The Floating d20

Posted on Thu Jun 11 2015 -- baroque-dice

I've been thinking more about the new dice mechanic. In some games, players can (a few times a session) have their characters go above and beyond their normal abilities for a desperate, risky, or effective super-move. How would this system accommodate that? There's a few possibilities.

The first is a new trait called Risk Capacity. In this model, each player can absorb X points per session of Risk, distributed over as few or as many rolls as he likes — in short, they have an ablative, slowly regenerating second Ability score. The player makes the decision to expend Risk Capacity after a roll is made, so there's no chance that it'll be wasted unless he makes good rolls for the rest of the session. This is somewhat analogous to Fate's "Refresh", which gives players a set number of Fate points every session. The downside is that it considers players in isolation — which I'll explain in a moment.

The second is what I call Floating d20. The rules for using the floating d20 are as follows:

  1. There's a single d20 on the table. It starts every session in the GM's possession.
  2. Whoever has the d20 at the time, or the GM, can hand it to anyone they like. You can ask for the d20, but you cannot take it.
  3. If you have the d20, you can continue rolling past d12 by rolling the d20 and subtracting it from the remaining action cost. This is no different, rules-wise, from rolling any of your other dice.
  4. Once you have rolled the d20, you cannot roll it again until it's been rolled by someone else, or until it's been handed to you by the GM.

The intention of rules 2 and 4 is to keep the spotlight moving from character to character. No one PC should have a monopoly on risk-taking.

This version of the rules is what I call High Risk d20 — it's only good for the times you have a really high difficulty number to overcome. Another version, called Generous d20, replaces rule 3 as follows:

  1. If you have the d20, you can substitute it for any single other die you roll. For example, you could roll d4, d20, d8 instead of d4, d6, d8. In that case the d6 is replaced, not rolled in addition.

This version gives the player more control over their accumulated Risk, and decouples using the d20 from risking a roll of your entire dice pool. This should probably have some additional limits on it, such as a number of uses per session. High Risk d20 is (hopefully) self-limiting because few rolls will be worth taking on such risk.