FantasyCraft Alignments and Paths Using Advantage Dice System

I had cause — procrastination, really, a man can only read so much about data warehouses and dimensional modeling in one sitting — to have another look at FantasyCraft. Specifically I reviewed the alignment system and the paths, and I found that they could be a very good fit for Echelon.

FantasyCraft Definitions

FantasyCraft presents alignments and paths as described below.

Alignments

An ‘alignment’ is a philosophical ideal to which a character aligns (hence the name). These are not strictly defined in the game as they are in D&D or the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but can vary from campaign to campaign. You could replicate the nine-fold alignment system, or the three-fold alignment system of B/X, or have each alignment be an elemental power, constellation, deity, or something else entirely. A setting might have only one alignment model or several (or none!)

A character can only be aligned with one alignment at a time. The book describes how this might change, but I won’t go into that here. For my purposes I can see allowing multiple alignments; even if they end up conflicting that’s not my problem.

An alignment has a narrative element (that I won’t go into here, it’s setting-specific) and the following mechanical elements.

  • Paths: 2-5 paths, very similar to domains, that represent the alignment.
  • Alignment Skills: 4 skills that become class skills for those following the alignment. The book recommends not using skills that are class skills for the divine classes.
  • Ritual Weapon: 1 specific weapon type (longsword, battle axe, etc.) wielded by devout followers of the alignment. Certain path abilities might depend on or make use of this ritual weapon.
  • Avatar: a powerful creature that represents or is the incarnation of the alignment.
  • Opposed Alignments (Optional): alignments that disagree — strongly, and possibly violently — with this alignment. This can affect how certain path abilities work.

Paths

Paths are very similar to domains in that they each provide benefits that are thematically related to a philosophical focus. The book presents paths that match many of the core domains, plus a few that don’t (and skip a few, come to that); they are disjoint sets.

That said, each path provides five ‘steps’ of ability. These align quite well with Echelon talents (Expert to Legendary), so I’m happy to see them split up like this already. Unlike domains there really aren’t ‘domain spells’, though. Each step might offer a new ability, potentially plus the option of casting one or two spells, but the spells are usually constrained by scene (encounter) rather than falling into a bin that can be selected from for the bonus domain slots.

As an example (that uses some FantasyCraft-specific terminology, don’t worry about that part), the Path of Air:

Path of Air

Air I: You gain Bang and Electrical Resistance equal to 3 times your Air Step.

Air II: You may convert damage inflicted by your melee and unarmed attacks to electrical damage. You may also cast Gust of Wind once per scene.

Air III: You may cast Air Walk and Wall of Wind once per scene.

Air IV: You may cast Call Lightning II and Control Weather III once per scene.

Air V: You may cast Deadly Draft II and Control Weather IV once per scene.

So:

  • resistance to sonic and electricity attacks (three points per ‘step’ along the Path of Air);
  • convert melee and unarmed attack damage to electricity damage (no additional damage, but bypasses DR and might do additional damage to those vulnerable to electricity), and you can cast gust of wind once per encounter;
  • you can cast air walk and wall of wind once each per encounter;
  • you can cast call lightning II and control weather II once each per encounter;
  • you can cast deadly draft II and control weather IV once each per encounter.

All in all, fairly manageable. I’d like to see a few more abilities that aren’t spell-oriented, but I still likely this more than the Air Domain.

I will note that FantasyCraft is very ‘tier-oriented’ in how it does things. Many spells scale by spell level, many feat chains come in three steps, many monster abilities come in multiple steps, and so on. This is another reason I like to look to FantasyCraft for ideas.

Implementing in Echelon, Using Advantage Dice System

It should be mostly pretty easy to convert alignments and paths to Echelon using the Advantage Dice System. It won’t be complete until I have a full grasp on how magic works, but for now even the knowledge of “cast this once per encounter” is clear enough.

Alignments

Alignment narrative elements can be used basically as they are, since they have no mechanical basis… but even the mechanics adapt pretty easily as cornerstone talents.

  • Cornerstone Die: adds a cornerstone die to various checks related to the alignment.
  • Paths: You aren’t required to have an alignment to take a path, but the alignment’s cornerstone die is added to path checks. If there are ‘naked path checks’ (activating an item associated with the Path of Earth) the cornerstone die would apply, but it probably comes up more often if the character has the path in question.
  • Alignment Skills: trivially handled, you apply the cornerstone die to checks made for those skills.
  • Ritual Weapon: also trivial, you apply the cornerstone die when fighting with the ritual weapon (much as a martial tradition, but one weapon only).
  • Avatar: out of scope for the moment, this is about characters.
  • Opposed Alignments: obviously “these are your evil”, inasmuch as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are concerned. This is partly a roleplay element, but also ties into (D&D-style) alignment abilities.
  • Allied Alignments: not present in FantasyCraft, these would obviously “be your good”. Allies are good, opposed are evil, everyone else is neutral (unaligned). Dead easy.

Next up, paths.

Paths

Paths are basically as easy. Each step grants an ability. Most ‘first steps’ grant a bonus to a certain skill and other abilities scale with step. In these cases it might be better to treat them as scaling from the start.

Unlike FantasyCraft, it is not necessary to take an alignment to gain a path. Paths are common talents, and add a common die to path-related checks.

Apart from having five steps, though, paths don’t have as much structure as alignments. They’ll need specific consideration. Let’s look at the Path of Air:

  • Step I: “bang and electrical resistance equal to 3 times your Air Step” sounds like straight damage reduction.
    • Simple thunder and lightning resistance, possibly scaled as above or adding an advantage die to resistance (my preference).
  • Step II: “convert melee and unarmed attack damage to lightning” and “cast gust of wind once per encounter”. The change to damage type has almost incidental effect (‘change color’), so let’s have it also potentially add damage.
    • Add common die to damage rolled as advantage; damage is lightning. That is, you add the common die as ‘lightning damage’ to your weapon, and take whichever die rolls higher.
    • Cast gust of wind once per encounter.
  • Step III: cast air walk and wall of wind once per encounter.
    • ’nuff said.
  • Step IV: cast call lightning II and control weather III once per encounter.
    • ’nuff said.
  • Step V: cast deadly draft II and control weather IV once per encounter.
    • ’nuff said.

By the look of it, there are a few scalable abilities, and then some spells:

  • Add common die as advantage to resist thunder and lightning damage.
  • Add common die as advantage (lightning damage) when rolling damage with melee or unarmed attacks.
  • Cast assorted spells once per encounter.

Seems simple enough. I think I’d like to find some more concrete abilities, but this is a good start. Remember that if you have an associated alignment you can include the cornerstone die on path checks (which include spell casting checks, but I haven’t decided about the damage roll… but I’m inclined to allow it).

This leads to:

Path of Air (Common)

Advantage: Resist thunder damage; resist lightning damage; melee or unarmed attack damage (as lightning damage), fly checks

Basic: Cast message once per encounter.

Veteran: Cast obscuring mist and whispering wind once per encounter.

Heroic: Cast gaseous form and gust of wind once per encounter

Champion: Cast air walk and wall of wind once per encounter

Paragon: Cast call lightning II and control weather III once per encounter

Legendary: Cast deadly draft II and control weather IV once per encounter

I added a few spells — three, two at Step I and one at Step II — so each step gives two spells per encounter. They might or might not be useful, but they are available.

‘Resist damage’ probably is an advantage die added to your armor or other defense against those energy types. The melee or unarmed attack advantage means that when you roll damage for melee or unarmed attacks you add a die for the tier you have the Path of Air talent (your lightning damage augments the physical damage) and take the higher of the two (or more). A veteran with the Path of Air and a longsword would thus do 2d6 damage with his attacks… and a paragon with a longsword would do d12 (lighting) + d6 (longsword) damage.

The spell casting is pretty self-explanatory. Because these are constrained by encounter I expect they would not spend magic points, but I think I still would include a casting check (Target Number 3 for Basic, TN 4 for Veteran, etc., same as usual — about 75% chance of success if you have just the path, about 90% if you have the path and a cornerstone or capstone — for your highest-tier options).

Actually, if I keep spell levels I might make the TN something like “spell level +2″… which means spells become slightly less likely to succeed (normally TN advances one per tier, using spell level would advance it two per tier) until you hit Legendary and ‘things get easy again’. I kind of like this because it does make higher-level spells harder to cast until you become an archmage, but I also like the simplicity and consistency of the TN scaling directly with tier.

Regarding ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’

One might expect that the Path of Air is opposed to the Path of Earth. Paths themselves do not necessarily oppose each other, but alignments (deities or whatever) often do. I just realized that as written there is nothing ‘alignment oriented’ in the path. This might or might not be important (air is itself neutral, sort of thing), but I admit I like the idea of having specifically positive and specifically negative aspects or effects of the path that would be applied to allies or enemies.

It occurs to me that if channeling is still a thing it might apply here.

Alternate Channeling

In Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Magic™ there are alternate channeling options, things you can do with channeling besides heal the living and harm undead. These are not specifically domain-oriented but based on theme or portfolio. The list of options includes the one below.

Air/Sky/Wind: Heal—Creatures gain a channel bonus on Acrobatics and Fly checks, saving throws against wind effects, and effects with the air descriptor until the end of your next turn. Harm—Creatures are buffeted with wind until the end of your next turn; this wind gives them a channel penalty on ranged attacks, and their movement is halved if they move toward you.

… Fly check. Yeah, Path of Air could reasonable give a bonus to Fly checks.

I think channeling might be a way to ‘share path benefits’. Channeling the Path of Air could give a advantage (or bonus) to your allies’ Fly checks and disadvantage (or penalty) to your enemies’ Fly checks. It might apply also ranged attacks as the power guides or interferes with the missiles.

Closing Comments

The alignments and paths from FantasyCraft look like they could be well suited to handling divine power. As FantasyCraft is a d20-based system there obviously would be some refitting needed, but by and large it looks pretty straightforward.

I suspect the approach taken here might be a good fit for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Instead of a bonus spell slot for each spell level, reduce clerical casting slots to be the same as wizard casting slots, then have the domains give the use of each spell once per day (or once per encounter).

If that’s too much, for either system, the frequency could be lowered to once per day, or it might itself be tiered so that, say, the top three spell levels (or two tiers) are usable once per day and anything below that once per encounter, and possibly one below that allowing at-will use. Whether these are steps of three spell levels (your top three spell levels are 1/day, next three 1/encounter, below that at-will) or by thirds (so top third are 1/day, second third 1/encounter, last third at-will) I don’t know.

Something to ponder.

I also clearly need to think about how channeling fits into this. I’d like it to, and I suspect it would be a way of applying the path to others (which appeals to me). I’m not sure exactly how the effects should be applied, but I suspect a straight bonus (+1 per tier? or +1 per 2 tiers? +1 is kind of a big deal) might be simplest. Granting advantage (common die most likely) works well when helping those who otherwise wouldn’t have the common die, but does little or nothing for those who do… and would be the ones most likely to benefit from it.

I don’t use straight numeric bonuses much in this system (I haven’t at all yet, in fact) and I’m a little bit reluctant to. I could make it a typeless advantage die, or add another type (mostly to limit stacking). Another thing to ponder.

Definitions Unchanged, Words Changed

Years ago, with the help of various commenters, I devised the tier system and the tier names. “Pre-Basic, Basic, Expert, Heroic, Master, Champion, Legendary” has been around for quite a while, but it always bothered me a bit that as much as the tier names were something of an homage to ‘BECMI’, a couple of them were out of order.

I’d originally chosen Master for the middle tier (middle tier at the time, that choice was made before Basic and Pre-Basic tiers existed) because that was the level rogues could get ‘Skill Mastery’, the ability to Take 10 with skills even under duress. Since the Advantage Dice System doesn’t even have ‘Take 10’ there was no real need to keep it where it was.

This opened a discussion this week about whether I should swap Master and Champion. ‘BEHCML’ is even closer to BECMI, and that would make me happy.

A couple of the right comments and questions at just the right time derailed that homage. Mild sadness, but I think the new progression is cleaner, more intuitive to many people, and just looks better. The tier definitions aren’t changing, but their labels better represent the definitions.

Old Tier New Tier Level PFRPG Description
Pre-Basic Basic 1-4 1/10-1/8 Weakest things that have stats. Toddlers and most household pets, if you consider ‘pet fish’ really being ‘self-propelled decorations’.
Basic Expert 5-8 1/6-1/2 Most adult humans, in fact almost all of them, are here. Trained at what they do and competent enough for everyday living, but generally not exposed to actual dangerous situations on a regular basis.
Expert Veteran 9-12 1-4 Those who have probably experienced dangerous (or at least challenging) situations, or are very accomplished. Professional badasses, elite soldiers, and ‘world-class others’. This is a small, certainly single-digit percentage of the population, possibly on the order of 1-2%.
Heroic Heroic 13-16 5-8 Larger than life characters and events. Heroes of Celtic, Greek, and Norse myth are probably found here, along with a lot of the Silver Age ‘superheroes’. Major historical figures, the kind whose reputations span millenia, might also be here — probably near the bottom end.
Master Champion 17-20 9-12 Superhuman, the best of the mortal heroes (in Greek myth, they’ve probably have some divine blood and/or a deity guiding them… which is a mixed blessing at best, I think).
Champion Paragon 21-24 13-16 The pinnacle, the epitome of what they are. Superheroes.
Legendary Legendary 25-28 17-20 Take conscious part in and interfere in the affairs of the mighty gods.
  • ‘Level’ indicates the default levels of each tier in Echelon.
  • ‘PFRPG’ indicates the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game level or CR range for each tier, to provide some context for the sorts of abilities appropriate for creatures in that tier.

This feels way more intuitive than the older progression. I think this will work much better and be much easier for others to understand.

My fond thoughts of aligning with BECMI and having a ‘B/X’ box set for gritty but still exciting play kind of fall apart here. I can still have the box set, but ‘E/V’, ‘X/V’, and ‘V/H’ really don’t resonate the same way.

Ah well, I’ll get over it. This looks too much like it’ll work better for me to feel bad for long. I imagine by the time I go through and update all my tier references to use the correct labels I’ll be past it… and probably planning to Never Change It Again.

Cornerstone Talent: Aberrant Bloodline, Advantage Dice System

A couple years ago I converted the aberrant bloodline to a cornerstone talent. This was implemented in the d20 model, and the advantage dice system works quite a bit differently.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Aberrant Bloodline

Aberrant

There is a taint in your blood, one that is alien and bizarre. You tend to think in odd ways, approaching problems from an angle that most would not expect. Over time, this taint manifests itself in your physical form.

Class Skill: Knowledge (dungeoneering).

Bonus Spells: enlarge person (3rd), see invisibility (5th), tongues (7th), black tentacles (9th), feeblemind (11th), veil (13th), plane shift (15th), mind blank (17th), shapechange (19th).

Bonus Feats: Combat Casting, Improved Disarm, Improved Grapple, Improved Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike, Iron Will, Silent Spell, Skill Focus (Knowledge [dungeoneering]).

Bloodline Arcana: Whenever you cast a spell of the polymorph subschool, increase the duration of the spell by 50% (minimum 1 round). This bonus does not stack with the increase granted by the Extend Spell feat.

Bloodline Powers: Aberrant sorcerers show increasing signs of their tainted heritage as they increase in level, although they are only visible when used.

Acidic Ray (Sp): Starting at 1st level, you can fire an acidic ray as a standard action, targeting any foe within 30 feet as a ranged touch attack. The acidic ray deals 1d6 points of acid damage + 1 for every two sorcerer levels you possess. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.

Long Limbs (Ex): At 3rd level, your reach increases by 5 feet whenever you are making a melee touch attack. This ability does not otherwise increase your threatened area. At 11th level, this bonus to your reach increases to 10 feet. At 17th level, this bonus to your reach increases to 15 feet.

Unusual Anatomy (Ex): At 9th level, your anatomy changes, giving you a 25% chance to ignore any critical hit or sneak attack scored against you. This chance increases to 50% at 13th level.

Alien Resistance (Su): At 15th level, you gain spell resistance equal to your sorcerer level + 10.

Aberrant Form (Ex): At 20th level, your body becomes truly unnatural. You are immune to critical hits and sneak attacks. In addition, you gain blindsight with a range of 60 feet and damage reduction 5/—.

I’m most interested in the bloodline powers. The bloodline skill is likely to be applied as a talent die but is otherwise of little interest right now. I’ll probably use the feats to round out any gaps or weak-looking tiers, but unless there’s something that seems very relevant I’ll mostly ignore them. The spells are useful as an indication of the types of magic used, but I’m likely to not have specific spell definitions so the spell list itself is probably not important.

From the previous conversion I mapped the first-level bloodline power to the Expert tier, third-level bloodline power to the Heroic tier, ninth-level bloodline power to the Master tier, fifteenth-level bloodline power to the Champion tier, and the twentieth-level bloodline power to the Legendary tier. I see no reason to change this, but I’ll probably need to change the expression of the bloodline powers.

Bloodline  Powers as Echelon Talent Tiers

The bloodline powers are the key element here, so I’ll start with them.

Expert Tier: Acidic Ray

Acidic Ray (Sp): Starting at 1st level, you can fire an acidic ray as a standard action, targeting any foe within 30 feet as a ranged touch attack. The acidic ray deals 1d6 points of acid damage + 1 for every two sorcerer levels you possess. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier.

I don’t really have ‘touch attacks’, but a low-level ranged attack power is still pretty good. I’ll give it an attack bonus but reduce the damage a little, but drop the uses per day limitation.

Acidic Spray (X)

Once per round you can spray a jet of acid within close range, with a cornerstone bonus to attack. This does 1d4 points of acid damage.

This gives me an idea for the Basic tier as well:

Acidic Secretion (B)

Once per round you can secrete acid as part of an unarmed attack, with a cornerstone bonus to attack. This does 1d4 points of acid damage.

I don’t see a need to increase the damage with tier, but might change my mind. The attack bonuses for these attacks can stack with common talents.

Heroic Tier: Long Limbs

Long Limbs (Ex): At 3rd level, your reach increases by 5 feet whenever you are making a melee touch attack. This ability does not otherwise increase your threatened area. At 11th level, this bonus to your reach increases to 10 feet. At 17th level, this bonus to your reach increases to 15 feet.

This turned out simpler than I first expected. Though I like the image of not just long limbs, but freakishly bendy and stretchy limbs.

Rubbery Limbs (H)

You can treat melee range as immediate range. You get a cornerstone bonus to grapple checks.

Rubbery Limbs (C)

You can treat reach range as melee or immediate range.

Normally you have to be at immediate range (“same square”) as your opponent to make unarmed attacks or attacks with light weapons. Rubbery Limbs at the heroic tier allows you to do this at melee range (“adjacent square”) without penalty, and Rubbery Limbs lets you do so with reach. Someone pokes you with a longspear, you can slap him in the face or stab him with a dagger.

I think I’m going to have to grant a cornerstone bonus to Climb checks. I can’t be bothered to turn it on at a specific tier, so I’ll just say it’s there the whole time. The difference at lower tiers is not terribly big.

Alien Climber (*)

You gain a cornerstone bonus to Climb checks.

Master Tier: Unusual Anatomy

Unusual Anatomy (Ex): At 9th level, your anatomy changes, giving you a 25% chance to ignore any critical hit or sneak attack scored against you. This chance increases to 50% at 13th level.

“Critical hits” and “sneak attacks” aren’t really a thing at this point. However, since margin of success adds to damage and sneak attack would likely depend on margin of success, we could reduce that instead.

Unusual Anatomy (M)

Margin of success of attacks against you is reduced by 25%.

Unusual Anatomy (C)

Margin of success of attacks against you is reduced by 50%.

Perhaps better, a cornerstone bonus against poison and disease!

Unusual Anatomy (*)

You gain a cornerstone bonus to saves against poison and disease.

This is all passive and situational. They’re all defensively useful, but kind of unexciting. I’d like something else here. I might increase Acidic Spray or something.

Champion Tier: Alien Resistance

Alien Resistance (Su): At 15th level, you gain spell resistance equal to your sorcerer level + 10.

Trivial: Cornerstone bonus against magic. Reasonably applies at all tiers.

Alien Resistance (*)

You gain a cornerstone bonus to saves against magic.

Again, passive, defensive, useful, boring.

Legendary: Aberrant Form

Aberrant Form (Ex): At 20th level, your body becomes truly unnatural. You are immune to critical hits and sneak attacks. In addition, you gain blindsight with a range of 60 feet and damage reduction 5/—.

Just as Unusual Anatomy, turned up a bit, plus blindsight and damage reduction.

Aberrant Form (L)

You are immune to critical hits and sneak attacks: all margins of success of attacks against you are negated. You gain blindsight 60 feet and damage reduction 5/—.

That’s a first pass, but let’s see what it looks like altogether.

Aberrant Bloodline Cornerstone, First Pass

Cornerstone Bonuses

Climb, Grapple, Knowledge (Dungeoneering), Magic Resistance, Saves vs poison and disease.

Basic: Acidic Secretion

Once per round you can secrete acid as part of of an unarmed attack, with a cornerstone bonus to attack. This does 1d4 points of acid damage.

Expert: Acidic Spray

Once per round you can spray a jet of acid within close range, with a cornerstone bonus to attack. This does 1d4 points of acid damage.

Heroic: Rubbery Limbs

You can treat melee range as immediate range.

Master: Acidic Jet

Once per round you can spray a jet of acid within medium range, with a cornerstone bonus to attack. This does 1d8 points of acid damage.

Master: Unusual Anatomy

Margin of success of attacks against you is reduced by 25%

Champion: Rubbery Limbs

You can treat reach range as melee range or immediate range.

Champion: Unusual Anatomy

Margin of success of attacks against you is reduced by 50%

 Legendary: Aberrant form

Margin of success of attacks against you is reduced by 100%; you are immune to critical hits and sneak attacks.

You gain blindsight 60-feet and damage reduction 5/—.

Closing Comments

This is a first attempt at converting the aberrant bloodline to an Advantage System cornerstone talent. I’m not entirely comfortable with it because it seems to tread on several other talents.

Of course, it’s possible those other talents are actually underpowered or should be made part of what others talents provide.

This is a surprisingly utilitarian bloodline. It gives some nice defensive bonuses (magic resistance, saves vs poison and disease, and reduces margin of success of attacks against you). The long limbs are potentially quite useful at times, allowing you to make melee attacks (including unarmed attacks — handy when your hands drip acid) and perform tasks while standing where normal people couldn’t reach what you’re working on. The attack powers are really the least part of this, even though you get them first.

Master tier looked a little empty, all you got was a reduction of margin of success of attacks against you. A little bit nice to have, but not exciting or really in line with the benefits either side. I added a more powerful version of acidic spray, allowing you to go to medium range instead of close range and doing a little more damage.

I wonder if it’s worth granting ‘rubbery skin’ as a natural armor element and replace the damage reduction 5/— normally granted at the legendary tier, and the blindsight with some other kind of perception bonus (ability to see magic? or planar effects?) I’m definitely tempted to remove the bonus to Knowledge checks.

Okay, I’m more comfortable with it. It undoubtedly needs refinement, but I can take this to the table.

 

Sample Character: Dorchfia: Advantage Dice System

One last character from GreyKnight, for now.

Dorchfia

Dorchfia is a wild fairy, who habitually takes the form of a large black cat. She is vicious and aggressive towards “civilised” folk, whom she sees as a threat to her precious forests. She encourages the spirits of trees to grow into wild and terrifying shapes to deter trespassers, and creates many illusory lures and traps designed to ensnare those who dare enter her domain. She can be negotiated with if one can demonstrate one’s trustworthiness, but her standards are high and her tests severe. She respects those with enough guile or force to subdue her and will answer them truthfully, although she will escape at the first opportunity.

Talents Chosen
Heroic (d8)

  • Capstone: Lady of Shadowed Forms
  • Sphere: Plants
  • Sphere: Shapeshift
  • Sphere: Illusion
  • Magic Resistance
  • Thick Hide
  • Brutal Rending
  • Cornerstone: Vicious Fairy (martial tradition)
Expert (d6)

  • Capstone: Mistress of Mirages
  • Nature Lore
  • Iron Will
  • Cornerstone: Mystic Fairy (“caster tradition”)
Basic (d4)

  • Capstone: Speaker for the Trees
  • Stealth
  • Frightful Gaze
  • Cornerstone: Stonehearted
Pre-Basic (d2)

  • Capstone: Mana Thief
  • Acute Vision
  • Acrobatics
  • Cornerstone: Steeped in Magic

Statistics

  • Level: 16 (Heroic tier; nominal D&D/PFRPG 8)
  • Hit Points: 32 = 16+16 (level + tier*tier)
  • Magic Points: 31 = 16+4+11 (level + tier + [Lady of Shadowed Forms, Sphere, Mystic Fairy])
  • Base Roll: d8

Saves (base d8)

  • Fort: d8
  • Ref: d8
  • Will: d8+d6 [heroic Iron Will]
    • d8+d6+d4 against emotional effects [Stonehearted]
  • vs. spells (Fort, Ref, or Will): 2d8 [Magic Resistance]

Skills (base d8)

  • Perception: d8+d2 [Acute Vision]
  • Nature Lore: d8+2d6+d4 [Nature Lore, Mystic Fairy, Speaker for the Trees]
  • Move Silently: d8+d4 [Stealth]
  • Acrobatics: d8+d2 [Acrobatics]
  • Intimidate: 2d8+d4 [Vicious Fairy, Frightful Gaze]

Combat (base d8)

  • Claws 3d8 [Vicious Fairy, Brutal Rending]

Magic (base d8)

  • Spell-like Abilities: d8+d6 [Mystic Fairy]
    • Shapeshift Sphere: 3d8+d6 [Sphere: Shapeshift, Lady of Shadowed Forms]
    • Illusion Sphere: 2d8+2d6 [Sphere: Illusion, Mistress of Mirages]
    • Plants Sphere: 2d8+d6 [Sphere: Plants]

Equipment and Property

elided

Notes

Dorchfia leans more to the magic than Amren-ja, and more even than Devri Vannalat… which stands to reason, she’s a fairy. She’s also pretty vicious and ruthless, and in the grand tradition of fairies is not afraid at all to get her claws (and probably her teeth) bloody. I suspect she does not indulge herself in that very often, but it’s probably never not an option.

I’m not sure how ‘spell-like abilities’ will work. They will probably end up looking a lot like normal casting, with slightly different rules of application — closer to an alternate tradition than an entirely different mode of special ability. In any case, Dorchia is not a wizard or other studied caster, but instead the magic is in her blood and expresses itself in a few ways consistent with fairy lore. I’m a little surprised she doesn’t have Sphere: Charm, but I have the sense she isn’t particularly interested in being ‘liked’.

I might change Rending Claws from a combat style to a damage-modifying talent: instead of adding a die to her attack rolls, it adds a die to her damage rolls. I haven’t decided yet. Thick Hide probably acts much like natural armor, and I expect armor to provide damage reduction. She’s got about 2/3 the hit points Amren-ja has, but the Thick Hide will help (but still not be as good as Amren-ja’s Asp Skin, which is chain mail of spell resistance that grants both an armor bonus and magic resistance, without tying up talents… but can be taken away). On the other hand, being a fairy she likely suffers somewhat from vulnerability to iron (iron weapons get an extra die of damage, perhaps, and might inhibit her magic), so the thick hide might not be so helpful after all.

 

Sample Character: Devri Vannalat: Advantage Dice System

Another characte from GreyKnight.

Devri Vannalat

Devri Vannalat is chief shaman of the Anouki tribe, who live in the frigid wastes of the distant north. His role in the tribe is to manage the tribe’s oral histories, provide healing (both supernatural and otherwise), and help locate the richest hunting/fishing grounds. He also uses ice magic to construct the tribe’s large dwellings and buildings, and provides other magical support. He is relaxed and confident, and tries to be diplomatic in his dealings with others. He is attempting to discover a way of animating ice statues to provide simple labour for the village.

Talents Chosen
Expert (d6)

  • Capstone: Snow Shaman
  • Oratory
  • History
  • Healing Lore
  • Unshakeable
  • Domain: Life
  • Domain: Ice
  • Cornerstone: Shamanism (caster tradition)
Basic (d4)

  • Capstone: Medicine Man
  • Animal Handling
  • Brew Potion
  • Cornerstone: Steeped in Magic
Pre-Basic (d2)

  • Capstone: Memory Master
  • Architecture
  • Weapon Proficiency: Spear
  • Cornerstone: Nature’s Chosen

Statistics

  • Level: 12 (Expert tier; nominal D&D/PFRPG 4)
  • Hit Points: 21 = 12+9 (level + tier*tier)
  • Magic Points: 15 =  12+3 (level + tier)
  • Base Roll: d6

Saves (base d6)

  • Fort: d6
  • Ref: d6
  • Will: 2d6 [Unshakeable]

Skills (base d6)

  • Oratory: 2d6+d2 [Oratory, Memory Master]
  • History: 2d6+d2 [History, Memory Master]
  • Healing: 2d6+d4 [Healing Lore, Medicine Man]
  • Animal Handling: 2d6+d4 [Nature’s Chosen, Animal Handling]
  • Architecture: d6+d2 [Architecture]

Combat (base d6)

  • Spear: d6+d2 [Weapon Proficiency]

Magic (base d6)

  • Divine Magic: 3d6 [Shamanism, Snow Shaman]
    • Ice Magic: 4d6 [Domain: Ice]
    • Life Magic: 4d6 [Domain: Life]
  • Potion Brewing: Basic Potions [Brew Potion]
    • Life Potion: 2d6+d4 [Domain: Life, Medicine Man]
    • Ice Potion: 2d6 [Domain: Ice]
    • Other potions: d6

Equipment and Property

elided

Notes

This might be about as close as you get to a ‘cleric’ or ‘druid’… and it looks close enough to me. Devri Vannalat will be able to call on ice magic and life magic pretty reliably, and will be able to brew potions that literally let him ‘bottle spells’ for later use. I haven’t worked out the details of how magic works, let alone item creation, but I’m pretty sure Devri will be able to do more or less what GreyKnight expects him to be able to do.

This is probably a good opportunity to point out how the rolls shown above are only there for convenience, and don’t necessarily represent everything the character is good at. For instance, Devri Vannalat is probably really quite good at building igloos: he gets d6 as his tier die, but I’m quite certain I’d grant another d6 on the expectation that he would use his Ice Magic while building the igloo, and I’d have to think that a Snow Shaman would have the sort of skill and experience that would apply as well. This comes to 3d6, he should be able to build quite a comfortable igloo pretty easily.

Come to that, if he’s willing to spend a bit of magic he could probably whip up a spell to do it entirely, rather than depend on skill, and roll 4d6 instead of the 3d6. It’s not quite an Elsa-grade palace, and costs some casting resources, but it’ll be quicker than packing and cutting snow.

Conversely, if I were feeling a bit crowded for space I might drop the Architecture entry under skills, especially if the character is higher level and Architecture checks didn’t come up very often.

Sample Monster: Svart-alfar Wretch: Advantage Dice System

GreyKnight felt inspired and wrote up a monster, a Svart-Alfar Wretch. Because his posts sometimes fall down, I’ve got his permission to import the creature here.

Svart-Alfar Wretch, Advantage Dice Version

The teeming masses of the svart-alfar lurk in caves and dark corners all over the world. Small and wiry, their coal-black skin makes a sharp contrast to their wide pale eyes, and the musty smell of rot often accompanies them on their rare forays to the surface on moonless nights. They are individually cowardly and prefer to move in groups when fighting others, and are at their most brave and wild-hearted when they have overwhelming force of numbers on their side.

The svart-alfar originally hail from Norse mythology, and this particular presentation is based off Alan Garner’s treatment of them in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. –GK

Talents Chosen
Expert (d4)

  • Sneaking (move silently)
  • Cornerstone: Svart-alfar (racial; includes ‘cave dweller’)
Basic (d2)

  • Capstone: Lurker in Darkness (move silently, hide)
  • Acute Vision
  • Thick Hide
  • Sense Magic
  • Berserker
  • Mob Courage
  • Cornerstone: unassigned; I moved ‘Cave-Dweller’ to the pre-basic tier of Svart-alfar.

Statistics

  • Level: 5 (Expert tier; nominal D&D/PFRPG CR 1/6)
  • Hit Points: 9 (level + tier*tier)
  • Magic Points: 7 (level + tier, probably)
  • Base Roll: d4

Saves (base d4)

  • Fort: d4
  • Ref: d4
  • Will: d4 [Mob Courage: +d2 if they outnumber opponents 2:1]

Skills (base d10)

  • Move Silently: d4+d2 [expert Sneaking, pre-basic Lurker in Shadows]
  • Hide: d4+d2 [pre-basic Lurker in Shadows]
  • Perception: d4+d2 [pre-basic Acute Vision]
  • Spellcraft: d4+d2 [pre-basic Sense Magic]

Combat (base d4)

  • Claws: d4 [Berserker: +d2 if they outnumber their opponents 2:1]

Equipment and Property

elided

Notes

Not all the talents here are yet defined, but they give some idea of the sorts of capabilities the creatures have. As a level 5 creature this is nominally on par with a CR 1/6 creature in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game… of which there are a very, very small number indeed (mostly familiars, including a platypus and a sloth).

I might want to rethink that supposed parity, this creature looks a little more capable than that. Not a lot more capable, perhaps CR 1/4 (kobold) or even CR 1/3 (goblin).

Perhaps level 1..2 is CR 1/8, level 3..4 is CR 1/6, level 5..6 is CR 1/4, then level 7 is CR 1/3 and level 8 is CR 1/2. That might be a worthwhile mapping to consider.

 

Advantage Dice System: Hit Points

The way the combat rules are shaping up, I need to revise hit point calculations. Again.

I still don’t want to roll hit points, especially given how many levels are involved (though rolling hit points per tier has a certain appeal for dirty, gritty kinds of games… but no).

After a bit of noodling with regard to potential damage, I found a pretty simple formula.

  • Hit points = (level + tier*tier)

That’s it, as far as baseline hit points are concerned. However, not all creatures are the same toughness. There should be some room or option for increasing this.

As with so many things, it looks like talents can serve this purpose. In addition to improving rolls, various talents can add one to three hit points per tier to the creature’s total. A talent that increases hit points as a more or less incidental thing (many martial traditions might fit here) could give one additional hit point per tier, a talent with bonus hit points as a significant part of their benefit might give two hit points per tier, and a talent whose purpose is to make the target hard to kill could grant three hit points per tier. I expect one or two points per tier for these talents will be the most common.

As always, you apply only the best (most effective) talent of each type. A character with a master-tier martial tradition granting one hit point per tier (+5 total) would probably choose to use the expert-tier martial tradition that grants three hit points per tier (+9 total).

Thus, a starting PC (level 9) would have 18 hit points. If this character chose to focus all the top-tier talents available on hit point acquisition (expert cornerstone, expert common, and heroic capstone, each at +3/tier) the character could have 27 hit points… half again as many as the norm. I’d rather have the option of doing interesting things, myself, but this isn’t about my preference.

Given 18 hit points, I expect that a determined opponent (expert tier wielding a longsword, damage = 2d6) could kill this character in four or five hits, or perhaps two or three if they are unusually good (high margin of success) hits. This might be a little more durable than I really want between peers at this level, but remember that this is an untrained attacker. A trained attacker will have higher margin of success and hit quite a bit more often, so while there might be a few hits involved a fight will probably be pretty quick.

An untrained attacker will hit about half the time, killing in about four or five hits. This means a fight is likely to end within eight to ten attacks, or four to five rounds. A trained attacker will hit almost every time and do slightly more damage each time (higher margin of success), finishing things in four or five attacks (two or three rounds).

Of course, a legendary character with a longsword, even untrained, will almost certainly hit (85% chance) with a high (almost +10) margin of success expected, doing an average of about 19 points of damage. An expert going up against even an untrained legendary character is going to have a bad, if short, day.

Okay, that suits me.

A legendary character (level 25) will have 74 hit points before considering other talents. An untrained peer will do d20+d6 with a longsword on a successful hit, still averaging about 15-16 points of damage (about 11 for the base roll, and because the attack is a d20 with linear odds will probably have a margin of success of about +5 if there is a hit at all). The more-trained combatant (4d20) will have only a slightly higher expected margin of success, but is almost twice as likely to hit.

Again, four to five hits to kill. Fully-trained characters will take about as many hits to kill their opponent, but the higher success rate means they’ll be able to do it twice as fast.

 

Level Tier Level+Tier*Tier +0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +9
1 1 2 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
2 1 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
3 1 4 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
4 1 5 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
5 2 9 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27
6 2 10 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28
7 2 11 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29
8 2 12 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30
9 3 18 18 21 24 27 30 33 36 39 42 45
10 3 19 19 22 25 28 31 34 37 40 43 46
11 3 20 20 23 26 29 32 35 38 41 44 47
12 3 21 21 24 27 30 33 36 39 42 45 48
13 4 29 29 33 37 41 45 49 53 57 61 65
14 4 30 30 34 38 42 46 50 54 58 62 66
15 4 31 31 35 39 43 47 51 55 59 63 67
16 4 32 32 36 40 44 48 52 56 60 64 68
17 5 42 42 47 52 57 62 67 72 77 82 87
18 5 43 43 48 53 58 63 68 73 78 83 88
19 5 44 44 49 54 59 64 69 74 79 84 89
20 5 45 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90
21 6 57 57 63 69 75 81 87 93 99 105 111
22 6 58 58 64 70 76 82 88 94 100 106 112
23 6 59 59 65 71 77 83 89 95 101 107 113
24 6 60 60 66 72 78 84 90 96 102 108 114
25 7 74 74 81 88 95 102 109 116 123 130 137
26 7 75 75 82 89 96 103 110 117 124 131 138
27 7 76 76 83 90 97 104 111 118 125 132 139
28 7 77 77 84 91 98 105 112 119 126 133 140

Closing Comments

I kind of like that combat will likely be resolved pretty quickly. Between tiers, you very much want to be the higher-tier combatant, even if you’re not actually trained. Lower-tier combatants still stand a chance if they’re adequately (i.e. quite well, actually) trained, but the hit point differences will make up some slight equality in ability to hit.

A good model to start from, I think.

Degrees of Success with the Advantage Dice System

I forgot to ask an important question in yesterday’s post about the new dice mechanic. I spent lots of time looking at the chance of success, but never asked what the expected roll would be for the various combinations I looked at.

Well, I can’t have that, so I made a few changes to my script (you didn’t think I counted these by hand, did you?) and learned something.

PB B X H M C L
n d 2 % 3 % 4 % 5 % 6 % 7 % 8 % 9 % 10 % 11 % 12 % 13 % 14 % mean median
1 2 50.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.50 2.00
1 4 75.00 50.00 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 2.50 3.00
1 6 83.33 66.67 50.00 33.33 16.67 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 3.50 4.00
1 8 87.50 75.00 62.50 50.00 37.50 25.00 12.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 4.50 5.00
1 10 90.00 80.00 70.00 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00 20.00 10.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 5.50 6.00
1 12 91.67 83.33 75.00 66.67 58.33 50.00 41.67 33.33 25.00 16.67 8.33 0.00 0.00 6.50 7.00
1 20 95.00 90.00 85.00 80.00 75.00 70.00 65.00 60.00 55.00 50.00 45.00 40.00 35.00 10.50 11.00
2 2 100.00 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 2.25 2.00
2 4 100.00 81.25 50.00 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 3.38 4.00
2 6 100.00 91.67 77.78 58.33 33.33 2.78 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 4.64 5.00
2 8 100.00 95.31 87.50 76.56 62.50 45.31 25.00 1.56 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 5.94 6.00
2 10 100.00 97.00 92.00 85.00 76.00 65.00 52.00 37.00 20.00 1.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 7.25 8.00
2 12 100.00 97.92 94.44 89.58 83.33 75.69 66.67 56.25 44.44 31.25 16.67 0.69 0.00 8.57 9.00
2 20 100.00 99.25 98.00 96.25 94.00 91.25 88.00 84.25 80.00 75.25 70.00 64.25 58.00 13.88 15.00
3 2 100.00 100.00 25.00 12.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 3.38 3.00
3 4 100.00 100.00 81.25 32.81 3.12 1.56 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 4.19 4.00
3 6 100.00 100.00 94.44 80.09 54.63 15.28 0.93 0.46 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 5.46 6.00
3 8 100.00 100.00 97.66 91.60 80.86 64.26 40.62 8.79 0.39 0.20 0.00 0.00 0.00 6.84 7.00
3 10 100.00 100.00 98.80 95.70 90.20 81.70 69.60 53.30 32.20 5.70 0.20 0.10 0.00 8.28 9.00
3 12 100.00 100.00 99.31 97.51 94.33 89.41 82.41 72.97 60.76 45.43 26.62 3.99 0.12 9.73 10.00
3 20 100.00 100.00 99.85 99.46 98.78 97.71 96.20 94.16 91.53 88.21 84.15 79.26 73.47 15.64 16.00
4 2 100.00 100.00 100.00 62.50 12.50 12.50 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 4.94 5.00
4 4 100.00 100.00 100.00 74.22 24.22 10.94 1.17 0.78 0.39 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 5.12 5.00
4 6 100.00 100.00 100.00 94.91 77.62 39.81 8.26 3.40 0.23 0.15 0.08 0.00 0.00 6.24 6.00
4 8 100.00 100.00 100.00 98.39 92.92 80.96 59.25 24.02 3.69 1.46 0.07 0.05 0.02 7.61 8.00
4 10 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.34 97.10 92.20 83.31 68.88 47.11 15.96 1.95 0.76 0.03 9.07 9.00
4 12 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.68 98.60 96.24 91.95 84.99 74.49 59.47 38.83 11.34 1.15 10.57 11.00
4 20 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.96 99.82 99.51 98.96 98.06 96.69 94.75 92.07 88.51 83.89 16.78 18.00

As before,

  • ‘n’ indicates how many dice are being rolled;
  • ‘d’ indicates the size of the dice being rolled;
  • ‘number %’ indicates the percent chance of making that target number;
  • ‘PB’, ‘B’, ‘X’, ‘H’, ‘M’, ‘C’, ‘L’ indicate the tier the target number is associated with;
  • ‘mean’ is the average value of the dice roll;
  • ‘median’ is the median value of the dice roll (almost: when the median lands between two values I always picked the high value because I’m more interested in the high value you can expect 50% of the time rather than the low value).

I was thinking of applying a degree of success mechanism to some checks. Up to Champion tier, the median runs from exactly the target number with one die (as designed), up to four higher than the target number when rolling four dice. Groovy.

The Legendary rolls, though… the median progression goes from +0 (one die) to +7 (four dice). That’s… kind of huge, and since 4d20 maxes out at 23 you know that at least 80,000 of the 160,000 possibilities are between 18..23 (though there’s only one way to get 23, and 77 ways to get 22, and about 2,000 ways to get 21, so it’s really only 18..20 that has the rest of the… at least 78,500+ hits).

Ah well, it is supposed to be legendary, after all. If you can get 4d20 to roll I suppose you can deserve some insane degrees of success.

Sample Character: Amren-ja, Warrior Queen: Advantage Dice System

Now that I’ve explored the new dice mechanic a bit, it’s time to see what a character might look like.

I’ll go back to Amren-ja, Warrior Queen. GreyKnight wrote her up as a test case using the d20-based rules, I later did a dice pool version, and now I’m going to do a third version using the new dice mechanic.

As with the other versions, I don’t know how everything works yet (such as magic weapons, or spell casting, or even what all the talents do), but this should give a feel for the shape of how things will look.

Amren-Ja, Warrior Queen

Amren-ja is the warrior queen of the desert kingdom of Emon. The sight of her golden chariot racing across the battlefield, pulled by two great tigers, puts many weaker enemies to flight. She is proud and stubborn, often ignoring the advice of her counsellors when they ask her not to ride to war personally. She has no heirs, but refuses all suitors who come seeking her hand, having found no worthy warrior amongst them. Her preferred weapon is a great double-headed bronze axe, with her royal sigils applied in pure gold. She also wields the legendary golden Bow of Sand, an heirloom of her line.

Talents Chosen
Master (d10)

  • Axe Mastery
  • Cornerstone: Emon Warrior Tradition (axes, chariots, spears)
Heroic (d8)

  • Capstone: Ruler of the land (diplomacy)
  • Political Mastermind (diplomacy)
  • Iron Will
  • Domain: Sun
  • Mounted Combat (ride)
  • unassigned
  • Cornerstone: Natural Leader (diplomacy)
Expert (d6)

  • Capstone: Fierce Doom Rider (ride, intimidate)
  • Overwhelming Presence (intimidate)
  • Mounted Archery (ride)
  • Cornerstone: Divine Bloodline: Blood of Re (divine casting)
Basic (d4)

  • Capstone: Cult-Venerated (divine casting)
  • Animal Handling (animal handling)
  • Armor Proficiency (medium armor)
  • Cornerstone: Noble Birth

Statistics

  • Level: 17 (Master tier; nominal D&D/PFRPG 9)
  • Hit Points: 50 = 42 (level + tier*tier) + 18 [axe mastery 1/tier, Emon Warrior Tradition 2/tier, Fierce Doom Rider 1/tier]
  • Magic Points: 40 = 17+4+9 (level + tier + [Domain: Sun, Divine Bloodline, Cult-Venerated])
  • Base Roll: d10

Saves (base d10)

  • Fort: d10
  • Ref: d10
  • Will: d10+d8 [heroic Iron Will]
  • vs. spells (Fort, Ref, or Will): 2d10 [Asp-Skin, chain mail of spell resistance]

Skills (base d10)

  • Animal Handling: d10+d4 [basic Animal Handling]
  • Diplomacy: d10+3d8 [heroic Natural Leader, Political Mastermind, and Ruler of the Land]
  • Intimidate: d10+2d6 [expert Overwhelming Presence and Fierce Doom Rider]
  • Ride: d10+d8+d6 [heroic Mounted Combat, expert Fierce Doom Rider]

Combat (base d10)

  • Axes: 3d10 [master Emon Warrior Tradition, Axe Mastery]
    • Desert’s Bite bronze greataxe of wounding
    • 4 Bronze Throwing Axes
  • Spears: 2d10 [master Emon Warrior Tradition]
  • Bows: d10+d6 [expert Mounted Archery]
    • Bow of Sand seeking flaming longbow
  • Unarmed: d10

Casting (base d10)

  • Divine Magic: d10+d6+d4 [expert Divine Bloodline: Blood of Re, basic Cult-Venerated
    • Sun domain: d10+d8+d6+d4 [heroic Domain: Sun, expert Divine Bloodline, basic Cult-Venerated]

Equipment and Property

elided

Notes

This is something of a worksheet that shows where all the dice come from (she gets four different dice when casting Sun Domain spells: her base d10 for tier, plus d8 for the Domain common, d6 for the expert Divine Bloodline cornerstone, and d4 for the basic Cult-Venerated capstone), normally I might show just the results.

The rolls shown above are not always the only ones. That is, the rolls shown above are those that are defined as being associated with the talents taken. However, if a particular talent looks like it could be applicable to a task, it might be included. I like to use the example of a cleric of the Divine Spider, when confronted with a poorly-maintained rope bridge, declaring that it reminds him of his time in the Great Web of the High Temple. This might let him lean on his ‘cleric cornerstone’ to eke out an additional die for his roll.

Revisiting Another Dice Mechanic

I was thinking at lunch today about Another Dice Mechanic, and thought I saw a few things that could be made better.

Recapping Yet Another Dice Mechanic

Each tier has a die associated. Pre-basic is d2, Basic is d4, Expert is d6, Heroic is d8, Master is d10, Champion is d12, and Legendary is d12. When you need to make a check, you roll a die based on your tier (a starting PC, assuming the Expert tier, rolls 1d6). If you have a relevant talent — you want to climb a cliff and you are a Mountaineer (who naturally knows how to climb cliffs), an Earth Mage (magical affinity with stone), or Spider-Man{tm} (no explanation needed) — you can add another die to your roll, based on the tier of the talent. Just as talents of the same type (cornerstone, common, and capstone) don’t stack, but different ones do, I’ll say you can add up to one die for each of a cornerstone, a common, and a capstone talent. Earth Mage Mountaineer Spider-Man doesn’t get three extra dice, assuming all three talents are common talents.

Target numbers for challenges of each tier are based on 50% success rate for an untrained character: Pre-basic target number is 2, Basic is 3, Expert is 4, Heroic is 5, Master is 6, Champion is 7, and Legendary is 11. This is a big jump and I’d like to see it not there, but that’s how it is, at least until d16s become more common.

This means a character who is trying to meet an equal-tier challenge succeeds half the time. A character with two dice can expect success 3/4 of the time, with three dice can expect success 7/8 of the time, and with four dice can expect success 15/16 of the time. I’m pretty satisfied with that… but what happens if a character tries for something harder?

Well, an Expert character attempting a Heroic check needs to make a target of 5. This happens 1/3 of the time. Not bad. With two dice it becomes 5/9 of the time, better than half! With three dice it’ll be 19/27 (better than 2/3 of the time), and with four dice it’ll be 65/81 slightly more than 4/5 of the time.

The same Expert attempting a Master check needs to make a target of 6. This happens 1/6 of the time… unlikely, but far from impossible. With two dice it becomes 11/36 (much better!), three dice 125/216 (about 42%, a bit better than 2/5), and with four dice 671/1296 (slightly better than half). I’m a little surprised it’s that good, but this is a character heavily tuned (all three talents align) to the task.

Obviously having four dice is very good. I like that.

Now, a Champion challenge. Target is 7, which happens… never. No matter how many dice the character has, the task is impossible. Which actually isn’t as horrible as it sounds; in D&D terms this is a level 1-4 character trying to do something suitable for a level 13-16 character.

Still… looking down, the Pre-basic creature can never, ever succeed at even a Basic task. While an Expert character being incapable of doing a Champion task, a Pre-basic creature not even being able to reach up one tier seems like it could use some adjustment.

PB B X H M C L
n d 2 % 3 % 4 % 5 % 6 % 7 % 8 % 9 % 10 % 11 % 12 %
1 2 50.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 4 75.00 50.00 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 6 83.33 66.67 50.00 33.33 16.67 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 8 87.50 75.00 62.50 50.00 37.50 25.00 12.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 10 90.00 80.00 70.00 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00 20.00 10.00 0.00 0.00
1 12 91.67 83.33 75.00 66.67 58.33 50.00 41.67 33.33 25.00 16.67 8.33
1 20 95.00 90.00 85.00 80.00 75.00 70.00 65.00 60.00 55.00 50.00 45.00
2 2 75.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 4 93.75 75.00 43.75 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 6 97.22 88.89 75.00 55.56 30.56 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 8 98.44 93.75 85.94 75.00 60.94 43.75 23.44 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 10 99.00 96.00 91.00 84.00 75.00 64.00 51.00 36.00 19.00 0.00 0.00
2 12 99.31 97.22 93.75 88.89 82.64 75.00 65.97 55.56 43.75 30.56 15.97
2 20 99.75 99.00 97.75 96.00 93.75 91.00 87.75 84.00 79.75 75.00 69.75
3 2 87.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 4 98.44 87.50 57.81 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 6 99.54 96.30 87.50 70.37 42.13 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 8 99.80 98.44 94.73 87.50 75.59 57.81 33.01 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 10 99.90 99.20 97.30 93.60 87.50 78.40 65.70 48.80 27.10 0.00 0.00
3 12 99.94 99.54 98.44 96.30 92.77 87.50 80.15 70.37 57.81 42.13 22.97
3 20 99.99 99.90 99.66 99.20 98.44 97.30 95.71 93.60 90.89 87.50 83.36
4 2 93.75 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 4 99.61 93.75 68.36 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 6 99.92 98.77 93.75 80.25 51.77 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 8 99.98 99.61 98.02 93.75 84.74 68.36 41.38 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 10 99.99 99.84 99.19 97.44 93.75 87.04 75.99 59.04 34.39 0.00 0.00
4 12 100.00 99.92 99.61 98.77 96.99 93.75 88.42 80.25 68.36 51.77 29.39
4 20 100.00 99.99 99.95 99.84 99.61 99.19 98.50 97.44 95.90 93.75 90.85
  • ‘n’ is the number of dice rolled
  • ‘d’ is the size of the dice
  • ‘PB’, ‘B’, ‘X’, ‘H’, ‘M’, ‘C’, ‘L’: tier that has this target number (Pre-Basic, Basic, Expert, Heroic, Master, Champion, Legendary)
  • number %’ is the percent of successes rolled for that target

The success numbers and percentages shown in bold above are for when the creature is rolling dice for a task of the same tier (that is, “1,512/87.50” for row 3d12 is highlighted to show the results for a Champion creature with three dice rolling against a Champion task). Note that for all tiers they show the same chance of success at any particular number of dice (anyone rolling two dice against a challenge of the same tier can expect success 75% of the time).

It is evident that a Pre-basic creature can never achieve a Basic task (which is probably a problem), a Basic creature can never achieve a Heroic task (might be a problem), an Expert creature can never achieve a Champion task (probably not a problem), a Heroic creature can never achieve a Legendary task (probably not a problem), and a Master creature can never achieve a Legendary task (might be a problem again).

Can we widen the range when adding more dice? It seems reasonable that someone who is better trained might not only be more likely to punch above his weight (succeed at a higher-tier task), but be able to reach even farther (succeed at even higher-tier tasks) than someone of the same tier who is not as trained.

Expanding the Range

It turns out the solution is fairly straightforward.

Every double rolled adds one to the total.

That easy. Well, slightly complicated in that ‘each double’ isn’t just counting the number of dice that match each other, but the number of pairs between them. That is, two matching dice make one pair, but three matching dice (A = B = C) are three pairs: (A, B), (B, C), and (A, C). Four matching dice are six pairs. This works in my favor, I think, but it is a slight complication.

PB B X H M C L
n d 2 % 3 % 4 % 5 % 6 % 7 % 8 % 9 % 10 % 11 % 12 %
1 2 50.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 4 75.00 50.00 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 6 83.33 66.67 50.00 33.33 16.67 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 8 87.50 75.00 62.50 50.00 37.50 25.00 12.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 10 90.00 80.00 70.00 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00 20.00 10.00 0.00 0.00
1 12 91.67 83.33 75.00 66.67 58.33 50.00 41.67 33.33 25.00 16.67 8.33
1 20 95.00 90.00 85.00 80.00 75.00 70.00 65.00 60.00 55.00 50.00 45.00
2 2 100.00 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 4 100.00 81.25 50.00 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 6 100.00 91.67 77.78 58.33 33.33 2.78 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 8 100.00 95.31 87.50 76.56 62.50 45.31 25.00 1.56 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 10 100.00 97.00 92.00 85.00 76.00 65.00 52.00 37.00 20.00 1.00 0.00
2 12 100.00 97.92 94.44 89.58 83.33 75.69 66.67 56.25 44.44 31.25 16.67
2 20 100.00 99.25 98.00 96.25 94.00 91.25 88.00 84.25 80.00 75.25 70.00
3 2 100.00 100.00 25.00 12.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 4 100.00 100.00 81.25 32.81 3.12 1.56 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 6 100.00 100.00 94.44 80.09 54.63 15.28 0.93 0.46 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 8 100.00 100.00 97.66 91.60 80.86 64.26 40.62 8.79 0.39 0.20 0.00
3 10 100.00 100.00 98.80 95.70 90.20 81.70 69.60 53.30 32.20 5.70 0.20
3 12 100.00 100.00 99.31 97.51 94.33 89.41 82.41 72.97 60.76 45.43 26.62
3 20 100.00 100.00 99.85 99.46 98.78 97.71 96.20 94.16 91.53 88.21 84.15
4 2 100.00 100.00 100.00 62.50 12.50 12.50 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 4 100.00 100.00 100.00 74.22 24.22 10.94 1.17 0.78 0.39 0.00 0.00
4 6 100.00 100.00 100.00 94.91 77.62 39.81 8.26 3.40 0.23 0.15 0.08
4 8 100.00 100.00 100.00 98.39 92.92 80.96 59.25 24.02 3.69 1.46 0.07
4 10 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.34 97.10 92.20 83.31 68.88 47.11 15.96 1.95
4 12 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.68 98.60 96.24 91.95 84.99 74.49 59.47 38.83
4 20 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.96 99.82 99.51 98.96 98.06 96.69 94.75 92.07

Interpretation of the column headings and numbers/percentages is as above.

The range of creatures of all tiers is expanded… perhaps too far now, for the pre-basic creatures, but I’ll come back to that. As the number of dice increases, the chance of lower tier creatures succeeding at tasks of the same tier is greater than the chance of higher-tier creatures succeeding at tasks of the same tier.

A Pre-Basic through Expert creature trying to make a roll against a challenge of the same tier literally cannot fail once four dice dice are rolled (and Pre-Basic and Basic can’t fail when three dice are rolled, and Pre-Basic can’t fail when two dice are rolled). The same cannot be said of a Legendary creature attempting a Legendary task (not quite 95% chance of success). This is entirely because the smaller dice reach a point where doubles are unavoidable, which increases the minimum possible roll. A Pre-Basic creature with four dice literally cannot roll lower than 4 on four dice (2 twice and 1 twice, for 2 base + 2 for two pairs of doubles), but cannot roll higher than 8 (2 four times, for 2 base + 6 for doubles). A Basic creature with four dice also cannot roll lower than 4 on four dice (one of each value from 1..4, the smallest way to get no doubles), but could roll as high as 10 (4 base + 6 for doubles).

In any case, as much as it seems odd that a ‘Pre-Basic’ creature with the right build cannot fail at tasks above its tier, to some degree, I’m actually pretty okay with it. Pre-Basic was looking awfully anemic, and this makes it so they actually can be relevant… if they’re lucky, or properly suited to the task.

A creature with no particular advantage, who rolls only a single die, has no chance of getting doubles. A Pre-Basic creature rolling one die cannot achieve a Basic task (a Pre-Basic creature rolling two dice has a 25% chance, and rolling three dice cannot fail), and a Basic creature rolling one die cannot achieve a Heroic (two tiers higher) task. Only with training or other advantage (i.e. one or more relevant talents) is it possible to get at least one double and get the final result higher.

Closing Comments

All in all, I think this is a good change. The ability to extend the range of success outside the creature’s tier is worth the slight increase in difficulty (counting doubles — which comes naturally to cribbage players like me anyway). You always want more dice, and you want the biggest dice you can get. There are situations where more, smaller dice are better than a fewer, bigger dice: 3d2 vs. 2d4 when trying to achieve a Basic task (100% vs. 81.25%)… but not an Expert task (25% vs 50%)… and again attempting a Heroic task (12.5% vs. 6.25%, bugger).

Okay, it’s not perfect. I’d be happier if 3d2 was better than 2d4 up to a point, then 2d4 overtook and stayed better than 3d2, but I can live with the curves crossing a couple times.

In any case, more dice of the same size are better then fewer dice of the same size, and the same number of bigger dice is better than the same number of smaller dice (almost always — there is one exception, 4d2 trying to make a Champion-tier check). The occasional odd interaction between different numbers of different-sized dice, I’ll just live with. They appear, on cursory examination, to mostly happen outside the range I’m interested in.

And besides, how else will a house cat kill a wizard if it can’t roll better sometimes?

Postscript: Count Number of Additional Dice

“We solved the problem. Now we fight the solution.”

I realized after initially posting that my solution-problem had itself a fairly simple solution.

Instead of counting all the doubles, I just count the number of times each doubled number comes up and subtract one. That is, when I roll doubles I add one, when I roll triples I add two (instead of the three I was adding before), and when all four values match I add three. If I roll two pairs of doubles I add two (one for each pair), same as I did before.

This works much, much better. Now more dice of the same size are always better than fewer dice of the same size, and for any particular number of dice bigger dice are better than smaller dice. It can sometimes be better to have a larger number of small dice than a small number of bigger dice (compare 3d4 to 2d6, up to the Expert target), but once the lines cross they stay crossed (2d6 is only slightly worse than 3d4 at making Expert checks, is much better at making Heroic checks, 20 times better at Master checks, and has at least a tiny chance of making Champion checks that 3d4 cannot even touch).

PB B X H M C       L
n d 2 % 3 % 4 % 5 % 6 % 7 % 8 % 9 % 10 % 11 % 12 %
1 2 50.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 4 75.00 50.00 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 6 83.33 66.67 50.00 33.33 16.67 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 8 87.50 75.00 62.50 50.00 37.50 25.00 12.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
1 10 90.00 80.00 70.00 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00 20.00 10.00 0.00 0.00
1 12 91.67 83.33 75.00 66.67 58.33 50.00 41.67 33.33 25.00 16.67 8.33
1 20 95.00 90.00 85.00 80.00 75.00 70.00 65.00 60.00 55.00 50.00 45.00
2 2 100.00 25.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 4 100.00 81.25 50.00 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 6 100.00 91.67 77.78 58.33 33.33 2.78 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 8 100.00 95.31 87.50 76.56 62.50 45.31 25.00 1.56 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 10 100.00 97.00 92.00 85.00 76.00 65.00 52.00 37.00 20.00 1.00 0.00
2 12 100.00 97.92 94.44 89.58 83.33 75.69 66.67 56.25 44.44 31.25 16.67
2 20 100.00 99.25 98.00 96.25 94.00 91.25 88.00 84.25 80.00 75.25 70.00
3 2 100.00 100.00 12.50 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 4 100.00 100.00 79.69 31.25 1.56 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 6 100.00 100.00 93.98 79.63 54.17 14.81 0.46 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 8 100.00 100.00 97.46 91.41 80.66 64.06 40.43 8.59 0.20 0.00 0.00
3 10 100.00 100.00 98.70 95.60 90.10 81.60 69.50 53.20 32.10 5.60 0.10
3 12 100.00 100.00 99.25 97.45 94.27 89.35 82.35 72.92 60.71 45.37 26.56
3 20 100.00 100.00 99.84 99.45 98.76 97.70 96.19 94.15 91.51 88.20 84.14
4 2 100.00 100.00 100.00 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 4 100.00 100.00 100.00 70.70 17.19 0.39 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 6 100.00 100.00 100.00 94.21 76.23 37.73 5.56 0.08 0.00 0.00 0.00
4 8 100.00 100.00 100.00 98.17 92.48 80.30 58.40 22.97 2.44 0.02 0.00
4 10 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.25 96.92 91.93 82.96 68.45 46.60 15.37 1.28
4 12 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.64 98.51 96.11 91.78 84.78 74.25 59.19 38.50
4 20 100.00 100.00 100.00 99.95 99.81 99.50 98.94 98.03 96.66 94.71 92.03

To compare the three approaches, the table below shows the amount added to the base roll (i.e. highest die rolled) for doubles, triples, and quadruples (and ‘two doubles’, since it’s the only oddity after that).

Same Values Starting Model (Recap) Count All Doubles (Solution) Count Only Extras (PS)
1 0 0 0
2 0 1 1
3 0 3 2
4 0 6 3
2 x 2 0 2 2