Roleplaying Games Should Be Fun

The fun of gaming

Sample Resolution Mechanics

Posted by Brett on February 22, 2009

I’ve been thinking about some games recently, particularly of the D20 style game (D&D et al.) and how they resolve the mechanics of the game using a die roll. A single die roll usually. I find this to be a particularly elegant system for a heroic game where big success and big failure are relatively equal. I’ve also thought about other mechanics, like rolling multiple dice (d6 Star Wars for example) where you roll multiple dice. Depending on the system this is going to produce one of two results, a bell curve or a Bucket O’ Dice. Both are equally desirable depending on the game system and its stated goals.

The question is how are these two things related to the fun of the system. The simple answer is that they are as fun as you make them. I personally find roll 30d6 rather annoying as far as resolution mechanics go, which the WEG version of Star Wars was notorious (fairly or not) for allowing. The reason for that is that its too much at the table work. If you’ve played Warhammer Fantasy Battles or Warhammer 40K you know what its like to attack with a squad of 50+ greenskins, and that’s not even adding the results together. Still, there is a certain charm to dropping a bucket of dice on the table and hoping for the best, I do love rolling dice, no matter how crazy the results seem.

A bell curve is the preferred method of games like GURPS, which tend towards somewhat more human results. A fairly typical bell curve attempt is 3d6 and add to a target number. This will net you results of 3 to 18 with average of 10 or 11 depending on how you round. This means that most results will end up around 10 or 11, with only 1-in-216 results being 3 or 18. Like most humans the results tend towards the middle, which works for system attempting to model that level of reality.

That doesn’t answer our question of fun though, what does answer the question of fun is that the system of resolution needs to represent what you the gamer need it to represent. So for a game that needs big spectacular effects you might want to choose the Buck O’ Dice method, for games leaning towards a more humanly plausible result maybe trying for a bell curve is right for you. For me I like single roll a d20 and add some numbers, because its fast and simple.

Now I’m sure that I’ve missed quite a few resolution mechanics for any number of games (I understand Dead Lands use playing cards of example), but I like dice and I don’t know enough about those other games to make any comment on them. But I will leave you all with a question. What is your favourite resolution mechanic? Tell me why in the comments and we’ll see what we all have to share.

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2 Responses to “Sample Resolution Mechanics”

  1. I suppose I prefer d20, because I mostly want the resolution completed quickly. That way there’s a short buildup (shaking the die), a hold your breath moment (the die is cast), a reaction moment (yay or boo), and move on to the next player. Keeps it moving, no stopping for counting.

    This may also be why I like PC RPGs. All that is done in the background and I never even have to see it.

  2. Tommi said

    4e D&D often has people rolling many dice. Skill challenges and combats are both methods of resolving one thing (combat or whatever is at stake in the skill challenge) with several dice, hence reducing the random factor by emphasising character skill (rolling several dice) or player skill (tactical choices in 4e combat).

    Me, I can’t name a single preferred way of rolling dice. It depends on the game and how characters are quantified and if there should be character advancement and plenty of other factors.

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