Rog Dolos: “I am an independent game developer taking a hedonistic approach to game development: I make what I am driven to make and that keeps me happy. I have a strong preference for cooperative / collaborative gameplay.”
Dice mechanics have some nifty, ominous names. What the hell do all these mean and why do I bring them up? … Oh… wait first I should give the pitch…
The Pitch:Apparata Kitbash is a game for people who love rolling dice! For players who enjoy complexity but don’t want to spend game-time crunching numbers, looking up tables or digging through manuals. At least not at the table when you are playing the game.
Now that’s out of the way, what sort of dice mechanics will Apparata Kitbash use? I could shout “all of them!” but honestly I don’t just dump any mechanic into the game, even though it’s referred to as a kitbash. Maaaaybe most of these will get squeezed in, even if some are just assigned to a solitary spell.
Here are some that I am considering:
This is just a phrase for players rolling dice and knowing what their results mean, without waiting for a back-and-forth response-loop from the GM.
Most often applied to to-hit rolls against a monster’s AC. This removes mystery, but it speeds up games considerably.
If you roll the maximum side of a die, roll it again and add the totals together. Causes damage rolls to sometimes hit the stratosphere, especially with the effect stacking across multiple dice. A potentially compounded critical-roll.
I believe Savage Worlds and Open Legend (I haven’t played either, I admit) both use Exploding Dice. Also known as “Acing” dice or the “rule of 6”. Combat systems really need to be catered to it and you wouldn’t be able to apply 5E’s “bound accuracy” since numbers can go right off the chart. Must be exciting though, right?
I wouldn’t apply this to general combat or skill tests, but I may assign it specifically to suitable spells.
You have a score written down and you roll (usually a d20) to increase that score. If your roll result is higher than what was previously written, you either increase the score by 1 or you adopt a new score with the dice result.
The score-increase-by-1 variation of this system is in The Black Hack, for increasing player stats each level-up and I am considering using it in a similar way. I have not yet decided whether to make base stats go up by 1 or by the dice result, nor have I decided how many attempts they would get per level (The Black Hack rolls all stats each level, but I would limit that). I’ll make a full post on this, once I’m ready to test it.
This mechanic is used for items with a limited number of charges, or a durability for an item that might break. The item may have originally been marked with something like a d10 and when you use that item (a good example is a torch) you roll that die and if it comes up with a low result (usually 3 or less) then it has gone down in charges and you move to the next lower dice (a d8, then a d6, eventually last to a d4) for next time.
The idea here is to create tension, because rather than knowing the exact number of uses, it’s a chance to degrade. Also known as “Usage Dice” or “Risk Dice”. Again inspiration comes from The Black Hack and the author suggests using this system sparingly (too much tension breaks).
I am not sure if I will use Descending Dice at all, unless I wanted to make weapons run durability tests after combat. Hmm.
A GM or player hands a die to another player, to assist with the total of their roll. It could be used on the spot, or saved until later. There are usually limits on how many of these dice can be held, often just one.
5E uses this mechanic for “Bardic Inspiration” and many DMs have house rules that DM-Inspiration also use a physical die (rather than Advantage, which is described below).
I love Boost Dice and I’ve already determined that for Apparata Kitbash I will be handing out a Boost Die every time a player critically fails (d20 natural-1), to offset the downsides of critical fumbles. Incoming article on this one soon.
Advantage / Disadvantage:
Advantage: Roll two dice and take the higher die.
Disadvantage: Roll two dice and take the lower die.
I love Advantage as well, it’s one of the best elements I would shameless use from 5E. The psychology on this is so strong, it feels so significant to roll two d20s. The math for Advantage / Disadvantage works out to +/- 3.325.
A dice roll resolves in three possibilities: Full Success, Partial Success and Failure.
Apocalypse World popularized the idea of a partial success and I really enjoy it. In some games it feels a bit punishing though. Also known as Mixed Success. I will write a full post on this topic, but in a nutshell Apparata Kitbash will be using a d20 variation of this for combat rolls.
This phrase is just about using a die to keep track of a score, either counting downwards or upwards. Many oversized d20s have their number-side placements in descending order to make this easier to do.
No idea if I’ll use this to track anything. Probably not, I prefer tokens, but I may make optional rules.
Apply a modifier to a roll total, from either stats or a weapon-property (+2 Vorpal Sword).
This is a bog-standard system that almost every player expects in a tabletop RPG, but one that I will be trying my best to avoid for Apparata Kitbash. I would rather roll dice, add them together and that’s that. In most cases I will translate modifiers into additional dice.
Since I have mentioned games that have inspired me, I should list links. I do not claim any sort of endorsement from these:
The Black Hack - by Peter Regan, is available on DMSGuild for just $2. It’s an OSR (Old-School Revival), attempting to capture that early first edition feeling. The entire OSR field is filled with innovative ideas.
Apocalypse World - by Lumpley Games (David Vincent Baker), has spawned hundreds of other games “Powered by the Apocalypse”, including the very popular Dungeon World by Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel.
And of course 5th Edition, which I’m sure you can find everywhere. =)
If you know of any other clever dice-related mechanics / resolutions, please do let me know! This is far from a comprehensive list. Also, it’s possible I’m not using all of my terminology exactly-correctly, so feel free to correct me. I can be contacted as @NecroRogIcon on Twitter.
I like games with physical, tangible elements: rolling dice, playing cards, tracking with tokens or coins, and moving minis around a map.
When I started DMing I found myself crafting maps, handouts of various notes / signs, potion jars, my own style of spell cards– I felt compelled towards homebrew rules using dice in place of other calculations– That led to my core design principle for Apparata Kitbash: Making a game with the complexity and depth of a classic tabletop RPG, but with as many physical interactions as possible to resolve actions.
I like pen and paper, but I love dice and cards.
There will still be character sheets, with stats to roll and determine during the character-creature stage of a campaign. Less calculations during gameplay. During combat or skill tests, players will likely be adding dice rather than modifiers.
5E Homebrew Examples:
DM-granted Inspiration at my table was similar to Bardic Inspiration: I handed out little 12mm d6 dice (fancy Chessex dice, because DM blessings should look awesome). No marks on sheets or tracking with an app. A little die in front of you, begging to be rolled and used up.
Paladins have a class-heal that subtracts from a pre-set pool of points, but rather than tracking those points I just give the player a comparable pool of those little d6 dice (red ones in this case). They roll-to-use-up those dice piecemeal for heals. The calculation isn’t the same, but it’s close enough and IMHO a lot more fun, especially if they hand out the dice themselves to let the other players roll their own heals as they occur.
For Apparata Kitbash:
Every ability, feature or feat I design will be on playable cards, just as spells will be. There will be mini-decks as well, which would be comparable to table lookups. Some mechanics will have instructions for handing out dice (dice pools of that sort will usually be d6, because those tiny dice are cheap and fun).
For dice or tokens that expire or get used up from pools, a cup-container in the middle of the table is convenient for discards.
What are the downsides? Printing, cutting out cards. Dice and tokens to purchase. It’s old-school at-the-table stuff, although online paradigms are possible for systems like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds (not yet my priority though).
I will manage the printing+cutting burden by making a limited core set of rules, abilities and spells for the base game. DMs can add from sets of modular optional rulesets / mechanics that I will also create, or homebrew their own. I will be distributing files to print in PDF form. I do not have plans to ship the game as a hardcopy (book or boxed), but who knows down-the-road if that ever seems feasible.
The Norship is a massive generational starship, that has been travelling for many years. Initially launched by the Nor (a humanoid race), it is now inhabited by a host of beings including the Nor as well as multiple tiers of Apparata (robots), a curious collection of Mythological creatures and even (G)nomes.
The Nor inhabit the interior of the central sphere of the Norship, which spins for gravity making it habitable many layers deep along its equator. The inner ring around the sphere was originally intended as a docking and maintenance ring, but it is now mostly abandoned and holds a sparse population of (G)nomes. The inner ring connects to the arm that extends to the solar sail, both of which are maintained by the (G)nomes and small service-bot Apparata. The larger outer ring contains the Norship’s vast forests, now overgrown and commonly referred to as either the forest ring or the Wild Belt. Most of the Mythologicals live within the Wild Belt.
Most of The Norship’s denizens are aware they are on a starship, but the meaning of that concept has changed over time: For many it is simply the world in which they live. Few are aware of its exact size or how the Norship technically operates. Even fewer have any idea of its eventual destination, which may yet be many millennia away.