Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Roll-playing & Craps

In puzzling out a solution for my influence/competence problem, posted last Thursday, I've found myself wandering through a number of rabbit holes . . . and these have been problematic because of their potential contribution to 'roll-playing.'

I'm sure I've mentioned this a few times, but just to be clear: I feel that rules are better when they offer a player a choice rather than a result.  That said, there's no real way of determining whether or not the choice is the right one except either by dice or DM's fiat - and I am absolutely opposed to the latter.

The trick, then, is to identify a way in which choice influences which dice are to be rolled, and what results are obtained.  For example, a player decides to attack an enemy by stepping back and loading a bow, moving part of the way forward and throwing an axe or stepping up and swinging a sword. Each ultimately ends in the success being determined by dice, but the effects of each are different in terms of the result.

This puts me in mind of the game craps, where the participant decides ahead of time what to bet their money on - long odds or short - and how to bet after certain results are produced.  For the shooter, we have three basic possibilities:  roll a 7 or 11 and win; roll a 2, 3 or 12 and crap out; or roll some other number and defer the win or loss until later.

It is this third result that interests me.  Fundamentally, it doesn't change the win/loss dynamic, it only extends the time before the win or loss can occur.  Now why is that important?

First, because it allows additional betting, both for or against the shooter, based on the difficulty of the point to be obtained.  A mess of new odds are presented to the participants who must adjust their strategies depending on what point chances to show up.  It is something like having a scroll of protection against magic in your hand and wondering if you should read it before opening the dungeon door - dependent, completely, on what information you chance to have about what's on the other side.

On the surface, it appears that craps is entirely a roll-playing game.  Like all betting games, however, it isn't the mechanism that matters - it is the stake you put behind the mechanism.  That scroll is valuable.  It would suck to waste it.  Not using it, however, could mean the difference between life and death.  Using it on this occasion, yet again, could mean not having it somewhere further on down the line when you really need it.  So what are you going to do?

Choice.  The die roll gives a result but the choice falls on what you decide to stake on that roll.  All 'roll-playing' is based on this principle.

For the record, more money is won and lost worldwide playing craps and other similar games than is staked on all the drama that has ever been produced.  Just sayin'.

I had a solution for working out the competence of doing your job (or an NPC doing their job) on a day-to-day basis, but in reality it was all die rolls to get a result without there being much choice.  I'm organizing an alternative plan which, as it turns out, steals shamelessly from Sims 3 and ends in producing a new measurement, reputation.  I'll be writing about that in another post.


Oddbit said...

Could be worse sources than Sims 3 for a DnD game. They have some very similar elements.

Get loot, buy things, upgrade ability to get more loot.

Occasionally take greater risks to get more loot than normal.

Oh and I guess there are some relationships and loose dynamic narrative going on there too.

JB said...

I've found most players love risk-reward ("gambling" type) choices. I've seen "deferring win" mechanics in other games (where a small success NOW can be put off and rolled over into a bigger success LATER), but I can't recall seeing a "deferred loss." That's a pretty interesting concept.

Hmm...actually, now that I think of it, Trollbabe has some deferred loss type mechanics (where you can reroll, but failing makes for a bigger loss...kind of a "double or nothing" move).

I'm interested to see where you go with this.