Alternative dice roll system

Hello everybody!

My group feels that the d10 is a little too wild. So I devised an alternative method to be used when rolling for abilities and spellcasting. I see others have come up with alternatives, so this is just my contribution to the issue. This system:

  • Has a slightly higher average than the 1d10 (roughly +0,25)
  • Has a bell shaped curve that reduces the frequency of high and low rolls
  • Caps the critics at 20
  • Has a slightly higher percentage to give a botch (+0,5% with three botch dices) and it removes the lowest criticals (2-6 with three botch dices).
  • Requires less rolls (for criticals and botches)

It's like this:

For a simple roll you roll 2d10 and take the average of the two, round up.

For a stress roll:

  • the GM declares beforehand how many botch dices are expected for the roll (n).
  • You roll 2d10.
  • If the two dices give the same number and that number is n or lower, that's a botch. You then roll n-1 dices and for every dice that gives the same number as the first two, it's an additional botch.
  • If the two dices give the same number and that number is higher than n, that's a critical. You sum up the dices.
  • If the two dices give different numbers, you take the average, rounded up, as in the simple roll.

Simple and elegant, I like it. I must admit I did explore a bit the notion of 2d10, but never converged to something as complete. Kudos.

Interesting idea, And if it suits your tastes then more ower to you.
But if you want my honest opinion, I think it is too complicated. Other things you see as features I see as flaws, but lines and curves and range of exloders is all a matter of taste. Still, it is more complicated than needed.
Why not just roll 2d6 minus two? Snake eyes are doublers and boxcars are a possible botch.

I understand the "average and rounding" is a little meh. But the rest of the system is very simple (easier done than said!). And I especially like the fact that it introduces the bell while leaving the parameters almost unchanged, and the fact that you don't have to reroll for criticals and botches (unless checking for multiple botches).

I don't like your system, Marko, because it lowers the chances for criticals and botches from 10% to 2,8%... That's too big of a change for me. And you have to subtract 2 from the roll, so there's an extra operation involved anyway.

I don't like my system either. I prefer the status quo and a system that requires no calculation to determine what the number is. Except for exploders, and I do not want those capped. I do not want a bell curve either.
It is wrong of me to debate this, as it is purely a matter of taste. Just trying to give you feedback. Just trying to find a compromise between simplicity and the features you seek.
Simple, simple, stupid simple math. That is what I like. I have no idea how you are able to figure out the botch/exploder odds on 2d6. I took intro to algebra in sophomore year and assed with a D. And never touched math education ever again.
Oddly enough, however, I discover I am far more roficient at ragmatic daily life math than most people. I invented my own system that looks bass ackwards on paer but formulas zip though my head with speed. So it is not that I cannot handle math. I just don't want to, and complexity can be a barrier to ease of play.

My hone keyboard is worn out and dropping letters. Apologies.


Any game mechanic that requires division is flawed to the extent that it occurs during play.

This game mechanic requires division for every roll.

Therefore I consider it terrible.



Having fewer of these things happen is also wise.



I agree with you, Ken, I would never design a system with divisions... But at the moment we like the d10 even less. We had no problem with it ten years ago, but after a long hiatus and many RPGs under our belt, we came back to Ars and felt like the dice dominated the result too much. Of course it's a matter of taste.
And since we're used to play World in Flames, a monster wargame with lots of math involved, I'm sure we can handle this pretty easily.

Marko, if you like the system as it is, you clearly have no need for a different one.

PS: I'm very curious about the 2d6 system that I heard will be proposed in Sub Rosa #19 :slight_smile:

I proposed an ad hoc 2d6 idea mainy because It has come up before and I see the value. Some people like a curve, so there is that. I see a value in a slightly wider roll range. If I were to reconfigure my idea, I would say straight 2d6, no math. Snake eye exploder and boxcar botch. Smooth, staight, lower chance of outlier results, and a range of ten numbers instead of 8.

Ok, I like the simplicity. I would do a few adjustments, though:

  • rise the ease factors of uncontested rolls by 1 or 2 points
  • boxcar is automatic first botch, then you roll for more
  • snake eyes is 12 plus another die (optional: plus one more die each time you roll a 6)


Oh, I agree that dice overly dominate. Better than D&D's d20 though. :slight_smile:

Alternative that doesn't affect normal AM math: Roll 3d10 and choose the middle one. The average result remains the same, and no division is required. Botch dice still work the same as always. Obviously, botches still occur less frequently, since you are less likely to effectively roll a 0.

Optional rule for this alternative: Spend a Confidence Point before an important roll to choose the best one. (There should be new Fortunam charm guidelines to go with this!) I think this is a good rule.

Another optional rule for this alternative: 3 levels of stress rolls! Depending on how stressful the circumstances, botches can occur if 1, 2 or 3 of the d10s are 0. So a roll that's just a smidgoen stressful might only cause botch dice if the worst die is a 0 (ie all 3.) But this probably overcomplicates things, so I'd stick to botches happening only if you have to choose a 0.



(I never played WiF; I did play A3R.)

Ohhh! We actually did use the "pick the middle one out of 3" system, back in the day when we were playing 3rd edition Ars Magica! 3rd edition encouraged you explicitly to meddle with dice and modifiers so as to increase or decrease variance depending on the situation, or the relative importance of skill (ability scores) vs. natural talent (characteristic scores) -- say, winning the affection of someone over time, vs. making a good first impression.

Actually, we used a slight variant, that we felt simplified things a bit. A zero was always read as a zero, even on simple rolls, and we did away with the complex mechanics for botch dice -- what's the difference between 7 and 8 botch dice anyways?

Roll 3 dice. Arrange them from the lowest to the highest to form a three digit number. E.g. if you roll 7, 0 and 1 you get 017.
On a simple roll, where you have no chance of great success or failure, pick the middle digit. In our case, 1.
On an tricky roll, things can go really wrong. Look at the 0s. A single 0 means a complication with no immediate impact on the current situation. Two zeroes mean a mild botch, a setback in the current situation. Three zeroes are a catastrophic botch. In our case, we have a complication.
On a quality roll, things can go really well. If the middle digit is a 1, your result is given by the last two digits. In our case, 17.
On a stress roll, things can go really poorly or really well. Use both the tricky and quality mechanics. In our case, 17 (great!) but with a complication with no immediate impact on the current situation.

We used quality rolls for mastered spells.
For Confidence, we simply used the 3rd edition mechanics, which allowed a re-roll (I still think it's a better mechanic than the current system).

As of today, my favourite system for any game would be one that I think comes from Grimm Tales.
Start with your relevant total before rolling anything. This is your average result. Say, Strength + Athletics = 8. Then roll 1d6.
If you roll a 1, keep rolling until you roll something else. For every 1 you roll, subtract 1 from the end result. If you roll 1,1,4, the end result is 8-1-1=6.
If you roll a 6, keep rolling until you roll something else. For every 6 you roll, add 1 to the end result. If you roll 6,6,6,1, the end result is 8+1+1+1=11.
Otherwise (if you roll 2,3,4,5) your final result is the average result. If you roll 3, the end result is 8.
Utra-simple, very concentrated.

Good one, Ovarwa!

Picking the middle die of 3d10 gives the following distribution:

1 - 3,0
2 - 7,8
3 - 11,4
4 - 13,8
5 - 15,0
6 - 15,0
7 - 13,8
8 - 11,4
9 - 7,8
10 - 3,0

For a stress die I'd take 1 and 2 as possible botch and 9 and 10 as critical hits. This system has the following advantages:

  • bell shape
  • same average as the d10 (no need to adjust difficulties)
  • same range in simple rolls (but the extremities are so unlikely that they are sort of mini-botch and mini-critical)
  • shorter range in stress roll (just 6 non botch and non critical results)

So this is my favorite at the moment.

I also like the option to spend a confidence point to choose the highest die. It's worse than the regular +3 because the average result is lower and because you have to declare it before the roll. But it's better because botches are really unlikely. I can consider a virtue that lets you choose between the two systems, so that you can pick the new one when you really don't want to botch (and you get a higher roll as a bonus).

(I don't know A3R, but it seems like another heavy weight wargames, hehe)

nice examples of systems! The first one is a little too complicated and the second one too tight for my taste, but they are interesting nonetheless. Thank you :slight_smile:

I would just allow both confidence uses.

Choosing the best die increases the possibility of rolling up.

A3r is advanced third Reich

I would like to advise against a Confidence mechanic that allows to dodge a botch, whether by allowing you to re-roll or by allowing you to change the die you choose (in the three-dice mechanic).

In my personal experience from the many years we played 3rd edition, where Confidence allowed you to re-roll, this had two main disadvantages:

Fistly, it made botches way uncommon, which is fine I guess for mundane rolls, but really cripples the magic system where Warping and Twilight both depend on botches not being uncommon.

Secondly, it made people hoard Confidence for those times when a botch could kill you, like combat, thus disincentivating players from using Confidence for rolls that were important for their characters, in case they needed that Confidence point later on to save their lifes.

Of course, this is all very personal, but both side-effects crippled the game for my own personal taste.

I agree, Yrkash.

But I was considering to give the option to choose the highest die only before the roll. As an insurance for very important rolls. This way the points spent would be wasted more often than not.

I do too, mostly.

This doesn't really remove the problem of hoarding Confidence to protect against lethal botches.

Well, you can't protect all the rolls in a session. In my saga people earns 1-2 points per session (we usually play for less than 3 hours), so they could protect one or two rolls (that probably wouldn't botch anyway). But that would strip them of all their confidence points and they wouldn't have them to boost bad rolls. So I think that won't be a problem, botches will still occur and the "insurance" will be used sparingly just for can't-miss rolls. Just as I like it.


Where you say 'cripples', I say 'improves'!!!

Investing a point of Confidence to "get things right" should help "get things right."

To me, Confidence really isn't doing its job if the player can't use it to feel, um, confident about what he is about to do.

If you're worried about players hoarding Confidence, then cap it at 3*ConfScore. This kind of rule is pretty common.

BTW, Twilight depends on botches, but Warping does not: There are many ways to get Warping. Since I prefer Twilight to be uncommon, mechanics that make it less common totally rank as an improvement to me.

Also, the magic system does not depend either on botches, Twilight or Warping. Contrarily, I think all of these represent cop-outs. So many systems offer "very powerful characters," only to have their mechanics and GM advice take all that power away, and the options that power provides. (VtM is a classic in this regard.)

But lots of people love their fumble mechanics, and fun wins.