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Author Topic: Swaying Fate with Action Dice  (Read 1173 times)
The_Grand_User
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« on: June 02, 2012, 05:20:11 PM »

In our session today, there came a point where an NPC had to make an important decision. I wanted my players to influence it, but with something more than a simple Impress check. So I said for them to all spend and roll an action die, and if the combined total was high enough, the NPC would decide in such a way for a positive outcome.

My players all really liked how it worked out, but it was pretty much all subjective, so I'm wondering if hte fine folks here might have some ideas about codified rules for it. I think it should also influence other things in regards to the plot and not just NPC decisions (which could otherwise be an Impress check).
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2012, 05:48:27 PM »

I'm all for all kinds of narrative control.  I wouldn't have my PCs roll their Action Dice though, I'd just charge them a flat rate - because it'd feel so wasteful if they each spent an Action Die for nothing because of a bit of bad luck on the rolls.  For my next game I'm even considering doing skill rolls similarly (costs, not rolls) - I did it for my GURPS + Action Dice game and it worked well, so I believe it'll work for SC/FC.

My standing rule is that if they want anything to happen they request it, and I come up with a cost (based on a combination of how big an impact (or change) it has on the plot and how much it stretches reality) - then they chose who pays it / how it is divided up.  There will be times that I'll prompt them the way you did - telling them an NPC can side with them if they throw down 3 AD (between all of them).  Not much in the way of hard codified rules though.
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2012, 11:54:00 PM »

As one of the players of this game I actually liked the idea of rolling an action die, though as a GM I think it would just be a roll of an action die and not actually spending one (unless the intent is to actually make them pay for a "moment of fate" as it were.) It helps feel like the PCs have some influence on a situation that is out of their actual in-game control, but it also shows that it's still technically out of their control and the hand of fate will roll as it will.

It also gives a little bit of a non-combat bonus to the "lucky" type of character, as packing one along will mean fate will smile on you a little bit more often than it otherwise would, which is a nice bonus for them on stuff that they're not outright directly doing that helps show that they're lucky.

When I run my future Fantasy Craft Golarion game I'm certainly going to be including that thing with a bit of my own ruling. The DC would probably be 50% of the possible total they can roll by all rolling their dice once, + or - a flat number based on how likely or unlikely the fates will play out in the PCs favor. For a group of 4 players rolling d6s, they'd all need to roll a combined total of 12 to succeed the check and have the situation play out in their favor.

It helps make the PCs feel like even when they're uninvolved in the exact going-ons, the game is their story and they are directly attributing to success or failure of any given situation. This also helps to keep from punishing players who got unlucky and, say, have their Diplomancer on the other side of the field through no fault of their own when a hostage situation pops up.

It's a really cool use of Action Dice that isn't just "do you spend it? Okay you guys succeed." It adds an element of fate beyond just a simple skill check or an attack roll, while also helping the 'lucky' characters feel more consistently lucky and making every member of the team feel like they're contributing to the success as a whole beyond just tossing a chip onto a pile.

I'd have them roll the die, but I wouldn't actually make them spend one since the whole point is deciding whether lady luck smiles on you or not.
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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2012, 12:39:05 AM »

As far as spending an AD, it was the end of the session, so as long as they had AD it made little difference.
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2012, 04:52:47 AM »

For clarification, what I did in GURPS (not SC/FC yet) was give the players 4 chips at the start of the session (since GURPS doesn't have a leveling mechanic to scale them over time).  Players got them for the same sort of reasons they do in SC/FC (though I do have to get better at giving them out regularly).  They could spend them as follows:

1 Chip - Add or subtract to any roll they make after the fact (before results are given to them).
1 Chip - Auto-Pass non-critical and unopposed skill check (minimal grade of success only, if applicable).  Before rolling only.
2 Chips - Auto-Pass critical / opposed skill checks (minimal grade of success only - before rolling only).
4 Chips - Dictate results of the check (before rolling only).

Players could ask for anything, too - if they want to stumble across a car with keys in the ignition they request it and I gave them a chip cost.

I'm not 100% how I'm going to convert this to FC, but I'm considering doing it whole cloth.  Either way - the people who wanted to roll the dice could go for it, and the ones who wanted a guaranteed success to be available had it to.  Success at an important moment is just as dramatic (and therefore, valid for AD) as attempting to change what would be a failure into a success (just IMO of course).
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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2012, 03:50:57 PM »

In our session today, there came a point where an NPC had to make an important decision. I wanted my players to influence it, but with something more than a simple Impress check. So I said for them to all spend and roll an action die, and if the combined total was high enough, the NPC would decide in such a way for a positive outcome.

My players all really liked how it worked out, but it was pretty much all subjective, so I'm wondering if hte fine folks here might have some ideas about codified rules for it. I think it should also influence other things in regards to the plot and not just NPC decisions (which could otherwise be an Impress check).

I would strongly suggest closely reading the sections on Narrative Control, Perks, and Complications (FC pp. 366-368) as I think you'll find a lot of what you're looking for has already been put in place. I would argue that much of what you're looking for would fall in the same territory as SYMPATHETIC ADVERSARY/UNEXPECTED HELP

While I completely support any GM going with what works best for them and their game/players, I think it's important to draw a distinction between two different uses for Action Dice. While it won't kill the game balance to allow more instances of rolling AD versus 'spend and it's so' I think it's worth noting how using Narrative Control to narrate an NPC making a favorable choice is more similar to activating an opponent's error rather than boosting a PC's roll.

It's a really cool use of Action Dice that isn't just "do you spend it? Okay you guys succeed." It adds an element of fate beyond just a simple skill check or an attack roll, while also helping the 'lucky' characters feel more consistently lucky and making every member of the team feel like they're contributing to the success as a whole beyond just tossing a chip onto a pile.
While your mileage may vary, I've found that the Luck specialists already tend to have plenty of opportunities to shine -- I'd be very very hesitant to allow the character's luck to shift so heavily the balance of the Players' ability to act with Narrative Control.
Narrative Control is such an equalizing factor regardless of character build that I imagine my players (given how much they've semi-grumbled about the Pech luck-priest being 'broken') would make Fortune Favors the Bold and Lady Luck's Smile must-have feats regardless of build, and that's definitely something that would throw a flag up for me.


I'm all for all kinds of narrative control.  I wouldn't have my PCs roll their Action Dice though, I'd just charge them a flat rate - because it'd feel so wasteful if they each spent an Action Die for nothing because of a bit of bad luck on the rolls.

This is a key point -- if you want the PCs to spend AD to maybe influence an NPC, don't treat it as a Perk -- I would handle it as a standard or team check, allowing any team participants to add AD to the final result. (GM always has final say whether a PC-requested Perk is allowed)

Adding an intermediate 'maybe' narrative control might work just fine for you, and if so, go for it, but for a more generalized ruling, I'd suggest not watering down N.C. as written.
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« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2012, 03:48:41 AM »

I really like the idea of rolling being involved in these kind of situations, since spending is such an obvious "of COURSE we spend" action that it really negates the idea of it being a fork in the road of fate that could go either way. You do make a fair point about it possibly making those feats 'mandatory', but it'd be such a rare occurrence since the PCs usually have some direct control on their destinies that I think giving the luckslingers a little bonus is a bit alright in this situation. There's not much that really lets them be passively lucky, and this gives a bit of luck that isn't directly tied to them, their skills, their actions, and their outcomes.

Plus action die really need more things they can be rolled on. I always prefer adding a bit of chance to my luck, and spending an action die isn't nearly as satisfying as buying one. It's still VERY satisfying, but having it be a "spend dice" situation instead of just a "Roll a freebie" makes it seem less fork-in-the-road and more "You get the good outcome if you haven't had things to spend your action die on this session."

On top of that, SPENDING the die also makes the luckslinger even more obscene than simply rolling one, as they can get upwards of 10+ action die to throw around as seen fit. If they have to roll one there's actually some chance involved, they can't just shovel four of their bonus d4s at you and say "We win."
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« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2012, 07:32:56 AM »

Again, if that works for you and your table, great, go with it, and I hope you have a great time playing with it, but I would not recommend it as a general approach for all tables, and feel that Narrative Control as-written is well balanced (and is of course completely optional). A great strength of the system is how much tolerance there is for a given group to tweak things to their satisfaction.

On top of that, SPENDING the die also makes the luckslinger even more obscene than simply rolling one, as they can get upwards of 10+ action die to throw around as seen fit. If they have to roll one there's actually some chance involved, they can't just shovel four of their bonus d4s at you and say "We win."
Honestly, I feel this is a non-problem
1) GM always has final say on if a Perk is allowed or not,  2) There's an upper limit to how good a Perk can be and how long it'll last. 4AD might get you an 80xp ally for a single scene, or fast forward through an instance where the action has slowed down, people are frustrated, and the fun has stalled, but it's not going to auto-defeat the final boss for you. The 4AD spent to influence a ruler to act in your favor this time has no bearing on next time (rulers are notoriously fickle like that).
3) If someone decides to blow their entire reserve on a single moment, think of all the opportunities they've passed up to activate criticals, opponent's errors, roll boosts, etc. Remember, if you've got a boatload of AD to start the game, so does the GM. A phrase from Spycraft comes to mind -- you control the vertical.
As a GM, if your players are being miserly with AD and hording them up to the end of each session, this sounds like permission to take off the kid gloves and get to whomping on them much earlier. Similarly, if they're hesitant to spend AD, perhaps it's because not many are being awarded in-game.

Additionally, as a player, if my group scrounges up and spends 4 AD (let's say, for the sake of argument, all of them came as rewards for good roleplaying) to ask for a Perk, only to come up 1 or 2 points short of the required number, I'm going to feel a little frustrated, maybe even cheated out of a valuable resource.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 07:41:32 AM by LordKruelos » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2012, 01:12:13 PM »

I'm all for all kinds of narrative control.  I wouldn't have my PCs roll their Action Dice though, I'd just charge them a flat rate - because it'd feel so wasteful if they each spent an Action Die for nothing because of a bit of bad luck on the rolls.

This is a key point -- if you want the PCs to spend AD to maybe influence an NPC, don't treat it as a Perk -- I would handle it as a standard or team check, allowing any team participants to add AD to the final result. (GM always has final say whether a PC-requested Perk is allowed)

Adding an intermediate 'maybe' narrative control might work just fine for you, and if so, go for it, but for a more generalized ruling, I'd suggest not watering down N.C. as written.

I'm confused here.  Nowhere in my post is there a "maybe".  There's control the narrative and choose to succeed.  That's the opposite of a maybe - that's definite.  I'm also not "watering down N.C." - I'm adding new (purely skill related) options for the players for which there is no existing analogue (the closest is +1 to attacks only, nothing skill related).  So I'm really just not sure what you're saying here.


On top of that, SPENDING the die also makes the luckslinger even more obscene than simply rolling one, as they can get upwards of 10+ action die to throw around as seen fit. If they have to roll one there's actually some chance involved, they can't just shovel four of their bonus d4s at you and say "We win."

Statistically, said "luckslinger" (a much kinder term then they get at my table) is better off with a roll.  When you have a 75% explosion rate and a large bonus to what you roll you will often have those characters rolling a single d4 and getting something in the 20s-30s.  I'm speaking entirely from experience here.  Charging them 4 at a flat rate jacks up their opportunity cost from 1 (and maybe, maybe 2) to 4.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 01:15:57 PM by Sletchman » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2012, 02:17:28 PM »

I really like the idea of rolling being involved in these kind of situations, since spending is such an obvious "of COURSE we spend" action that it really negates the idea of it being a fork in the road of fate that could go either way. You do make a fair point about it possibly making those feats 'mandatory', but it'd be such a rare occurrence since the PCs usually have some direct control on their destinies that I think giving the luckslingers a little bonus is a bit alright in this situation. There's not much that really lets them be passively lucky, and this gives a bit of luck that isn't directly tied to them, their skills, their actions, and their outcomes.

Chance Monkeys already get more breaks then then need. It's inherent in the spec. They get an almost infinite number of chances They don't need more bonuses. It's like saying that wizards or clerics in D&D 3.X don't have enough cool toys.

Plus action die really need more things they can be rolled on. I always prefer adding a bit of chance to my luck, and spending an action die isn't nearly as satisfying as buying one. It's still VERY satisfying, but having it be a "spend dice" situation instead of just a "Roll a freebie" makes it seem less fork-in-the-road and more "You get the good outcome if you haven't had things to spend your action die on this session."

What? Action dice can be rolled along with pretty much ANY roll. Skill checks, knowledge checks, saves, attack checks, damage rolls. That's like 95% or more of the rolls in the game.

And if your players only have their starting action dice to play with, they are boring and their characters deserve to die. See the GM advice section on awarding action dice, or even better, the GM section of Paranoia (the players aren't your enemy, they're your entertainment) and the section on dramatic combat (be interesting or be dead).

On top of that, SPENDING the die also makes the luckslinger even more obscene than simply rolling one, as they can get upwards of 10+ action die to throw around as seen fit. If they have to roll one there's actually some chance involved, they can't just shovel four of their bonus d4s at you and say "We win."

Yeah. My non-chance monkey players can get 10 dice a session. Part of the GM's job is to hand them out like candy whenever the players do something cool. Why? Because it give the GM more dice to use against them. Properly played, action dice are an essentially unlimited resource.

Oh, and they players can't just hand you four action dice and say "We win." First, it's boring. I don't play with people who want to 'win' for that reason. Second, their are guidelines for how much and how far and how strongly narrative control can effect things. If your players just try and use action dice and narrative control as a win button you're completely within your rights to as GM and under the rules as written and intended to say: "No, you don't" and hand them their dice back.

With rolling you either have to set the threshold so a normal PC can make it, so it's laughable to a chance monkey, or so there's some chance of failure for a chance monkey who will be the only person who can expect to make it.

Frankly, I wouldn't let the players spend action dice regarding events where their character's aren't present in the first place. Especially since all of the comments in support basically talk about a 50-50 shot. If that's the case, just flip a coin if you don't know. My solution is to use Mythic since it gives me so much more then a yes or no answer and inherently adjusts the odds and automatically generates plot twists based on how in control the PCs are. More in control means things are more likely to go against them.

The players don't get to know I even rolled for it though. Why? Because they're on the other side of the The Wall of Fear and Ignorance.
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2012, 03:19:40 PM »

Hmm, I guess if I was in the OP's position where I wanted an NPC's decision to be random, but still allow the PC's to influence that decision, I'd probably go with the Assistance sub-rule of Disposition (p. 373).
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2012, 04:11:46 PM »

I'm all for all kinds of narrative control.  I wouldn't have my PCs roll their Action Dice though, I'd just charge them a flat rate - because it'd feel so wasteful if they each spent an Action Die for nothing because of a bit of bad luck on the rolls.

This is a key point -- if you want the PCs to spend AD to maybe influence an NPC, don't treat it as a Perk -- I would handle it as a standard or team check, allowing any team participants to add AD to the final result. (GM always has final say whether a PC-requested Perk is allowed)

Adding an intermediate 'maybe' narrative control might work just fine for you, and if so, go for it, but for a more generalized ruling, I'd suggest not watering down N.C. as written.

I'm confused here.  Nowhere in my post is there a "maybe".  There's control the narrative and choose to succeed.  That's the opposite of a maybe - that's definite.  I'm also not "watering down N.C." - I'm adding new (purely skill related) options for the players for which there is no existing analogue (the closest is +1 to attacks only, nothing skill related).  So I'm really just not sure what you're saying here.

Sorry, Sletch, I was agreeing with you 100% and taking it further, I just was less clear than I probably should have been.
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2012, 04:55:32 PM »

Hnmmh. It's probably just our GM, but I don't recall any of us ever being handed out Action Die in the course of game. If you're getting 10 a session that would probably make them more useful, because as it is in our game it seems like there's a flat limit you have that means action die are only ever best spent on the most critical of critical things since you only get 4 of them per session.

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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2012, 05:10:49 PM »

Either that or you're just boring. Wink

Seriously though, read Awarding PC Action Dice on page 365.
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« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2012, 05:47:53 PM »

I'll admit, I'm still not in the habit of handing out nearly enough action dice to be proper >.>
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