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July 22, 2010

Lucky Numbers RPG

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 10:33 pm

I was talking with lpsmith about the game, and one of the things he mentioned was that things could get kind of long when you were waiting for your turn to come around again, and that Settlers of Catan had a cool mechanic for letting you do other stuff during other people’s turns. So we talked about that for a bit, and also about how in some version of The Game of Life you could get a lucky number on the wheel and get points whenever it came up. Anyway, I thought I’d work out the idea a bit and see what came up.

So, ok, the normal mechanic is when it’s your turn and you want to do a skill check, you roll 2d6, and presumably try to get on or above some target number. Meanwhile, everyone else at the table has some strip marked 2-12, and they have tokens on certain numbers on their strip to show they bought them. The tokens come in different types — like, say “strength”, “skill”, “magic”. If it’s not your turn, and someone else rolls a number, and you have a token on that number, then you get to add a token of that type to your pool. If you have multiple tokens, you get to add multiple tokens.

That’s basically the core of it, although there is a lot of stuff you can layer on top. Like, the first question is what you do with the tokens — I’m thinking that different skills cost tokens to use, and perhaps let you add tokens before/after the roll for additional effect (so like magic the gathering cards that say “spend 1 red mana to cast, then does X damage where X is the number of additional red mana you spend” — or a non-damaging one could be like “To pick a lock, spend a skill token and roll 2d6. If you get at least the lock difficulty, you succeed; if not, you can add +2 to the roll by spending a skill token, as many times as you need, until you succeed.”) I assume you wouldn’t really have custom rules for each specific skill, but you could probably have a half-dozen different kinds of “things you do”, each with a rule set, rather like Storming the Wizard’s Tower. Probably not all skills would cost a token to use; I assume you want to keep them a little special.

The next question is how you buy spots on the number strip. Right now, I’m thinking that you start off extended challenges with zero or more numbers already bought (some higher-skill characters get more numbers bought to show their higher skill), and then certain skills let you buy more numbers as the combat goes along — this’d help sort of escalate the razzle-dazzle and lead to the flashier skills getting used only after some buildup. I don’t know how strict things should be — a skill could be like “you can put a strength token on the 5” or it could be like “you can put a token of your choice on four pips-worth of numbers” (assuming the 2 and 12 cost one pip each, the 6 and 8 cost five, etc). Somebody who puts a bunch of tokens on one number feels like a different kind of fighter than someone who spreads them out.

I haven’t really touched on what tokens represent, but I’m thinking, basically, “opportunities”, which you can narrate however you want. Like, it could be your opponent rolls the number, so they’re opening themselves up to a later attack by you; or it could be it’s your buddy rolling, so their attack distracts the person you’re fighting. Presumably you can have the people getting the token narrate a line or two as they pick it up.

Also, I imagine you want something juicy for the 7, just like in Settlers of Catan. I’m thinking you keep the same rule where you lose half your tokens if you have more than seven of them (or however many makes sense), and then in addition the situation changes radically in some way. Like, two people swordfighting, one rolls a 7, and … the floor gives way. Or someone shouts that the guards are coming. Or one of the fighters turns out to be in disguise and their mask slips.

I guess that is about it. You could probably layer this into an existing game without too much hassle, though if it was, say, a d20 game, it’s a pity you’d lose out on the bell curve, since having the numbers have different probabilities feels like it adds a little something (though with FATE the curve seems extreme enough I’m not sure it’d work that well — maybe you could have the strip be something besides raw numbers).

Oh, and the last variant is to make the number strip into a shared resource. Obviously one of the interesting things about Settlers of Catan is there’s this board you’re fighting over, and you can crowd people off certain numbers or grab them before they do or whatever. That could be an interesting way to simulate sparring for position and “the long game” in a battle, if you’re fighting for numbers.


  1. Sounds like an interesting idea. I have two remarks:
    a) You have to be careful not to even out the odds. Basically giving people these tokens to fix misrolls () might make it too easy to just pass any challenge. And failing something or doing something exceptionally well always makes for good storytelling.
    b) I’m not sure I like the mana comparison. I think most actions shouldn’t cost anything to give the players the freedom to try whatever they think would be cool.

    Comment by Touchy — July 23, 2010 @ 5:30 am

  2. Wouldn’t a system like this encourage the party to try to roll the dice as much as possible?

    Comment by Jota — July 23, 2010 @ 5:42 am

  3. Really, you’d want the spots to have different costs, because it sets up a nice problem for the player. “Hmm, I can put this marker on 4, and it only costs me 1 donut, but it never comes up. 8s come up all the time but that costs 3 donuts!”

    Comment by katre — July 23, 2010 @ 6:48 am

  4. (You’ve already got two currencies here that I can see, so adding donuts as a third currency seems very sensible to me. Also, since people keep eating them, there’s no worry about inflation.)

    Comment by katre — July 23, 2010 @ 6:49 am

  5. katre: Yeah, definitely. Presumably you can just have the cost be the numerator (over 36) for the probability of the number coming up. I guess yet another possibility is to charge different amounts for different token types; would you rather have a minor strength token on the 8, or a major strength token on the 10?

    Touchy, Jota: Yeah, for this to work (and be balanced) you probably need everyone to roll exactly once per turn, and (at least the way I’m picturing it), you only spend or accumulate tokens during “extended conflicts”, not for single-shot rolls (and when the conflict is over, your token pool is emptied). If you have all that, I’m thinking it’s probably ok to charge tokens for most actions, since that seems to work for Settlers*. In theory you should be getting some tokens each go-round, so you should always have some to spend on your turn, though perhaps not the type you want; if you get unlucky or want to save your tokens for a bigger thing later, you can do one of the free basic actions.

    *Settlers, admittedly, has trading with people to get the token types you need as well as getting them via rolling, but I’m hoping the greater control you have over your tokens here will balance that out.

    Comment by inky — July 23, 2010 @ 9:17 am

  6. This is pretty cool! I like it. And after reading the comments, I am taken with the idea of the variant where the number line is a shared and competed-over resource between the PCs and the GM, and you can trade, but only with the GM.

    Comment by Lucian — July 23, 2010 @ 11:35 am

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