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Lee Torres

The Wild Die

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I ran across an interesting discussion out in the web that inspired me to post this here for discussion:

 

We've all seen it. Games that are otherwise reasonable, but when subjected to even the slightest scrutiny or playtesting, it becomes shockingly obvious how badly the maths fail, and that the designer hasn't the slightest understanding of even rudimentary probability. Quite honestly, most games, as games, are pretty damn bad, it was one of the reasons I was so fascinated by D&D3, because, short of that godawfully flat expanse that is D20 probabilities, the math actually was pretty sound over all, at least until sourcebooks got involved.

 

So let's have some examples then, of what I mean.

 

The D6 System

 

This was a game that, in it's initial inception, was almost deceptively brilliant. The die progression is beautiful (the die + pips system looks like it makes large leaps, but the averages go up by precisely 1 every time), the difficulties well considered, and over all it's an elegant and wonderful system.

 

Then someone, somewhere between 1e and 2e, apparently decided they would have none of that, because into this otherwise elegant system, they injected the Wild Die.

 

The Wild Die is one of those mechanics, like so many in this category, that sound really good in your head at first, until you do the maths and realize it's complete rubbish, only of course, no one ever did the maths in this case so it coasts by unnoticed until it gets to your gaming table and you realize what rubbish it is.

 

The basic idea is to inject a critical success/failure mechanic into the game. Normally, the escalating die codes of a system like this mean a hard target like a specific number isn't going to work, so the designers instead designate one specific dice as "special", so they can keep the same aesthetic of a maximum and minimum value triggering the spectacular result. It sounds intuitive at first, gamers have seen that sort of thing before, and it cuts down on the amount of adding or maths in play.

 

The trouble is, this is a D6 we're talking about. It is a very small range of numbers, so having mapped both 1 and 6 for critical failure and success respectively, we've now mapped a third of our possible outcomes to an unusual result. That means 33% of all die rolls with the Wild Die in play, will have some sort of anomalous outcome. It certainly keeps things unpredictable, I suppose, but at that margin not only do our criticals become quickly sapped of excitement through sheer repetition, but it's become so unpredictable we may as well just roll the bloody Wild Die and skip the whole rest of the thing.

 

But they didn't stop there, oh no. They added additional effect on the math of the roll itself that comes into play that 33% of the time. For 1's, you also subtract both the 1 and the highest regular die from play. For 6's, they explode, meaning you roll again and add, and they explode continuously on respective results. Now, probability being what it is, this isn't particularly likely to stretch out too long, but it still slows down play, and now that well calculated difficulty table is all but meaningless (and I might note, was never recalculated after the change either).

 

The end result is an otherwise elegant system, rendered almost completely random by the extraneous bolting on of an unnecessary and ill considered mechanic.

 

Other examples edited out as not relevant to D6...

 

I've run across a fair number of players, both in person and on the web, that don't care for the Wild Die in play. One option I've considered as an alternate (lifted from Atlas Games' "Over The Edge") is to have a roll go up or down only if all the dice in the roll are ones or sixes. That way, an unskilled person (2D6 or so) might encounter "beginner's luck" but a highly skilled person is less likely to be impacted by it, so skill is not so subject to luck. I think with mechanics left in place for Character Points or Fate Points, it might not be too significant a hit in the cinematic department, but I wanted to have a discussion here to get feedback from both sides on the issue...

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I tend to allow for the exploding 6, but on a 1, I roll a d6 secretly and if I get a 1, then something a little squirrely happens completely depending on my mood and disposition at the time :). Of course some fudge factor plays into how harsh that outcome is. I agree, the probability of improbability is too high, but usually this system is used for heroic acts in a cinematic setting, so good and bad stuff seems to happen to movie or comic characters all the time. It is a bigger then life system. Of course if you are running a grittier or more 'realism' based setting, then just remove the wild die entirely or as you suggest, make it a more one in a hundred+ shot.

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Interesting! So it's 16.6% good, but a much smaller chance of a bad result.

 

Good call on highly cinematic, too. I'm working on two "gritty" settings (well, one very gritty and one in the middle), so I've been looking at alternatives for a few weeks...

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I find it odd his biggest complaint is the designers didn't do the math and adjust the difficulty tables to account for the wild die. If you do the math, you'll find the wild die varies a given roll by +/- 0.7 or so on average. It may add a bit more uncertainty to the game, but it doesn't change the math any.

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Well, that fellow that wrote the quoted part obviously had a bad experience when he played Star Wars 2nd edition. Obviously the GM wasn't quite sure how to interpret the rules in the book and took it to mean that you did both when a 1 or 6 was rolled - apply the dice change AND apply a penalty/bonus. That's just so wrong I don't know where to begin.

 

As far as requiring the penalty/bonus when ALL dice come up with the same 1 or 6, that's certainly an interesting idea, and if you're looking to essentially not run a cinematic game, that's definitely a possibility. As you mentioned, it'll likely only be an issue when a person is sitting at 2 or 3 dice, but anything beyond there you're looking at such small percentages (or tenths of percentages) that you've effectively removed the cinematic effect of the Wild Die from the D6 system. If that is what you want, then great. I might suggest just doing away with every aspect of the Wild Die, even in the event of all dice ending up the same. The rarity of it coming up for someone with 5D is enough to effectively eliminate it from the game anyway.

 

What the quoted person seems to forget about the whole aspect of the Wild Die is what it was included for: real cinematic flair in a game. Straight D6 gives you a bell curve that has no variance. That doesn't lend to great cinematic games. Oh, you can "get by", but you're never going to recreate some events in movies with straight D6. Adding the Wild Die adds the element of getting the "Wow!" roll or the "OH NO!" roll. Or, if the "event" option is used, it allows for things like a single Ewok on a speeder bike drawing away 4 Biker Scouts to chase after it for no reason, or for a second blast door to close over the first one when they're trying to hotwire their way into a bunker. Having that happen with straight D6 is pretty much GM whim rather than an option indicated by the dice.

 

When I use the Wild Die I used it SPECFICALLY for the minus or addition of dice. A 1 always takes away itself and the highest die. A 6 always "explodes", adding to the total. I never use it to add a difficulty or a spectacular bonus. I use the rolls to determine that. If a player rolls 6D and gets a 4 when the difficulty was 15, I'll have something bad happen because of how poorly they failed. If a player rolls 3D and gets 36 when the difficulty was 20, I'll have their success be a little more spectacular or beneficial because of how well they rolled. But I don't automatically make bad things happen on a 1. If a player rolls a 1 on the Wild Die and still gets enough to succeed based on the difficulty, then it's a success. If a player gets a 6 on the Wild Die but still manages to not make their required difficulty, they'll still fail. So it all comes out in the wash.

 

So when you're looking at "gritty", you have to look at whether you want "gritty cinematic" or "gritty realism". The for the former, keep the Wild Die but require an additional roll to "verify" the occurrence. So a 1 is rolled, roll it again. Another 1 means bad stuff. Anything else and it's just a 1. A 6 is rolled, roll it again. Another 6 means you add a D to the total. Anything else and it's just a 6. Still "gritty", but also has an element of cinematic, just not so rare as "all dice coming up 1 or 6". If you want the latter, then just completely remove the Wild Die. Expect no variances, work specifically on a well established bell curve and tell people "them's the breaks" when they simply can never get a 19 on 3D, no matter how many times they roll...it'll always be an infinity away.

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I agree that GURPS holds the crown for gritty, but put the question out for discussion since OpenD6 is getting off the ground, and one of the common questions or comments I see on D6 is that it doesn't do gritty or realistic, but I think with tweaking it could. There's a game out there called EABA that is like the love child of GURPS and D6 in some ways, so I think it can be done.

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Too true, Lee, too true. I can't count how many times I've read people's comments about D6 not being able to do gritty games. I *know* D6 can be tweaked to be gritty and I've mentioned it several times before. Most times people kinda poo-poo the idea, but I'm pretty sure I could make something nice and gritty still using the D6 system.

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Ive never been able to figure out how GURPS is viewed as gritty

 

It takes -HT before you even have a chance to make save vs death, and -5 x HT before death is without saves. GURPS characters are so hard to kill it can be really annoying as a DM who doesnt like to use rules like 'mooks always fail death checks'

 

And GURPS has critical successes/failure as well . . . with a high skill, a critical success occurs about 10% of the time (and PCs likely have high skill in their chosen field)

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And GURPS has critical successes/failure as well . . . with a high skill, a critical success occurs about 10% of the time (and PCs likely have high skill in their chosen field)

 

 

There's a considerable difference between 10% and 33% however, and an additional difference in how they're expressed in practice.

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There's a considerable difference between 10% and 33% however, and an additional difference in how they're expressed in practice.

 

Welcome, Paragon!

 

This is the point I was aiming for when I posted this thread. The odds of a roll being modified by the Wild Die are pretty high. In a game like Chill, using a percentile roll, a typical PC might have a chance of around 5 or 6 % of a critical success or failure - GURPS around 10%, and D6 16.6% of a critical success and same for a critical failure. Now we've all got our house rules for how to deal with it, either rolling again to gauge the impact, or rules along those lines, but I thought hammering out some ideas for OpenD6 to deal with that might be useful. 33% chance of a major effect to the roll is okay for Star Wars or a similar highly cinematic setting, but for more realistic settings, say someone running a Western or World War II game, might benefit from having a different mechanic.

 

I do agree with what Grimace said above - there should be something to change rolls - his scenario of a 3D character never ever being able to hit 19 isn't fun for the player either.

 

So that's what I'm trying to get at. Good options to lessen the Wild Die effect, to have it available in the database for someone that might want to run in the Star Wars setting, but playing Rebel Special Forces, where ten Stormtroopers would be a threat, and Darth Vader showing up would be like the Balrog arriving in the Mines of Moria.

 

An idea I just had is what if the 6 on the Wild Die is all that matters, then the Wild is re-rolled - 1-3 is like a 1 on the WD, 4-6 is like a 6. Reduces the odds of a change, but it's still more likely than my idea above from Over The Edge in the first post.

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I guess all this tinkering makes a pure and fast rule complex and unwieldily in play. It's not like a simple exploding Wild Dice produces world-shattering differences. It's no critical success — it's just a little boost of on average 3.5...

Edited by Dranix

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I guess all this tinkering makes a pure and fast rule complex and unwieldily in play. It's not like a simple exploding Wild Dice produces world-shattering differences. It's to critical success — it's just a little boost of on average 3.5...

 

The goal is to not make it unwieldy. It might be a good thing to just rewrite what exists - it's possible that just the terminology might be putting some people off - the critical success/failure terminology, to be precise. Other systems, like Savage Worlds, have an exploding die mechanic and don't catch nearly the grief D6 does - and I suspect a lot of that is a matter of perception.

 

A six on the Wild Die when 3D6 is rolled isn't very likely to make a roll successful if the target is Heroic, so the terminology is misleading. Maybe if the term "exploding" was used in the write-up, instead of Critical Success, it might make a difference. A different write-up, explaining the use of the Wild Die, excluding terms other games use quite differently (i.e. the "Natural 20" or the "OACOWA" of Unknown Armies), with a different critical success/failure mechanic in place, perhaps based on task difficulty (I'm thinking if you hit the difficulty exactly, basic success; one level higher, good success; two levels, great success; three levels higher, critical success, and a similar structure down below the success threshold for Critical Failures).

 

Using this, and divorcing the Wild Die entirely from success or failure discussions, absent possibly a slight nudge (as in, you fail but get a six on the WD, so the GM tells you something you learned from your failure or you succeed with a one on the WD, so you succeed, but something else goes awry) might be enough to appease the critics...

Edited by Lee Torres

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A possible option to the basic mechanic we've been discussing above would be, since going back to Star Wars the human range was 2D-4D in a base attribute, and it's quite rare to have a dice pool less than 2D, if we had the Wild Dice instead of the Wild Die; two dice, visually distinct from the rest of the dice pool, and if those two come up 2 (snake eyes) or 12 (boxcars) then there is a positive or negative effect, otherwise they're counted normally, so a 1 in 36 chance (2.78%) of either outcome.

 

Any character with a "dice pool" of one would be unable to get the benefit (or hazard) of the Wild Dice, but as I said above it's a rare case.

Edited by Lee Torres

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I still don't get where the problem of a little more random results lies. A 1 kills 2 dice from the pool and a 6 adds on average 3.5 to the result.

 

COuld someone explain to me what the problem of this is, please?

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To clarify the intent of this thread, with OpenD6 just coming out of the gate, there are a number of other recent systems with similar goals, that being fast, cinematic play. Unisystem, Cortex, Savage Worlds, and the One-Roll Engine (ORE) spring to mind as some of the challengers.

 

There are a lot of potential D6 adopters that might stay away because of a perception that D6 is somehow broken.

 

In my posts on this topic, I've been pushing for a.) alternate systems to reduce the exploding die effect from 33% to something lower, and b.) to reword the core rules to make the point that Dranix has been stating more clear to newcomers - that it's a minor bump already, not a critical on a 1 or 6 on the Wild Die.

 

Hopefully that makes my intent for this discussion more clear.

Edited by Lee Torres

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To sum up the problem I'm trying to address, many potential players see it as too random. Like the poster I quoted in the first post on this thread.

 

Yeah, I suppose part of the problem is figuring out what other people think is too random.

 

I've been toying around with a crit system that gives the 3D6 guy a chance to do something heroic while keeping the rolls simple. Sort of similar to what you mentioned earlier. You have two wild die, and a 6-6 roll gives you +10. (1-1 could be -10, though I'm not keen on fumble rolls personally.) I would also allow equipment or ability ranks to improve upon this. First rank, crit on 5-6, second rank 5-5 or better (and cap it there).

 

So the result would be +10 3% to 11% of the time, which is fine in my games. But other people might not like it.

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Yeah, I suppose part of the problem is figuring out what other people think is too random.

 

I've been toying around with a crit system that gives the 3D6 guy a chance to do something heroic while keeping the rolls simple. Sort of similar to what you mentioned earlier. You have two wild die, and a 6-6 roll gives you +10. (1-1 could be -10, though I'm not keen on fumble rolls personally.) I would also allow equipment or ability ranks to improve upon this. First rank, crit on 5-6, second rank 5-5 or better (and cap it there).

 

So the result would be +10 3% to 11% of the time, which is fine in my games. But other people might not like it.

 

Agreed that that's a big problem, since I personally like the Wild Die for cinematic stuff. The beauty of the circumstance we as designers are in is the website Eric is developing allows us to upload a variant, and then if someone is uncomfortable with the basic version, they can just grab a variant and use that instead - but I haven't seen too many variant ideas for the Wild Die that I'm head-over-heels in love with - doesn't mean it won't turn up. There are some excellent designers that hang out here, and who knows what they might come up with?

 

I'm just hoping to get people thinking about it, so we as a community can be ready to provide what new D6 System fans (and designers) want to make their game do precisely what they envision it doing. I think, much as FUDGE spawned FATE in the past few years, that D6 might evolve into something that will be monumental, possibly even compared to what it was in the Star Wars days. I hope for that, anyway... :D

Edited by Lee Torres

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Oh, yeah, GURPS can be less random than D6, but not less lethal

 

The randomness in D6 appeals to me, though, Ill admit I personally would enjoy some ways to make the game even more random, as the number of dice involved means it quite frequently trends toward the average

 

One of my first criteria for judging any game system is 'by the rules is it possible for a random peasant with a stick to one shot a deity through sheer blind luck?', if so, I like the game more, and one of the reasons I like the Wild Die and D6

 

Ah, yeah, and house rules for me regarding the wild die

1 - Rolling a 1 on the Wild Die - subtract highest die and the 1, maybe the DM adds an effectm but usually not, not a fumbkle

2 - More than half dice show up 1s - a fumble of some sort. More than half dice and the wild die show up 1s, a big fumble, all the dice are 1s, true fumble

3 - 6 on the wild die, as normal

4 - 6 on the wild die, followed by more 6s is a critical, increasing levels of random coolness are added by the DM. More than half 6s is also a critical and worthy of extra coolness, more than half 6s and a 6 on the wild die followed by more 6s, true critical

5 - Rolling a 42 or 77 is often cool

6 - Rolling a 66 is often bad

7 - Any interesting number pertaining to the situation may have fun effects

8 - If you die, and the damage roll that killed you was 42, it is a particularly cool death worthy of bonus CP

9 - If you fumble your init, you dont get to go that round, and all your rolls are penalized by 1d except soak

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Well, I try to always admit my mistakes and/or bad ideas - the "exploding dice when all dice roll sixes" I liked from "Over the Edge" only really works because typically the OtE Player will be rolling between 2D6 to 4D6, with maybe up to 6D6 in rare situations. "Over the Edge" also has their highest target level around 18, IIRC, so it's a different beast altogether.

 

It doesn't really convert to D6 System all that well because beyond around 5D6, the probability of rolling all sixes drops below 0.01%, which as Grimace already said (back in the fifth post) is effectively the same as impossible, so I'm officially tabling that idea for a Wild Die variant.

 

That said, I want to share a really awesome tool Joshua Morris created with you all - a calculator for dice probabilities:

 

http://www.anwu.org/games/dice_calc.html

Edited by Lee Torres

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My old group used the Wild Die as exploding on a 6 as normal but a critical fumble was only if all of your dice rolled 1s.

 

Cool! So a stable 16.6% chance of rolling up, but the more skilled the character, the lower the chance of really messing up! I like that idea a lot!

Edited by Lee Torres

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