Dice of Destiny

by Justin Bacon

Art by Dan Smith

All roleplaying systems have a method of resolving action. Most use dice to check against a numerical value in one fashion or another to determine the success or failure of those actions. Few systems, however, provide any framework for interpreting those successes and failures.

This lack is surprising. The roleplaying experience relies entirely on the ability of the Game Master and players to communicate the reality of a fictional world and the characters therein as believably as possible. The real world, and the vast majority of worlds of fiction, do not exist in a binary fashion -- when Conan swings his sword he does not "hit" or "miss," he "swings his mighty blade and with thews of steel crushes the skull of his hapless captor" or "brings his sword about in a massive sweep, narrowly missing his hastily retreating opponent."

Yet, beyond some mumbling of how a "higher margin of success means the character has had a greater success than if he had succeeded by a slimmer margin," roleplaying systems on the whole do not provide any intuitive clues for the GM to describe the outcome of a resolved action to his players.

This article attempts to rectify this lack by providing a meta-system -- a system which can be applied to many different systems. In this case, any system which uses more than a single die for action resolution. It is not an attempt to "lock" GMs or players into an unalterable scheme of description, . . .

This article originally appeared in the second volume of Pyramid. See the current Pyramid website for more information.

Article publication date: June 16, 2000

Copyright © 2000 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to webmaster@sjgames.com.