Forthright Sneak Peek: What You Roll

By | August 29, 2015

Hello again!

Last week, we introduced the Beta 3 Action Resolution system, which defines what the dice tell you and when to roll them.  But why are you rolling in the first place?

A hallmark of Forthright Open Roleplay since we began developing it was dividing “character classes” into three components:  fighting, talking and using skills.  Each of these Roles would then be variably ranked to determine what your specific character would be best at.  This used to be entirely too complicated, with different rolls for different styles of fighting and different skills for different tasks you could use to interact with the world.  It’s simpler now, with the rolls that you will most often make being:

  • FIGHT:  This is what you roll when you want to hurt or handicap someone or something.  If you’re dealing damage, knocking an opponent down, disarming someone or throwing sand in their eyes, you roll Fight.  The bonus to your Fight Check is determined by your proficiency in your Fighting Style:  One-Star = +0, Two-Star = +3, Three-Star = +6.
  • TALK:  This is what you roll when you want to communicate a message to another intelligent being.  If you’re raising one eyebrow meaningfully, giving an impassioned speech, or trying to convince someone to change their evil ways, you roll Talk.  The bonus to your Talk Check is determined by your proficiency in your Persona:  One-Star = +0, Two-Star = +3, Three-Star = +6.
  • SKILL:  This is what you roll when you are interacting with the Gamescape in any way that is not fighting or talking.  Whether you’re piloting a crashing airship, picking a lock or sneaking past a guard, you roll Skill. The bonus to your Skill Check is determined by your proficiency in your Vocation:  One-Star = +0, Two-Star = +3, Three-Star = +6.

We simplified and streamlined these tools because we used to maintain separate rolls (“Strike” and “Impact,” for example, for hurting or handicapping a target respectively) to try and have the dice “give a different feel” to different actions.  A lot of that idea was rooted firmly in the classic d20 “roll for hit, save versus effect.”  We threw out that concept when we decided instead to focus entirely on “actor acts,” the principle that the person performing an action and rolling the dice should be one and the same, always.

Further, in order to make the function of these rolls as clear as possible and provide grammatical consistency, we gave them short action-verb names.  They have been, at various points of development, “Strike, Speech, Skill”, “Strike, Speak, Skill,” “Impact, Presence, Acuity” and “Fight, Talk, Work.”  We didn’t like “Strike” and “Impact” because they imply a specific manner of attacking.  “Speech” and “Speak” felt a little too D&D, while “Presence” felt a little too vague.  Likewise, “Acuity” proved unclear because not many people knew the word, and “Work” just felt odd for everyone.  We’ve seen the most comfort and ease of interaction through “Fight, Talk, Skill” than through any of the other verbal variations.

The different Roles a character has provide different benefits to the character’s ability to make checks:

  • Fighting Style gives characters different types of damage, different ranges and different amounts of Resolve (“hit points”).  When characters of different Fighting Styles make Fight Checks, different things can happen:  for example, a Juggernaut can deal 1d12 damage to one target in close range while a Sharpshooter can deal 1d6 damage to two targets in medium range.
  • Persona gives characters different situations or types of communication in which they excel.  All characters can always say whatever they want, but the character or scenario in which they find themselves may give their words more credence, Bolstering their Talk Checks.  An Orator is better at inspiring people while an Aristocrat is better at talking to the high and mighty.
  • Vocation gives characters different types of expertise when interacting with the Gamescape.  All characters can make any type of Skill Check, but Vocation determines if the action being performed is Bolstered.  Artificers Bolster Skill Checks when making things, while Infiltrators Bolster Skill Checks when sneaking.

Bolsters, in this context, allow players to roll their die twice and take the larger result.  Bolsters can be performed ahead of time (rolling 2d20) or as a reroll (roll 1d20, oh god that was low, roll another 1d20) provided all rolling is complete before the result of the action is described.  On average, this works as a +3.35 bonus to the roll. . .but it’s a lot more fun to roll a second die than to add up multiple hard bonuses.

This design provides incentive-based play and niche protection (you get an extra benefit when doing “your thing”) without penalizing operating “outside the box” (there is no penalty for doing something other than “your thing”):  all things we have been working hard to provide in Forthright so that stories and actions can be as flexible as possible without needing a ton of rules slathered on for every variant situation.

We’re interested in knowing what you think!  Please tell us in the comments below, and we’ll see you next week.