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Episode 102 – Adapting to the Dice 4

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Happy New Year! Grant and Peter are back to talk about … dice?! After a couple of minor announcements and housekeeping notes, we list off some of the games we’d really like to try to play in 2017. We also tackle a Patreon question from Jim, who asks us about handling combat in theatre-of-the-mind games (or for visually-impaired gamers, like the Going In Blind podcast.) Our main topic isn’t so much about dice as reacting to the dice, and handling the unexpected results they can give us while keeping a consistent narration—even if it leads campaigns in strange and unexpected directions.

Games we mentioned wanting to play in 2017: Unknown Armies, 3rd Edition; Pillar of Fire; A Scoundrel in the Deep; Feng Shui, 2nd Edition; Dogs in the Vineyard; DramaSystem; GUMSHOE. Also mentioned: The One Shot Podcast and the Party of One Podcast.

Scripture: Proverbs 16:9, Leviticus 16:6-10, Romans 8:28

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4 thoughts on “Episode 102 – Adapting to the Dice

  • Doug Hagler

    Hey guys – I really enjoyed the episode. Though that’s not different from other episodes.

    Idea 1: Talking about areas of effect for theater of the mind D&D – I nerded up a table to help determine, including randomly, how many opponents are hit by an AoE spell: Basically I took the guidelines in the DMG, applied them to all of the spell areas of effect that I could think of, and then added the option of a die-roll to determine how many are hit. It’s weighted slightly toward the die-roll, since I thought it would be cooler. For theater of the mind, I would use the die-rolls, assuming the caster is doing all they can to avoid hitting their allies but that it doesn’t always work exactly as planned.

    One wrinkle is if the caster is an Evoker Wizard, they can sculpt spells to avoid allies. In that case, maybe add a +1 to the die roll for targets? Anyway, in most situations, I think this table is helpful for theater of the mind.

    Idea 2: One of the most frustrating things about Shadowrun for me seems to be the common experience where you spend an hour planning your run, and then kick in the door, and either the plan goes out the window or doesn’t ultimately matter because of things the GM didn’t tell you. Much like the experience you guys described of the band being turned back at the border.

    A few years ago I published a sci-fi rpg, and part of what I wanted to do was to address issues I’d encountered in Shadowrun. One of those issues was the plans that take so much of in-game time. What I did for the rpg I designed is to add “preparation dice.” Basically, the players come up with an awesome plan. The GM gives them between 1 and 10 dice for their plan. While they are executing their plan, they can spend those bonus dice on any rolls as long as they say how they planned for this ahead of time (whether they technically did or not). I think this would be easy to apply to any game that uses a dice-pool mechanic, and could be adapted to other systems. The core idea, though, is for all of that planning to have a mechanical effect.

    If you want to download the PDF of my game (Parsec), it’s available for free from my website. It’s been out of print for a couple years, and so the rights reverted back to me:

  • mumbles

    For me, disappointment in results usually comes from a problem with my expectations. Since I don’t know enough about math to understand that side of things, that isn’t usually a problem. Instead, I fall into the trap of designing my character concept around what he could become when he reaches his full potential and then forgetting that he’s actually a first level. I’d be surprised if I’m the only one who deals with this. We’ve all heard the joke/lament that in certain old versions of D&D, a housecat could take out a 1st Lvl wizard if the dice were feeling spiteful. But even when that was a thing, I’ll bet no one rolled up a wizard and planned for roleplaying the experience of breaking out into a cold sweat when they had to walk past the Eberron Humane Society.

    As far as handling it when the dice don’t go my way, here are some things that work for me:

    1. Be patient. As long as my character doesn’t die and none of my party dies due to my bad rolls, I can ridiculously patient. Whether it’s chance or math eating my lunch for a few sessions,I know the epic awesomeness is coming and the mental high from that will be more than worth the wait. As gamers we get to enjoy the gambler’s high of watching the dice bring forth amazing results. And unlike real gamblers, we don’t lose our money, homes, and families when things don’t go our way for a few weeks. So when things aren’t going your way, remember that it’s only a matter of time before you one-shot that spirit mammoth, take down 3/4ths of everyone attacking you, teleport the whole party out of the dragon’s mouth before the jaws close, or convince the king (AND the entire city) that he’s actually wearing clothes with nothing but a charisma roll.

    2. RP it out. Use it as fodder for in-character interaction and interesting dialogue. Have your character gripe about how well your opponent defends, how you must still be feeling the effects of last night’s tavern brawl, whatever. If you roll badly enough and consistently enough, maybe work in a side story about how you’ve developed a curse or something. Or if your game and group allow for it, you could take it to a goofy place and turn the frustration into comedy gold for all the players to enjoy.

    If you’ve examined the system, your GM is on point, and you’ve made sure you’re not expecting Lvl 20 results from your 2nd Lvl hero, all that’s left to do is try to ride it out with grace and a sense of fun. Or bitter, venomous snark directed at enemies and the more irritating NPCs.

  • Renato Ramonda

    Hi guys!
    Thanks for the flattering words about A Scoundrel In The Deep… you can now get it “pay what you want” from the official website (even for free). I hope you manage to try it and you have fun… and don’t burn your fingers!

    Renato (who, yes, sometimes googles the title of the game to see if someone is talking about it ^___^ )