Musings - Diceless FS3

FS3 already has higher success chances than most other mainstream RPGs, but people still lament “the dice hate me”. There’s not really anything you can do about that in a RPG driven by dice. Dice are gonna hate hate hate…

But what if the RPG wasn’t driven by dice? Or at least… not as much?

I’m just randomly musing at this point, but I’m curious what people think of the idea at the broadest level. Do you like roleplay to be driven more by chance or more by choices?

Just a very rough sketch of what this might look like…

Imagine you have a lot more luck points and they refresh faster, so they come into play a lot more often. When you roll, you automatically get a base success level depending on your ability. While there is a small random factor at play, you can also spend luck. This doesn’t just give you a better chance (e.g. more dice), it actually directly shifts success in your favor.

Here’s an example of how the numbers could work. Keep in mind I haven’t really fleshed this out:

success = base value (from ability / 2) +/- random factor (+/-2) + luck points

Let’s say Gustavo and Cate are playing Pyramid. He’s got an ability of 11, she’s got 6. Add in the random factor and that gives Tavo 3-7 and Cate 1-5. Tavo wins most of the time, but there are still some outcomes where Cate wins. Specifically:

 -2 - 5%  Cate Victory
 -1 - 8%  Cate Victory  (Marginal?)
 0 - 12%  Draw
 1 - 17%  Tavo Victory  (Marginal?)
 2 - 20%  Tavo Victory
 3 - 16%  Tavo Victory
 4 - 13%  Tavo Victory
 5 - 8%   Tavo Victory (Crushing?)
 6 - 5%   Tavo Victory

Now that’s without any luck. Both sides can choose to spend luck (up to some max) if that roll was important to them.

In combat you’d be able to assign different amounts of luck to attack, defense and initiative.

Like I said, all very rough at the moment but I just wanted to float the idea.

I mean, I’m not entirely sure how this is different than rolling skill vs skill, it’s just obfuscating that step, isn’t it?

Despite occasionally bitching about failing/flailing a lot of times in a row, I think that FS3 is actually one of the more forgiving systems–sure, there’s some serious randomness with Lethality rolls that’s (almost) entirely disconnected from character skill, but that’s something I’ve gotten used to.

If I were going to change anything, it would probably be the lethality roll, not how skills match up or trying to go diceless–I’ve done diceless RP (“My character’s skill is about half again what yours is, so we’ll get into pose combat and both keep in mind that my character will generally win unless you do something awesome that I can’t reasonably counter” works fine until you get an asshole who just wants to win), and while some of it was awesome, there’s always the asshole.

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@Roadspike - In combat I think things tend to average out because there are just so many darn rolls. Your char with Expert Gunnery may miss occasionally, but it’s extremely unlikely that they’re going to miss multiple times in a single combat unless they’re going up against another ace. I like lethality the way it is personally. There’s a perception issue that “Flesh Wound” = “I suck” which is simply untrue and I don’t know how to fix that, but that’s not really the problem I was trying to address with this sort of change. It’s more the one-off “I’m an expert climber but frak it all, the one time I have to roll it on camera is the time the dice screw me over” sort of things. That’s where people complain the most IMHO. And understandably so.

ETA: Mathematically what I believe this does is iron out the fluctuations. Because there’s less of a random factor, results will more consistently fall along your skill.

I think that the Flesh Wound = I Suck perception issue is always going to be there as long as there’s a chance of a really-high attack roll turning into a Flesh Wound, which is just part of FS3. It’s a perception issue though, like you said, more than it’s a mechanics issue. I definitely agree with that.

I also think that the best mechanical way to fix the ‘I screw up the one time it’s needed’ issue isn’t actually mechanical–I think it’s encouraging GMs to split tasks up into a couple of “steps” so that there are a couple of rolls. Make more “extended tasks” rather than single tasks. Or for players to just use Luck if they roll poorly, a second roll should go better for an expert who screwed up.

But in the end, I think that both of those issues are perception issues more than mechanical issues. (On a side-note, I can’t believe that the guy who hates dice and loves Stratego is arguing against a relatively diceless system.)

That’s where I disagree a little bit. If someone who’s a world-class mountain climber needs to spend a luck point just to not screw up climbing a cliff that climbers with half his skill have tackled with ease — it just kinda looks bad IMHO. I mean it’s not the end of the world. It’s just irritating.

Well, you could always institute a Buy-In system:

Characters can trade in all of their dice for successes at an X dice = 1 Success ratio. I might suggest 4 or 5? So someone with 10 dice (Exceptional Attribute and Great Skill, yes?) could trade in all of their dice for 2 Successes without having to roll. If they want to do a better job than that, they have to roll. Or maybe it’s a 4:1 ratio and you can only trade in skill dice, not attributes. Then you’d have to have 8 dice (Legendary?) to get 2 Successes, but as long as you had a 4 skill, you could -always- get a Success.

That lets characters who are highly skilled at something get consistent mediocre success if they want it.

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@Roadspike Totally get what you’re saying. And that’s not a wrong way to do it, but here’s how I look at it…

If you’ve got an Expert skill, you have a reasonable expectation of consistently doing well. That is, after all, what Expert is meant to represent. Your Expert shouldn’t be just squeaking by with a marginal success at the Firing Range… they should shoot like an Expert.

Now that’s not so say Experts never miss. Of course they do sometimes. The problem with FS3’s dice system (or pretty much any dice system I’ve seen so far) is that the “one in a thousand” failure comes at the most maddeningly random mundane time. And it might happen again tomorrow, because the system has no memory and dice are just fickle that way. Over 10,000 die rolls you’re going to succeed 98% of the time. That’s the math. But when two of those 2% happen in the same week, you’re going to be understandably put out.

Yup. Totally going to happen. And it’ll get noticed, because people notice failure more often than the notice success, especially if it’s unusual. I just don’t know that it’s a problem of mechanics as much as one of perception, but that’s just my perception of the situation (hah!).

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Fair enough! All I meant was that if you change the mechanics, you can fix the problem. Whether that’s a problem worth fixing is probably more the question you’re getting at.

Take lethality for instance. You could absolutely change the mechanics to more directly tie damage to to-hit roll, but I personally prefer the indirect influence in hit location and bypassing armor and cover. Sometimes you hit them square in the chest and the bullet gets slowed by armor or bounces off a rib. Sometimes the crappy hit to the arm (when you were aiming for their head) nicks an artery. None of that is a reflection on your skill, that’s just crap luck. I like it the way it is.

I don’t like the fluke skill results so much. But I admit I don’t have an awesome solution for it either. That’s why it’s just musings at this point.

First, on “ability /2”, though this is a tiny nitpick and not answering your big question – I really dislike any mechanic which invalidates an XP spend. If I have a 5, and spend the xp to get a 6 (assuming 5/2 rounds up-- if it rounds down, it just changes the numbers where the spend is meaningless), then this should have a real tangible effect. Otherwise, IMHO, you should just smush skill levels down to 1-4 instead of 1-8. FS3 already ‘grows’ very slow, having to buy to 7 before my 5 is meaningfully improved would be deeply unsatisfying.

As to your issue; I strongly don’t like diceless systems, personally. But it doesn’t sound like you’re talking diceless, just … applying randomness to the skill and not pure dice? Like, FUDGE or FATE? I do like those system because 4dF dice (or if you’re not familiar with fudge dice, d6 where 1-2 = -1, 3-4 = 0, 5-6=+1) give results from -4 to +4, with -2 to 2 (and 0) much more likely. If you apply those as modifiers to a success chart that is based straight off of skill values, then an Expert will almost always get an Expert result. Or a result near to it, at least.

I personally really like the modifies-skill sort of rolling instead of success rolling, because its more predictable.

Yeah that’s a good point about rounding down.

I also personally like the modified-skill sort of rolling that FUDGE/FATE have for their predictability. My big gripe with them (and honestly the reason I moved away from FUDGE to FS3 in the first place) is that modifiers have a dramatic effect on the outcomes. A -2 takes your good person down to pathetic levels. That really doesn’t give you much wiggle room for system conditions like wounds, cover, etc.

First edition FS3 was also highly predictable. People didn’t like it though because they didn’t understand the way the system worked.

Having mused on it for quite awhile since the original post, I think now that there’s probably no point in moving to “diceless” though as long as there’s still dice-like randomness involved. If there was a move to diceless at all, it would probably involve some sort of straight-up comparison with the ability to shift with something like “luck points on steroids”.