student 20 Productions

Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

Trolling is a Good Thing

Image via Wikipedia

I’m not talking about being an asshole in a forum or in someone’s comments section on their blog. That’s never a good thing. Well, except at 4chan.

I’m referring to this:

A fellow by the name of Torben Morgensen over at the University of Copenhagen decided to create what was essentially a programming language for determining the stats on die rolls. He wanted something with which he could easily stat out things like the dice mechanics of the World of Darkness role-playing games by White Wolf Publishing. It’s a great language – very flexible and fairly easy to understand once you get into it. It allows for some amazingly complex dice mechanics, and stats them out quickly and accurately.

The original Troll release was freely downloadable, but it wasn’t for the tech-challenged. Getting it installed on your computer and running was, to put it nicely, a pain. Now, however, there’s a web interface. It’s kinda blah to look at (as you can easily tell just by clicking the link above), but it works, and the output is easy to read and understand. There are several options to help you find the exact stats you’re looking for.

Why am I posting this? I’m far from the first homebrew game designer to point this out, but dice mechanics if your game uses them – is often a pain in the butt to figure out. A lot of things make perfect sense in theory, but in practice, the stats are suck. I had an overly complicated bonus-to-dice conversion system that seemed to work pretty well, but once I stated it, I found out that it wasn’t all that great. I had another overly complicated system that involved exploding dice and drop dice and so on, and that one was better… except for how complicated it was. I came up with it, so it seemed simple enough to me, but trying to get it into Troll helped me see just how complicated it was.

So now I’m “trolling” just about everything.

Dice for various games, especially for rolepla...

Image via Wikipedia

So now, the Essence RPG will be using a very simple Dice + Bonuses system. It’s statistically sound, and has the level of detail I’m looking for without being slow or at all cumbersome. It’s elegant – simple and effective. Of course, it’s not exactly innovative… but that’s not what your dice mechanics are for. Seeing how complicated what I was doing actually helped me understand that.

As a progress update: the Essence book is up to roughly small novel/novella size at 30,000 words. There’s actually enough there at this point to play, but I want to put a few more sub-systems (specifically magic and a rudimentary battlemap combat system, along with  a few lesser things) in before I start early alpha testing.

I have full race descriptions for most of the races I intend to have available when I release the game to the public, although I’m having a little trouble balancing them out for character creation.

I can’t seem to make up my mind exactly how important Race selection is. I keep waffling between “most important choice in character creation” and “essentially a cosmetic choice”. I’ve also worked with the idea of having both possibilities depending on which race you choose (i.e. choosing to be Human or a Storm Equus has a minimal impact on your character; choosing to be an Eth or a Solnyr has a massive impact).

That last option is probably what’s going to happen; the idea of developing a completely new role-playing game for the setting is so that the system reflects the setting, and they can work together as a coherent whole.

Of course, I welcome any feedback, suggestions, or anything else anyone has to say.

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5 thoughts on “Trolling is a Good Thing

  1. If race selection has an effect on stats, it’s an important choice.

    If it doesn’t, it’s cosmetic.

    For instance, no one cares if you play a half elf in FIGHTING FANTASY. However those racial bonuses come in handy in DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS.

    Exploding dice? Drop dice? So many links, but none for these. Wonder if a non-gamer would understand these terms.

    Okay, fine, I’m a gamer of sorts and I have no idea what you’re talking about. Okay? Happy?

    (Incidentally, this week (last of September) I reviewed my second 0.5 point movie. It almost knocked me out of the review game. Now how would you recoup from that? Me, I’m watching a Karloff movie I’ve never seen before…)

    • Oh, and I don’t really have “stats” per say, but your point still stands.

      Race is always an important choice, even if, by the rules, it’s purely cosmetic. If you’re playing a Star Trek game, there’s a huge difference between playing an Andorian and playing a Human, even if they have the same stats (I don’t know if they would or not – I’m just saying).

      I’m more talking about how significant the choice is “stat” wise, I guess. I should have clarified.

  2. Sorry – a few quick terms:
    Exploding dice are rolled again if they come up at their maximum value. For instance, if you roll a d10 and it comes up 10, you would roll the die again, adding in the new total. In most systems, you would keep rolling as long as you kept rolling max values. In my system, you would keep rolling as long as you rolled max values and had “explosions” left.

    Drop dice was my term for a system whereby you rolled extra dice in additional to the 5d10 you were already rolling, but only kept the highest five (the five you wanted in a later version). So, if you had 3 Drop Dice, you’d roll 8d10, but only keep the highest five of them.

    I also had things called Mastery Dice, Cushion Dice, and Bounce Dice… I find it hilarious that I didn’t see how complicated it was to begin with.

    • Exploding dice seems like more math than it’s worth (though in nasty damage situations, it might be interesting.)

      Drop dice sounds like something out of character creation for D&D. Not a bad idea, but doesn’t it take some of the risk factor out of it?

      The other dice… scare me for some reason.

      • Exploding dice really aren’t that bad. White Wolf uses them in conjunction with occasionally rolling, like, 20 dice. It’s really not as big of a deal as it sounds. A single explosion on a d10 roll has a one in ten chance of coming up. Getting two in a row would be 1 in 100… it really doesn’t happen often enough to cause a problem.

        As far as Drop Dice go, they shift the curve towards the maximum result of the dice set. I was working with 5d10, which has a really, really flat middle ground, which got shifted up by about .5 per added drop die.

        Cushion Dice protected you from penalties – penalties came in the form of Penalty Dice, which ate your bonus dice and, potentially, your base dice (the 5d10 you rolled for pretty much everything). With Mastery dice, they replaced Base Dice and always came up 10, but never “exploded”. I honestly can’t remember what Bounce dice did – I think it was just re-rolling results of 1.

        They all sounded worse than they were.

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