When I set about putting together a system for this game of reluctant heroes, I knew I needed a choice between being heroically badass and staying home with the family at its core. More than that, I needed this choice to be one that you made mechanically as well as narratively, and you needed to do it as part of almost any action you took in the game. If you chose to be badass once in the beginning of the campaign and then proceeded along apace without any further consideration, it would be a failure of design. You can get a basic overview of how that worked out in this earlier post. It's sparse on details, and that's because when I first started working on the game, that was the first idea I had. It describes a mechanical representation of the narrative conflict, but has no further detail because I hadn't worked out the underpinnings of the basic mechanics yet.
So, with that general idea of hope vs. destiny in mind, I set about trying to create a basic resolution mechanic on which this other ruleset could rest. I really liked the complete simplicity of the Jedi Duels dueling mechanic in that you rolled a pool of dice, stripped out anything that rolled a 1, and then counted up the rest. No modifiers to complicate pool ratings or target numbers, just look for the single dots and do a quick count. That raw simplicity was something I wanted to replicate in this game, not because I anticipated hyper-frenetic action that needed lightning fast resolution, but because simpler is often easier, and I wanted this game to be easy for both players and GM. My thinking was that if there wan't much to learn and manage in terms of rules, everyone at the table, GM and player alike, could concentrate on their characters and build a more compelling story together.
I began by setting a single TN for all die rolls regardless of circumstance, as many die pool games do today, and screwed around with various ways of constructing the pools. As time went on, I wound up including or changing rules that marginalized the dice more and more in the favor of simplicity until I hit a wall and was left floundering. I stayed there, making no progress for about a week when an idea struck me that took away all my problems and dropped the complexity of the resolution through the floor.
Get rid of the dice entirely.
I've never played a diceless game. I've heard of a few, but I had no idea how any of them worked. All I knew was that they did in fact exist, and some people swore by them. So, I figured I'd give it a shot. It seemed to be where my process was headed. So, dice dropped out of the equation entirely and the basic resolution mechanic became one of blind bidding. Your pool is comprised of hope and of destiny (I'll talk about the differences between these two in a later post). If you want to do something, you bid points from your pool toward your action. When you're done bidding, the GM tells you if you succeed or fail. Simple as simple can be.
I'll talk more about using your effort pool next time.