Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Swift d12: Musings about modifiers

One of the minor niggles I ran into while play testing Swift d12 was all the different modifiers players need to add together. Savage Worlds has this issue too, but it's less severe because of things like the die step traits (instead of modifiers) and using a derived stat for Parry. I also have the issue of Staggered incurring a -2 penalty, which is another thing to add on.

A few people have expressed a dislike of the Swift d12 complication mechanic, so I've been pondering ways I might make it more intuitive. One of the ideas I considered was rolling 3d6 and keeping the lowest, middle or highest result for a minor, moderate or major complication.

While googling for similar mechanics, I stumbled across a discussion about Shadow of the Demon Lord, which uses "boons" and "banes" to represent advantages and disadvantages. Each situational bonus grants a boon die, and each situational penalty grants a bane die, and the two cancel each other out. So if you had three bonuses and one penalty, you would roll two bane dice (2d6) and keep the highest. This is apparently quite a popular approach, although the modifiers are a bit high for my d12-based system.

However rolling 3d6 and applying the lowest, middle or highest die result (as a minor, moderate or major advantage or disadvantage respectively) could be a better fit, roughly comparable with a 2, 3 or 5 point bonus/penalty.


The basic idea of this mechanic is to simplify bonuses and penalties. Instead of tracking lots of variable modifiers for things like lighting, range, cover, etc, most situations would simply grant an advantage or disadvantage (with a few situations granting a double advantage or disadvantage), and these could be listed in the rules as well as on a cheat sheet.

You would gain an advantage when...
  • Making a close combat attack against a prone target.
  • Attacking a foe who is using an improvised weapon (including unarmed) when you are using a proper weapon.
  • Surprising a foe in combat.
  • Etc...

You would suffer a disadvantage when...
  • Making a ranged attack against a prone target.
  • You are Staggered or Stunned.
  • Poor lighting makes it difficult to see what you're doing (double disadvantage in pitch darkness)
  • Your foe has cover (double disadvantage when they have heavy cover)
  • Your foe is at medium range (double disadvantage when they are at long range)
  • You are using an improvised weapon (including unarmed) to attack a foe who is using a proper weapon.
  • Your foe is being flanked by another hostile character.
  • You are jogging the same turn you're performing the action.
  • Etc...

And of course the GM could apply a situational advantage/disadvantage, in much the same way they might normally apply a situational modifier.

So if you fired an arrow at an opponent behind cover (disadvantage) at short range, you'd roll 3d6 and apply the lowest die result as a penalty to your action. If they were behind cover at medium range, you'd roll 3d6 and apply the middle die result, and if you were also Staggered you'd roll 3d6 and apply the highest die result.

The dice would be rolled at the same time as the action dice (i.e., as a dice pool) so you wouldn't need to make separate rolls. In the case of Minions, a single set of 3d6 could be rolled at the same time as a group of Minions, with the result applied to all of them, so once again there wouldn't need to be any separate rolls.

Of course you'd still need to add up the advantages and disadvantages, but there are fewer of them (two levels of lighting instead of four, etc), and the process is split into two steps - first you calculate whether you have a minor, moderate or major advantage or disadvantage, then you make the ability check.

Previously an attack might be calculated by rolling your action dice, adding your Melee, subtracting their Melee, then subtracting 2 because you're Staggered, adding 2 because they're prone, and subtracting 2 because you jogged to reach them.

But now you'd split the process into two steps:

Step 1: One disadvantage (you're Staggered) + one advantage (they're prone) - one disadvantage (you jogged) = minor disadvantage.

Step 2: Roll your action dice, add your Melee, subtract their Melee, and apply a minor disadvantage.

I'm still not sure how I feel about this idea, but I do think it might be worth testing out.