... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

1 in 6

Two things in the blogosphere caught my attention today. One was the latest topic in the echo chamber, OSR Marketing. I considered commenting on this, but then I realized that I had nothing I wanted to say about OSR Marketing, other than "I have nothing I want to say about it."

The other was a mysterious Delta blogpost on climbing that seems to have disappeared. Basically, just a conversion of the thief climbing rules from percentile to d6, expanded to apply to all classes (but giving thieves an edge.) It's similar to what I would do, except there's a definite shift in focus and interpretation: under those rules, you roll to see whether the climb is successful.

My approach is not to roll for success, but to roll for unintended consequences. I've hinted at this approach before, especially when talking about "1 in 6" chances: if you can normally do something, but there's a chance something can go wrong, that base chance is 1 in 6; if you can't normally do something, but there's still a chance of succeeding by pure luck, that base chance is 1 in 6. Of course, I modify this a little by rolling two dice and looking for doubles, but it amounts to the same thing.

So, for climbing, if there's a chance of a rope breaking or a stone slipping, then I roll for a 1 in 6 chance. Characters who start to fall can attempt to recover (saving roll,) with thieves getting a bonus based on level and other classes getting bonuses based on what they do to try to save themselves. Most other things are handled the same way:
  • If a character jumps a pit, either the jump is impossible or easy (no roll in either case,) or there's a 1 in 6 chance of falling, with a possible save to catch the edge of the pit.
  • If a character crosses a rickety, decaying rope bridge, there's a 1 in 6 chance it breaks, with a possible save to grab one of the ropes and climb to safety.
  • If a character crosses a frozen river, there's a 1 in 6 chance the ice breaks, with a possible save to jump at the last minute.
Sometimes, there's a possibility of cascading 1 in 6 rolls: ice breaks when crossing the river, successfully jump to an intact part of the ice, but there's another 1 in 6 chance that more of the ice breaks, requiring another save. None of this is a roll to see how competent the character is, but merely a roll to make stuff happen in the game. The effect of competence is to give a character a better chance of getting out of bad situations rather than to avoid bad situations in the first place.


  1. Why do all the OSR start writing rules variants for thieving abilities that end up being quite similar? :D

  2. ... Because thieves were badly designed right from the start, and didn't use the established system for finding traps and sneaking up on people?

  3. Game design aesthetics got better in the last 40 years... :)