Acceptable losses? | KingSpoom's RPG Design & Theory Junkyard

Acceptable losses?

For a while, I've been mulling over the skill system for my rpg. Should it use the same roll mechanics for everything, should it include social skills, should it include skills that only work on NPCs... a whole range of things. However, recently I've been stuck on a single question brought up by the sons of kryos podcast (number 8 specifically). In it, Jeff or Judd mentions (roughly) that you shouldn't be rolling if you only want to see or can only handle one side of the results during their dice fudging segment.

Since then, I've been interested in finding out if I could setup my skill system (task resolution) so that it could handle failure and success for every skill, every time. Within reason, of course, because I realize that a lot of this falls back upon the GM (or can). The key to finding this out was to figure out what situations it was acceptable for the characters to fail at. I believe having a structure of reactions or events is important in this process. This process (usually for conflict resolution) is generally called setting the stakes. It tells all the players (including the GM) what is suppose to happen upon success and failure.

During my research into the subject, I stumbled upon something referred to as "preset stakes resolution". In this type of resolution system, stakes are defined by the system, instead of the GM and/or players. So, it could say that a climb check is called for every 100 feet of climbing and failure means that you fall 10 feet for every point you missed the target number by. The players realize that trying to climb a 100 foot wall means 1 climb check. The GM knows that if he wants the players to roll at least 3 climb checks, he should make a 300 feet of wall.

Everyone being on the same page... that's how I think both success and failure will become acceptable.


thanuir said...

D&D does that. As a GM, I don't like it, because the game often fails to into account the relevant bits.

Say, for example, that the game tells how difficult it is to climb a given wall. What if I want to climb it so that I'm not seen? Faster? Without leaving tracks? If I also want to search the sky for any signs of the message I am trying to stop? No system can handle all the cases.

Personally, my style is to tell players what will happen if they fail (roughly), if they succeed, and what the difficulty is. They can decide to go with it, negotiate (if I make some mistake, I'll know and fix it) the stakes or difficulty, suggest better ideas, or try something else.

KingSpoom said...

Yeah, most of 3.x's skills have preset stakes. Mainly what I was talking about, though, was setting it up so that rolling for skill x meant you were actually wanting to acheive what skill x already resolves for in it's preset stakes.

Diplomacy for 3.x actually just tampers with an NPCs disposition towards the PC. However, when most players roll their diplomacy skill, they want an npc to do something for them. This is the kind of divide I was talking about avoiding.

Of course, the only way to really come about and meet every challenge like that would be to use negotiated stakes. I realize that, but they aren't for me. I just wanted to close the gap between 'expected character actions' and 'what the skills resolve'.