September 15, 2010

Claiming Bonus Dice

In the previous versions of Vivid, I had a mechanic wherein GMs could award a deserving player bonus dice for interesting action declarations and good roleplay.  It was an attempt to get players away from the metronomic boredom of “I attack” that can be all too easily encouraged  by systems that try to package everything into the character sheet. 

It worked very well in my playtests so far, but then these playtests were with players I’ve known for a while and like to play the same way I do.  However, there’s always been the spectre haunting that idea: what if the GM isn’t sure when or when not to award  bonus dice? What if, the gods forfend, your GM is stingy with bonus dice?

I’ve thus reworked the mechanic so the burden is on the player to claim bonus dice from the GM.  Your guide to claiming bonus dice is found in the acronym SAMAT – Surprise, Advantage, Method, Aid, and Tagging.  For each of these conditions that the GM agrees is true in the way you declared your action, you get one bonus die.

Surprise: your action is very likely to catch your opponent off-guard

Advantage: you hold a significant advantage over your opponent, such as having a longer weapon (e.g. spear vs. sword), or being mounted while he isn’t, having a shield while he doesn’t, etc. etc.)

Method: you described your action with such detail and pizzazz the GM agrees it is much more likely to work than a ‘vanilla’ approach

Aid: you have help from another character or creature.  This is a way for you to bring in NPCs or pets into battle without having to bother rolling for them as independent agents – you simply assume they’re supporting your character.

Tagging: you have previously Tagged your opponent with a condition that is advantageous to you, e.g. you’ve Blinded him by flinging sand in his eyes, or Cornered him against the cliff face, etc. etc.

Will constantly giving bonus dice unbalance the game, though? No, I don’t think so, because the game was designed to use them. Player characters will often have less dice than a powerful opponent or challenging task, so it’s important to find ways to get more dice to improve the odds.  Besides, as I remember Marc commenting: It’s good to have the extra dice because it makes the player feel powerful. 

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