I had this idea for a new series on the blog, and thought now might be a good time to launch it. The idea here is to point out mechanics I see in games that are worth paying attention to, or just flat out lifting for your home game. Maybe they don't make a 1:1 conversion, maybe they do. Either way, they provide a way of resolving or representing something at the table I find to be worth while.
Today, for the initial post, I couldn't think of anything I wish I could have in every system more than the Raise mechanic from AEG's Roll and Keep System. With that said, let's talk about Raises and how they can help with any game.
What Is A Raise?
Raises come from the Legend of Five Rings (1st-4th edition) and 7th Sea (1st edition) RPGs published by AEG. 7th Sea 2nd Edition also has raises, but those ones work differently and are not what I am talking about here.
Mechanically, a raise is a way for a player to make a roll harder to achieve in order to get some extra effect. It could be described as "calling your own critical successes" and that is a fair description. With a raise, a character doesn't just hit with a weapon, they do it and deal extra damage. The thief doesn't just lift the purse from the merchant, they also get the secret letter from the duke. The acrobat doesn't just make the daring leap, they land it in perfect pose and even have the time to add a flip or twist to the jump for style.
How It Works
As I said, a raise is a PC making the roll harder to get extra benefit. In L5R and 7th Sea this was done by adding 5 to the target number. The number of raises you could call was limited in L5R by your void - and later by your void or skill - but most people didn't call more than 4 raises with any regularity anyhow. Adding 20 to a TN in a system where you are lucky to be keeping 4 d10s for your results is not insignificant after all.
The big catch to a raise was that it changed the difficulty for the roll completely. You try to swing for extra damage, you miss the raised difficulty but made the original? Too bad, you raised the stakes and lost so you just miss. In trying for more than a base success you failed.
What Can You Raise For?
Honestly, about everything you can think of. Raising for more damage in combat was popular, but there were other maneuvers you could do like disarming your opponent, knocking someone down, protecting a friend, or even attempting another attack with the same weapon.
Outside of combat greater effect, faster results, or just style were also very common. It is always fun to see someone fail a roll because they called raises for style. It is even better though when someone is consistently able to make a task significantly harder and still beat it when all that increased difficulty was just to show off and look good doing it.
How It Ports
Honestly, it ports very easily to a number of systems. In a D20 based game like D&D I'd say a raise would only increase the DC by 2 instead of 5, but how much a raise costs will vary by system anyhow. The big thing it changes is you remove the random "super success" mechanic most games happen, and instead replace it with the player having the ability to call raises in order to get more success.
It changes "if you get one success you succeed, but if you get 4 successes you get even more" to "you can try for a base success, or you can try for even more but at the risk of losing it all." And that decision can be really good for the players and the story. Is something so important you don't risk raising the difficulty to make sure you succeed? Or are you confident enough to try for it all?
The Key Takeaway
The key takeaway for me for raises is how it was described above. Raises let players call their own critical successes. It gives a way for a character with a ridiculous roll to flex those muscles and show just how much better their 15th level Thief is than the 3rd level guard looking for them.
It takes that control away from the RNG and gives it to the player. Do the players need a critical success now? Let them try for it.