Have you figured out an optimal ratio of demerits to dice rolled? It's fairly easy to tinker with sidedness and target numbers once you have that ratio in hand. If your ratio is 1:4, you need either a d4, d8, or d12, if it's 1:3, you need a d6 or d12, and so on.
  • edited October 2012
    Trouble is that buying a ton of d8s increases the entry threshold for your game.

    I don't know whether your system allows some potential for a rule along the lines that, for instance, a 6 cancels out a demerit rolled in the same dice-pool.

    Or would it be too complicated to say, here are the rules for d6s, with a full quote of house points... on the back page are optional rules for using d8s and fewer housepoints, or something like that.

    Depends on your system, the devil is in the detail Leo but obviously you're going to want to keep it ultra-simple for a game like this and a lot of people (not me) just seem to vom at the thought of optional extra rules... {I mean in relation to all RPGs generally}

    Bear in mind though I'm not your target audience...
  • There are free die rolling apps and websites too. Seems to me like the barrier to entry isn't that high.
  • You could also stick with d6 but make twos less bad then ones. If they only offer 0.5 demerits that's about the same percentage as your d8 modell. But that might or might not be two much number crunching.

    You could also offer some kind of consolation price on a two.
  • edited October 2012
    A thought occurred to me overnight which is a simple way to implement this with d6s.

    If you roll a 2, it's a demerit.

    If you roll a pair of 1s in the same pool, each pair of 1s is a demerit.

    Why a pair of 1s? Because 1+1=2 :-)

    [Intuitively you might think it makes more sense for a 1 to be "worse" than a 2, but I think the 1+1=2 makes a nice mnenomic.)

    And it turns out this is quite closely related, as a mathematical idea, to what 1of3 was thinking too.

    Personally I wouldn't rely on die-rolling apps / websites. Sure, for the 16-24 age bracket they might have a similar appeal to dice (variable across the population that age though), but for people our age and up, I think it's a small minority who'd ever use die-roller apps in their games {except for remote-gaming purposes obviously}. I could be wrong. Certainly it doesn't hold the same appeal to me. Personal electronics are just an annoying distraction at the gaming table as far as I'm concerned. I've seen people GM from laptops before and I didn't feel it did anything to assist them - quite the contrary.
  • d6's are getting kind of boring to me. I've wanted a d8-based system since I was a youngster. I just like 'em.
    I do find d8's charming and underused (I feel the same way about d12's)
    That. I used d12's only for Shadow-hack partly for that reason. d4's are kinda cool too, but I find them difficult to pick up off of a table unless you have fingernails.
  • I have roman numeral D12's numbered I-IV. Super-handy for just that reason, Zachary.

  • How do you feel about having to (buy and) roll loads of d8s (with an average of around 10-14)?

    And the answers:
    A: I don't mind rolling lots of d8s if d8s are perfect for the system.
    B: I'd rather be rolling d6s, and let the House Points regulate the demerits.
    If those are the only two possible answers, I guess I'd say A.

    But that's if I really, really, REALLY want to play the game in the first place and am 99% confident that I will indeed be playing it every week for several months at least, because I don't already have a ton of d8s and am honestly not enthusiastic about buying 10-12 more of them just for one game that I may or may not be playing a lot of.

    Mind you, based on past experience, that seems pretty unlikely. In which case, B might be a safer bet, since I've already got a bunch of d6s and might not mind playing this game as a one-shot just to see what it's like. Or go with d10s, since I've got a huge-ass pile of those, too.
  • That's dope UserClone! :D

    If you want to stick with d6's, you could always have 2's be Complications and 1's be Consequences. In other words, if you roll a 2, something bad starts to happen but you have a chance to deal with it, whereas rolling a 1 means something bad happens before you can stop it. Just a thought.
  • Thanks for all the comments guys! Before I get into the subject of the OP, I'd just like to say that it's great that so many of you have given the question serious thought. This shows me two things: one, that the roleplaying community is fantastically helpful and supportive and one that I'm really glad to be a part of, and two, that every bit of the mechanics of a game is important and a good designer should consider all the ramifications of an idea before putting the game out.

    So, my reaction so far: it looks like there's plenty of love for d8s ( a lot more than I'd predicted in fact), which, as I said, seem to work best for the system so I'm going to use them for the next round of playtests and see what happens. All along I had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right, because the way I had it before the House Points had to do a lot of work to regulate the system. Also, I’ve tweaked the Hoint Points a bit themselves, so that fewer of them now come to the GM for use in the Epilogue,

    Secondly, folks don't seem to mind buying a lot of dice, although there is some disquiet about rolling lots of. Let me try to allay this worry. Yes, you could be rolling up to 17 dice (if penalty dice are added for various difficulty factors- location, time of day etc.), but this is at very low skill levels; in practice players typically roll 10-12. Also, during playtesting it hasn't been an issue, at least no-one's mentioned it on the feedback forms, and I think this is because there is a lot of excitement at how the result of their characters’ actions will be narrated by the GM- i.e. what's the fall out going to be- and as soon as the dice hit the table players are going uh-oh, four demerits, that must mean blah is going to happen.

    As for the cost, well, I got in touch a while back with a UK-based company about doing some branded dice, and the cost actually turns out to be not that high. Plus, even if after playing SFBK you never want to play another catty_big game as long as you live, you've still got those dice, which you can then use for other games. Somebody mentioned that White Wolf uses a lot of d10s and the use of them is increasing; well, if my game comes out with d8s I think it highly likely that other designers will consider using them too. What I'll probably do regarding publication is to sell the book and say 20 branded d8s (well, some are going to get lost, aren't they?) as a bundle. I think somebody either here or on another forum actually made this suggestion.

    @1o3 & omnifray: yeah, thanks, these are interesting sugestions, but I think because SFBK has an exttremely simple system which facilitates a high degree of roleplaying, I’m reluctant to build in more complexity. There a fair amonut of book-keeping, but only on the GM’s part, and that can be done while the players are having fun wrecking college property, stealing stuff and getti ng off their f-, er, getting every so slightly intoxicated on weird alien pharmceuticals. @Eero: Yes, I agree, tinkering with one part of the system can be an opportunity to revisit other parts of it and improve the game as a result.

    Finally, as we’re now going for 25% chance of demerits, as creases points out, d4s, d8s and d12s are all usable, although if d4s I’d go for the dodec ones as d4 tets are horrible monstrosities which should never have been allowed to come into existence. Ever trod on one in socked feet by mistake? [Shudder].

    Cheers y’all
    Leo

    P.S. I haven't so far spoken to discussions on this forum as much as I'd have liked, mainly because I haven't been roleplaying all that long (two years in November!) so I'm not really qualified to comment as yet except on a theoretical basis.
    P.P.S. Although I’ll carry on jumping into discussions on this and other forums, I’m going to shift a lot of my everyday commentary (and most of my design announcements) to my blog, indiehippo.wordpress (which might eventually become simply indiehippo.com if I can afford Wordpress’s fee to make that so).
  • edited October 2012
    I must have missed your question about rolling 10-14 and up to 17 dice at a time. This would be a turn off for me. In general, if I can't hold the number of dice I'm rolling in one hand, then it's too many dice for me. They end up all over the table and floor, if we're even playing at a table at all. Sometimes we just sit in computer chairs or on the couch. Yes, you could use a digital dice roller, but I find them clunky and there's nothing like rolling real dice. Plus, it's a lot of values that need to be tracked and analyzed. Not my thing, personally.
  • Yeah, I hear what you're saying, but rolling 14 dice is quite a rare occurrence in the game. It's at the lowest skill point level, and so only happens when a player absolutely cannot use their core quality. This in turn means that the player party need to work as a team in order to ensure that at a given point at least one of them will be able to use a core quality.
  • I don't get it. Why do you have to roll 10-12 dice if the only interesting dice are one third of them? Why can't you just make at least two thirds of them interesting and reduce the number of dice rolled instead? (I got the same beef with the Storytelling system where only 40% of the dice are interesting [the ones who succeed].)

    So 3+ gives demerits and you only roll 6d6 instead of twelve. How about that? [probabilities]

    By changing the scale you will get a less complex system.
  • Apologies for the late response guys, I don't have regular access to a computer atm.

    @Rickard: because the range of dice pools replicates the range of skill points. If the maximum is 6dX, the minimum would have to be 1 or 2d, which wouldn't be terribly exciting. (See also my reply to Zachary below).

    @Zachary: a player will typically roll between 8 and 10 dice. You only roll higher if you're using a low power, and therefore there's an incentive for the player party to plan the mission so that at a given skill check they have a good enough spread of core qualities between them. From time to time they will only be able to use a non-core quality but that's quite rare.

    Secondly they can spend House Points (which they get for flavour, a la Ubiquity) to reduce the dice pool before they even attempt the skill check.
  • @Rickard: because the range of dice pools replicates the range of skill points. If the maximum is 6dX, the minimum would have to be 1 or 2d, which wouldn't be terribly exciting. (See also my reply to Zachary below).
    But if you reduce the number of dice, you should also change the scale for everything else. Otherwise my suggestion would be bonkers. A range of 1-6 in difference would be 3-6 instead.

    But 8-10 dice seems OK, I guess.
  • edited October 2012
    So, from what I can tell, characters always succeed and the more skillful you are, the less dice you'll be rolling to potentially produce negative effects. If you have negative conditions also coming into play, those are represented by even more dice you roll to see if you get an demerits. The result is huge handfuls of dice being rolled not to determine success or failure, but to determine the number of negative side effects associated with the action. Correct me if I'm wrong here.

    Assuming the above is true, I personally think the methodology is unnecessarily complex. I think the approach needs to be rethought in order to simplify and reduce. Surely there is another procedure that would garner similar results? Could you not roll a single die and use the result to determine the number of demerits? So, an unskilled person rolls 1d12 while a masterful person would roll 1d4? Then House Points could be used to reduce demerits from there?

    Also, what about demerits is fun and interesting? Let's say I roll and get six demerits - how are those interpreted by the fiction and how is it rewarding for the players?
  • edited October 2012
    @Rickard:
    But if you reduce the number of dice, you should also change the scale for everything else.
    Trouble is, we need a reasonably wide range of dice pools in order to reward players using higher level skills. If the range is too narrow, it penalises higher skill use because players with fewer skill points would not then suffer any more hardship than those with more.

    But 8-10 dice seems OK, I guess. Well, if we have a dice pool at all- which we're pretty much committed to now- 8-10 is about the lowest average pool we can get away with without resorting to making a greater proportion of the roll having meaning. And that's not acceptable because a number of our playtesters have expressed concern at the high average levels of demerits per roll, which was what prompted me to suggest a change to d8s in the first place.

    With smaller dice pools I'd have to go back to demerits at 1s and 2s on d6s, if not 1s, 2s and 3s, or 1s, 2s and 3s on d8s even, which would catch even more people in the 'demerits are too high' net.

    @Zachary:
    So, from what I can tell, characters always succeed and the more skillful you are, the less dice you'll be rolling to potentially produce negative effects. If you have negative conditions also coming into play, those are represented by even more dice you roll to see if you get any demerits.
    Correct.
    The result is huge handfuls of dice being rolled
    Incorrect. The typical average roll is 10-12 dice. How can that be in any way described as 'huge handfuls'?!

    Assuming the above is true well, yes and no- see above- I personally think the methodology is unnecessarily complex.
    Dude, it really isn't. With the system as it is, at a given skill check, four things happen, in very short order:
    1. The player adds quality to attribute, 2. They refer to the conversion table (which after a few times they've internalised) for a fraction of a second.
    3. They grab a handful of dice.
    4. They roll the dice.
    What's complicated about that? Also, any other system, whether it be a chart or a table, 2s being 1/2 a demerit, 6s cancelling out 1s etc. etc. would be way more complicated.
    what about demerits is fun and interesting? Let's say I roll and get six demerits - how are those interpreted by the fiction and how is it rewarding for the players?
    Oh, that's an easy one. I'll give you some examples from a recent scenario called A Very Merry Terran Xmas. The party had gone to a nursery to get an Xmas tree. Kraag, the super strength guy, rolled x4 dem, so although he was able to pull up the biggest tree very easily, unfortunately he managed to pull up most of the other trees with it.

    Then Harok (enhanced senses) who was keeping watch, also rolled x4, so, although he didn't see or hear any cars coming from miles around, because he was only asked to check for approaching vehicles, and because he doesn't have eyes in the back of his head, failed to spot the sign saying 'This Section Reserved For Weber College Staff'.

    Given the premise of the game, the players didn't even have to ask me who the big tree that Kraag had pulled up was reserved for. (Clue: the Dean!).
    In a previous session, a player had 'botaniported' (a quality the player had come up with himself) into a rose bush, at about the same time that the Dean's dog was being walked by a college servant. And what did the dog do? Well, suffice to say the PC was a bit wet afterwards.

    So, if you like that kind of anarchic fun, trust me, the last thing you'll be thinking about while playing the game is whether or not all the dice will fit into your hand :)
  • edited October 2012
    Posted twice, again.
  • edited October 2012
    @Zachary:
    I hope my last post didn't sound as if I'm being intransigent. I really do listen to what people are saying and scrutinise the feedback sheets very carefully after every playtest, following up each one with a debriefing session with Dan, my co-writer (who's too busy with his day job to do a lot of commenting on forums).

    If opposition to the dice pool sizes proves implacable then we'll obviously have to tweak them, I'm just trying to get across how unconcerned our playtesters have been by the issue thus far.
  • edited October 2012
    Posted twice by mistake :s
  • edited October 2012
    Fair enough. And I'm not trying to diss your system or anything, so we're all good. I like stuff and you like stuff. No worries! :D

    "Huge handfuls" is a matter of opinion, I guess. To me, anything more than six dice in my hand is a large amount of dice. 17, though rare as you say, is a huge handful to me. But, if you like it that way, who am I to tell you not to? If it were up to me, though, I would find a way to produce similar results without needing to roll so many dice.

    On the topic of demerits, I understand that they are interpreted into negative side-effects. But how? How does 4x turn into "so although he was able to pull up the biggest tree very easily, unfortunately he managed to pull up most of the other trees with it."

    More importantly, how does the number of demerits affect the side-effect? How would that scenario be different if he rolled 3x or 5x demerits? That's what I mean by how are they interesting - what's the significance of each additional demerit?
  • edited October 2012
    "Huge handfuls" is a matter of opinion, I guess. To me, anything more than six dice in my hand is a large amount of dice. 17, though rare as you say, is a huge handful to me.
    Yeah, I hear you. In order to answer that I think I should explain how the House Points work. As I said earlier, at a skill check, players convert their skill points to dice pool totals. If they’re using their core qualities, they’re rolling about 8-10 dice. If they can’t use a core quality they’ll be rolling more. However, they will be given House Points throughout the game (for awesome plot ideas and roleplaying) to spend on re-rolls and dice pool reduction, with 1HP reducing the pool by two and 2HP reducing it by three. After the roll, 1HP will allow them to re-roll only the demerits and 2HP the entire pool.

    Now this means two things: first, they need to co-operate as a player party so that during the various tasks that go to make up their overall mission- if it’s planning a party this will involve getting hold of supplies, both legal and illegal, ****ing over the Dean in some way and cooking up other cool shizz- they have to carefully work out where to go and what to do, and who should go on each errand such that core skills will be used most of the time. Secondly, they need to make optimum use of the HPS, of which they each have individual ones that they can burn, and a player party pile, which when used go to the GM to enhance his/her dice roll at the Epilogue. The system is thus very finely balanced so that a certain range of demerit totals is generated, cool roleplaying is rewarded and no one needs to roll more than about ten dice during the entire game (if they don’t want to; in a playtest on Tuesday one of the players was so enthused with the idea of the demerit narration that he was actually trying to roll high).

    The only other factor is the three difficulty levels: time, location, and being spotted by a named NPC, which is what can potentially turn 14 dice into 17, but tbh I rarely apply them. I do penalise overuse of powers, but I tend do that by pre-adding demerits to the eventual total rather than adding dice to the pool. In fact, pre-loading demerits is something that we could use for the difficulty levels instead of adding dice, although the players seem to like the concept of dice being added, perhaps because it's something they can physically see happening.
    On the topic of demerits, I understand that they are interpreted into negative side-effects. But how? How does 4x turn into "so although he was able to pull up the biggest tree very easily, unfortunately he managed to pull up most of the other trees with it."

    More importantly, how does the number of demerits affect the side-effect? How would that scenario be different if he rolled 3x or 5x demerits? That's what I mean by how are they interesting - what's the significance of each additional demerit?
    Ah, now this is a very interesting question. Simply put, the demerit narration is fairly subjective. The demerit totals are mainly important for calculating the demerit dice that the GM rolls at the end of the game to determine the ultimate fate of Alien House, so there’s no official table of how to narrate them. However, the average roll is 3.8, so if this is related to the five Final Outcome levels, a roll of 4 would be FO3, where AH is saved but only by a whisker. Five is a bit worse, and six is worst of all. Seven plus doesn’t make the overall outcome much worse but will lead to an individual penalty for that PC even if AH is saved and gets to be in the parade etc. (In fact, I’m considering making 7s automatic re-rolls).

    Thus, the demerit narration is one of the challenges for the GM: they need to be able to come up with side effects that are both cool and sound reasonable for the level of the demerits rolled. A lot of the narration comes from the players themselves; when the first player asked me ‘Can I narrate the complication?’ I said ‘Sure, go ahead’ as it meant he was getting into the game and grokked the principle of it. Speaking to the example of the Xmas tree: in fact, that was perhaps a bit too much for 4 dem, but the player liked the idea so that was ok. With 3 dem he would probably only have pulled up one or two of the other trees, and with 1-2 dem he would have just left a few oversized footprints that would eventually be partially covered with snow so that although he would be strongly suspected of having been there it wouldn’t have amounted to firm proof.
  • edited October 2012
    If you'd like an objective opinion for constructive criticism, I don't believe that the current level of complexity is necessary to produce the results that you and your play-testers are finding enjoyable, but hey, if you like it that way, more power to you. If your goal is to create a system for you and your friends, cool beans. If your goal is to get players outside of your circle interested in your game, I would suggest finding a way to produce the same (or similar) enjoyable results without the large dice pools, point tracking and spending, and subjective nature of how demerits effect the fiction. The simpler the mechanics are, the easier it will be to facilitate the game and get to (what I understand is) the actual fun part - authoring the fiction influenced by the results of the mechanics.

    Consider this - are the play-testers having fun because they like rolling a bunch of dice and spending points to re-roll or buy away extra dice? Or are they having fun because they like authoring the complication implied by the results of the mechanics? (Best to actually ask them as opposed to inferring).
  • edited October 2012
    If you'd like an objective opinion for constructive criticism
    Yep, happy to accept objective criticism: far from being negative, constructive criticism helps improve the product and so is in fact positive.
    If your goal is to get players outside of your circle interested in your game
    Yes it is, but in fact we left alpha behind a long time ago. It’s been in public beta since March this year.
    Consider this - are the play-testers having fun because they like rolling a bunch of dice and spending points to re-roll or buy away extra dice? Or are they having fun because they like authoring the complication implied by the results of the mechanics?
    Well, fairly obviously the latter. I don’t think anyone actually likes particular dice mechanics, mostly they don’t care, they just don’t like them if they think that they’re hindering the roleplaying or messing up the game in some way. So I think it’s safe to assume that unless they actually say ‘Man, this dice system is pants’ then they don’t dislike it. But
    Best to actually ask them as opposed to inferring.
    Will do :).

  • edited October 2012
    I totally commend your open-mindedness! Good to see you can take criticism gracefully :)

    Well, fairly obviously the latter. I don’t think anyone actually likes particular dice mechanics, mostly they don’t care, they just don’t like them if they think that they’re hindering the roleplaying or messing up the game in some way. So I think it’s safe to assume that unless they actually say ‘Man, this dice system is pants’ then they don’t dislike it. But
    I dunno. There are plenty of dice systems that I actually do enjoy engaging with. A lot of people have championed the "System Matters" perspective. I would definitely advise against creating a dice system that people simply don't dislike. I would hope that you like the dice system you're creating as opposed to not disliking it.
  • I guess I'm possibly revealing my own attitude there, which on the whole is, if I'm enjoying myself and can't 'see' the system whirring away then I don't care. Equally, if I can see the system at work but I'm not happy with bits if it, it's not necessarily a problem; I tend to think the designer knows better than me and probably knows what he/she's doing. A good e.g. of this would be the shaken mechanic in Savage Worlds, which the (tame?) world and his/her goldfish seem to endlessly bellyache about. But I figure it must be there for a reason, right? I mean, surely Shane Hensley wasn't just luxuriating in his bath one afternoon, lazily srcubbing himself and eating grapes, and suddenly thought 'Ah, shaken, that's a good idea. Hm, yes...', before tossing away the grape pips and sinking beneath the bubbles.
  • That's an interesting perspective. I don't know that it's a good perspective to bring in to your design theory, but I guess we'll see how it affects your work.
  • edited October 2012
    Well I do try not to let my personal feelings influence my game design, because clearly one's own opinions may vary either a bit or drastically from those of other people, which is why external playtesting is so important.
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