Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I forget where already, but some time in the past week or so I remember reading on a blog where someone was using Fudge Dice in order to flavor up some random encounters in D&D. Fudge Dice, as we know, are 6-sided dice that have two blank sides, two + sides, and two - sides, and come in packs of four. I really liked that idea; it ties in to really what the FATE system is all about; that the dice don't so much determine exactly what will happen, but rather that they will slant the outcome one way or the other. In the case of Dungeons and Dragons, something that 4th edition doesn't really preserve as well is the idea of the random encounter. You're a group of adventurers, blazing the trail and rediscovering some lost or forgotten temple, or underground lair, or some ancient magical forest, or whatever, but you go from space to space, or room to room, and there is another group of often homogeneous monsters. But why? To ensure that the time and work spent exploring the area provides enough experience points to reach a certain goal at the end of the major quest? I have to admit that I myself design games around a set XP goal and then everything else pours out of trying to make a reasonable situation to place the encounters in, but another part of that is that I am dreadful at making believable skill challenges. But besides the standard gamut of dungeoneering, stealth, perception, whatever skill rolls determining whether or not the group of goblins detects you walking past, or whether you can find some way around the dragon's lair, why not use Fudge Dice to determine whether the dragon is even there at all. Why shouldn't there be a chance, like in the Hobbit, that it's simply out for the moment, terrorizing villages, devouring virgins; whatever dragons do. In other words, have something a little bit more dynamic than a d10 or d8 or d20 roll to determine what sort of situation they may find themselves in. I like the idea of having the players themselves roll the Fudge Dice; they're the adventurers after all, and then they can all see what sort of situation they are getting themselves in to. While it would make sense that the party leader, or at least the person in front or taking the "active" roll would make these sorts of checks most often, there could be other situations where someone else, perhaps in a failed assist roll, instead does so poorly that they "trigger" a roll, which in game terms could mean something along the lines of "you knocked the suit of armor down the well and it made a very, very, very loud noise for a very long time. Fool of a Took." In terms of actual rolls, at this point a - - - - would probably mean, if still using the Dragon Lair example, that the dragon feels like returning just at that moment, and that the entire party is right in the middle of an open space, and all the doors suddenly close, and they all simultaneously realize that they forgot to put on pants that morning. A + + + + would mean something more like the dragon decided that the weather was just not to its liking and it went on vacation for a couple weeks. In skill challenges, they could be implemented in a way to be an attempt to subtly alter fate, which would be determined by what sort of character they are like. For instance a Paladin or a Cleric character may make a sacrifice to their deities in the form of not being able to use a power for an encounter, temporarily losing access to their class features, or something like that; or a fighter would lose a healing surge or two. In exchange, instead of accepting that the critical roll on the skill challenge just failed and the entire party is going to be in a world of hurt, they can roll the Fudge Dice and instead see if the fates are actually in their favor. Something like a very positive roll could mean that even though they technically failed, they failed in such a way that accidentally made things still turn out right. And a really negative roll would mean that they failed even more spectacularly and the situation went from really bad to absolute worst. And either way, they'd be out whatever they chose to sacrifice for the encounter or situation that that event might have triggered. I see no reason why this also couldn't be used in combat, a la Fortune Cards-style meta play. Use an action point, roll the dice. Do you recover so quickly that you get to swipe your sword up ferociously and get bonus damage on a roll that at first failed? Or do you accidentally fall face-first into the magical brazier and become blinded by magical fire? For something that is such a crap shoot, I can't imagine that people would want to do it very often, but in a do-or-die sort of situation, it could mean the difference between a TPK and a clever escape; a sort of release valve to free players from their own potentially bad decisions. I can't wait to try it out.

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