As I have written before, I am thinking about a new Cyberpunk-RPG. This post is more about the mechanical side. To be exact about the dice I want to use. I won’t use cards or other alternative means and in my experience people like having the random-factor, this it won’t be diceless.
Let’s have a look at the common dice available and known to most players. There is the D2, also known as a coin. The D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20 and D100 (usually constructed by using D10). And I encountered some common systems. There is dice-pool system like in Shadowrun or the World of Darkness. Take dice, the number is usually given by the characters ability and then try to reach with X dice some threshold. The more dice reach the threshold, the more successful you are. A modification of this is that you throw X dice and keep Y dice and combine the value of the kept dice to reach a threshold. Or you have the take dice X, usually a D20 or D100 and try to be beneath some ability value. The quality is usually shown by the difference of the value of the dice and the ability value. Or you combine some dice like 2D6, add a value and then try to reach a threshold. Another one is that the ability determines the dice and then you have threshold. And there are still different systems out there.
To be honest I hate the throw a dice, compare it to an ability and be beneath it, get the difference for quality. For a D20 the calculations are easy, for a D100 they spread become cumbersome. Most players aren’t really fast in calculating 73 – 37 in their head. Even though it is a nice exercise, it can be annoying.
My favorite dice is the D6 because everyone has one available usually. And with systems like Apocalypse or Traveller where you only need 2 or 3, it is usually easy to come up with. But I also like dice pool systems, because it is easy to find the successes and see how good you did it. And powerful characters and NPCs immediately seem powerful when they get out a metric ton of dice for a test. When the troll in Shadowrun soaks, he soaks and you can immediately see it when he packs out his 20 dice while the mage has measly four.
A friend once told me that dice are part of the appearance of the system. That’s why Shadowrun uses so many dice and Earthdawn as a magical world uses so many different looking dice.
Since the game is a Cyberpunk-like game and computers are a big part of the world, I play with the thought of using D8. 8 values as in 8 Bit as in one Byte. This probably won’t be mentioned in any rules but it is the background of the thought. Using 8 coins will be hard and not enough people can do base-2-calculations in their head. The problem with the D8 is that people usually do not have a lot of them. Thus using a dice-pool system will be cumbersome for most. Then it is back to maybe two dice and combining them.
Another idea would be to use the Apocalypse Engine for the game. The dice are easy, the rule set is easy to grasp and great to fit to a setting. And it has the advantage that it does what I want: let the GM and the players create stories. I want more and more that people create stories together than to go through a mission or adventure the GM created. But that would also mean that I get into the limitations of the Apocalypse like a class-based system, skills replaced by moves etc. And I have not that much experience with using the Apocalypse. But maybe this is in the end the way to go. And I have the feeling that for each of the “settings” mentioned above, I would need new playbooks. The rebel-playbooks, the runner-playbooks and the police-playbooks. The game would become essentially three games and not a general purpose-game for the world. Apocalypse would also mean that I am limited in the attributes and as mentioned in the skills, since there are no skills anymore but moves depending on the playbook. That would completely change the way the game needs to be designed. Are there Apocalypse-games that use other dice than D6? Then I might be able to go with the D8 but this would mean more playtesting because I wouldn’t be able to just use the known values (10+ success, 7-9 success with a disadvantage, 6- fail). And that would make it very hard.