Xavid (kihou) wrote,

Adding Dice

So, after my last post, I started to wonder, if XP actions and Apocalypse moves are playing in a similar space, if you could add Apocalypse move-style dice mechanics to Chuubo's XP actions. The conclusion I came to is "not really".

(Jenna has optional diced rules for Chuubo's that are quite different from the direction I went here. I conceptualized this before reading her rules, but I compare/contrast her approach at the end.)

The main thing here is that Apocalypse moves are all about partial success and meaningful failure, and not all Chuubo's actions make sense there. Science, Faith, and Sorcery works OK as a move, if you don’t mind leaving part of your setting up to the dice; your theory is correct if you roll well and disastrously wrong if you don't. Maybe you could make Decisive Action a move, if you don’t mind the specified consequences of success and failure being rather open-ended. Foreshadowing as a move with positive and negative implications? I’m unconvinced that’d work well. And Slice of Life is right out.

Apocalypse moves do seem like they'd work well for replacing the Intentions/Will system, particularly for a genre like Adventure Fantasy with a focus on conflict. Here the main issue is genericness; without making specific assumptions about what type of characters you have and what their main focus of interaction is, it's hard to have something that doesn't end up feeling generic in a Fate Core sort of way, especially with the open-ended skill lists. You can have moves like challenge someone, overcome an obstacle, and invoke magic, and just say yes for skill uses that don't involve conflict or other interesting failure potential. (You could even add randomness to miraculous actions, depending on what feel you're going for.) Maybe a small list of more generic moves would be good if they're sharing mind space with miracles and XP actions, but they don't have the same flavor or punch as moves in Apocalypse World or say Urban Shadows, my latest read.

Jenna's approach is rather different. She does a similar "say yes for day-to-day skill use" thing, but she doesn't punt on combining XP actions and dice, instead replacing the XP actions with a slightly different set that's all rolled. She uses a somewhat-complicated dice mechanic based on rolling doubles or triples of the same value, and you have a choice to either roll your skill or a relevant issue. And it adds failure modes to the new set of XP actions; for example, instead of a shared action or reaction being something you can just do, and whether you pick up Isolation being based on the action you choose to take, connecting to people is now something you roll that has a random chance of failing. And for something like Trauma, "success" is getting traumatized, and "failure" is being unaffected, which makes sense from a narrative perspective but is weird from a character perspective.

Jenna's approach is closer to what I was originally going for, actually, though the specific success and failure effects are often Issue-based, which would probably work better for me if I "got" issues more. Using Issues does give you a specific mechanical effect to use without needing to make too many assumptions about what stuff's going on. I'm not sure I like her "you only get the XP if you succeed" bit, because it encourages people to always do what they're good at, but if you're keeping the "two XP actions per chapter" rule it just means you'll need to find other rolls to make.

My reservations about this specific version are:
  • Failures where nothing happens are boring.
  • Some of it feels like randomness for the sake of randomness. Making whether two characters manage to connect a matter of a roll of the dice rather than in the player's or GM's hands doesn't seem like what I want to be going for.
At first I was feeling that more mechanics about giving out Issues would lead to more dissonance between what the Issue says and the story or the direction you want to go. But I feel like that's actually related to the specific issues; just like failure doesn't seem to make sense for conflict-free actions, mechanically picking up a point of Issues that seem "voluntary" like Trust seems potentially dissonant. "Just because I rolled well on my mystical experience doesn't mean I actually trust that divine figure!" Issue-based dice mechanics could actually work quite well for "involuntary" issues like Sickness or Illusion, or maybe with a different perspective on character agency. Or tell people to take a wound to resist the mechanic, I guess.

So, I guess in conclusion, dicelessness is more central to the difference between Chuubo's and Apocalypse World than I realized; giving the focus actions uncertainty and failure skews towards different kinds of actions than having them be narrative things that happen.
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