It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
So in The Black Hack 1e (I haven’t read 2e yet, it just came out) one of the most popular mechanics was the usage die.
Here is how it works. A quiver of arrows has a d10. When you use an arrow, you roll the die. If it’s a 3 or higher, the die stays the same. If it’s a 2 or lower, the die “shrinks” one size, down to a d8. And so on, until the d4 eventually shrinks down to nothing.
Now, three things jump out to me.
Oh, what a fun and interesting little lotto game! Really would be tense & scary like Dread or russian roulette and thus looks appealing to play
Oh and the character sheet has spots where you physically place those dice, that’s super cute and would save on all the scratching out & book keeping
Oh what a unique and innovative and unusual mechanic, really good design
But then as I thought about it some more…
I realized that it’s was one of those killable darlings you hear about. It’s clever but it doesn’t really improve the experience?
It adds a layer of murk. I know, I know, D&D already is a whole mess of murky “what does hp REALLY mean” abstractions. But here we take an aspect of the game that had been super concrete&tangible (how many arrows are in my quiver? how many torches are in my backpack?) and drapes it with a super thick layer of fog and abstraction and lack of clarity.
It doesn’t really make anything simpler. You still have to remember to tick down your torches or arrows, just as you had to remember it before. It doesn’t add any new clear & unforgettable “hooks” into the procedure. It only adds an extra step on top of having to remember to do it.
Now, in The Cthulhu Hack, instead of something physical torches & arrows, the same “usage die” mechanic tracks a super abstract resource (named “flashlights & smokes”) that is used more as some sorta abstract clock. There, I could see the point. Where The Black Hack is needlessly abstracting something that was concrete; The Cthulhu Hack is using an abstraction for something that is abstract. (I think the insight die in Cthulhu Dark works better than the smokes&flashlights dice in TCH but that’s a story for another thread.)
Taking something that was simple and concrete and turning it into something abstract and complicated isn’t always bad. I did the very same thing with my chases rules. We had feet speeds, simple, and I cooked up a heady brew of “escape points” on top of that. Because I had so many intersecting vectors that I wanted to strip away, adapt to a more TotM or “radio play” style of playing than minis. (Or maybe those chase rules also suck and are doomed.)
But I see people using the usage die form TBH in other games. It obv struck some sorta wide appeal. I’m just trying to say… hold on, are we sure that this makes sense?