arcgaden

Die Pip Modifiers

21 posts in this topic

Does anybody LOVE pips? Why? What is it about them, outside of SW gaming nostalgia, that draws you to them? Is there anything else?

 

I've always been curious about that. I ended up having to explain pips so many times it became a little obnoxious and annoying, that I finally realized that it just made sense to get rid of them in my gameplay with d6. I'm not a fan of pips, as you can see. Though I am curious about who is and the reasoning behind it.

 

- J.

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I don't know if I'd say I "love" pips, but they certainly have their uses. They provide a granularity between the dice, allowing for greater variations and effects of things. Instead of having only 3 options of 1D, 2D, and 3D, you can have 9 options by including the pips.

 

I will say that the name "pips" has caused confusion in some of the younger generation. Much easier to call them "modifiers" to get people to understand. +1 modifier, +2 modifier. The third modifier bumps you up to the next higher die. That way you don't get looked at as though had 3 heads and boogers hanging out your nostrils when you say "pips".

 

So I would never get rid of pips, but I may change the name of pips.

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I've heard this point before (granularity between rolling and effects of rolling).

 

At one point, I ran a test to see about how many extra gradations pips provides. It provides a gradually incremented, (but inconsistently), increased chance of success.

 

It went something like this:

 

If you look at the standard d6 difficulties:

Difficulty Target

Very Easy 5

Easy 6

Moderate 11

Difficult 16

Very Difficult 21

Heroic 31

 

Lets blanketly assume the majority rolls made in a d6 gaming campaign have a Moderate Difficulty; we use this as the basis for the Rough Chance of Success.

 

And then consider the dice with and without pips:

Rolled Range Median Rough Chance of Success

1d 1 to 6 3-4 0%

2d 2 to 12 7 3 in 36 or 8%

3d 3 to 18 10 108 in 216 or 50%

4d 4 to 24 12-13 720 in 1296 or 55%

 

Rolled Range Median Rough Chance of Success

1d 1 to 6 3-4 0%

1d+1 2 to 7 4-5 0%

1d+2 3 to 8 5-6 0%

2d 2 to 12 7 3 in 36 or 8%

2d+1 3 to 13 8 10 in 36 or 27% ^+19%

2d+2 4 to 14 9 14 in 36 or 53% ^+26%

3d 3 to 18 10 108 in 216 or 50%

3d+1 4 to 19 11 147 in 216 or 68% ^+18%

3d+2 5 to 20 12 162 in 216 or 75% ^+9%

4d 4 to 24 12-13 720 in 1296 or 55%

4d+1 5 to 25 13-14 810 in 1296 or 63% ^+8%

4d+2 6 to 26 14-15 900 in 1296 or 69% ^+6%

 

My conclusion:

Pips provide a significant advantage to stats less than three dice, but only a slight increase. This increase resets as a stat gains another die, and loses some of the effectiveness provided by the pip.

The more dice rolled, the less effective the pips become, and therefore, the less granular. As the average Attribute in the original Star Wars d6 game was 3d, the most significant help that the pips provided was to a beginning character without any additional dice in a child skill.

The system of using pips in d6 gaming mechanics favors lower dice pools, and does little for dice pools of four or more dice. If you consider the higher difficulties, the gradations increments come even closer together at the top, where you want it to matter.

For the very little help that pips provide, especially in more veteran characters, it seems like an overly complex application for a nominal dice rolling bonus.

The simplest way to handle pips is to remove them completely. If a game master is not set on removing pips, or really enjoys them, then perhaps providing incremental multipliers that represent a more consistent percentile advantage by increasing a stat by pips between dice scores makes more sense. However, the implementation of multiplied graduations in the pips seems even more complicated, and I do not recommend trying it.

 

- J.

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I don't think that the granularity provided by pips isn't necessarily about the numbers, but more of a psychological thing. I too like it because of the granularity it provides even though I know that mathematically, it is rather insignificant.

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The more dice rolled, the less effective the pips become, and therefore, the less granular. As the average Attribute in the original Star Wars d6 game was 3d, the most significant help that the pips provided was to a beginning character without any additional dice in a child skill.

 

This isn't an insignificant benefit at all. Castles and Crusades, for example, has been criticized (justified, IMO) because its siege mechanic makes mundane tasks waaaay too hard for "non-prime attributes" and that at higher levels the "prime attribute" checks remain too difficult. You've identified a feature of the game mechanic, not a defect. It certainly gets a little rickety as die codes get to astronomic levels, but that's an argument for slowing advancement and forcing characters to develop more than one or two skills as they advance (and that problem is not caused solely by pips IMO).

 

For the very little help that pips provide, especially in more veteran characters, it seems like an overly complex application for a nominal dice rolling bonus. The simplest way to handle pips is to remove them completely.

 

I have not had any difficulty explaining pips to new players; as a matter of fact I find it a lot easier to explain that mechanic once rather than explaining something like D&D ascending armor class, different dice for different checks, etc.

 

I never really thought about it before, but I do agree with grimace that the name "pip" is a bit unfortunate, since of course each face of a six sided die has 1-6 pips. I don't like "modifier" because that describes the various adjustments to difficulties made by the GM. "Adjustment points"? "advancement points"? Blech. I don't like any of those. I'll have to think about it.

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I think, inherently, after some more thought on it, my biggest issue is not effectiveness early and ineffectiveness later. It is the fact that as you spend character points to build a character up, there are points mathematically went it makes more sense to save up and try to jump more than one pip level at a time if a GM allows it, so you don't take any statistical losses in character progression. A game mechanic that causes a stat to degrade slightly and call it a character improvement is deceiving.

I come from the generation where getting a +1 on a roll does mean a lot to me, and I cling closely to the idea of a +3 Sword of Burning, etc. Perhaps its because when a player spends the points to invest in a character, the improvement should not take away from the character. It should remain permanent. It would be interesting to play around with a d6 dice improvement mechanic that uses the base d6 stuff, but where the dice and increments (+1, +2) are made permanent. Such as:

Raising an Attribute

1d to 2d is 20 Points

1d to 1d+1 is 10 Points

2d to 2d+1 is 10 Points

2d+1 to 2d+2 is 10 Points

1d+1 to 2d+1 is 20 Points

 

So as you raise your stats, it costs the die amount x 10, like normal, but the pips are 10 points per level, and they remain as a constant benefit, (you always keep your +1 or +2, regardless of the dice score). As such a small granularity in benefit, and being cheaper than jumping full dice early on, players would buy them earlier, see the benefit from them consistently, and receive the benefit of them forever.

 

You can then call them Rolling Bonuses (if they're permanent and not incrementally based). Maybe then explore having them increase beyond +2, perhaps with a cap of +6?

 

At any rate, just some more thoughts on the idea.

 

- J.

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I have the advantage of NEVER having a player figure the percentages for rolling certain difficulties at certain die (and pip) levels and calculating which level of increase is best and which is least beneficial. As such, no one pays the nitty gritty numbers any mind. They just know that when they're at 4D+2 it's better than being at 4D. And when they're at 5D they can roll higher and take more actions than when they're at 4D+2.

 

Obviously if you've got players that are that meticulous with their numbers and focus that much on the benefit and hindrance of each and every pip increase, then perhaps a more crunchy game like Pathfinder might be more up their alley.

 

The granularity I was referring to was no related to the percentages of average rolls based on a Moderate difficulty skill checks. I was referring to the case of the players needing their best person to jerry-rig something on their ship, or the best person to McGuyver something together, and they have the comparison numbers of 4D, 4D+2, 5D, and 5D+1. Rather than having four characters with just two numbers to choose from (4D and 5D) they have 4 levels of granularity and make a judgement based on that level. Accomplishing a Moderate difficulty might be one thing, but they've all got a fair chance of doing that. What they're looking for is who can roll highest. And (barring the Wild Die going crazy) the person with 5D+1 will likely roll higher than the person with just 5D. Not much, but just enough that their attempt might work better than they hope.

 

As for the name of them, I only use the term "modifier" because that seems to be what the younger people understand. It's not the best name for them, no sir, but it gets the point across better than "pip" does, especially if they know the little black (or white) dots on the dice are called pips. I don't know what the best terminology would be for them. Maybe "Plus"? One plus, Two plus, and third plus gives you a new die? I don't know. I just know that calling them "pips" can be confusing for some (not all). The practice of USING them, however, has never been confusing for the players. And they all grasp that 2D+2 is better than 2D even if they don't have the numbers crunched and broken down into a chart.

 

Seeing as how this is all rather off from what "wouldn't" we change, I'm going to attempt to grab these posts and put them into another thread, so we can continue the discussion there.

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What they're looking for is who can roll highest. And (barring the Wild Die going crazy) the person with 5D+1 will likely roll higher than the person with just 5D. Not much, but just enough that their attempt might work better than they hope.

 

Right, my players only remember when they miss a roll by 1 or 2. Then there's the scouring of the character sheet for modifiers... I too have not had a real numberscruncher, and as you suggest I think the games I run in any system generally don't encourage/support such stats-focused planning.

 

I don't know what the best terminology would be for them. Maybe "Plus"? One plus, Two plus, and third plus gives you a new die? I don't know.

 

Blech! But I can't think of anything better. Maybe it's one of those things to rename for different games for flavor purposes (which is what I'll do for character points). At times I've used total pips to describe or measure something, but I can't remember if it was for spell effects or attributes or what. I think it was in d6 Fantasy for measuring spell effects or some such.

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It would be interesting to play around with a d6 dice improvement mechanic that uses the base d6 stuff, but where the dice and increments (+1, +2) are made permanent. Such as:

Raising an Attribute

1d to 2d is 20 Points

1d to 1d+1 is 10 Points

2d to 2d+1 is 10 Points

2d+1 to 2d+2 is 10 Points

1d+1 to 2d+1 is 20 Points

 

- J.

 

I don't think I'm quite grasping this concept. Are you suggesting that the simple cost to increase is itself increased? How does that make the modifier consistent?

 

And from the example you provide, that's going to be rather harsh on advancing in the early stages of a character, when they need to advance, and become much easier to advance later on, when it should be more difficult to advance.

 

Or am I misunderstanding?

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Isn't the rules around raising an Attribute in the original SW d6 current dice score x10 to go up a pip? Ah! I see my error, I was using the desired dice score as the cost. My mistake! I could still be wrong about the cost, but it has been a long time since I played standard d6 SW, et al.

 

I'm saying that raising the dice or the bonus can be made separate.

 

So you can raise the dice 1d to 2d to 3d etc.

Each here would be 1d to 2d = 10 Points, 2d to 3d = 20 Points (Attributes)

Each here would be 1d to 2d = 1 Point, 2d to 3d = 2 Points (Skills)

 

Or you can add the dice bonus +1 to +2 to +3 etc.

Each here would be +1 to +2 = 10 Points, +2 to +3 = 10 Points (Attributes)

Each here would be +1 to +2 = 1 Points, +2 to +3 = 1 Points (Skills)

 

I started playing with the cost of doing this on a character sheet and it does work out pretty nicely. It would need game testing, ad nauseum, though.

 

- J.

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I think, inherently, after some more thought on it, my biggest issue is not effectiveness early and ineffectiveness later. It is the fact that as you spend character points to build a character up, there are points mathematically went it makes more sense to save up and try to jump more than one pip level at a time if a GM allows it, so you don't take any statistical losses in character progression. A game mechanic that causes a stat to degrade slightly and call it a character improvement is deceiving.

I come from the generation where getting a +1 on a roll does mean a lot to me, and I cling closely to the idea of a +3 Sword of Burning, etc. Perhaps its because when a player spends the points to invest in a character, the improvement should not take away from the character. It should remain permanent. It would be interesting to play around with a d6 dice improvement mechanic that uses the base d6 stuff, but where the dice and increments (+1, +2) are made permanent. Such as:

Raising an Attribute

1d to 2d is 20 Points

1d to 1d+1 is 10 Points

2d to 2d+1 is 10 Points

2d+1 to 2d+2 is 10 Points

1d+1 to 2d+1 is 20 Points

 

So as you raise your stats, it costs the die amount x 10, like normal, but the pips are 10 points per level, and they remain as a constant benefit, (you always keep your +1 or +2, regardless of the dice score). As such a small granularity in benefit, and being cheaper than jumping full dice early on, players would buy them earlier, see the benefit from them consistently, and receive the benefit of them forever.

 

You can then call them Rolling Bonuses (if they're permanent and not incrementally based). Maybe then explore having them increase beyond +2, perhaps with a cap of +6?

 

At any rate, just some more thoughts on the idea.

 

I've only ran D6 once for a one shot (and I've never played it as a player, so please forgive me for being a relative noob in system knowledge).

 

Hmm, it seems your frustration stems from losing any pips you have added if you add a die. (whether you have 1D, 1D+1, or 1D+2, and add a die, you go directly to 2D regardless). I haven't seen this in the versions of D6 that I've read, but maybe I missed it. Edit: Nevermind, I went and reread your original post, and I think what you are talking about is the fact that 4D has a lower bottom end than 3D+2. If that's what your concern is, then you also need to take into account that the more dice you roll, the more likely you are to have a median roll. Also, see my comments about adding another die below not being as significant at higher levels as lower levels.

 

However, it was my impression that a single die could be split up into 3 pips to be distributed between 2 or 3 stats. By that token, and due to the median roll in any given dice pool if you want to crunch numbers, I would make each pip cost 1/3rd the cost of a single die, and your die code is based on how many points you've spent on that stat.

 

So...

9 points gets 1D

12 points gets 1D+1

15 points gets 1D+2

18 points gets 2D

etc...

 

If you have 2D+1 and add 6 points, it becomes 3D. If you added 9 points it'd become 3D+1.

 

As far as the effectiveness of a single pip at influencing the result more at lower numbers than higher numbers, the same could be said of a dice as well. If you have 1D and go to 2D that's a bigger difference in the ratio of old ability to new ability than 4D to 5D is.

 

However, as I said earlier, I think it's mostly psychological. As grimace pointed out, it's easy to see that a character with 4D+1 is (ever so slightly) more capable than a character with 4D, and, given the choice, you want the character with 4D+1 to roll.

 

I will say that, despite my lack of experience in the system, pips are probably the most common thing I take to other D6 influenced systems when I run them (Risus, Wheel of Fate, etc.) because I like having 3 steps between each full die.

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My preferred labeling of SW d6 character sheets uses programming-like notation. Making it easier to refer to them as Increments. Since, in practice, that is all they are.

 

Dexterity 3d Knowledge 3d Mechanical 3d

Perception 3d+ Strength 2d Technical 3d++

 

the + is the same as +1

the ++ is the same as +2

 

J.

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I don't use pips and have never missed them. I just feel they aren't really necessary.

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I think I've been watching too much "Big Bang Theory", because the first thing that popped into my head was "If you don't use pips, how do you KNOW whether you've missed them or not. One would have to have experienced something to later miss it."

 

;)

 

I think if a person got into D6 through alternate means than D6 Star Wars, they're probably less likely to have experienced the pips and witness how players interact with them. Not that not using pips is a bad thing, I just think it's simply less likely among all of the D6 players.

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I think I've been watching too much "Big Bang Theory", because the first thing that popped into my head was "If you don't use pips, how do you KNOW whether you've missed them or not. One would have to have experienced something to later miss it."

 

;)

 

Just because I don't use them now doesn't mean I've never used them. :-) My first experience with D6 was with Star Wars, and in fact, whenever I adapt the basic system for something else, I use Star Wars as the base template, not one of the newer books.

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Perhaps it is based largely on my nostaligia for the Star Wars RPG, but I love pips. But being a math nerd, they just make intuitive sense to me without the need for a full-on statistical analysis. The average roll for each (non-wild) die is 3.5. With pips, you have +1, then +2, then +3.5 (1D), and so on. The cost to increase skills goes up when going up to the next die, so you pay more for that first extra half a pip you get when moving up to the next D. I enjoy the most results gradiation as possible with whole numbers that pips provide.

 

And regarding the name, I have no problem with "pips". Pips are what you count up when you roll traditional pipped d6 dice. You add up the pips on all the dice, and then if you have a +1 or +2 you get to add those to your results as if they 1 or 2 more pips in your die roll. I guess a techically more correct term would be "bonus pips" since "pips" refers to the actual physical dots on your dice.

 

If the younger generation is confused by the term pips, then I say they need to put away their numbered D&D dice for a minute and be shown real pipped d6 dice. Show them physically what pips are on the faces of the dice and they should be able to figure out that your roll result is the sum of all those pips. And then it should be easy to teach them "3D+2" means to roll three dice, add up the pips, and then add the 2 bonus pips. How hard is that?

 

Although not an argument for using bonus pips in D6 or not, I will add that pipped dice are better than numbered dice for the arithmetically challenged. I think there is a greater chance of an error with adding a series of numbers than counting all the pips in your die roll. Generally, counting pips 1-by-1 is easier for many than addition.

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Wait, are you saying there are D6 with actual numbers instead of pips? Blasphemy, I say! I refuse to believe it! :P

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Wait, are you saying there are D6 with actual numbers instead of pips? Blasphemy, I say! I refuse to believe it! :P

 

Sure, they're pretty common in D&D die sets (to match with the polyhedrals with various numbers on them). I find them fairly distracting and usually use pipped dice instead.

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I kid.

 

It was actually Shadowrun that made me see the light about pips. I'm mostly a newcomer to D6 (brief flirtation with Star Wars in the 90s aside) but I brought with me that love of pips. I also find D6's with numbers distracting.

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MysticMoon and Barrataria, you are gamers after my own heart. I dislike numbered dice but I have never disallowed my Star

Wars players from using them if they prefer them for some abominable reason.

 

For my last SW group I GMed for, I had my players tell me their favorite dice colors and as a gift I bought them all a nice set of pipped d6s of identical shape and size (each set all one color, but a different color for each player). Then I told them to each trade one of their dice with another player to each have one off-colored die to be their Wild Die. For using CPs and cases where their were additional wild dice in a roll, they simply borrowed a die from the player they got their Wild Die from, or if that player wasn't there for that session then they just borrowed a third-colored die from someone else. Pips galore!

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