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I'd like to run a game of Roll for Shoes, but I'm not sure how many dice I roll when the characters face various challenges.

I'm under the impression that it's supposed to be the same number of dice the character uses, but that seems to make impossible tasks far too easy to perform.

Is there a general rule saying how many dice the GM rolls against a character's attempt at a given task? Should the GM's dice equal the character's dice, or should the GM's dice vary depending on the task's difficulty?

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As many as you think is reasonable.

The rules for Roll for Shoes don't specify how many dice the GM should roll, so it's left up to their discretion. Obviously, you can come up with any kind of more or less elaborate schemes for determining an appropriate number, but at least in the games I've run, the following simple scheme has worked quite well:

  • For ordinary tasks, roll one die. Everybody in RfS has the skill "Do anything (1)". This means that a one-die challenge is something anybody should have at least a 50% chance of succeeding in (but also something that most people should have a reasonable chance of failing; see below).

  • For challenging tasks, roll two dice. Anybody can still beat a two-die challenge, but the odds are against them. Even skilled characters have a fair chance of failing. Success is always awesome.

  • For heroic tasks, roll three dice. A random person will be almost sure to fail a three-die challenge, and it's risky for pretty much anybody. At least in my short games, level 4 skills are fairly rare (and pretty narrow in scope), so nobody really finds three-die challenges easy.

  • For nearly impossible tasks, roll four (or more) dice. IME, these kinds of challenges tend to happen only when players randomly attempt something they really should not be able to do, like jumping over buildings in a non-superhero game. You may sometimes want to just outright refuse such attempts, especially if someone tries to use them for XP farming. (I've never had that happen, but in principle, a sufficiently munchkinly player could try it.) Use your judgment, and see last paragraph below.

And finally:

  • For trivial tasks, don't roll. If a player wants to, say, open an ordinary unlocked door, that doesn't call for a roll. They just do it.

    ...that is, unless they really want to roll for it. A key feature of Roll for Shoes is that players can roll for anything — like, say, seeing whether they have shoes on.

    Such situations are usually best treated as the player attempting to overdo the action, hoping for some impressive extra result, while also taking the risk of comically failing a task that should be trivial. So think of something awesome that should happen if the player succeeds really well ("You slam the door open, and knock over a goblin lurking just behind it, who hits another goblin behind him and knocks him over, too."), and something ridiculous that should happen if they fail ("The door comes off the hinges and hits you on the head."), and then roll one die.

Also, don't be afraid to improvise new mechanics if you think the situation calls for them. For example, for the final challenge in my last game, which involved competition between teams, I had the players describe how they would contribute to the team effort (and how they built on each other's contributions) using their specific skills, and then had them roll one die per player, plus one for each skill they managed to apply to the task; those dice were then pooled and compared to an arbitrary dice pool I rolled as the GM to represent the competing teams. It was completely ad hoc, but also a really awesome ending to the game.

Of course, these are all just my personal guidelines, suited for the way I run the game; one of the nice things about microsystems like RFS is that they're more of a starting point than a complete ruleset, so every GM and every group can develop their own way of doing things. Also, even for me, this is the first time I've even tried to describe the ad hoc way I choose challenge difficulties in any kind of systematic way; the real method I use is pretty much summarized in the headline at the top of this answer.

Also, I suspect a lot of this depends on the type of games you run, as well as on your players. I typically run short games that rarely end up involving combat or recurring enemies, so I've never felt a need to explicitly stat up (i.e. select skills for) NPCs. I've also noticed that my players frequently forget to mark or use XP, even if I remind them about it, which probably slows down skill gain somewhat. I'm also fairly strict about the rule that new skills must be narrower in scope than the one that was used to gain them, so even if players do end up gaining high-level skills, they're not very often applicable (at least not without either clever planning by players or fancy footwork by the GM).

Finally, there's one major practical exception to the "players can roll for anything" rule: don't allow a roll if you can't deal with the consequences. Of course, the whole point of Roll for Shoes is that you should let the story unfold as it will, and accepting the consequences of even unlikely rolls is part of that. But sometimes you may end up in a situation where you genuinely realize that letting a player succeed (or fail) at something would put you in a situation where you see no way to continue the game, and it wouldn't be right to just end the game there and then, either. If that happens, you may want to just openly admit it, and ask the player to please try something else.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a really good answer, but the second half of it seems a little too long, and mostly unnecessary. I appreciate you providing an example of your own experience as backup, but I feel like this answer could be improved for future readers by being a little less bottom-heavy. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz May 14 '15 at 0:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm unfamiliar with "the rule that new skills must be narrower in scope than the one that was used to gain them." Where did you find it? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 13 '18 at 0:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW: Now that you pointed it out, I realized that the RfS rules don't really say that. What they do say is that "[t]he skill must be a subset of what happened to you in the action", but I suppose that doesn't necessarily mean that it couldn't be related to some other aspect of the action than the skill you used to try it. I'll try to remember to revise the answer when I have a bit more time. \$\endgroup\$ – Ilmari Karonen Apr 13 '18 at 5:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's my reading, as well, and one of the powerful forces for fun improvisation in the game: action outcomes must be narrated beyond "you succeed" or "you fail" in order to understand what new skills can be derived from them. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 13 '18 at 5:23
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There's no specific rule or best way. Roll for Shoes is malleable, and you'll work out what works for you.

I have a couple of preferred approaches I've used, which work very well for setting up the number of dice to use for the difficulty of the task. The first approach is complex, the second is less so, and they can be used together.

There is not anything saying you're supposed to oppose with the same number of dice. That's certainly a valid approach, but as you've noticed, it's weird and kinda guarantees the players always have a 50% chance of success — or slightly less than, because they have to beat the opposing roll.

Build up characters to serve as opposing forces

This is high complexity, and mostly suitable for longer games that'll go for an hour or more.

As the GM, you may want to provide opposition in the form of characters with actual skills to use: when the fortress guard NPCs have Listen closely 3, you know exactly how many dice to roll.

I say opposing forces because people aren't the only opposition you might provide. You may assign yourself, the game world, factions, groups, or individuals, or yet other things. Roll for Shoes is a game where mostly anything could get modelled as a character if it seems reasonably appropriate for it to have its own skill set.

My own tendency is to introduce each or any of those - typically The World, a major NPC or two, or a major faction or two - when I decide I'd like to have them there for the players to interact with. I'll start them off with a small number of skills (2 or 3 will often do, they can branch out later) suited to their purpose, with scores set at points suitable for challenging or working with my players. (Possibly challenging them a lot if I want to.)

Passive difficulty rolls from nothing

This is fairly simple, and more suitable for short games where it's not worth building up characters as opposition, or for spontaneous opposition in longer games.

Sometimes you just want to know how tough something is. The character stuff can be a lot to mess around with.

So, for just determining passively how difficult something is, do this:

  • Put two dice down on the table where people can see them. (If you're in the late game and scores are very high, you might want to put down a third.)
  • Suggest each relevant factor that might make this task easier or harder for the character.
    • Put another die down for each thing that'd make it harder.
    • Take one away for each thing that'd make it easier.
    • Do this right in front of them one by one so they can watch.
  • The players can suggest the same.
  • Each thing should get some semblance of agreement, or at least, not objection. You're here to have fun, make sure people are content with the results.

At the end, you wind up with a row of dice - maybe a long one, maybe just one. Roll them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your second solution sounds more suited to RFS, which seems to be made for just that spontaneous type of role-playing. While the former seems better suited for a longer-running game, it might work with a group of players willing to play a long-form version of RFS. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz May 13 '15 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zibbobz That's actually a fair point - I do only use them for longer or shorter term games in that order. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 13 '15 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zibbobz You can prevent a line like the one you just added (* Less, because...) from turning into a bullet point by adding a backslash before the asterisk: \* Less, because.... The backslash acts as an escape character here. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 13 '15 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zibb I think you mean conjunction, but yes absolutely. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 13 '15 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you emphasize that the number of dice the GM roles is the difficulty of the task? It's expressed throughout the answer but I think it'd be helpful to clearly state it in your introduction. \$\endgroup\$ – Barret May 13 '15 at 14:53
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Reading through the comment thread under the basic info, I ran into an approach suggested by a user and then tried by the guy who made the system. If you start reading from here, you'll see a lot of good stuff from them.

The basic idea is that the world grows along with the player. The GM starts by writing down a Do Anything 1 for each of his important NPCs (ie "The Dungeon", "The Lich", "The Troll") and then collects experience and extra skills just as the players do, but he can assign it to any of the NPCs, whatever makes sense.

It's possible to setup some other basic skills when you start, but if you're going for crazy, it's probably more fun to just fill it up as you go along.

Another user shows some examples from using this while playing with his kids here.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ First, tracking XP seems it could be time consuming for the GM, no? Second, wouldn't it be more amusing to gain GM-XP for player successes instead of failures? \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk May 13 '15 at 20:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't predict what would happen if the GM would gain XP for player success, but I'm fairly sure that marking XP is just putting some tally-marks and shouldn't take too much time. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 13 '15 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tally marks that need to be spent, on the fly, as players roll dice (to turn dice rolls into bumps). If the GM is mirroring player advancement exactly, the GM doesn't have to earn XP, can just earn bumps at the same time players do, no? (which is the same as using player decisions to spend XP on rolls as the GM's own decisions, basically). \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk May 13 '15 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ The amount of GM time involved is trivial. I mean, it's maybe too much work if you're driving while running the game, but if you're sitting at a table, it's nothing. \$\endgroup\$ – clweeks Aug 8 '17 at 12:43

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