Over on his blog, Rob Donoghue was saying, tangentially:
When a player buys a power or skill at a high level (like a fighting skill), he is communicating one of two contradictory messages. The first is "I am really interested in this thing, and I want to really get pushed hard within it" and the second is "I want to be good enough at this that I don't have to worry about it." The contradiction means that this is a potential landmine unless the GM takes the time to communicate with the player to figure out which is which.

Which makes me ponder: what if you design a game with two ratings for each stat: the number that determines your effectiveness as we're used to, and the rating that determines some sort of incentive-reward when you use it (similar to octaNe). The idea being, you are displaying both what you're good at and what you want to see in play, avoiding the two-contradictory-messages thing.

So say, for instance, we rate stat effectiveness with a number 1-6 and stat incentive with die size: d4s for stuff you actively don't want to deal with, d6s for neutral stuff, d8s for "that's sort of cool," and d10s for "this is what I want my corner of the game to be about." So I have Willpower 5d4, which is a clear indicator that I would really like to avoid things like mind control, and Kill People With Swords 4d10, which shows that I'm all about killing people with swords. I also have Eloquent 2d8 — flagging that I want to see social interaction and maybe even politics despite the fact that I'm shit at it.

Say you roll a couple different stats for any check, and evens are successes and odds are failures. After everybody has rolled, you not only count up successes, but the GM can also count up big dice to see how he's doing. To put teeth into this, for every d10 rolled, the GM gets an Adversity Point to add to his budget; for every d4 rolled, he loses Adversity. (And every two d8s give him one point, or something — details are sketchy; this is just an illustration!) Play should very quickly move towards highlighting what the players want to jam on. The system also still preserves the ability to resolve the occasional conflict in an arena that a player finds disinteresting.

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Before I got to the last

Before I got to the last paragraph, in my head I was all "ooh, go with a 50% success rate, and it scales with die size!" so I'm all over the elegance of that. I _really_ like the idea of a mechanical takeaway from what dice of what sizes end up getting rolled, but you're right, that deserves some chewing.

-Rob D.

As I think, you could also

As I think, you could also use two axes - Number of successes and highest value rolled. Suppose the number of successes is primarily defensive and value is more offensive and versatile. For example, say willpower is used for psychic combat in the game, and for 20 points I could either buy 5d4 or 2d10. With 5d4, my attacks would suck (since they'd be based on my highest roll) but I would be very hard to hurt in this fashion. 2d10 allows me to make potent attacks, but it will cost a lot more for me to get the kind of defense that 5d4 gets. It's not perfect - it produces potential stalemate situations, and luck can mean that 5d4 guy will occasionally lose within his bailiwick, but for players who are more comfortable with the dice and less comfortable explicitly calling out meta/story concerns, it might capture the general dynamic.

-Rob D.

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Actually, you could probably

Actually, you could probably just get away with totaling the "sides" rolled (so 4 is still +4, and 10 is +10), with the GM gaining juice for every 40 sides accumulated. That would have the same overall effect, I think, but would acknowledge that even the occasional d4-demanding conflict still moves things a little forward, just poorly.

Ooh, yeah, pacing

Ooh, yeah, pacing mechanic.

How's this for even more crazy: Could be a live-voting mechanism, effectively. Players have straight numeric values, and can choose die size based on how invested they are in the current scene. Could measure interest and effectively get a live measure of who feels like they're in the spotlight.

-Rob D.

Oh, Rob, I like that

Oh, Rob, I like that amendment with the successes-versus-high-roll thing. Rich rolling is such fun stuff to play with. ;)

Fred, I realized after I posted that, assuming the players chose what they were rolling, they could penalize the GM by rolling their d4s ("I roll my d4s and cost you adversity points!"). Which could be problematic in some social setups. The least benefit (+4 instead of +10) is probably better than an actual penalty.

How did you all get into my

How did you all get into my secret wiki notebook? grrr!

Seriously, musing on a similar concept lately. choosing dice size might bring 'tactics' on the meta game sense; maybe allow players who want that option to set up a "range" (sorta like the swing dice in Buttonmen, if anyone else remembers that), and dice size is choosen when the conflict is framed?

Heya, Eddie. Depends,

Heya, Eddie.

Depends, really. As long as die size is set at and is only ever how much you want or don't want something in the game, I think you're fine and don't need the wiggle room provided by a range, as you say. Especially if, between sessions, you can switch die sizes.

Once you bring in other considerations, yes absolutely it introduces tactics. Which is fine. A range might be nice, but in my design corner, I'd just include rules for spending XP to shift die size or something similar. Very much a YMMV thing; season to taste. ;)

I wrote a big long post which

I wrote a big long post which basically boils down to this: sometimes people THINK they want to play in a way based around one quality, but end up playing something totally unlike that, as a response to what everyone else around them is doing. I.e. what fits the situation, not what they imagined they'd want to do doing chargen.

So I guess for me, systems like Burning Wheel work, where your biggest dice end up being the ones you used most -- not the ones you thought you'd get the most use out of. This is different from Dogs in the Vineyard, for instance, where out of the box you get to put big dice or little dice reflecting what you reckon you'll spend most time doing.

Reminds me of the Gifts in

Reminds me of the Gifts in Jenna Moran's Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist. They're statements about the character, each paired with three qualities (rated at bad, good, or a-little-of-both): Truth (that is, whether and to what degree the statement is true), Mechanical Effect (the ability of the gift to "take effect" ) and Valence (whether good or bad things happen as a result of using the gift).

This allows the player to customize how this "fact" of their character interacts with the fiction. If you don't want to have to deal with something, make a gift that covers it have Strong Mechanical Effect and/or Valence. If you are interested in it, give it a weakness that signals the GM to give you trouble in some way.

So, for example, if the gift "I can't be bound" has weak truth, strong mechanical effect and normal valence, that means that the possessing character frequently says or believes that they can't be bound, but there's nothing in the nature of the world that says they're right, but in practice they always seem to escape restrictions placed on them, and sometimes that's bad and sometimes it's good. A player might choose this if they never wanted to be imprisoned for long, and liked the idea of a brilliant but underestimated hero (Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Sparrow comes to mind).

If it had strong truth, normal mechanical effect and weak valence, then it is in the nature of the character to never be bound (though actually this restriction can be cleverly circumvented, or does not always apply to the problems they face), but this leads to prices being paid and alliances being shattered and whatever else. A player might choose this if they were interested in stories about the limits of freedom.

This idea is really great for

This idea is really great for games where the fun comes from players willfully getting their characters into trouble. As always, I look at things through the thick lens of my current projects, so bear with me.

Do has these eight symbols:

Each symbol represents a different kind of trouble.

I could see a character sheet where each of these blank spaces were lined up in a row, each waiting for you to choose which trouble-symbol to put there. The symbols on the far left get increasing rewards every time you get into that kind of trouble. The symbols on the far right represent how good you are at getting out of those kinds of trouble.

MORE REWARD----------
( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
---------------MORE SKILL

Of course, that would introduce some kind of target number mechanic and a point-based economy not present in the current draft, but it's still something to think about for another project or a future add-on. Thanks for the thoughts!

Mel — absolutely; this goes

Mel — absolutely; this goes back to Rob's Lesson #2: People Lie. To account for this, I'd just allow players to rejigger die sizes through play, which allows them to bring their stats into alignment with what's actually happening.

Nick — that sounds really complicated and abstract in play (and keep in mind: this is me saying that). How smooth does actual play look? And who's in charge of remembering who's got what qualities assigned to what gifts?

Daniel — what I like about this kernel of an idea is that, yes, it's good for players getting themselves in trouble, but it's also good for players who don't want to do that. That is, it provides a ratchet on that sort of play, which I know from personal experience can be very difficult for some players to wrap their heads around and/or enjoy. This serves both kind of player. At least, that's the idea. ;)

As Shreyas pointed out in my

As Shreyas pointed out in my blog post, the idea I put up there doesn't actually decouple the two player-desires the way yours does. :P

I'm still trying to figure out a way to do this in a way I could easily understand at the table. Counting sides on multiple dice types never quite clicked in my brain as a kid.

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