Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Luck Die

One of my favorite aspects of the new Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG is the dice system. While ordering specialty dice for a game does suck, the dynamics this system adds into normal play can not be overlooked. This is especially true for what I've started to call the "double response" results you get from the dice. Today I want to talk about it, and some ways that we could easily add it to other games.

How It Works
It works fairly simply. When rolling dice you get one of six possible results: Success, Advantage, Triumph, Failure, Threat, and Despair.

A success and a failure are easily enough understood. A triumph and a despair are basically "critical" success and failures - and ultimately break down as a success + X Advantage or a failure + X Thrreat. Finally, an Advantage or Threat is where the goodness is at.

See, more than just rolling for success and failure the player is effectively rolling for luck as well. It is possible, and even common, to fail a roll but have a number of advantages still come out of the situation and vice versa. This helps the GM use a success to all add to the tension of the scene, or to mitigate the cost of a failure with some benefit to it. Honestly, it's best to do this with examples to show what I mean so let's cut to that.

The Examples

Success w/ Threat
Say a character wants to tackle a guard to grapple them and keep them occupied. They roll the dice and come up with a success but several threat. As the GM you can thus rule that the player successfully tackles the guard to the ground but that in the fall his commlink comes out of his pocket and rolls down a nearby drop where it is lost.

In other words, the player has the guard on the ground but won't be able to communicate with the rest of the party unless they replace their commlink. A new obstacle has been placed, and it came dynamically out of the die roll.

Failure w/ Advantage
Later in the adventure another character is putting suppression fire down over an area and covering the parties escape. The player rolls and she fails, but gets a number of advantages. As the GM you rule that she misses her target but a stray bolt hits the door controls behind the Storm Trooper and seals them shut. The party is still in combat, but at least the enemy is cut off from reinforcements.

In other words, they failed but something good still happened. Also dyanmic.

A Different Way Of Thinking
What I love about this is that it means as both a player and a GM you can't think of dice rolls as just binary things. It isn't just success and failure. Success and Failure is important, but other things can happen as well. As a GM this can enable you to really make action sequences cinematic and fun and it all happens naturally with the dice. Player gets advantages then something good happens. Player gets disadvantages? Something bad.

But What About Other Games?
So how would you add this to other games? Well, it's simple really. you add a luck die or luck dice. Fudge dice work great for this as they're very simple in their results. Something is either Negative, Neutral, or Positive. Assign that to the type of luck and go with it. Don't have Fudge dice? Well, you could just use a D10. Anything 1-3 is bad luck (1 being the worst) while 8-10 are good luck (10 being the best) and 4-7 are neutral.

However you do it this is something to bring up with your players first. Not every group, or every game, needs to have a mechanic like this in it. Still, it can be a great way to add a bit of extra flavor to a scene that is already going.


  1. Or you could implement this without using a second die.

    A critical success is a "yes, and" or triumph
    A success is a "yes" or success
    A success right on the money is a "yes, but" or threat
    A failure by one is a "no, but" or advantage
    A failure is a "no" or failure
    A critical failure is a "no, and" or despair

    This mechanic can be added to almost any rpg where dice are used to determine success and failure.

  2. Very true, Jim. That was another method I had thought of and am not sure why I dropped it come writing time. The only problem with it though is that doesn't have the possibility for their to be a Yes but Extreme Bad Luck or No but Extreme Good Luck.

    You could also do it off with the ones place for any system that regularly rolls with D10, or divisible by 10 dice. Lots of ways to do it.

  3. I'm a fan of FFG's Story Dice. I was skeptical of a publisher necessitating special dice for a game, but I was still somewhat intrigued by the concept. I'm in a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire campaign now, and I've gone from intrigued to a bit hooked.

    I will say, I think they're an advanced RPG tool & therefore put pressure on the GM. However, if he's up to it, there's an awfully lot of potential there. Enough so, that I feel like I have no choice but to seriously consider running some SW: EoE at some point. It also make me want to try some Warhammer Fantasy, which uses its own version of story dice.