Dice Pools and d20s

I’ve made a lot of changes to how I think about building Xenomega. I ran the gamut of published rules systems that are open content or have licenses to create settings and expansions for their systems. In the end, I didn’t want to use someone else’s rules, I wanted to build my own system that works for my settings.

At the same time, there are a great many systems out there that cover a broad range of mechanics. Most of them break down into two groups though: Roll a lot of dice and count high rolls or roll a few dice and add them together. The first is commonly called dice pools, the second doesn’t have a name that I’m aware of. There have been some others that I am familiar with, most notably Alternity that had a roll under mechanic, where the lower the roll, the better the success. While I like that system, it never really caught on in mainstream gaming.

So which do I go with? Both have their good and bad points. The dice pool has that great effect of rolling many dice, sometimes a lot of dice, to see if you succeed or not. There is something fun about the kinetics of a large amount of dice clattering across the table and counting successes. I’ll admit, I’ve only played one campaign that used this type of mechanic, plus one single session of a different system with a similar methodology.

The other type, the additive roll high method is what I am more comfortable with. Its easy to do if you can add a couple of numbers quickly in your head, and usually uses different type of dice for different types of rolls. Maybe a d20 for attacks and skills, a d4 through d12 for damage. Add some numbers to it and see if you beat the target number. Its simple and its pretty much where table top roleplaying games started.

There are some other methods out there as well, but I am far less familiar with them. Some use a standard poker deck of playing cards for modifiers. Others use completely unique dice with symbols specific to the game to determine success and failure. I’m not sure I want to go that route though as I cannot afford to make unique dice. In the end, most players that will be playing Xenomega already have dice, hopefully more than one set, and getting more dice is easy. Buying unique dice, even though they would be d6 or d10s, would add a whole element of developing, producing, shipping and supplying that I don’t want to handle. It could be a selling point, but it doesn’t work in my situation.

So back to the core. I’m going to go with a dice pool mechanic. I’m less familiar with them and that is exactly the reason I want to use one. I want to get out of my comfort zone and find a new way to do things. But I also want something unique to my game, something that pulls in new players, adds a new effect, and makes one more thing I can sell. This is a business after all. But at the same time, I don’t want the cost to be so high that no one buys it.

And thats where the deck of cards come in. I haven’t figured out what they will do yet, but I will have a deck of cards, most likely a Tarot deck, that can be drawn at random. A card can modify an effect, have a benefit or penalty, cause a mutation, or introduce something new to the immediate scenario. The cards will be sort of the typical Tarot imagery, but modified for the Xenomega game. I’ll have to get a deck of cards to make decisions about what each card does, but I think I can find something online that details it for now. I’ll have my artist draw the images for the cards, have him get me in contact with someone who can color them, then I’ll find a way to come up with the money to pay them for their work. With my artist’s help, I think the cards will further add to the immersion of the game, creating a setting and ambiance that makes the game seem more solid.

So that solves two things: What the basics of the game is, and what makes it different. I’ll be reading some other games that use cards to see what they have them do in game, as well as looking into prices for making custom dice so maybe I can make the d6s unique anyway. I’ll have the ones be a certain symbol of failure and the sixes be a different symbol for success. Maybe I can make them in three colors for Attribute, Skill, and Equipment. Then on top of that, a card can be drawn for boon or weal.

That’s where I’m sitting now. I’ll detail more later when I’ve done some research into the actual costs and processes to custom order cards and dice, but I think I’m on to something.

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