November 19, 2010

Unfailure

We’ve all been at a table where someone else, or ourselves, runs into the worst run of bad luck. We roll and roll and never seem to make the needed number to get a success. This can quickly turn a good night into a crappy night of frustration.

I know that a good DM can turn bad die rolls into a fun and exciting adventure. I know that die rolls eventually even out and the player will start to roll better. I know that sometimes what is perceived as a bad night of die rolling is nothing but perception and not the reality of it. I know that some people need to lighten up and not take a game so seriously.

However, I also know that games are meant to bring people up out a bad mood and not put them there. Its not so much that rolling poorly is bad for the character and group, but rather, sometimes it feels like the world (real and fantasy) is out to get you.

For this, I’ve created the Unfailure Rule. In effect, this allows a person who is genuinely having a bad night of die rolling get at least one success that evening. Here’s how it works:

-Put a bunch of markers (poker chips, glass beads, marbles, pennies) on the table.
-Whenever, a player fails his second roll in a row he takes one of the markers.
-From then on, if he fails a roll he takes another marker. If he succeeds on a roll he puts all the markers back.
-If a player has 3 markers, he can turn in all his markers to automatically succeed on the next roll he makes. The success is minimal, the player gets the exact result he needs to succeed.

I think you’ll be surprised by how rarely a person gets the free success. In addition, so will your players. One side benefit of this system is that there is a way to show exactly how bad a person is rolling. Often a player will roll badly twice in a row (usually on what they perceive to be an important roll) and to them the whole night is one of bad die rolls. With this system they can realize that maybe they are not rolling as bad as they initially thought.
It’s also funny watching players hope they fail again so they can then use their free success on some high-powered ability.

Is this overpowered? Does it give too much of an advantage to the players? Think about it. In order for a player to get the free success he would have had to first fail 4 times in a row. That’s 4 actions that did nothing to help the party or the character and did nothing to hurt your NPCs.

However, I would not use this system if the rule set already includes a way to get automatic successes on die rolls. Some systems have their own set of markers included that allow for a die roll to be bumped up to a success. Just bear in mind that rerolling a die roll does not in fact accomplish what this system does; rerolling a die does not guarantee success, it only provides another avenue for failing a roll.
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