Goodbye Bolsters and Hinders

By | November 12, 2016

One of the earliest concepts we had for Forthright Open Roleplay was the Bolster / Hinder mechanic. This, as it turns out, is functionally the same as the D&D 5e Advantage / Disadvantage mechanic. Only, in our case, it’s less meaningful.

In D&D 5e, Advantage and Disadvantage provide a varying value dependent upon how difficult the roll is. This makes rolling two dice and taking the higher or lower a significant change in gameplay. In Forthright, the value was significantly less: the result ranges are large enough that rolling multiple dice would often (~50% of the time) lead to the same result: an Exchange.

The more we playtested this, the more obviously it sucked. Especially since players had to spend a currency on it.

We took a look at maybe making it a Guide-granted tool and doing something different with the currency, but then we realized what we’d managed to do is just make Advantage and Disadvantage with a different name.

So, goodbye Bolsters and Hinders.

What are we doing instead?

Bolsters and Hinders were one of the main ways players could try and modify the result of their die rolls. They were a currency that was granted by rolling particularly high (for Bolsters) or particularly low (for Hinders), and they offered a token that could be used to muck with later rolls. We liked the idea of a good roll in one situation being able to impact another roll later – that guarantees a level of narrative control for players that we appreciate. That way, no one ever feels like they wasted a good roll.

We’re replacing the Bolsters / Hinders with a single currency: the Boon. Boons are given to the Team or Guide whenever a player or Guide, respectively, rolls a result of 21 or higher. There are two pools of Boons. The Team starts every session with 1 Boon and can have a maximum of 1 + the number of team members in Boons. The Guide can have a maximum of the number of team members in Boons. In order to encourage spending Boons, the pools are small and they go away at the end of a session.

Boons can be used to Raise or Drop a die result. That is, if a player rolls an Exchange, spending a Boon will allow that player to Raise the result to a Win. Alternately, if the Guide rolls a Win, a player can spend a Boon to Drop that result to an Exchange. This way, Boons always have a clear and significant benefit when used. Specialties will provide additional uses for Boons.

There is no more “negative currency.” When a setback is rolled, the negative consequences occur immediately, rather than “storing up” for later. Because combat rolls have specific negative consequences, and non-combat rolls must have their negative consequences declared prior to the roll, this is always a known choice for the roller and a decision the roller is making to accept those potential negative consequences.

So far through playtests, we’re much happier with this technique than with previous models. One of the benefits of spending so long on playtesting and refining is that we can try and get rid of those rough edges where play might stopper up or become confusing based on the rules in place or the way rules are interpreted.

So, what do you think?  Are you going to miss “roll two dice and take the higher/lower?”  Let us know in the comments!