Dice Modifiers For Dungeon World (And I Guess Other *World Games Too)

edited June 2015 in Play Advice
One thing that has always put me off in games is flat modifiers. Reading about them they just feel so... flat, so lifeless. My limited D&D experience didn't do much to enamor me of modifiers either. I just don't like the fiddliness.

I'm trying DW for the first time this week and while it's probably not kosher to tinker with the engine before taking it for a drive there's a mechanics hack I've been turning over in my head that I really want to give a try. Thought I'd share it with you fine folks as well. The idea is this.

When you roll+stat, instead of rolling and then adding a flat modifier you roll an extra die the size of which is determined by your stat modifier. +1 is a d4, +2 is a d6, and +3 is a d8. Discard the lowest number and there's your roll. The probabilities actually work out surprisingly well compared to DW's vanilla probabilities. Here's some crunch, starting with the stuff we already know. Vanilla probabilities are in brackets.

2d6+1d4, take 2 highest (+1 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 28% (28%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 51% (44%)
Probability of 10+ is around 21% (28%)

3d6, take 2 highest (+2 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 19% (16%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 45% (42%)
Probability of 10+ is around 36% (42%)

2d6+1d8, take 2 highest (+3 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 15% (8%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 35% (34%)
Probability of 10+ is around 50% (58%)

Pretty cool huh? It's not exactly the same, but it's pretty close, and only really starts off the beaten track at the highest modifier. Here's what I like about it as an idea, though I've yet to test it at the table: 1) 6- results remain a real possibility even at higher levels, meaning more hard moves, more difficult situations, and more adventure! 2) While misses are stimulated at late levels, in early-mid levels we see more 7-9 results. This means more success at cost, more surprises, and more adventure! 3) Across the board a 10+ is less likely. This means that total success is still a rare, wonderful, cherished occurrence.

I guess the sense of power gain is lost somewhat by failure remaining very possible and total success scaling up less dramatically, but I think that will be somewhat mitigated by the nice physical feeling of power that comes with picking up and rolling an extra die.

Now for negative modifiers! At -1 you get a d8, at -2 you get a d6, at -3 you get a d4. Roll 'em up and discard the highest this time.

2d6+1d8, take 2 lowest (-1 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 61% (58%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 31% (34%)
Probability of 10+ is around 8% (8%)

3d6, take 2 lowest (-2 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 68% (72%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 27% (25%)
Probability of 10+ is around 5% (3%)

2d6+1d4, take 2 lowest (-3 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 80% (83%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 19% (17%)
Probability of 10+ is around 1% (0%)

These are actually pretty similar. What I like about it, though, is that you can still pull a complete success out of pretty dire straits. And players will feel those odds, as when they pop every dice will be showing their highest value. I like the physicality of it too. Holding the d8 might lead to confidence in spite of your weakness, whereas holding the d4 will feel absolutely crippling.

BONUS DATA:

I threw together the probabilities for a +d10, take highest and lowest. Think about using this instead of the d8 as the probabilities line up a little better.

2d6+1d10, take 2 highest (+3 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 12% (8%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 28% (34%)
Probability of 10+ is around 60% (58%)

2d6+1d10, take 2 lowest (-1 modifier)
Probability of 6- is around 57% (58%)
Probability of 7-9 is around 33% (34%)
Probability of 10+ is around 10% (8%)

Comments

  • This is a great technique, I think. I really like the odds those dice give.

    I've posted about this before, and even written a game based on this, and I'm working on another.

    You might enjoy these links:

    Alternate dice for Apocalypse World

    The Bureau

  • Thanks for the link to The Bureau and... yep, I've read your game before. I haven't had a chance to table it, but it's a great read. Thanks for the inspiration!

    In addition to the probabilities, I think the feel of the funky dice contributes to the feeling of character growth more tangibly than a number on paper.

    One thing about the system that I haven't quite settled on is how to incorporate forwards and ongoings. My initial thought was to have them up- or downgrade the die size (which is currently what I'm settling on), but that's just throwing back in some modifier fiddliness and arresting flow.

    I was thinking about using extra dice, with a +1 forward throwing in an extra d4, and the probabilities work out pretty nicely, but unfortunately the system is unworkable when you've got both positive and negative modifiers. At least I haven't been able to make it work.

    Do you think modifying die size is the best solution? Is there something else that could work?
  • It seems to me that stacking modifiers is incredibly rare (if it happens at all) in most *World games, and certainly in Apocalypse World itself.

    I think throwing in an extra d4 (or taking it away) works just fine for most purposes.

    In my "alternate dice" thread, I have a "circumstances die", which can be used for this purpose.

    I also don't think it would be the end of the world to include a +1 or -1 for some unusual and rare circumstances, if you MUST have it in your particular game. (For example, Strings in Monsterhearts come to mind. Those might be too clunky with die sizes.)
  • Does anyone know how to show these curves on anydice?
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