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Doc Democracy

Narrative dice

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I have always wanted the plot (and complications) to be something players brought into the game.


I propose having a dice pool in the middle of the table made up of black and white dice.


I will add one white die to the pool for every complication I have included in the session, and will add another each time a player chooses to introduce their complication.  I will also allow such things to remove black dice from the pool.


I will add a black dice each time a player asks for some narrative boon.  Want to just find the clue, know of a useful person?  Sure!  Add one (or more) dice to the black pool.


The mechanics?  Well, players can use the white dice. They add the dice to an attack (or damage) roll by either the hero or the GM and it can replace a dice to change either the to hit or damage roll to the benefit of the player.  Black dice work in favour of the GM.


In general, only one die (either white or black ) can be used in a single roll.  To add a second die, you need to add a die of the alternate colour to the pool.  To add a third die you need to add two additional dice of the alternate colour to the pool. So for a player to add two dice to a hit roll, trying to guarantee a good result, they will need to add three black dice to the central pool.


I think there needs to be a limit though.  I am inclined to say the dice pool cannot exceed the number of players time three.  So when it is maxed with black dice the players cannot access it until those dice are used by the GM.


I think this might encourage a bit of narrative meta-play with the players incentivised to bring in their complications and seek to highlight the complexities of their characters (and reward players that do).





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This is probably going to come off as negative, and I apologize in advance.  I'm not fond of metacurrency, and it shows when I talk about it. 


- Giving players the ability to control the pool so heavily is a very neat idea.  Most metacurrency systems are purely GM driven, and that's one of their big failings. 

- Rewards post-chargen for Disads is good and discourages throwaway "never gonna matter" Disads-in-name-only.  But:

- The lack of scale presents a problem.  Achilles Sr getting dropped to -12 BODY and STUN in the first action of combat because of his Vulnerability is "worth" one die.  But so is Achilles Jr taking an extra d6 STUN from his Susceptibility.  I suspect players will go for lots of small Disads instead of a few big Disads. 

- Relatedly, frequently recurring Disads pose a problem.  Defendo has PsyLim: Starts all fights with a Presence Attack "Fighting solves nothing, let's talk it out!" and an Abort to Block.  Does he generate a white die every fight?  What about Honesty's CvLying, does he get a white die every time he could lie but doesn't? 



- This is a very simple and intuitive system.  But it has to interface with all of HERO System, which is less simple.  That simplicity difference causes some friction between the two systems. 

- Outright adding dice massively favors high-cost-per-d6 attacks.  12d6 Blast +3d6 is 75AP.  6d6 NND +3d6 is 90 AP.  4d6 RKA +3d6 is 105AP.  2d6 RKA AOE +3d6 is 150AP. 

- Only having offensive options (barring Block) for spending metacurrency is going to make combat a lot nastier.  A 4d6k3 to-hit roll is way more accurate and adding a couple d6 to an attack massively increases the chances of Stunned'ing the opponent.  This may be a feature, not a bug.  Not having non-combat options for spending white (as opposed to giving the GM black) is going to exacerbate this. 

- Relatedly, this favors bricks and stiffs martial artists / speedsters.  A low CV benefits more from skewing the to-hit roll and adding d6s to a big attack is more likely to push it above the Stunned threshold, while not really minding a skewed to-hit against them and being the best able to take a high DC attack.  A high CV low DC/DEF character faces the opposite. 

- Is the use of dice declared before or after the window to Abort?  If dice are declared before Abort, Block becomes absurdly useful since it doesn't care how many dice you spent on your to-hit and can benefit from spending dice.  If dice are declared only when it's too late to Abort, then there's no interactivity or counter-play. 


Table Dynamics: (Will very much depend on your table dynamics, of course)

- Shared-pool metacurrency systems easily suffer from distribution issues.  Lo-Tek puts a die in the pool when him having no cellphone comes up.  Swipeo spends that die.  Angros puts a die in the pool when he goes Enraged over improper table manners.  Swipeo spends that die too.  Bob complains that Jim's screwing everyone on Disad Dice. 

- On the flip side though, this can promote fun moments where SFXman thinks he can beat Vulnerability Villain next phase if he has just a couple more white dice, so everybody else tries to generate as many white dice as possible by invoking disadvantages. 

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Thanks for the comments, I didn't actually pick up any negativity. 


When I throw soething like this out intot he ether it is exactly to gather up the issues that people might see.


I agree about the difference in KA attack dice versus normal dice.  However, you are not adding dice per se.  The 12D6 blast, if you blow lots of black dice to add 3 dice to your roll means you roll 15 dice and pick the best 12.   A different prospect from adding stuff.  I think in many situations it would be better value to add a killing dice to the pool but in BOTH cases it is probably more value to add to the to hit roll than the damage roll.


As for no defensive uses - you can use a dice to add to the GM's to hit roll - then the GM rolls 4 dice and takes the worst three.  You can also add a dice to the GMs damage roll and instead of rolling 12D6 he will roll 13 and take the worst 12.  There is the possibilty of rolling the dditional dice separately and then replacing one of the GMs dice with the bonus but I think it is better to ad it and make the roll better or worse as a pooled throw.


I am inclined to use this as something after chance to abort is declared.  It should be the last thing and have effects.  I think there will be fewer dice added than you think - for every dice you use, you are giving the GM the chance to counter.  If there are three players then the total dice pool will be 9 dice (black and white).  If it is ALL white then the players have a huge advantage - it means they can really go for it and do heroic things, knowing they have a chance to push the vagaries of chance.  When they have used that pool then it is likely that it is all black and they know the GM will have the same chance to hurt them and will have to be careful or begin pulling in complications to turn some of those blacks to white.  It is here that I see some of the value come into the narrative as the players are incentivised away from directly hitting the main issue head on.


As for the complication thing - I am inclined to be generous to my players.  If they pull in a vulnerability then that is fine.  I reckon the Starts all fights with a Presence Attack "Fighting solves nothing, let's talk it out!" and an Abort to Block is likely to add dice to the pool at the start but I am not going to add dice every time it comes up because it IS so common.  That is not the player bringing a complication into the story, that is a complication that is already front and centre.  There will be a bit of an art to this and I need to think it through but there should be a difference between the complications that contribute to the starting pool and those that are brought in by players.  If it changes the way players buy their complications then I reckon I am fine with that.  At least they will be doing more consideration of them mechanically and during play.


As far as player dynamics go, I am content to play with that.  We have played with a couple of shared pool concepts and my group is pretty consensual.  I have even been known to switch a black to white when a player forgoes using a dice to allow one of his team-mates to benefit (as long as the narrative is suitably heroic).


I think that is the key to it all.  Accessing the pool requires some kind of heroic narrative.  I want the players to justify using their heroic power pool in narrative terms rather than in simple mechanical ones.  I really want to drive that narrative from the players.


I do like your idea of the team coming together to get over the top results.  :-)






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