Sunday, November 6, 2016

Goal Setting and Risk Taking

I need your opinions on an idea I'm playing with...

A little while ago I ran a game with a system I kitbashed out of a variety of different RPGs,

The primary source for the mechanics were the systems Otherkind by Vincent Baker, Ghost/Echo, and other hacks of those rules. While each of those games describes the mechanic their own way, my personal take on the mechanic works like this...


Any time you take an action [of any kind] that could be challenged in some way (by opponents, environmental issues, a looming timeline) you role two 6-sided dice.

The first die represents the player's/PC's Goal.
The second die represents the player's/PC's Risk.

The goal is what you want your PC to accomplish.

For example: Joe's PC is trying to pick a fancy lock in order to get into a safe.

The risk is what can go wrong when the PC tries to complete their goal.

For example: There is a risk that the burglar alarm will go off.

Failing to achieve the Goal is NOT a risk. If you don't make a the Goal die roll successfully, your action fails. The risk can still happen. How? As follows...

The Goal Die: 

  • A Roll of 1-2 Fails to achieve the Goal.
  • A Roll of 3-4 Accomplishes the Goal, though not complete. A partial success.
  • A Roll of 5-6 Accomplishes the Goal.

The Risk Die:

  • A Roll of 1-2 Means the Risk happens.
  • A Roll of 3-4 Means the Risk happens, but it isn't so bad. A partial failure.
  • A Roll of 5-6 Means the Risk doesn't happen.

Going back to my example:

Joe's PC rolls with the Goal of picking the lock on a safe, and the risk of setting off an alarm.

Joe rolls 6 on the Goal Die, and 1 on the Risk Die. The safe is open, but the alarm goes off.

Joe rolls 1 on the Goal Die, and 6 on the Risk Die. The safe won't open. Luckily, the attempt doesn't set off the alarm.

Joe rolls 3 on the Goal Die, and 4 on the Risk Die. The safe unlocks, but is stuck. It's going to take a little muscle, and time to pull it open all the way. The alarm makes a loud, short beep, and then dies off. A short circuit? Probably. Well, it's not on now, but someone might have heard that.

The beauty of this system is that you can succeed, but something bad could still happen. Likewise, you can fail and crap could hit the fan, or you can fail and things could still be fine. 

Plus, I love the idea of letting the player determine the nature of the Risk involved. I have noticed some players have difficulty coming up with an appropriate Risk, and in those cases I'm happy to help come up with something appropriate, and hopefully entertaining. 

n my opinion, and from my experience, this occurs because most players are wrapped up in the idea of pass/fail. They assume/expect/hope that if they don't achieve what they are aspiring to do, well that's it. Situation permitting, the status quo is maintained. If you roll to hit an enemy and miss, you didn't hit your target. They aren't injured. Nothing untoward happens to you the attacker either. The combat continues.

Imagine instead a die mechanic that says you missed, and broke your bow string. Perhaps you hit, but only nicked the opponent. What about hitting your opponent dead on, but you chipped your sword doing so? 

I think you all get the idea of the basics. Let's move on to some expanded ideas, and my issue...


Let's say you are creating a character who is a doctor. When you want to do something in the game, you state your Goal, roll the Goal Die and hope you get a high number. You also come up with a Risk, roll the Risk Die, and hope you also get a high number (and therefore lower, or eliminate the Risk).

Now, if the Goal is healing a injured person you might say, "My PC is a Doctor. Shouldn't I have a better chance of achieving my Goal?"

The answer is yes. In addition to your Goal Die, you roll an Advantage Die. When determining whether or not you met your Goal, pick the higher of the two rolls. For example: The Goal Die roll is 3, but the Advantage Die roll is 5. The Goal is met successfully thanks to the Advantage Die!



Should the situation your PC is in be less than optimal, the Gamemaster may add a Drawback Die to the Risk Die. If you were a doctor trying to heal someone in complete darkness, or without the proper equipment, it would likely increase the Risk, or run counter to the Goal.

If a Drawback Die is added to the Risk Die is might look something like this: There is a Risk of the injured person's wound becoming infected. Roll a Risk Die, and a Drawback Die, since the doctor PC is working by moonlight only. The Risk Die comes up 5, but the Drawback comes up 2. While the wound may be patched up, and the injured individual can stand, it seems infection has set in.

Alternatively, the Drawback hampers the Goal. Instead of increasing the chance of Risk, you could have the Drawback Die subtracted from the Goal Die. A roll of 1 on the Drawback Die would still allow for a complete success of the Goal if the Goal Die came up a 6 (5 still totally achieving the Goal). This kind of runs counter to the idea that you want the Goal roll high, and the Risk roll high however. 

My question is...

I want the ability to have comparative level of skill, and the capacity of PCs to improve in order to give the system the ability to run campaigns. That is to say, it is my feeling that for campaigns to go on for a good length of time, PCs should improve their skills and abilities, even if it's slow, and/or marginal.

I can't really figure out a balanced way to do that with this system.

Any suggestions?

Barking Alien

1 comment:

  1. This idea sounds intriguing and if scale of success or failure is contained within a single d6. The advantage die being used to substitute in the goal for better and disadvantage used to substitute in risk for worse. I like that the system allows for a doctor to potentially try and crack a safe and gets disadvantage due to not having experience. Since a single die roll sets results would potentially have to be small such as +1 when novice, +2 when journeyman, +3 when master thus it is not tied to skill system rather being employed more by PC saying he is master dr and should get +3 to surgery. This is a rough idea but I really do like the mechanic.