Tidying up dice mechanics

Posted on monday, 11 Jan 2017

After playtesting the last dice system, several problems cropped up, which led to the new dice mechanic which I am super happy with.

In the previous post, I evaluated the probability of a 3d6 pick high/middle/low system, and I thought that would be the perfect dice rules for Obsidian World. I was wrong. Playtesting proved me wrong.

It doesn’t feel right, and picking one die from three feels a bit underwhelming. My players didn’t comment much on the dice, but they did took some time to figure out which die to choose, given the situation and assorted modifiers.

In short, even with 3d6 pick one, if feels a bit clunky in play. The other thing is, it doesn’t actually do anything, other than giving 3 outcomes (miss, hit, crit). There’s no tactical decision to be made on the dice, and there’s not a lot of room nor depth to expand it through special rules like abilities and such.

A New Start

So I ditched it and went back to the drawing board. I knew I wanted 3d6, so that has to stay. I knew I wanted roll and pick, so that had to stay. I knew I wanted degrees of success, so that has to stay. How to turn the dice system into something with a little bit more nuance than the current system?


I decided to do 2d6 instead. Here’s how a basic dice roll works:

  1. Determine position (dominant, balanced, or desperate)
  2. Roll 3d6
  3. Dominant: add highest two + trait, success on 7+, lowest die is effect
  4. Balanced: add highest + lowest + trait, success on 7+, middle die is effect
  5. Desperate: add lowest two + trait, success on 7+, highest die is effect
  6. On success, check effect die score: 1-3 graze, 4-5 hit, 6 crit

Here’s the fun part about this system: probability wise, if you are in a dominant position, unless you rolled really well, your effect is going to suck, since you’re picking the lowest die as your effect. Conversely, if you are in a desperate position, should you succeed on the sum of two lowest die, it is easier for you to crit on your effect die, since it is the highest die of the three!

So this means, the dice system adds a bit more tactical depth to your fictional positioning during play: when you get put in a desperate position, all is not lost! You can still win with a lucky hit. This means you actually get stronger when you are ground to dust.

I am happy with this new mechanic because it portrays the themes of Obsidian World really well, where the game is supposed to be about sacrifice and hope in the eternal gloom.

Moving On

I’m honestly done with the dice system. I like it. 2d6 and success on a 7+ gives me enough room to apply modifiers to it, and effect die working the way it does fits the design goals I have for this game.

I can’t wait to start fleshing out the other parts of the system. A slight preview: the next topic about the game system will be something I call keys. Stay tuned!

Article series [Obsidian World] tagged [Game Design] [RPG] [Dice]