Monday, December 13, 2010

The Chance For A Critical

I'm currently reviewing several books from the BASH! line of RPGs, which has an interesting core mechanic. You roll 2d6,multiply by the relevant attribute (usually between 1-5), and that's your result. Where it gets interesting is that if you get doubles on the 2d6 rolls (two 2s, two 3s, two 5s, etc.), you roll another dice. If it matches, the first two, you roll again, and continue to do so until it doesn't match. So, on one hand, you might end up with a roll of (4+3)x3, or you might end up with (5+5+5+5)x3. It's a huge big range that keeps seriously high rolls rare, but not unduly so. I can see why they picked it for simple, supers-oriented gaming.

Your day shall come, friend.
It did get me thinking about critical hits and a high range of results. I've touched on this before, but I love games like Rolemaster where rolls are open-ended, and allow for extreme highs and extreme lows. I really appreciate systems where there's at least a chance that you can do a one-shot kill. I've touched on this before, but being able to laugh off 6 battle-axes in the chest is not my idea of heroism; there's no risk.  I'm not going to say I like games where every shot is a kill, but I like my lethality, and I like the idea that on those rare occasions, even the little guy gets his shot in. Yeah, the day normally belongs to Spider-Man and Captain America, but Frog-Man gets his shot, too. Make criticals and high-end hits too rare, or not enough to seriously damage your standard hero, and I think some danger and sense of risk (or hope, depending on your side) goes missing.

I do think it's possible to have systems err too much on the side of criticals; tripping and being impaled by a sharp rock does happen, but if it's a persistent fear in your games, that's probably a little much.


Emmett said...

I agree with you that giving a little guy a chance to at least do something is a great aspect of an RPG. This BASH! mechanic is something similar to the rolling mechanic of Shadowrun if I remember correctly.

There is another way to accomplish this that I use in my system. It starts off sounding a little complicated but in playtesting it's very simple with no math (during the game) other than figuring out what number is bigger.

I have a fondness for percentile rolls. I love the granularity of them but they don't work very well for target numbers going up like mentioned here. So I made them get smaller. Heres the mechanic.

Each attribute has a number for the average NPC it's 30. Rolling under is a standard success. Simple but boring, so we took that number and cut it in half (15) this is the attribute's Half then took that number and cut it in half (and rounded up 8) to get the attribute's Quarter. Do it again (4) to get that attribute's eighth. Round up each time so that it's alway a rollable number. All the numbers are laid out on the character sheet so theirs no math to do during the game.

When an attacker strikes, they roll and the fraction they rolled under is declared. The defender must then roll and declare their fraction (Full, Half, Quarter, Eighth). Defender wins a tie.

Eighth rolls are pretty rare even for highly experienced characters so on the occasion when a NPC rolls their eighth it's likely that the PC will not be able to defend that attack. Get enough low level NPCs together and you now have a very credible threat to the PCs.

Anyway, that's my solution.

J. said...

I absolutely love BASH UE, it being my go-to game for anything supers these days.

The core mechanic is something that really stands out for me. I'm kind a math geek so when dice probability comes up I get all obsessive about it. In BASH UE, the chance to have your dice explode is 1 in 6 (~17%). The chance for every die after the first to explode is 1 in 6 (~17%). If you throw a Hero Die into the mix, the chance for exploding dice doubles, making it 2 in 6 (~34%). If you only get one die to roll (minimal cases for it but it can happen), your chance to explode is the same as above: 1 in 6 (~17%).

That sort of static mechanic hits the spot with me and I really appreciate it.

The other reason I love BASH UE so much is that it allows Thor and Daredevil to go into a situation, side by side, and neither one of them is sidelined. At the same time, the GM doesn't have to tone the bad guys down for Daredevil (trivializing them for Thor in the process). The way the game handles Hero Points is a fantastic, and very simple, way to get around the power level disparity that comes in in some other games. It is truly the first one that I have come across that allows me to do the classic team-ups with minimal effort on my end.

I just had to gush about it (again). :D

As to your talk about criticals, I'm with you. I love systems that can really let that one shot shine. It's why I'm fond of systems with exploding dice (like BASH, Savage Worlds, etc.). In Savage Worlds, as an example, if the player rolls a one on both the Wild Die and the Trait Die then it's considered a critical failure. This is something that many critics of the system forget: as your trait die rises your chance to explode decreases, but so does the chance that you'll critically fail.

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