A More Forthright Resolution Mechanic

By | March 1, 2015

Hello all!

So for the past couple of weeks we have been discussing swapping out the existing “die + bonus vs. difficulty, binary results” resolution mechanic in Forthright to “die + bonus, non-binary results.”  What this would mean is that instead of players rolling against a difficulty assigned by the guide, they would be rolling the die and the die result identifies the outcome of the action.  This is similar to the systems used in Powered by the Apocalypse games, Fate and Fantasy Flight’s narrative dice system.

However, unlike those games, the bonuses / negatives gained in addition to success and failure would be specifically identified by the system instead of left to the guide and players to determine on-the-fly.  We’re hoping this avoids the “…and more stormtroopers show up” syndrome.

This also draws some inspiration from Tenra Bansho Zero, in that we’re looking at combat actions to be exchanges of blows between characters – resolving the long-standing issue with a group of players ganging up on what’s supposed to be a powerful NPC but instead becomes a puddle of goo within a few rounds.  We’re thinking this “exchange of blows” mechanic is simpler and cleaner than a lot of other ways we’ve seen NPC-scalability handled.

Here are some examples of combat results from this new system we’re working on:

  • Character misses, but leaves himself open for counterattack
  • Character hits, but leaves himself open for counterattack
  • Character hits and successfully guards against counterattack

We had, for a while, a “character misses and successfully guards against counterattack,” but we realized that was boring.  That would be a meaningless roll that doesn’t advance the story either in the players’ favor or against them.  As we discussed this mechanic, we decided that we could streamline our rules by replacing binary success.  As it was, binary success required a lot of explanation about how to make failure advance the story – with this new mechanic, the results always advance the story in some way.  This helps ensure that every roll is important.

This also means that we can eliminate rules for the Guide to identify how difficult something is to accomplish.  This will help make the Guide’s life easier, and will also further tie into the name of the game:  there can be no fiddle-faddle when the outcome of the action is right there on the die, rather than dependent on a user-generated difficulty.  This also helps to maintain the detente between players and guide, allowing them to focus on cooperation and not competition.

Not only does this reduce rules complication, it also reduces the likelihood that groups will ignore a rule.  I’ve mentioned previously that we have had playtesters tell us they would ignore the rule about rolling in the open or announcing difficulties prior to a roll, because they feel (and have been trained!) that the only way to ensure a story keeps moving is by ignoring the results of random rolls.  The reason this was so easy to do is because we were providing players with a mechanic they were already familiar with and telling them don’t use it that way, pretty please.

We’re still sussing out all the details of this new resolution mechanic and how we’re going to implement it, but it’s got some very exciting implications for Forthright Beta 3 and should allow us to really distinguish it from a certain other game that we’ve turned out to be too similar to.

Thanks for reading!  We’d love to see your comments below!