Flat critical failure percentages

Thursday, 29. July 2010

One of the things that I’ve always hated in various d20 and d100 based systems is their method of critical failures.  No matter how skilled or unskilled a character is the chance of failure is always flat.  Be it 5% in a D20 system, or a varying 2-5% in a D100 system.

Most of us have tasks, jobs and skills that we are very proficient at either from hobbies or from work.  I happen to do a fair amount of technical work on equipment.  If I had anywhere near a 5% failure rate even under stress, people would be dead and I would be fired in a heartbeat. It’s probably well under 1% with actual failure rates perhaps slightly higher, but still underneath it. I’m sure everyone agrees a good amount of their work is similar, with a very low rate as well.

Now, very delicate work in hostile conditions? Probably higher depending on interruptions and the tools the character in question has to work with.  Higher still if they’re under attack or under a time limit (Bomb ticking away perhaps?) Character dosen’t care?  Higher, so on and so forth.

You can get this to a point by adjusting failure %’s flat out.  You are of course, limited to your die’s resolution… 5% increments for a d20, 1% for d100…  Even doing that however, it still leaves that annoying flat failure percentage.  No matter the skill of the character in question, the chance of critically screwing up remains the same.

The simplest solution that I can work with is to start using small dice pools.  I say small because I really don’t play games to roll dice.  If I did that I’d just play Yatzee or maybe craps.    For instance in the case of the d20.. have another die in there for a failure die. Your failure die can be tuned to whatever you feel the % needs to be.

Crit Failure on     Crit Failure
1 no fail die            5%
1, fail die 1-10       2.5%
1, fail die 1-5          1.25%

Another (more preferred option, in my case) is to use something similar to what heavy gear uses. Your skill levels determine the dice you throw, and the highest is kept. If all come up 1′s, crit failure. Standard dice used is d2, and throwing 2 of them is considered average. 3 is professional, etc. In addition to dropping the fail rate, it also consistently moves the average roll up making trivial and nontrivial tasks easier. I realize its still a set % get a certain number, but it still feels less “chancy” then relying on one die for some reason.

Mind you with the tables below that any skill above 3 is incredibly rare
Dice    Thrown Crit Fail %   

1          16.7%                            
2          2.77%                          
3          0.46%
4          0.07%
5          0.012%

The system tends to use compared rolls, so crit failures even in combat aren’t necessarily lethal.  In addition, the system allows you to burn small amount of experience to save your character in a bind, in case there is a critical failure.  All in all, very well laid out and it feels fairer for players involved to be cheated less by dice.

Thoughts on the matter?

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RPG growth and expansion

Monday, 12. July 2010

Madbrew labs has some interesting thoughts on growing the hobby in general. A lot of it is citing information on toxic personalities in the gaming hobby in general, but I don’t think this is especially problematic. All hobbies have it’s naysayers and those who are off putting by their behavior. It’s our task at hand as hosts or storytellers to nip such behavior in the bud immediately. As for online forums: lets just say filtering is a natural process for anyone who does anything via the web.

How would you like to see the hobby grow?
Greg at SynapseRPG I think puts it to words better than I can. The industry really needs to be pushing to develop storytellers as people who are able to function independently, and spread the good word of the game. While some developer dependence in inevitable in my opinion (and needs to be there to retain some profitability as the current structure exists,) the push towards keeping storytellers product dependent ultimately results in turnover with a changeover of product line.
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Friday, 14. May 2010

So very true!

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