Roll when you want to is not the bees knees

Okay, looking at a forge post on ‘the pool’.

I think Ron admired it as having more structure than traditional RPG’s. In a way it does – it’s kind of like it has had all it’s limbs dislocated, while other RPG’s have had all their limbs dislocated and drawn and quarted the body.

It all hinges on : You have a capacity to roll. BUT you don’t have to.

So why do it? Because it’s fun? You don’t know it’s fun before you roll, and when you roll, what you say your rolling for and how you or someone else describe the outcome are the significant parts of whether it’s fun. It’s like if I say you roll and if you fail, you get a beef burger, and if you win, you get a chicken burger. Know why the rolls tasty? Because I didn’t say on a fail you get a turd burger and on a win you get a flem burger.

The roll is hardly significant as how it’s set up. So if anythings good, it’s how good GM Herbie is at doing this.

“But the outcome can change many things in the future, and that stuff latter on might be fun!”

And that’s getting into fun latter territory.

I usually refer to stone soup design around about now. Where people put in a ton of effort into the soup, then claim the soup was already delicious and just a great soup!

Pratically all RPG’s hinge on alot of “uh, roll whenever. Or don’t”. It’s crap. If this really is the way into a nuanced, affecting system, why the f’k is it optional then? Why leave it to chance whether your written system matters at all? This whole ‘roll when you wanna’ is hopefully, and at best, simply a stage where we figure out actual rules for triggering rolls. Instead of making it up every bloody time.

Okay, I’ll water that down. Having some rolls where you decide if you want to or not, just some of them, and the others have rules that tell you roll, that’s cool. A mix! I’m sure the forced rolls will influence the optional ones. But only having optional rolls?

I mean if I said here’s a ball game, but you don’t have to touch any of the balls. Even if you touch none of them, your totally playing the game! Would that make sense!

“But we would roll at some point”

Again it goes back to you deciding when, about what, and what happens. This is you providing the vast bulk of content! What are the rules actually providing? At best they are making you think of two different paths (win and lose) rather than just one. That’s it. Your the one making up the path though!

And in terms of two different paths – it’s only going to happen when you basically decide there should be a split point. What, your going to forget what the mechanic does? So this isn’t a big surprise moment – your deciding when the split happens. So you are, by default, only going to have a split happen where you want a split to happen. Your play isn’t going to be really jerked in a new direction – your only introducing a split when your happy to do so. Whatever direction you go in – you decided on it anyway and the dice are just a faux ‘oh it’s totally wild’ illusion to perpetrate on yourself. Again it’s like fail=beef burger, pass=chicken burger – it’s not wild. You like beef burgers. You like chicken burgers. Your not going anywhere different than you want to, but now you’ve got a die roll to pretend you are. You are not going to choose anything you don’t like – whatever you choose, you chose it cause you like it. The story is ending how you want it to end, just you have two ways you want it to end and your prepared for it to be random which? This is as stale as just deciding the ending.

“We all just decide”. If we wanted that, we’d just do that. What have we got here – we all just decide twice. Then we flip a coin.

“Oh, but if we roll enough we wont be able to predict the ending”

Okay, cool, how many times is that? We’ll write it down as a rule that you have to roll that many times a session, before the session is done.

“Umm, errr, I don’t want to be fixed in this or forced…”

Yeah, I know. That’s my point. A truely unpredictable ending would be fixed upon you and forced upon you. It’s supposed to be unpleasant in that ‘I have no control’ way. That’s how surprises are. Real surprises.

You’ve got too much control to genuinely have an upredictable ending. And I’m obviously not just a negative nelly – tell me how many rolls it takes for a genuinely unpredictable ending. We’ll make it a hard and enforced rule. I’m up for a constructive way out of this. Perhaps roleplay design could move on from this.

I just don’t think this sort of mechanic really contributes, even if it feels really different for a antagonist to die a bit latter. I’ll grant that is different from just deciding it yourself. I just don’t think it’s that different or different enough to be considered a contribution by the ruleset. Or to put it in a possitive frame, if that feels really different, imagine what it’d be like if you had rules you just had to use?

Yah, maybe I should have framed this from the ‘hey, if you like this, perhaps…’ possitive angle…ah well.

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