I have made a huge, huge, mega-huge update to Synanthropes; I have stripped out and completely replaced the central dice mechanic. Once it was all about collecting a dice pool, now it’s about rolling 2d6 and adding bonuses; for every +1 die in the earlier system, it’s now simply a +1. Other than that, it’s operating on what might be recognized as the Apocalypse World standard, where results of 10 or more accomplish the task, 7-9 accomplishes partially or at some sort of cost, and 6 or less means that not only do you not get what you want, but something bad happens besides.
Admittedly, I’m a LOT less codified than the Apocalypse system, as I have no such things as Moves, but the core remains the same.
Okay, why would I do such a crazy thing? It was not an easy decision! And yet, I am confident that it was the right one.
Why? Well, let’s consider some things.
I spent some long nights on AnyDice, rolling and rolling and looking at curves, and trying to come up with ways to ensure that success when you didn’t have any bonuses wasn’t nigh-impossible, while success when you stacked the deck in your favor wasn’t as sure thing, and eventually I came up with something that looked perfect:
On a d6, 4 or 5 counts as a success, 6 counts as 2 successes, and 1 is a botch which removes one success from your total. You need a total of 2 or more successes to fully resolve the task, but a single success will let you partially accomplish your task, or accomplish it at a cost.
Oh lord, I didn’t need to playtest that. Just look at it! For criminy’s sake, it’s ridiculous! It’s so far divorced from the world of numbers that I might as well ask folks to buy a damn spinner or other truly esoteric randomizer.
(Note to self: what sort of interesting things can I do with a spinner? Makes it really easy to create an “I succeed IF I’m using an Artifact” or “I succeed IF being helped” option. Interesting and useful… the more bonuses you have, the more slices which count as successes. Interesting… but not for right now. Save that for next Game Chef maybe.)
Anyway, a standard 2d6 makes a familiar probability curve. I lose that “no math needed” thing, which is unfortunate because I really like not having to rely on even basic calculation, but adding 2 dice and a few random +1s isn’t much of a hardship… you can do that on your fingers (and if you run out of fingers, it means you have succeeded, so, that’s a tangible bonus).
Finding Clues is a central part of Synanthropes. It’s something I really want to be unexpected… a random occurrence, indicative of an interesting thing stumbled across. First edition: Clues came when you rolled to find them, which I didn’t much care for. Second edition: if you rolled extra successes, you turned them into clues, which was a little better, but still frustrated and didn’t work so well. Third edition: Any doubles turned into Clues, which was better (in that it meant you could fail your way into finding Clues) but still troublesome (in that the odds of finding Clues were still tied, very closely, into how many dice you were rolling and therefore your likelihood to succeed; I instituted a “one Clue per floor” policy to help mitigate that, but it honestly felt like a little more trouble than it was worth).
Now, it’s still doubles… but it’s doubles on 2d6. Odds of that? 1 in 6. Period. If there are six rolls on a given floor, one of them is guaranteed to dredge up a Clue. (Note: Edward does not understand statistics). Clues are equally likely when you’re flinging around wildly, as when you’re rocking a basically sure thing.
It also means I get a little more freedom to play around with species-specific bonuses and Hoard points… Roaches can roll an extra die, for instance, and count only the two highest, when going into situations when they might get hurt. Raccoons working with technology don’t change the dice they roll, but the “partial success” range is dramatically increased. This gives the different species unique mechanical attributes, which is something I always wanted (but since they’re Hoard-point activated, they’re still minor enough to keep things reasonably balanced.
Initial tests look promising. Which is important, because the Wheels of Publication are starting to turn.
(They’re self-publishing wheels, to be sure. but they ARE turning all the same.)