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Background

I am making an RPG that uses poker/Yahtzee like hands from die rolls instead of the normal "dice+mods vs target number" paradigm for determining effects of character actions. Each hand exists one a scale of likelihood to be consulted to determine effects of actions.

Actions have three outcomes; total success, total failure, and other. Determining which hand is required for total success consists of summing influences of factors, where each factor states that it covers some number of hands. Players (or the DM) then "cover" each factors number of hands, in an particular order, from most to least likely. Any actions whose hand hits that factor provides effects based on the factor.

As an example, defending against a physical attack would have the scale covered by the dodge factor and then the armor factor. Any attack whose hand is in the dodge range is avoided entirely, any hand in the armor range can stun, any less likely hand causes an injury.

The Problem

Hitting a particular hand can have vanishingly small chances. The solution I am toying with implements partial successes to modify the target hand required. (Encouraging flavorful things to happen, like stunning, blinding, feinting, teaming up, etc. against tough opponents.)

If a character has a dodge factor of 1 and an armor factor of 1, any attacks hand above 2-doubles (2 hands up the scale) will have full effect. If they are stunned, removing their dodge factor, the player must then go through the covering process again, but now ignoring their dodge factor. Since their armor only covers 1 hand and dodge is negated, their armor factor only covers doubles (1 hand up the scale) and actions with less likely hands are a total success.

It is reasonable that factors change with every action of the players or monsters. This may lead to recalculating these ranges frequently, possibly multiple times per turn.

The Question

Are there any RPGs (or mechanics) out there that have a simple method for tracking ranges of numbers or values which frequently charge?

The ideal solution:

  • has a low mental burden: these bounds may shift over a few combat exchanges!
  • should be "nice" to a character sheet: it shouldn't involve anything significantly larger than a 8"x11.5" or A4 sheet of paper, be storable in a notebook or file folder, and allow that sheet to be used for hours of gaming time.
  • allows for multiple shifts in the ranges to track. (Such as multiple factors suddenly applying or being removed.)

Some Research

The best solution I am considering right now is side-of-sheet trackers and paperclips. The paperclips would mark the maximum hand each factor covers at any given turn and it would be up to the players to move them up/down as needed.

Another solution would be to simply have common alternate states stored on character sheet, much like AC, Flat-footed AC, and Touch AC from D&D 3.5! That forces some design choices, like limiting the number of alternate states.

Another is to simply not modify the range on paper at all, but include something like "act as if your resulting hand is actually of the next-most-unlikely (or next-most-likely) hand."

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Though TTRPG games are generally considered "pen-and-paper", the games that use them the least have the opportunity to focus on the core engagements of the activity. If you see yourself stopping play to consult a chart, even one precomputed for you, at every action, you may be losing something critical. It's of my opinion, and I hope I'm not alone, that Success Tests (checks, contests, saves, etc.) should be evident from the test itself (Big total is good, all 6s is good, etc.). Secondly, if you're using the hands for their probability, what do you gain over rolling dice for these likelihoods? \$\endgroup\$
    – Axoren
    Oct 15, 2022 at 9:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish look at popularity of these systems vs ones that Axoren described. Quite probably this is one of the factors why d20 family, WoD, Warhammer got more popular. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Oct 15, 2022 at 10:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, @Mołot, a lot of that is also Money, Advertising, and Legacy. Popularity isn't necessarily a good measure for fun and engaging. \$\endgroup\$
    – Axoren
    Oct 15, 2022 at 10:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish It's undeniable that the core engagement of something like Marvel Super Hero RPG is to act within the game world as a Super Hero. I don't think we're in disagreement here, so far. I'm not familiar with it's system explicitly, but Adjudication of any sort generally slows down play by sheer nature of being the step between Action and Effect. Making this step take longer than necessary, or making it more complex, undeniably leaves less time for the Action and Effect parts of the game's cycle. Suggesting that this may not be what the asker ultimately wants shouldn't be that controversial. \$\endgroup\$
    – Axoren
    Oct 15, 2022 at 10:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Axoren A quick rundown of MSH, using the FASERIP engine, can be found here including the color-coded spreadsheet I was talking about: You roll, check your own 'weight class' column and see what category of hit you score, by checking the color below and the interpretation of that color in the block above the actual spreadsheet. MSH-RPG still has its fans today even :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 15, 2022 at 10:58

1 Answer 1

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Inspiration: FASERIP / MSH-RPG

The classic Marvel Super Heroes RPG, the best known user of the FASERIP engine, did use a special spreadsheet to determine 4 general types of results from a simple d100 roll. Depending on the rating your character had in a test, you'd consult the column of the spreadsheet corresponding to your statistic, and then see the row of your roll.

Let's say our hero has a rating of 75 in strength and wants to punch through a wall. So they roll 1d100 and score a 58. Now, we consult column Mn Monstrous, row 58, which is a yellow success:

enter image description here

A yellow success is not just succeeding, it is succeeding extra well. Would he only have a rating of 50-74 because he was hit by a weakening ray (or it was a different test), he'd consult column Amazing left, and only scored a normal success with the same 58.

Application to the problem

A spreadsheet akin to FASERIP doesn't change at all. The only changing factor is which column and row you check for success. Just shifting between columns for factors applying or not is simple.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "A yellow success is not just succeeding, it is succeeding extra well" - is this supposed to say a green success? I don't know the system, so maybe yellow is super-success and red is mediocre. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Oct 15, 2022 at 21:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices You're assuming red is a failure (a common mistake). White is a failure, green is a marginal success, yellow is a bigger success than green, and red is a bigger success still. Thus, rolling bigger numbers of the d100 roll means you do better - but the better you skills or stats, the better your odds of getting a higher level success. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Oct 15, 2022 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices no, it's exactly as I said: White is failure, Green is success, yellow is stronger success, red is critical success. If hulk hits you, hope he just rolls green, and not red, for he might actually turn you into mist. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 15, 2022 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ From a UX perspective, those colors are not the best way to convey graded success. Any new attempt at a system like this should make it more obvious, maybe with darker and darker shades of the same color. Red generally means "bad thing" happened. Given that a success test is being rolled by the person who wants to know if they succeed, telling them they got a Red is bad signaling. OP's system will be trying to garner a new audience, rather than specifically one already familiar with FASERIP. The player performing the test should be able to guess how good it is at a glance a priori. \$\endgroup\$
    – Axoren
    Oct 17, 2022 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Axoren The UX of FASERIP isn't the best, I agree. However, the core mechanic of "shift the columns by modifiers, shift the rows by what you use to determine success" is what I suggest here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 17, 2022 at 17:13

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