Dice vs. Diceless... changes the GM perspective? | KingSpoom's RPG Design & Theory Junkyard

Dice vs. Diceless... changes the GM perspective?

Dice and diceless are both valid ways to play. That's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to answer the question "Does the difference between dice and diceless systems change the perspective of the GM?" when the GM is creating content. To have dice, means to have some sort of randomizer. Cards, dice, picking a number in your head... it doesn't matter what it is. Sometimes just called fate resolution. Diceless is the opposite, also called karma resolution.

Let's assume that a GM has been running an ongoing campaign for a couple sessions and has full access to the player's character sheets. There are two ways (probably more) that a GM can go about creating content for an adventure. He can create content based upon the setting (ie: He creates what would make the most sense in the given situation) or he can create content based upon the characters (ie: He creates based on challenge to the characters).

From a setting perspective, I don't think it matters whether you are using a dice or diceless system. If the setting calls for a rich merchant to have an advanced lock on his door, then the GM determines the appropriate difficulty for such a lock to have. In order for challenge to be considered, it must be brought in first in the procedure. Thus, instead of a rich merchant, the GM would introduce a poorer merchant, who can't afford such security.

I also don't think it matters from a character perspective. If the GM creates a locked door because a character has a high lockpicking skill, he still has to choose an appropriate difficulty. He can choose to make it an easy challenge (no challenge?) or a hard challenge. That brings up a whole different point on whether GMs should create a challenge that they want players to pass anyhow, but there's something else to discuss. Even though the GM will create, let's say, a hard challenge either way, he may be limited by the system.

Karma resolution, as I understand it (and I could be wrong), is either hit or miss. If your lockpicking skill is 20 or greater, you pick the lock. If it's 19 or less you fail. Does that even count as a challenge? The GM can create a lock with a difficulty of 10 and know you will pass or a lock with a difficulty of 50 and know you will fail. There is no middle ground there. Fate resolution, however, is chock full of middle ground, but still usually retains the 100% and 0% chances of success. At a glance, it seems superior... if you create content based upon your players' characters.

I suppose it depends on the focus of your games. If you like the idea that your character could fail at any given moment, or the focus of your games are on the walking the path and not arriving at the destination, then fortune mechanics are for you. If your focus is on arriving at the destination, but still keeping track of the path, then karma mechanics should work better.


Anonymous said...

Greetings. I just discovered your blog. Good stuff.

My experience with diced and diceless resolution is that using the dice takes a great deal of responsibility off the GM. As GM, I have little need to plan anything; the dice will take care of it.

Freeform requires making more decisions. It is much more taxing. Fudging or hiding the results of the rolls has, for me, much the same effect.

KingSpoom said...

Welcome, I'm glad someone finally did discover me. Thanks.

I agree that it takes responsibility off the GM's shoulders. I don't think I was considering that point when I wrote that post.