The Twist: “Buying” Success
Riffing on the previous concept is a twist that complements the idea of MoS from the opposite direction: If I fail the roll, or if I succeeded but want extra MoS, I can “buy” extra dice to succeed (or succeed better) at cost.
While this doesn’t preclude the recommendation of using a “fail-forward” concept in scenario design, there are still times where I might want my character to succeed in this moment, right now. And so I have a choice… let things continue as I rolled them, or am I willing to put my character into some narrative (backed by mechanics) peril in order to get the win?
If I choose the latter, <devilish voice>excellent</devil>. Much like the ladder of options for MoS, each extra die bought in this manner raises the magnitude of the potential trouble. The number of dice to be bought doesn’t need to be stated up front, allowing them to be bought one at a time, rolling and adding to my total and gradually raising the stakes until either my character succeeds or I reach my limit of peril.
Note that the narrative/perilous cost of the extra dice is paid whether they lead to success or not! Continue reading
The “Extra Die” Beauty: Creating a Margin of Success
Now we get to the key idea that really makes Aurora sing: After tallying enough dice to reach the target number of 15, any “remaining” dice count (as in counting the number of dice themselves, not the numbers on the dice) as the Margin of Success (hereafter often noted as MoS).
With this innovation*, a Margin of Success mechanic is elegantly added to a dice pool system that keeps things moving quickly and, most importantly, preserves the pool’s visceral nature. By dealing in dice (and by having/keeping a fixed target number), there’s no need to calculate something fiddly such as “for every 5 points over the target number you have achieved an extra level of success.” Count out to 15, move the rest of the dice to the side, and there’s the Margin of Success.
With this, the many great options and advantages of a Margin of Success system open up:
- Provides for more interesting narrative outcomes. With an explicit MoS system, the players and GM know not only if the character succeeds or fails, but also how well or by how much. Did they just narrowly make it? Succeed with style? Fail miserably? Or did they shine in a moment of glory? This gives everyone a tool to create and craft a rich and more exciting scene and story.
- AND, using the “Buying Success” mechanic detailed in the next section, it allows for tension, excitement, and a great story even if the character fails or just ekes out a win.
- Allows for the easy creation of cumulative or extended tasks, compiling a count of MoS towards completing a goal.
- Explicitly allows the coupling of success in combat (or other conflicts) with the skill roll, avoiding the oddities (and often frustration) of excellent to-hit rolls yet terrible damage rolls, or vice versa. This makes the skill roll more important and thus makes character ability and agency more relevant.
- By leveraging MoS as a type of “currency,” interesting subsystems can be added, such as spending MoS to activate special abilities, create advantages, or other creative and exciting outcomes.
Handling Difficulty and Modifiers
As already noted for the reasons mentioned above, the baseline difficulty of a task as well as pertinent modifiers are handled by adjusting the dice pool, adding or subtracting dice in ½d increments. The target number (15) remains the same. Continue reading