Base Underpinnings and the Dice Pool
At its fundamental level, this is a d6 dice pool system, chosen for the numerous of advantages it brings to the table:
First and foremost is the pure visceral aspect of a dice pool. By holding a number of dice in our hand we gain instant feedback of our strength in that moment. We feel it. As characters progress in skill and ability, it’s immediately apparent through the number of dice. So too is the impact of adding or subtracting modifiers. At each moment in the game we feel our character’s chance of success (or not). Altogether it is much more personal than a faceless target number, and as such the experience of rolling heightens our emotional attachment.
Secondly, to summarize this earlier blog post, it allows for an elegant way of handling multiple actions by a character in a turn: for each declared action above the first, subtract one die from every test made. This allows for a sweet differentiation between experienced and inexperienced characters while also elegantly handing movement and incidental actions. Within this system there are no fixed silos of (arbitrarily increasing) attacks per turn, no rigid number of actions/moves/bonus actions, or the like; instead it provides a unified and organic method that promotes options, interesting choices, and crazy excitement.
Thirdly, it allows for various sub-systems and abilities (such as martial arts, stunts, equipment traits, or other similar things) where removing dice can be used to “fuel” special maneuvers or attacks.
Lastly, because we’re dealing solely with dice, both the number of calculations as well as the values involved tend to remain low. There’s no need to add, for example, +17 to a roll. Starting with a base number of dice (likely to be less than 10), then adding or subtracting a few dice (likely to be less than 6 either way) for modifiers keeps things simple. Even if our list of modifiers grows large, because we are dealing with actual dice it remains easy to calculate things by going through modifiers one by one and physically adding or removing dice from our hand until the final value is reached.
The Elegance of Multiple Actions. The primary interesting choice that arises from the concept of removing a die per additional action is just that – “How many actions do I want to take?”Here is why the idea of “remove a die per additional action” is so exciting and interesting to me: Under this idea, a character performing a single task for which they have a good level of skill – and it gets even more prevalent as they gain more experience and thus have more dice in their pool – is not only likely to succeed but, when coupled with the idea of a Margin of Success (to be explained further below), wildly succeed. And with greater success comes greater effect. But there are times where doing something several times in a round (and losing a die or two to each roll) could still be advantageous, even with a more mundane or baseline level of effect. For example, in a combat situation, do I want to fire a single, excellent shot, or do I want to fire several shots (perhaps at several enemies) with a reduced chance of effect or success? If I’m playing in a game where the damage of a weapon is set such that a single shot may drop an average foe, then one shot across three foes could be a worthwhile gamble. It’s a nice setup for choice. It also provides another way to highlight a gunslinger’s higher skill in gunslinging compared to that of his teammates – they not only hit more often but can do these kinds of multiple attacks more effectively, taking out goons and mooks in droves.
These choices are further expanded when considering the temptation to do several things at once, or, through encounter design, “needing” to split focus and attempt many things all at once. Throwing complications that require character involvement to stop them in the midst of other chaos (such as combat) is a time honoured GM technique for a good reason, and within Aurora’s framework the choice gets more interesting than the binary “do I do this or that” by expanding it to “can I or should I split my attention here and try to do both?” All while handling the extra actions elegantly.