The Lonely Die Mechanic

Published on 2019-01-11

I thought I'd share an idea I had recently that I don't have a home for yet. 

When a skill is introduced into the fiction, write the name of the skill in the left-most column and your character’s name beneath 2,3,4 or 5. The lower the number you choose, the greater their competence. When the same skill is used by another player’s character, they write their character’s name beneath any remaining number (it is also fine not to have a particular skill at all, of course). Overlap is only allowed if there are more than four player characters.

To determine success or failure, roll a die. 

If the number is below your number in the appropriate skill, you fail.

If the roll is identical to your number in the appropriate skill, you succeed.

If the roll is above your number in the appropriate skill, you succeed partially or at a cost.

The die rolled is six-sided by default, but a difficult task may require a four-sided die and an easy one may require an eight-sided die (This seems like it would require a little GM fiat and I am not 100% a fan of it, maybe there are mechanical dis/incentives to make it easier or harder). Here's an example:

 So let's say Djambo is reciting some poetry. Their player rolls a 4; it is higher than Djambo's poetry skill so they succeed at some cost.

Jongalu gets pushed into a raging river and needs to swim. Maybe Jongalu knows how to swim - her player decides she does. The 2 and 3 spots are taken and her player elects to give the 4 spot to Jongalu. They roll a die and get a 4; Jongalu has a complete success at navigating the river. 

Poor Amy is dancing again; her player rolls a 4 and as usual Amy fails.

I like the idea that nobody is ever the same, and that common, shared skills might require you to rethink your character's competence a little on the fly. It also seems very simple and easy to understand, albeit a bit swingy in terms of outcomes. Like Apocalypse World it privileges the mixed success , and we all know that works pretty well. One obvious problem is granularity - what constitutes an appropriate skill?

What do you think?

--Jason