Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do You Dream In Percentiles?

My buddy Paul & I often talk gaming systems. We're both tinkerers, happy to discuss how to port Weapon A or Concept B from this game to that. What I find interesting is the "numbers language" we both use.

Paul is a die-hard d20 guy. He's got d20 books out the yin-yang, and he's had a hand in a few of the supplements from the wild n' woolly early days of the GSL. He still enthusiastically plays and supports the 3/3.5e era rules. When he talks about bringing in an item or creature from a novel or movie, his default mode of thought is d20 attributes and rules--STR, DEX, HP, AC, and so on. He's able to stat things for a variety of systems, but he starts by relating it to d20.

I come from systems such as Palladium Fantasy and Rolemaster, which use percentile dice (partially and near-completely, respectively). I tend to put things in terms of percentiles and percentile bonuses. I do this in my head, before I translate it into whatever system we're using or discussing. We know another guy who's hardcore into GURPS--I'd say he's perhaps played 90% of his games over the years under some sort of GURPS umbrella, and when he talks gaming, it starts by being couched in GURPS terminology and concepts.

As gamers in general, I believe we tend to frame things in terms of the system we grew up on, or with which we're the most comfortable. Since many of us started with D&D, D&Disms seem to be the lingua franca for our hobby, albeit a hodgepodge mongrel of one, grabbing from this edition and that into some combined assumption of what D&D is.

I wonder how I'd look at things more differently if I'd started with a form of D&D. Even now, after years of 3.5 and Rules Cyclopedia, when I'm statting things out, it's my Gamescience percnetiles that are dancing through my head. I know when I first really got into the how, what, and why of D&D, some of the terms used were like a foreign language--I didn't share some of the assumptions of others as far as what a certain party composition meant, what a certain monster encounter indicated, or some of the context of terms.

Here's a little exercise: think up a character concept. Then start adding defining attributes. Do you begin to stat him or her in any specific system?


Rob Lang said...

Until recently, I thought always in Icar, which is percentile for skills and D10 for stats. There's also a Deviant Wheel in Icar, which represents the character's personality. It's not required mechanically, it's a guide for and the players.

As a GM, I don't actually use the character creation system that much. I see others (players) doing it and I do assist but I can't say it's a bit of the rules I frequent. Oddly, I believe (as in without any empircal study) it's one of the most important bits of a book.

Gleichman said...

If it's fantasy, I'll think in Age of Heroes terms. If anything else, I'll immediately think in terms of HERO System.

That may change, I recently did a draft Star Wars supplement for AoH and was rather surpised at how well it worked.

Blotz said...

I used to think in Hero system a lot.
Lately its been 3.5 d&d, because thats the only thing we've played in years.

Tim said...

Like others, for me it often depends on the genre. If it's fantasy, I would probably think in terms of C&C, but only because I've been getting into that more lately; if it were Sci-Fi I would likely think in terms of Battlestar or Traveller.

Olman Feelyus said...

I used to be 3.x but now I've played so many different systems, without any one truly taking precedence that I was not able to answer your question. I need to know which system it will be before I can start thinking of my character in game terms.

thanuir said...


My scale is poor - mediocre - average - good - far too good, unless the character is very extreme.

clash bowley said...

Even though I played (A)D&D for twenty years, I generally think in StarCluster terms, but since we've played a lot with the StarPool variant, sometimes it's percentiles and sometimes it's dice pools. The other variants - Risk Dice, Diceless, D20, JAGS dice - haven't become completely natural to me yet. For character creation, though, there is no real difference. The characters are described in exactly the same terms.


Chris said...

For scifi/modern games I think in terms of Cyberpunk's Interlock (of all things). The 1-10 scale just sits right with me after years of playing that and Fading Suns.

For fantasy though it's D&D/d20 that's my mental default.

Excellent article btw.

HinterWelt said...

Honestly, I think in terms of what ever system is at hand. If we are talking about WoD then its pips and ranking stats, if we are playing Iridium, then it is 1-20 ... or d100. Mostly, when I am thinking character I am thinking setting. A Pendragon character and a Palladium Fantasy character will be radically different characters long before I think stats and both are fantasy settings.

Ryan said...

I'm in the "depends on the source" camp. For instance, when I was playing through Resident Evil 4, I kept mentally converting things into the core World of Darkness system. When I see something fantasy, my brain switches to some incarnation of D&D. Sci-fi, oddly enough, becomes GURPS...which is odd because if I ran a sci-fi game I would likely not use GURPS.

Dwayanu said...

When it comes to probabilities, I tend to think in terms of percentiles or (much more unusually, I gather) ratios such as 5:8 that might be represented (in this example) with a notional "d13."

One neat thing about d% is that it gives "close enough" approximations of most other approaches. If I really need to account for smaller chances, I can add a third die for d1000.