Friday, October 23, 2009

Fate and d6 minus d6

The game I just mentioned in my last post was using a modified version of the Fate system. I have a quick observation on the mechanics.

We used a strange 2d6 roll instead of Fudge dice. One d6 was a positive die, the other negative, so a roll could range from +5 to -5. You add your aspects and skills to that. I've seen this mentioned as an optional rule in other Fate products.

Thing is, getting a +4 bonus on a skill is pretty big investment on your character sheet for a starting character. Which meant in an opposed roll, the guy who spent everything on this given skill might roll a total of -1, while the person who has no skill in it gets a lucky roll and +5 total. That's just really swingy. Not horribly broken, but yet, it made it feel like our skill specialities and character niches didn't really matter. Next time I play Fate, I'll definitely argue for the Fudge dice version.


Dr Rotwang said...

I think that I'd go with the Fudge on Fate games, as well -- not just because of this, but also because...well...less math.

rbbergstrom said...

Follow up thoughts:

I'm not sure the fudge dice are really an improvement. They're definitely different, but they have some issues of their own.

On d6-d6, about 44.45% of your rolls will be a +1, +0, or -1 net. At the extremes, a +4 or +5 only happens 8.34% of the time

On 4dF, about 60.48% of your rolls will be a +1, +0, or -1 net. At the extremes, a +4 only happens 1.23% of the time.

Those numbers are different, but not really different. The odds of a really swinging roll went up, but most rolls are still going to hover around +0.

I suspect the real culprits in what I wasn't liking about the dice mechanics have nothing to do with the dice or the published rules of the game. We had some big house-rules in play, and I just hadn't noticed because I didn't know the default system well enough.

We were using a house-rule that short-cut through the character creation process. PCs could define their stats on the fly. We had a +4, two +3s, three +2s, four +1s, and five +0s. That was enough skills and skill slots that if you ended up in PVP (which 2.5 of the 3 sessions were all about), you could be certain that whatever skill was being rolled, even if it was your character's specialty, the opposition was also going to be really good at it too.

We were also using a house rule where the other players defined your Aspects for you. Which meant you had no control over what your character's non-skill elements were.

Lastly, we were playing aspects and fate points as giving +2 to a roll when used, instead of the more subtle and nuanced effects in the Fate rulebook.

This conglomeration of house-rules killed the concept of character niches. When a conflict broke out between two characters, they'd both fill in the relevant skill at +3. Neither would have an aspect to invoke, but we'd always have 3 or 4 fate points, because the GM was handing them out like water. So we'd each spend 2 fate points on the roll (for +4). Skill level and character concept just ended up meaning nothing.

Had I realized at the time how much the game was house-ruled, I wouldn't have misidentified the cause of the trouble. I just hadn't read the default Fate rules in so long, that I didn't catch what was actually making it so frustrating.