Monday, 31 January 2011

The D1

Is a one-sided die possible? I've been thinking a lot about games lately. Maybe too much. Physically a D1 is possible - it would be a ball. I'm thinking more of the outcome.

We've most of us used the D6 I'd guess, and presumably the D3 too, and many of us could easily have used the D10 as part of the D100, and the D20. Plenty again have probably used the D4, D8 and D12, maybe others.

We've also most likely used a D2, in the sense of a choice between two options. There's even a cool D2 system - once linked to at Risus Monkey I think - for which the authors recommend rolling beans.

We recognise the differences, and some aspects have been discussed here at the Expanse, in this post. But all of those dice are more alike than different beside the D1.

Has anyone used a D1 system? I'm not talking about diceless systems either, at least I don't think I am. I mean a system using a random number that is always one.

Does one outcome mean no choice, or full choice? Would this be pure storytelling? If so, how would the course of events be decided? What mechanisms could be used?

What kind of game could this lead to?


Von said...

Whether the result is one choice or no choice depends on the mechanism, I think. I keep thinking of a line from 'The End of Mr. Y', when a character who attempts to move about between conscious minds is terrified when she's told 'you now have no choices'.

I would be tempted to use the d1 as a symbol, a sort of security blanket for players who are used to dice but want to try the sort of game I used to run, in which the result of any random roll is 'what's dramatically appropriate at this moment in time', with really significant events being pre-negotiated (i.e. "I want my character to die at the end of this storyline, but please don't tell me how it's going to happen - just give me some doom-laden hints", or "I want someone to lose something special in the session after next; any takers?").

To someone who's used to polyhedra as the architects of fate, handing them a d1 and saying 'a 1 means you decide what happens next' is either a cruel trick, a bad joke, or a first step into a different kind of game. Maybe. Or maybe they'd just tell me to piss off.

The Drune said...

I've been thinking about this, on and off, all day. If we start using the d1, it's only a matter of time until someone invents the d0...

The Angry Lurker said...

Seriously WTF?.....people, D1 is the morale dice and only wanted for this, the D1 is the dice of doom for hitting and killing.D1 only will lead to anarchy and backchat.

The Angry Lurker said...

and then fractions will follow, people will find a way.....1/6, 2/6......madness I tell you.

Porky said...

@ Von - Lots there to add to the pondering. I like the approach you describe re the D1 as a symbol, and the idea that outcome can be relative or highly flexible depending on the needs of the moment and drama. This may be 'railroading' or worse in the eyes of some, but it does make some natural assumptions about what fiction and a shared gaming experience is, or could be. For me the idea of the D1 also suggests fate, presumably as either all-powerful or absent. The mechanisms would then seem to be key. Your comment also makes me think of Itras by, a Norwegian game Harald reviewed here at The Book of Worlds, especially when you mention a different kind of game. The D1 might be understood as a device bridging game and work of literature, or even a touchstone for this.

@ The Drune - I'd like to think you're not the only one, that everyone now has the idea at the back of their mind..! After all, it can't hurt to get down to the roots of what we do. The D0 though - that really is a thought...

@ The Angry Lurker - WTF factor nine, Mr Lurker? You follow up Von's point about mechanisms in a sense, with the idea that the use to which the die is put is key, whether it's used in every area of the game, or some, or one only. I've put some thought into the idea of fractions too. Fractions are useful for attributes if a game relies on one particular die but sometimes needs a wider range of outcomes. That said, I haven't given much thought to the idea of a Dx/y, but assuming the idea stood up, it might work to reflect the fact that a particular outcome could ideally not be equal in probability to a whole number.

Papa JJ said...

If this marks the caliber of your pondering while I have been away, then surely I have much reading to do before I can consider myself caught up on the Expanse! and its many wonderful ways. Your idea for a d1 is very provocative indeed and a fascinating thing to consider. Using a ball labeled with a large 1 is too funny... an instant classic, Porky!!

Von said...

It's only railroading if one party has a Planned Narrative all staked out and frowns upon deviation from that plan. I very seldom have any sort of long-term plan with my roleplaying now; just set up some characters (PC and NPC) with goals and established relationships, and launch. Player decisions decide which relationships get developed and which NPCs' goals become the grindstone against which the PCs' shoulders are set.

It doesn't work for every kind of game - I'd hesitate to run a dungeon crawl like this - but for the sort of political/metaphysical urban fantasy I default to, it works pretty well. So well that I seldom do any 'proper' GMming, and am making a point of doing something quite stereotypical with my next tour behind the screen, just to remind myself that even something special can become staid if it's all you ever do.

Von said...

Also, both Itras and Draug (the other game your linked reviewer was considering) sound... beautiful.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Now I have to make the Dx/y...

Porky said...

@ Papa JJ - Thanks, Papa. You are far too kind, as always! This is a weird post, but I think the pondering might have reached it's local peak with the scope of fiction. That idea is still niggling and I'm hoping to do something bigger with it in the near future.

@ Von - Harald had a bit to say about this too re gaming philosophies, and you might well enjoy the discussion. All I'll say is that your games sound superb - "political/metaphysical urban fantasy" has enough of the right words for me, with 'metaphysical' chief among them!

@ C'nor (Outermost_Toe) - It could be done I'd guess, in some cases if not all, by working out the relative surfaces areas and then attempting to form a solid. Dungeons and Digressions might be a good place to start if you really do want to work up some models, especially this gift.

Dave Garbe said...

There are ball dice already.. I've seen them do D6 and D100.

White Wolf had a Flaw in their games you could take for a bunch of points that would be used to buy positive traits.. The flaw was called Dark Fate and meant you're going to die - hopefully you had a creative storyteller who would kill you spectacularly. Flaws could also be bought off with in game XP at double their value, so you could fight fate if you found a reason to justify removing the flaw.

As for the other iterations of D_ .. D1, D1/2, D0, -D6 or D-6 ? ,,, it's an interesting thought.

In the sense of diceless roleplaying:

Some friends of mine play open fluff based systems where it's literally all character interaction. I don't know how things don't break down into "I hit you!" "No, I dodge!" "Well I anticipate your dodge and strike where you're dodging to!"

Then there's LARPs without systems, medieval battles and such, where it's just people swinging nerf weapons and the honour system that if you're hit, you lose that limb.

There are also historical reenactors where the outcome of a battle is predetermined.

Ooooo... I think I'm onto something.. perhaps D1 suggests that the player has a choice not affected by random chance (situations without storytellers or when storytellers don't make you roll because something is that easy - "I lift this chair over my head") - while D0 is more along the lines of fate, where they're acting out predetermined situations such as history, actors of a story, or when the storyteller is narrating a scene, or even a cutscene in a video game where after the player defeats a boss, the building blows up and the in-game character runs out of the exploding building.

Negative dice sounds more like a qualifier.. Take -D6 damage would heal or how some holy spells can either heal the living or damage the dead.

Dx/y sounds like evil math teacher games.. "If Thrudd takes x normal damage each turn and y fire damage across 3 turns, and ends up with 24 health, how much health did Thrudd have on the 2nd turn of fire damage?"

I can't seem to put algebraic or fractional dice into some sort of extra context though, besides to simply be another qualifier like negative. The concept of D1 or D0 is much more interesting.

D10/2 could mean roll a D10, then half the result. D10/2.1 or .9 could suggest which way to round. (or maybe D10/2- or /2+)

Von said...

@Dave - it basically runs on trust, and a shared sense of drama. It has to either evolve from a long-running group that just uses the dice less and less as time goes by, or be discussed and established up front. Not every roleplaying group can do it, should do it, or will want to do it.

I like your thinking about the d0, though; I've certainly run some flashback/prophecy sequences in games, where players can navigate around, inspect and discuss an event in progress, but can't actually influence it.

I also scared the living crap out of my Mage group when one of those events started noticing and attempting to influence them. Good times. :D

Dave Garbe said...

@Von: I trapped some players in the shadowlands once.. they were in a village in a forest clearing with a river.. entering the forest led to them exiting the forest at another point in the clearing, and the river just looped back as well. I can't remember exactly how it played out, but basically the villagers treated them with fear, and the players were hinted at that they're supposed to be dead. After many attempts to escape, they had to bury themselves, accepting death, to leave that place.

Porky said...

@ Dave G _ Nplusplus - Plenty to chew on in that first comment. I love the Dark Fate idea.

You really might have got the D1 exactly with the idea of no random element, and the D0 too. That said, the D0 could perhaps be everything you mention, perhaps only the narrated elements. A definition of fate is needed here - is it all that happens, or all that must happen? The latter, narrow view really would be the D0 it seems, but the broad view might be understood more as the overall result of the game, as the sum of all actions taken and narrated elements. At any rate, good job! Let's see if anyone can take that idea further.

And not content with resolving that issue, your approach to fractional dice is admirably clean. The nature of negative dice is clear for the example you give, but might be different in testing an attribute for example, that is, a negative dice would always give a 'pass' result if the goal was to roll under a certain number, unless of course modifiers to the roll were involved.

Your second comment takes the breath away...

@ Von - I'm glad the pair of you are fated to spar in this way! Your thoughts on narrative gaming are common sense and surely a good prompt for anyone thinking about going that route. As for the idea that the event itself could interact, that really is profound. More breath lost..!

Dave Garbe said...

@Porky: I wonder if we can say "D[null]" to suggest fate. There's definitely a difference between a narrated scene, taking choices away from players, and presenting them with a situation where there's lots of options, but in the end, a single conclusion.

I discussed something similar once with a DM friend of mine, regarding restricting storylines. How, if the players feel that nomatter what they do, the outcome will always be the same, that they'll care less about the campaign and won't take as long to consider their actions, nomatter what choices you face them with. Making players choices have longer term effects, gets them more involved.

Perhaps D0 is a situation where a good character is asked to save a starving village. The storyteller is presenting them with a situation where they have a choice, but really, there isn't a choice.

Simply saying "D" is the scope of everything - "D" is fate, be it D0, (no choice or fated), D1, (no question of failure or action) or D2+ (the randomness that fills our world)

"D" becomes the culmination of every action..
D (fate) = D0 (save the village) + D1 (supplies) + D3 (chance to find dungeon) + ~50D20 (battles, navigating, etc in dungeon) + D1 (to accept reward or not)

For an evil character, you could say the same thing, except the choice to save the village is D1, (they might not want to) and the choice to accept the reward is D0. (evil characters WILL take the reward)

Porky said...

I find it difficult to argue with that! It resolves the issue of the two understandings of fate, and with elegance to boot. It's a powerful tool for understanding game design, and possibly also a tool in creating fiction in general. We should name it, even if it then gets complicated: the Dave G N++ D!

I'm wondering how the fractions idea fits at this low end. The D1/2 is the D0.5, but what exactly is halfway between an automatic success and no choice? Boggling. I'm still pondering the -Dx too.

Dave Garbe said...

Maybe a slight change of definition.. D0.5 could be the situations above I described as D0, and D0 is just impossible - Placing characters in situations that cannot be won or solved. This would make fractions a probability of D1... because impossible situations do arise, and there should be a place for it.

So, a good character arrives at a starving village, D1 says there's no choice and the character stops to help. Maybe D3/4 says the character isn't sure they can deal with the situation (25% chance they'd leave) while D1/2 also factors in that the character is already on an important time sensitive mission and might not have time to stop.

Evil character arrives at same village and it's immediately not a D1 situation - evil character is going to factor in chance of personal harm, reward, how helping people would ruin their image, etc...

Dx could be left as algebra... you know that decision will arise, but the chance is unknown.
(a new evil character's probability of saving the village could be said to be "D = Dx") Algebraic fate.

In the context of D = fate, negative -D could simply be situations that could harm chances.

D = D1/2 (save village) + D1 (supplies) + D3 (find dungeon) - 3D10 (traps) - 10D6 (battles) + 1D20 (helpful lost adventurers) etc..

Dave Garbe said...

to expand the algebra part..

the difference between a new and an long term evil character is the storyteller ("fate", whatever context you want to look at this as) is going to have an idea of how the existing evil character will react, and make educated guesses as to how the player will play the character. Meanwhile a new evil character is an unknown factor.

Good guys are so predictable. I've walked players right into traps because they trust NPCs so easily. "Evil will always triumph, because Good is dumb." - Space Balls

Dave Garbe said...

Had another thought for the D = math...

in the case of supplies, if you needed to buy 10 things that were easily available, it would be 10D1, but if something was a rare item, with say a 5% chance of being available, maybe it would be D = 9D1 + 1D0.05

Porky said...

D0 as impossible makes sense. I like the refined idea that the space between D0 and D1 is the space between guaranteed impossible and guaranteed possible, but that the whole space relates to a negotiated or arbitrarily determined narrative.

Should we be able to take note of whether or not the player or the GM is the one making the decision? I wonder how we could? That might mean taking account a potentially large number of decision-makers. I suppose we'd have to assume that all parties to the events are the D.

Also while I understand the negative D in the case of '-3D10 of an item' for example, I'm still not sure how well the concept of the negative D sits in situations other than the creation of quantities, in checking attributes say. Imagine being told to check the success of an action on -D6. It seems some kind of inversion ought to be taking place, that the negative D is not the measure of the action, but the reaction, or something stranger.

The notation 'D = 9D1 + 1D0.05' is a revealing shorthand. The part '1D0.05' suggests a 5% chance, but being between D0 and D1 actually means this is decided arbitrarily without recourse to a roll. It shows that a roll for a random outcome on a D above D1, in this case the outcome 1-5 on a D100, could be rendered on the range D0 to D1 if it is best kept non-random.

Dave Garbe said...

You're right, that supplies example is wrong.

random chance should be percentile.. a rare item would be a D100 situation.

Technically, any situation is a D situation - "I'm going to take a drink from this mug" is a D1 of whether it reaches your mouth. If you were poisoned and having trouble moving, that might become a D6 because the GM (fate) is acting against you, making the situation harder. I think the way I'm looking at fractions would be this: If you had drunk a lot, and weren't very thirsty, then the chance of raising the mug to your lips is a D3/4 - meaning there's a 25% chance you won't do it...

That's not to say roll percentile, that's to say that fractions represent choice. If any number above D1 represents factors working against players, then the fractions between D0 and D1 represent factors working against the GM/fate.

GM's place players in situations that they have a pretty good idea of what the players will do, or that they at least know players will want to interact with.. but sometimes players break out of what GM/fate has set before them. Players could very well reach a setting you spend weeks preparing, creating every nook and cranny of a dungeon, every NPC, etc.. and the players might just decide they don't feel like it and move on. That's free will. GM/Fate takes chances on what the players will end up deciding, that could be the fractional.

D = fate
D0 = impossibility
D0.# = free will (random vs GM/fate)
D1 = certainty
D1+ = chance (random vs character/person)

As for who makes the decision, it would depend on the situation.
If the GM is narrating a scene as the players walk up to a scary fortress, the GM might describe it and continue to say "You walk up to the fortress [D1, because the players were heading to the castle anyway] and as you walk through the portcullis-" and get cut off by the players "Yeah, we're not going in the front door, we're going to look for a crack in the wall." That's D3/4 acting against the GM because the GM was pretty sure the players would walk into their trap.

When the players are narrating "I will down the hall" or "I squeeze through the crack" or "I buy these supplies" it's the GM interrupting and calling for D1+ chance "Roll D20 to spot the evil creature hiding in the shadows" or "Roll D6 as you scrape yourself squeezing through the crack" or "Roll D100 to see if that one supply is available."

Dave Garbe said...

and yeah, negative seems like something else, I just can't place it.

Von said...

In your algebraic breakdown of the adventure, perhaps negative dice are... well, villain dice, for want to a better word? Actions taken by antagonists, major or minor (with probabilities of success approaching automatic depending on the scale, ambition, and personal investment in thwarting the adventurers of the villain in question), which adversely modify the overall outcome?

I like the reading of numerator as player choice against the denominator of GM intention, too. It works the other way around for improvisational GMming, too; the players' decision sets the numerator, and the denominator, the random element, is the GM's response, either 'allow action', 'allow action on condition', 'disallow action on condition' or 'disallow action'. I'm sure there are more possibilities than that, but it's early and I've only had one cup of tea so far.

Doesn't Fudge use negative dice for something? And doesn't one of those highly unusual Norwegian games Porky linked me to a while back randomise between the conditions in which success can be acheived, and then let the drama decide?

I'm resisting the urge to involve those odd non-numerical dice WFRP3 uses. There's a system I need to try out at some point - if only it weren't so deuced expensive.

netherwerks said...

Positive or negative, fractions or whatever--what about blank dice? Plain, simple, unnumbered dice. Of is that too unspeakable a thing?

Porky said...

@ Von - This is a useful idea. If we accept that the game or fiction is built around the experience of the characters involved, having negative dice be some kind of opposition or resistance seems right. It could be as simple as a notation for any dice rolled directly against the characters.

One of the Norwegian games, Draug, is based on FUDGE, though I don't know how closely. FUDGE uses dice with faces marked '+' or '-' or simply blank, with the sum of all dice rolled shifting an outcome on a scale, clearly a very similar idea.

WFRP3 is an especially interesting case, and the symbols are clever in how they build on the symbols of the game world. I'd guess it also gives the players a bit more trouble in number-crunching and might have them playing more by the seat of their pants.

@ NetherWerks - Blank dice would be almost like invisible dice, which probably gets back to the discussion earlier in the thread on pure narrative gaming. I can imagine that lucky die rolls even luckier when it's blank or invisible!

Loquacious said...

I'm so sorry I came late to this wonderful party!

The D1 is a label for a concept my ST and I are tossing back and forth with each other regarding my WOD game.

In very short order, something VERY epic will happen to a character and there's really only going to be one choice available to make.

We've been discussing trying to find a way to make this situation seem natural, cohesive, cooperative and narrative without being a railroad.

We've talked at great length how this situation is essentially Fate (specifically Dark Fate) and how to empower the player in question with the ability to embrace it without giving too much away too soon.

In the end, a lot of what will happen is going to come down to trust. Will the player trust the ST to weave a beautiful, haunting, effective story- or will they struggle against the theme and try to inject autonomy?

While that seems like a D2 option, honestly- it's truly just one- acceptance of Fate and how one responds to it are the element and driving force behind this story idea, and in many ways, a lesson the rest of the group. (If you've seen my write ups, you know it's a LARGE group, too.)

I'll be subscribing to follow this thread, although the algebra is hurting my head this morning. I have more to say, but being as eloquent, elegant or intellectual as you guys might be above me.

Dave Garbe said...

@Nether: Blank dice, perhaps D[null] might simply be things that don't matter to the player or perhaps to anyone. Time wasters - rolls that the GM has the players do with unknown outcomes.

The example is paranoia. When the GM says "Roll this and tell me the result." the players immediately go on edge. They might suddenly start paying more attention or searching for secret passageways when they haven't all dungeon - when as far as their characters are concerned, nothing has changed. (also called Metagaming, taking that which we know out of character, in character) The GM can compensate for this by asking players at random intervals to make rolls that are (unknown to the players) meaningless.

The dice don't have to be blank, but for all intents and purposes, they might as well be. Perhaps that relates to atmosphere or emotion? Like when your house makes noises at night - there's nothing hiding in the dark, but it affects your state of mind none the less.

@Porky: Aren't there other systems that use a scale too? Swords and Shields? (I know Neopets does *cough*) I'd say that's similar to rock, paper, scissors, bomb, boobs. Systems designed specifically for opposed checks.
(For the record, it was our female gamers who added "Boobs" which apparently win against everything. The men simply answered the question "What if there are two sets of boobs?" - "Everyone wins.")

@Von: I had suggested that negatives could be things that negatively impact a character's fate. Traps and such, but villains would work just as well. It works in the D=math, but on a wider scale, it almost seems like "-D" should have a deeper meaning.

@Loq: That's kinda what I'm getting at, though not exclusive to epic situations.. a D1 situation can be narrated by either party (GM/player) and interrupted by either party. Players bet their chances against GM/Fate who might say "To do that, roll D20 and get ___" while the GM narrator is betting against the player, who might interrupt them and say "No, I would do this instead."

I think a narrative the player would have no choice but to follow would be D0. Perhaps D0 doesn't have to mean failure - instead, a situation where there are no other options besides listen to Fate, be it for loss OR gain. (The cut scene where the keyboard and mouse stop working)

Dark Fate for us did often come down to how much a player trusted a GM, or if a player already had an idea in mind. Sometimes it was an offering from the GM to play a limited time character the game needed (to add direction or whatever) with promises of some extra points on their next one.

Your trust example would be a D0.# (D1/#) situation. If the question of what's going to happen is "Will the player throw a monkey wrench into the GM's plans?" that's free will messing with fate. If the player trusts the GM, it'll be closer to D1.. if the player doesn't trust the GM (or the GM thinks they don't) it'll be closer to D0.

Passing D1 into D2 and up becomes the question of how much fate will mess with a player's plans. ("Player, roll D20 to try and hit them" or "GM, roll D6 to see how much damage player takes", etc)

Dave Garbe said...

soooo, to recap and ammend the D0 section...

D = fate (Sum of all the following)

D0 = no control or options / impossibility (narrative)
"You are paralyzed, this is what you see"
"You are in a cage, anything you do provokes a prod from a sharp stick, this is what happens..."
"You have no climbing gear and the wall is smooth obsidian and hard as steel, no you can't climb it."
"It is dark; you are eaten by a grue."

D0.# = free will (random vs GM/fate)
"I will turn in for the night, rather than talk to the stranger by the fireplace."
"I decide to not save the villagers."
"I'll take a right at this junction."
"I place the bag of holding in the other bag of holding."

D1 = certainty
"Here is the equipment I want to buy."
"My level 20 ranger doesn't buy provisions and lives off the forest as we travel." ("OK, you don't have to roll for that")
"You travel for two days before you see the castle on the horizon.
"As you approach the castle, this is what you see..."

D1+ = chance (random vs character/person)
"Roll to see if you hit."
"The monsters rolled D6 damage on you."
"There's a chance this vendor doesn't carry that equipment."

Von said...

@Dave - I honestly think 'malign forces' can go as deep as you want them to, really, but I see what you mean about something that lies beyond fate and certainty... almost something like 'entropy', the idea that chance, and the things chance operate upon, eventually degrade until the point where there is such a thing as a point to pass is gone...

It's bloody difficult to phrase something like this without sounding rather pretentious, but stick with me here.

Look at it like this:

D1+ = chance = things may be so, or may be otherwise.
D1 = things will be as they are.
D0.# = things will be as I decide them.
D0 = things are.
D- = things are not.

Whether 'things are not' amounts to a malign influence on the 'may be so, or may be otherwise' scale, a downward modifier leading toward an unfavourable state of being, or whether it amounts to literal nothingness, the triumph of entropy over energy and the general lack of things to be things at all, is largely a question of how far you want to push the metaphorical envelope.

'Things are not' can mean 'things are not as they could have been', 'things are not as the mechanics of the world would ordinarily have them be*', 'things are not as I would have them', 'things are not meant to be', or something that rephrases more tidily as 'there are no things'.

* - I will go to pathological lengths to avoid the word 'should' when I want to avoid the moral/personal connotations of that word...

Porky said...

@ Dave - The examples are a great addition, helping to make all of this more accessible. We've followed the whole discussion, but newcomers might be asking what it's really all about. The summary itself I'll return to in a moment.

@ Von - 'Things are not' is far more to my liking and more like that deeper meaning Dave suggested in his earlier reply to you. I'm wondering if this could be understood as 'influences against natural game order', in the sense of a force against GM and player choice, and the clean workings of the ruleset, against the idea that life can be reduced to a set of mechanics.

I've been working on a revision of the summary based on earlier discussion, and presented from the point of view of game use only, with negatives still not included. Here's what I came up with.

D = acknowledgement of fate

D# = outcomes beyond GM will

D0.# = negotiated fate (player will / GM will)

D1 = player will only

D#>1 = outcomes partially or fully beyond player control

Have I missed or misunderstood anything, and would anyone revise this further, possibly back?

If we try to factor in the negatives idea as the suggested understanding of 'things are not', we might get this:

-D# = outcomes beyond natural game order

-D0.# = ?

-D1 = ?

-D#>1 = ?

Plenty still to do there, not least discuss the only entry filled.

Dave Garbe said...

D# = beyond GM will doesn't really work, if D0.# is negotiated with the GM.

Left out D0..
using your language, maybe:

D0 = outcomes beyond player will (narration by GM)
D0.# = negotiated fate (which is a good description, because while it's up to the player, the GM can intervene)
D1 = player will only

(Making the scale of 0-1 narration by GM - player, decimals/fractions representing the stronger will for each item?)

D>1 = Outcomes determined by chance. (as set by GM/rules/fate)
(Von's way of putting it is also good)

I kind of like the idea of -'ve being entropy, chance or perhaps dumb luck. I'm sure we've all been in situations where things go in a direction neither the player nor the GM anticipated, but as things can be roleplayed dynamically, sometimes we're just reacting.

I'll get back to that in a second.
If D = is from the player's perspective (D0 not giving any control, D1 giving full control) then we don't have to say "You fight a monster, -2D20" instead it's "You fight a monster, your success chance is + 2D20". That frees up the negative sign for other use.

Perhaps a -'ve sign gets placed in situations where the GM isn't sure what will happen. Simply throwing things at players to see what happens. (Would instant death traps/abilities apply?) Maybe these -'ve situations are added in after or as they're happening.. a way to describe past events since they're unplanned.

(I could go into detail about a group of Vampires going on a helicopter ride - when a follower of Caine whose beliefs say "don't rely on humans" killed the pilot, whose moments before death included trying to escape with the copter.. driving the blades into a building roof... leaving over half the city's Sabbat populace suddenly and violently critically maimed.) That's a situation of pure reaction, with nobody having any clue what the outcome would be.

so, the entropic formula for the situation above:

-D = entropy
-D.0# = character sees human pilot hired, reacts and attempts to kill him. Some see a fight and join in, others try to calm the situation.
-D0 = GM reacts and describes the helicopter tipping it's nose into a stone roof.
-D>1 = damage to players as blades shatter, slicing them up and helicopter explodes.

maybe this is the difference between predestiny and reaction.
D = fate/destiny (plans by GM or player)
-D = entropy/reaction (situations purely reactive)

Another example of entropy perhaps:

in the LARP days, we'd have "office hours" - roleplaying sessions that occur between games. (each game being a "meeting" that occurs in real time every week or two weeks) Basically, players approach the GMs to look into storyline behind the scenes, or to go about their own misdeeds and power building.

If a player is looking into a storyline, they've got a slight plan, and the GM has a bigger plan. If the player does something (cause) and gets an unanticipated effect, but the GM expected it, then it's fate (D) like when you're reading a story and you're surprised by something you find out.. but if the player throws the GM for a loop and something happens neither expected, now both the GM and the player have to think on their toes and just react.. (-D?) perhaps a critical NPC was killed.

Dave Garbe said...

Now, if everything is a balance, or generally leans in the favour of the players (because it's a game after all) then actions of fate can shift the scale and introduce entropy.

If a powerful vampire decides to interrogate a weak mortal, (D0.#) but can't win a single test (D>1) [we've all seen situations where all we can roll is a 1] then suddenly the mortal might be overpowering the vampire. (-D>1) The vampire decides to kill the mortal before information is found out. (-D0.#) But makes so much noise that there's witnesses who call the cops (-D0)

Or, another fantasy example that actually happened to me (I'm just throwing out a bunch, since we've just started looking at entropy)

The GM planned a trap to kill/seriously maim, which I and another player fell into (sloped stone, slick with oil, that was lit with fire behind us, that led into a pit of spikes)
I, however, had been using a reinforced wooden door as a tower shield...
"I climb on my shield door, pull player 2 on and ride it down the slope." (-D1 since neither GM or I expected this)
"You fly off the bottom of the slope and the door is impaled by spikes, (-D0) and instead of dying, you take (-D>1) damage from a few tips that break through."

Porky said...

I worked too quickly - I was thinking of this:

D = acknowledgement of fate

D0 = GM will

D#>0 = outcomes beyond GM will alone

I'll get back to you on the rest of course, and hopefully others will have some feedback in the meantime.

Loquacious said...

So are you guys saying that just by understanding that something could be a fate/destiny situation, a D is involved?

what if you don't see/acknowledge/understand it as Fate/Destiny? does that leave the D out of the equation?

Dave Garbe said...

"D" not necessarily meaning physical dice... more the abstract of "if there was a dice roll required smaller than D2, what would be going on?"

The question came out of "What would a D1, D0, etc" be, not "How would we represent fate?" We just came to that conclusion... if a 1 sided dice is technically "rollable" to get a single outcome, what would it be? The same as D0.. roll a dice, but you can't actually get a result.. then what about negatives and fractions...

Loquacious said...

I'm just going from Porky's latest comment... Maybe I'm reading the direction and ideas you guys are really after wrong, but now I've got my own cogitations moving around.

The acknowledgment of fate seems to be precipitous to me. If Fate is there, whether you recognize it or are ignorant of it's existence seems trifling - the question comes down to reaction (again, it appears to me).

If, in a game, a character is "meant" to do something, then it usually happens- through GM initiation and/or coordination with the player. Whether the character knows or understands their destiny is irrelevant... they may not even see it as destiny- they may see it as "oh [expletive]" and fall "victim" to it without any self-realization whatsoever.

If we're talking solely about what the dice do, and WHY they do it, then I'll be honest- this esoteric kind of thought gets me very confused very fast- but I know what you're getting at because I'm helping it happen currently. Weird, huh?

Porky said...

@ Loquacious - These are fair questions. Here we're using 'fate' in the broad sense, to mean 'course of events'.

'D = fate' is more a tool for showing how events are decided, how much by the GM, how much by the players, and how much by the dice or other random element.

This means that the tool is not directly related to the characters, but is related directly to the players. If a character has a sense of destiny, the player may make decisions which affect the story, at least in the areas we've classified as D#>0, i.e. any determination of outcome in which the player participates.

In this sense, acknowledgement is important: if a character acknowledges fate, the player may reflect that in decision-making and may choose to direct the story along a given path; if there is no acknowledgement, the story carries on as it would, unless of course either GM or player (or dice or other random element) have a destiny in mind.

This is at least how I understand what we've discussed so far. I'll confess to confusion at times too..!

@ Dave G _ Nplusplus - I think we need to define 'entropy' before we go on, something that won't be easy. Put crudely, entropy is a creeping disorder, an increased and irreversible complexity. In this sense, the actions in the game are producing entropy, and in this sense entropy is something that arises from D. It could be that this is -D, but I'm not convinced.

I do see logic in the idea that everything centres on the gamers - the GM and players - and that D is the course of events they set in train in a game, or rather the game world. I also see the sense in -D being reactions, or events that are unexpected and not set in train by the gamers. But if so, does this mean -D is the game world fighting back?

There is also the issue of the scale of numbers. If the positive scale is simply reversed to form the negative, the GM and players would be involved in the same negative ranges as positive, i.e.:


Are the gamers opposing themselves? Perhaps we could think of -D as Freudian slips in the original sense, as repressed thinking emerging at an inopportune moment? To give an example of how this might work, a character might often have wondered how a wound from a certain kind of dagger would feel, but repressed the thought as a bad omen. If the dagger type appeared in a combat, the unwanted memory might well emerge to distract, and perhaps even lead to the very event imagined.

How are we doing? I count fiction, probability, physics and now psychology.

Dave Garbe said...

Did you mean to write -D0 there at the end?

I think we're on a good track here.

-D might not be the game world fighting back, since we're talking about GM/player reactions, however it could probably be said that -D is DUE TO the game world fighting back. When unknown or random things occur in such an epic way or series of events that the GM and players find themselves in completely unplanned territory, nobody's in charge. Technically, the quickest way to end a -D situation would be for the GM/player to say "Hold on, let me think this through." essentially pausing game, and allowing entropy to settle while they think their next moves through. (however, there's something to be said for the action and fun from situations that are purely reactive)

Freudian slips are another good way of looking at -D. Not just unplanned events, but also accidents, mistakes and (like your example) the subconscious.

I think the example you gave needs a slight tweak:

If the character fears a weapon, the player/GM are aware of this out of character - meaning a +D situation since parties are aware that introducing such an item will cause the player to play their character a little more clumsily. That's either an in-game effect like "-2 to hit when around feared item" (D20-2) or simply roleplaying "My character tries to avoid fights with anyone wielding the feared item." (D0.75)

If the PLAYER fears a weapon that the GM isn't aware of or doesn't plan for then subconsciously they may make mistakes in that situation, meaning events become uncertain. (-D0.#)

HOWEVER, if the player fears a weapon and the GM knows it, then the GM can manipulate the player and plan for either outcome, reducing the chance of entropy.
So, D0.5 is a decision up to the player even though it may not be a conscious one.. it's not negative however, because the GM has planned for the battle AND incase the player avoids the battle.

Dave Garbe said...

@Loq: We're just trying to map out chance, decisions and randomness. We're looking at Fate/Destiny of characters as the sum of the plan of the GM, (D0) as modified by the players actions that could go different ways (D0.#) as modified by player actions that are certain (D1) as modified by random die rolls (D>1).
Reaction is certainly part of it, but the GM is able to plan for multiple outcomes and therefor continue to guide characters along their path, nomatter what they choose to do.

I've played in a lot of very open games where characters aren't always "meant" to do something, which makes planning all outcomes difficult and GMs have to take a more reactive roll.

We're not really concerned about why the dice roll the way they do.. that's just random. (Unless you do want to start getting all into fate and destiny and such in a greater sense of our world rather than game worlds)

Strangely, last night, my wife was watching The Order, and after I posted my response, she got to the scene where the Sin-Eater goes off on a doctor about how all his machines and attempts to explain humanity destroys the magic of life.

An interesting homework assignment for us on all this would be to watch an episode of Who's Line is it Anyway and try to determine how every action would fit into our formula.

GDMNW said...

Just when I thought I had lost the thread completely you mention Who's Line is it Anyway and I feel right with it again. That's a game of interpretation and comedic expression given direction by a narrator. Curiously the more creative and talented the participants and the narration the more amusing/successful the show.

Ok, please be gentle with me as I'm trying to bring my wheels up to speed here. The thing I'm most unsure of is whether you are engaged in the process of discovery or creation. The thread starts out feeling like a process of discovery but slowly shifts towards feeling like the development of an arbitrary system. Before we get into that though...

Let's review. Or in other words, let me set things out as I understand them as way of allowing you all to ascertain if I am following along properly.

Any dice with 2 or more sides introduces an element of chance when rolled. For example when a player attempts an action which is beyond their complete control. The random nature of the roll determines how successful the player is in their attempt, or indeed if they are successful at all.

A dice with 1 side represents a known outcome. For example a player might roll a D1 when attempting to scratch their belly while talking with an NPC.

A dice with 0 sides represents an outcome unknowable to the player and fully known to the DM.

The best example I could think off is the shiny red button. A group of players walking through the forest come across a small console bearing a shiny red button. Pressing the button has an unknowable consequence but is an action with a certain charm or appeal nonetheless. This is a D0 situation as the GM alone determines the outcome of an action which the players feel encouraged to attempt.

I find the idea of a D with a decimal fraction of a side is dificult even though a fraction is a number so it's a more substantial concept than the D0. That said, I'm not sure how it would function. What are the possible outcomes? This feels a lot more like a question that can be answered when it comes to the D0, D1 and D2. I could probably use some help here.

The idea of negative dice is very cool. The -D0, -D1 and -D2 represent the set, at least in theoretical terms. From what I can follow you are proposing that these should represent game based reactions which are independent of the players and perhaps the GM? So a -D0 is a reality in the game which the GM has not anticipated and must therefore create/descibe spontaneously?

Following along a -D1 would represent an action which can never succeed.

Moving on to -D2s I would have thought that if a D2 represents the possible outcomes of a player action then a -D2 should represent the possible outcomes of a player inaction or nonaction.

A player may be aware or unaware of the decision. However I run into a mental wall when I try to work out why a GM wouldn't just roll a D2 to determine what an NPC who expected to get kissed does when they don't get kissed by a player. Why then a -D2 at all. Does the -D2 represent the decision made arbitrarily by a DM when a player avoids a decision or action which had been anticipated? Perhaps I need some more help with this one...

GDMNW said...

OK, now for my attempt to contribute

I'm not sure if this last idea is up there already but I'll set it out anyway. It's the idea of dice with negative sides, the full set of which would be the D-0, D-1 and D-2. These really are screwy dice.

The dice themselves aren't negative, or they'd be -D's. But what does it mean for a side to be negative? Are they outcomes which are actual yet impossible given the posited action? Perhaps they are are outcomes completely unrelated to the action? If they are the negative of possibilities are they possibilities at all or actualities?

That's where I ended up. I figure if D2s and their ilk offer possible outcomes then D-2s may offer (impossible) outcomes, one of which won't happen but all of the others will. If that's the opposite of a D2 that is. I'm assuming a D2 (or D3 or D4 and so on) each die represents a set of possible outcomes one of which will happen.

And now my main attempt to contribute:

Honestly the D0 troubles me the most. It really caught my attention as 0 isn't a number. Comparing a D1 to a D2 makes sense. Comparing a D2 to a D0 is the same as comparing a goat to nothing at all.It's a nonsense of a most quizzical nature.

I think the D0 is the will of the GM and doesn't exist independently. Contrast this with the D1 and D2 which are invoked by specific actions and contribute independently to the outcome. Even the -D1,D-1,-D2,D-2 are related to specified actions or inactions.

I think the D0 is the odd one out. A concept which doesn't belong.

Curiously the -D0 is a little easier as it would represent events and outcomes inherent to the independent reality of the game world. Strange that the -D0 can exist conceptually purely because the game world has no existence independent of the players and the GM, it cannot express its reality except through their interpretation and understanding.

This is where the fantasy world is different to the fantasy one. The real world has its own storylines and facts where the fantasy world does not.


Porky said...

Welcome GDMNW! The trouble with this post is that all of the comments are coming out so long - by the time we finish new ideas could have been added, and this has actually happened in my case a couple of times at least! No complaints. Every extra thought is willingly received.

The response to Dave is ready so I'll post this first.

I really did mean -D, all negative D. I was trying to avoid -D0 in that I think we can use D0, with no minus sign, given that 0 would not usually be negative, but rather the meeting point of the positive and negative. This is interesting too, because it would make the GM the connection between both positive and negative.

With the Freudian slip, it's not so much fear in the sense of a known reaction, or even conscious awareness of a potential discomfort. The idea is simply that at some point in life an uncomfortable idea is repressed, pushed into the subconscious and kept there actively, if unconsciously, until a reminder comes and causes momentary distraction. It's like the weapon words in Dune, with the right situation or event causing the problem.

Another way of thinking about the idea the gamers are really working against themselves is the line Leia gets in Star Wars, saying the tighter the squeeze, the more slips through the fingers. That the action has a reaction that pushes back. Here we might think of the adventurers pushing their paths through the world, but the world springing back. Muscles becoming tired, minds bored, adventures routine, their reputations a challenge, their success the cause of envy, their lifetyles too full of distractions, with old wounds haunting and higher ambitions taking the focus off the here and now, morailty changing in troubling ways perhaps, higher powers taking them as champions - elements that might be the purview of the GM (reasonable if the position is at the D0 fulcrum) but are not necessarily covered by usual mechanisms, basically factors which might just be expected to show through in success or failure of standard actions.

For fun, it might even be worth throwing the designers into the mix. Maybe the -D could be thought of poetically as these guys ready to trip up those showing a lack of respect or doing too well, giving their world the extra teeth it needs? To make this easier to swallow, we might even accept that the approach is written into the nature of the world itself, expressed as the work of the designers in the game materials and intention of the game itself, whether or not the rules can live up to this.

Porky said...

Seems you've understood very well, and the details may be out a little only because specifics haven't necessarily been covered yet.

For example, I personally would say in clarification that, forgetting actual dice for a moment, the true randomness begins above 1, so with fractions before 2. Equally, I'd say by my understanding that D0 is not something necessarily known to the GM and unknown to the players, but the sole decision of the GM, with no direct involvement by the players. You suggest this strongly in the example of the red button. This makes the fractions between 0 and 1 possible to understand as proportions of GM and player will, closer to 0 more GM, closer to 1 more player.

When it comes to negatives it's still very much up in the air, as you can probably tell now from my last post! Your thoughts are part of the working out and they'll certainly be mulled over. I'll go off to respond to the comments on the front page then give what you've written the attention it deserves.

I'd also be interested in what Dave thinks of the double-whammy we've just put down..!

Porky said...

I've looked through your comments and like what you have to say on negatives plenty.

"I figure if D2s and their ilk offer possible outcomes then D-2s may offer (impossible) outcomes, one of which won't happen but all of the others will."

This is something we've not considered at all, but which we certainly should. I like it for the simplicity, although it would seem to cause problems. How can all of those outcomes occur at once? What does this mean in game terms? Then again, that same second question could also be levelled at our approach so far to negatives.

On the next point, I tried to dismiss the idea of the -D0 in the first of these three comments, and the fuller argument is there. Put simply, there isn't a -0 so shouldn't be a -D0. This would leave the D0 the meeting of the negative and positive scales. I'd be interested in what you think of this idea.

If the idea is accepted, it would mean the independent reality of the game world could be located in the pure negatives, i.e. below D0. My thoughts on this are also in the first of these three comments.

Dave Garbe said...

Suggesting -D0 can't exist and allowing numbers below 0 to be out of GM control sounds pretty good.. if we're looking at the overall fate as based on the players, then it doesn't matter if the GM has planned events or if they're just reacting.

I like the thought that -'ve numbers are purely out of control.

I'm not sure if decimals should be a measure between GM / player control or if it's the chance the player will do something the GM anticipates.. maybe they're the same thing?

@GDMNW: As for fractions, games already use them. A D3 is technically a D6/2. If fractions can offset real random numbers (D>1) then they should be able to apply below D1 as well. If D1 means nomatter what the player "rolls" there's 1 outcome (which we're leaving up to the player), and D0 means the player can't roll anything so it's up to the GM, then a number greater than 0 but less than 1 is something between.

I look at it like this.. rolling a normal dice is betting on chance decided by a die. A fractional is the GM presenting the players with a decision and the players are the dice - they create the random outcomes.

A -D1 would be possible, the negative simply suggesting that while it's up to the player, it's not something they consciously did. (mistakes, accidents, etc)

For the situation to decide what happens when the character doesn't kiss an NPC, that would probably be a D0 situation. (up to the GM) If it were D2, then there are 2 possible outcomes.. if the GM planned for them just incase, it's positive. If the GM came up with them on the spot because they didn't plan for it, and wants to leave it up to chance rather than just decide what the NPC does, it would be -D2.

Dave Garbe said...

D-# sounds more like a modifier... D20-2 would mean roll D20 and subtract 2. The question is, how does that apply to D0-1?

D1-5 or D0-5.. how can a certainty have a qualifier like that applied? If D0 and D1 are narrative, then a number doesn't even apply...

I don't know..

Porky said...

"I'm not sure if decimals should be a measure between GM / player control or if it's the chance the player will do something the GM anticipates.. maybe they're the same thing?"

They might be the same thing, but I'd qualify this with the idea that the GM is probably anticipating to a greater extent than the players for likely having prepared more for the adventure. I'd also tend more towards control than anticipation in that the D is about determining a solid outcome. That said, this might just be an issue of labelling, with no real difference - we know what we mean after all.

"I like the thought that -'ve numbers are purely out of control."

So do I. To clarify, I'm thinking the negative scale would mirror the positive and so the space D0 to -D1 would be a negotiated outcome, in this case possibly between GM and the game world. I mean 'game world' in the sense of the two paragraphs at the end of the first comment in my last sequence of three, the ones beginning:

"Another way of thinking about the idea the gamers are really working against themselves is the line Leia gets in Star Wars, ..."

"For fun, it might even be worth throwing the designers into the mix. ..."

As for modifiers, I don't know either..! Maybe modifiers reflect the mental and physical state of the GM, or level of preparedness? A negative modifier for example would then be the tiredness of lack of imagination of the GM, or lack of access to materials. Could be that applying a -2 allows the players to steal items from behind the screen!

GDMNW said...

Thank you all for the welcome.


So negative D0 (or -D0) and D-0 are out. They not required as D0 covers everything in the non-number non-thing area.

Despite having half or 1/2 the sides of a D6 a D3 still represents three possible outcomes. The same could be said of a -D3 or a D-3. Leaving their implications aside for a moment each can be said to relate to what you called "determining a solid outcome", a brilliant phrase for it.

I suppose my question is what is .38 (or any other fraction) of an outcome? This lack of a 'solid outcome' appears to set the fractional outcome D's apart from the rest of the series.

I quite like Porky's suggestion that fractional dice represent the proportion of control between a D0 (GM's outcome) and a D1 (player's outcome). But I'm not sure how well that holds up. It certainly bears thinking about.

The negatives is where my mind is lingering though. I'm not totally happy with the possible/impossible split. So I thought I'd try mirroring on another plane. I went back to the player will/world will split.

I find myself trying to pin down the idea of fictional world dice which represent plots and themes which stem from the world itself. If a D represents a player action then the negatives represent world action. I think. Bear with me a moment.

Let's try an example.

A group of players come across a locked door. The thief tries to pick it. This is a d2 (or more action)

The building's locksmith is on the other side in the process of putting his key in the lock. -D2

The Barbarian has decided not to shoulder the door open as it looks a little too solid even for his brawny bulk. D-2 for consequences of his player's indecision.

I'm not totally happy as you could use a plain old D2 to determine any of these inactions action's outcomes. Ah well

Dave Garbe said...

First @all, then I'll come back to those examples..

GDMNW is right that decimals and fractions have been left abstract even with their definition.. so how about this:

If D1 is a player's singular choice, then D1/2 is two options.. two paths the player may take, as _planned by_ the GM. It's not D2, because the player isn't rolling a dice to see which way they go, it's D1/2 because the GM has placed the character in a situation with two planned outcomes. Therefor D1/4 would have 4 planned outcomes.

Math doesn't completely work.. D2/4 (4 possible ways) can't be broken down to 1/2 (2 possible ways)

Lets take it a step further.. D3/4 means the players will need or end up taking 3 of the 4 options. "You come to an intersection with 3 doors ahead of you." (3 doors + entrance you came in = D1/4) "You take the door on your left (D2/4) and after 15 minutes of walking you hit a dead end." "You then take the middle door, (D3/4) and exit the dungeon."

Perhaps D5/4 would suggest the players came up with an unplanned option.

This makes strange decimals mute as decimals = fractions and in this sense, fractions are easier to work with. D0.38 = D38/100, which might mean the CHARACTERS were given an in-game riddle or problem to solve.

@Porky: The idea of the game world purely being -'ve is interesting. If the scale between -1 and 0 is the GM negotiating with the world, that makes -D1 pure entropy. -D1 isn't even human.. that's random chance on a higher plane.. -D1 are those cases where something happens that nobody was expecting and now both the players AND the GM are in the game following an outcome that nobody anticipated. They're probably reacting on the spot and players may still have input, but out of character talk between the players and the GM at this point is merely to follow this new and wonderful path that's suddenly opened before them.

@GDMNW: I think your examples would be more like this:

lock pick: D2 (yes, though more like D20)

locksmith on the other side (D0 - this sounds like something the GM planned, and is giving the thief a -'ve to their roll)

Barbarian didn't try to break it down (D1/2 - the GM planned/knew the barbarian either wouldn't try to break it down OR he would)

Dave Garbe said...

While thinking about GDMNW's D2 lockpick example, it occured to me that maybe D>1 isn't actually a dice roll.. I think we've risen beyond where simple dice can be thrown into the equation and still make sense.

I still think it's random chance, but that we need to tweak it.

Chance for the thief to pick the lock:

DC 15 (must roll a modified 15 or higher to pick the lock)
Thief has +5 to their lockpick.
Thief needs to roll 10 or higher to lockpick.
% chance that Thief will roll 10+ on a D20?

Can we say 50% chance is D2?
Do we say D50%?
If D>1 is chance, can random percent be implied?
(Meaning D2 would actually be D2%, so the above example would have to be left D50)

That makes more sense in the longer equation. +2D80 suggesting there will be 2 encounters with an 80% chance of success.

This takes into account something we hadn't, which is if in a D>1 we said +D20, the target isn't stated, so the D20 is meaningless.. or, should we be saying D20[15].. or, knowing the Thief's lockpicking skill, D20+5[15]

Is this getting too far off track?
Has our elevated look at D = fate begun a new thread?
If so, does that mean we're actually defining what D1 and D0 are in the sense of dice, as was originally intended, or was that just a stepping stone to this formula?
Would that mean in our form of D= and D1 and D0, etc, that "D" could be anything, though using "D" as a term is still good as it implies roleplaying.

Have we gone a roundabout way to determine that in dice terms if someone's asked to roll D1, it means there will only be a single result, and with a D0, the result doesn't matter or is impossible to win?

Dave Garbe said...

Maybe in dice terms:

D6 = 6 sided dice
D1 = 1 sided dice, single successful outcome
D0 = 0 sided dice, impossible outcome.
D = no sided dice, unimportant outcome.

(Coming from a programming background, there is a difference between 0 and none. "0" is a quantity, a count of something.. while "none" says it doesn't exist in the first place.

Porky said...

@ all

I think we've hit a wall in thinking about negatives. I was very taken with GDMNW's locksmith on the other side of the door, but felt more that it should be rather that the door had warped, or renovations meant a piece of furniture had been placed blocking the it - basically, it wouldn't open because of something even the GM wouldn't ordinarily think of. Perhaps more - the idea that you just can't keep having adventures because GM and players decide to have one, expecting the world to yield to them. The world just says no. Weird and fun. But then I realise that this is still just the failure of a positive die, that we still have no actual means of getting this into a game. What is a negative dice in practical terms?

As for Dave's fractions idea, I'm not sure that we can allow the usual rule for fractions to break down at Ds lower than D1. If D6/3 is D3, then D3/2 should be 3/4 of D1, i.e. 3/4 player will (1/4 GM will). The idea of having D3/4 mean four options three of which are needed means the GM is in a more comfortable position from the point of view of his or her will. The players are set a tough challenge. Compare this to D1/4 which is closer to D0 than D1 - it should mean the GM has more say, but actually he has less (4 options set by GM, but players need only one). However, the reverse would be more acceptable: D3/4 could mean four options, three of which are correct. This gives the players the control they would seem to be due with 3/4 of D1.

@ Dave - I'm not sure we can use the percentile idea, refreshing as it is to see it set out like this. D2 cannot be 2% because then D1 would be 1% and D0 impossible. Both GM and player would then be in the same boat. Re the 2D80 idea, two adventures at 80% chance of success would then simply be 2D4/5, possibly reduced to D8/5 for both, then reducible to D1 and 3/5, i.e. slightly better than a 50% chance.

But... if it fell below D1, we might have a problem. The adventure would depend on many factors - GM, players and random elements - but below D1 assumes GM and player negotiation only. This paradox suggests to me that we might be trying to do the impossible. We have a useful tool, but a flawed one, in that it is based on mathematics only to a point, down to D1. Below this things break down, and when we try to reoncile the two we end up banging our heads together. Put simply, there may not be a smooth progression when moving up the scale from D0.

Your final comment reaches a similar conclusion. Maybe we've gone way ahead of ourselves? Maybe we solved the initial problem and got a little carried away? Removing the GM and players as you've done removes the fractions problem at least. Negatives are still a problem, but perhaps they don't need to be worried about and are simply irrelevant, unrelated to the positive actions of the game?

Bit of a damp squib if so, but we could at least pat oursleves on the backs for getting further than it seemed we might in the first few comments..!

Dave Garbe said...

the closer to D1 the fractions are does seem to be a better way of representing correct player options. (D3/4 meaning 3 correct options out of 4)

Perhaps the game world can fight back using rules.. yes, the golden rule says the GM can throw the rulebook out and ignore it, but say this:

The GM places an impenetrable door before the players.. it's the only way to go... say, to escape a dungeon.

There is a keyhole.

Maybe the rules say too many failed lockpick attempts break the pick in the door, ruining the lock..


the player with the key fell down a chasm.

either way, players be screwed due to game mechanics.

You're right about the percentages.. they'd make D1 and D0 meaningless in our context.

I still think we might've answered the original question, and we're on a new track.

Porky said...

I also think the original questions are behind us, way behind. Your list sums up what we might be able to say for sure has been accomplished:

"D6 = 6 sided dice
D1 = 1 sided dice, single successful outcome
D0 = 0 sided dice, impossible outcome."

As for "D = no sided dice, unimportant outcome", it's another very good thought.

I think we've thought so much, and got so deep, that this subject won't be easy to set aside. Many tracks to follow.

Your example of the game world fighting back suggests maybe two GMs could even be used. One to run as usual and one to make sure the events were not too smooth and clean, to be Murphy's law, Freud's parapraxis, the unknown offended gods and so on. That could be a lot of fun..!

Dave Garbe said...

and an infinite number of GMs, laws parapraxis, gods and so on to govern them ;)

But yeah, I think things have gone way beyond our expectations.

I've been thinking about something else.. do we even tempt fate by introducing || ?
(as a math term |-1| means 1.. it converts anything negative to a positive)

Can the GM plan to avoid all forms on entropy?
D = | ................ |
NPCs that can if all else fails resurrect the players? Would we even want to play in such a game?

Porky said...

It's helpful to have that as a fallback..!

Yes, I think ultimately the GM can force through whatever he or she wants in the |-D#| sense - and the players might be able to get heavy with the GM and force it too - but you're right that the kind of game it gave wouldn't necessarily be much fun, not in the longer term at least.

This discussion has really expanded my understanding of what a game is or can be. I had no idea it would go to 50+ comments or cover the ground it has, and I was half expecting the post to be laughed off. I think it's got legs to run plenty further still, but that might need more reflection, more time away from the details for a better perspective.

At some point too you or I could put up a post summarising what's been decided and what was considered along the way. That might encourage more thoughts without requiring that everything here be read through.

GDMNW said...

Wow, some great stuff.

As a total aside, would it be worth putting a Wiki-type page up somewhere so that we can contribute to sections rather than continue this linear discussion. It adds to the effort. Just a thought.

Ok, so one thing at a time.

What is a nagative dice in practical terms?

Wow. What a question. Here's my thinking.

A negative D6 or -D6 is a sort of non-entity. Nonetheless by considering its negative analogue the plain old D6 we can draw conclusions about it.

I would suggest that in practical terms you would roll a real D6 and then invert the result produced theoretically to arrive at the outcome.

If you roll a positive 6 then you may simply invert this and apply the results of a 6 on a -D6. This is common practice in many fields, if you can't observe something directly you seek for a way to observe its effects on it's surroundings or its observable analogue.

The same principle can be applied to the D-6. Or the dice with negative six sides. You can use a normal D6 to determine the side and then use theory to determine the outcome related to the negative number rather than the positive.

Let's borrow a little from quantum theory and say that every time a die is rolled somewhere a negative die and a die with negative sides are rolled as well. We are simply determining the results on those dice by way of deduction.

How's that?

GDMNW said...

Ok, second thought.

I'd clarify that the world isn't so much 'fighting back' in opposition to the players. This could be said to be represented by simple action failures on normal dice.

Instead I think that it is the fantasy world asserting itself. Simply becoming real and like the real world continuing oblivious to mortal actions.

Going back to the door example, the three dice all have the same number of sides simply to keep the variation to type (D -D or D-) in an attempt to keep things simple.

D are player actions arbitrated by the GM.

-D are world actions put upon the GM. He/She has to roll the dice and interpret the result without planning.

D- are player actions/consequences imposed upon the player by the die with negative sides. These results can be interpreted by the Player or the GM or a combination.

The source of both is the fantasy world itself. Every player and GM action (rolling of a positive die or dice) results in fantasy world actions/failures or consequences which are imposed upon the GM and players.

It's a new dimension of roleplaying creativity. Players and the GM go about their quest or roleplay while the world goes about their business. Reactions to their doings are relayed by way of the GM's D0, the players' D1's and D2( or more sides).

World actions/consequences/failures are represented and interpreted by the players by analysing the negative dice (-D's) and dice with negative sides which are rolled by the world while they attempt their actions.

The GM's additional control is represented by the lack of a -D0 and D-0. They don't exist as the GM's will cannot be directly interfered with, even by the fantasy world. His or her word is law.

The existence of a -D1 and D-1 mean that even sure things aren't and can either fail or become fruitless by -D results or have unexpected consequences (D-1 results of player choices and non-choices.)


Finally, Dave's explanation of fractional dice is masterful. It works so well and is intelligible and practical enough to actually use.

But I have a question. Since there are multiple outcomes could you use a D100 to determine which outcome applies to whom?

Porky said...

I'm all for a wiki page. I have no idea how to go about it, but if anyone wants to do so, just go ahead.

@ GDMNW, first comment - This is a logical approach and gives us something more to work with. The question then mutates into one of how the results on those negative dice affect the game practically.

@ GDMNW, second comment - The definitions of D and -D seem to me a good step forward from the revised basic definitions ("D6 = 6 sided dice; D1 = 1 sided dice, single successful outcome; D0 = 0 sided dice, impossible outcome").

D- is still unclear in my mind, and here the outstanding question re the first comment comes back. Here's the key passage from the second comment for quick reference:

"World actions/consequences/failures are represented and interpreted by the players by analysing the negative dice (-D's) and dice with negative sides which are rolled by the world while they attempt their actions."

We need to be clear how the negative dice are interpreted. The absolute value on the negative will be the same as that on the positive of course. It's then natural to ask: what more does this tell us, in the sense of what new practical knowledge can be taken from knowing that the negative dice rolled the same as the positive? Whatever the answer, I do accept that the idea of this approach to negative dice could be very valuable, in that it asks the players to look beyond the moment and immediate landscape, to imagine the effects of their actions travelling out and consider the subtle changes they make in the wider world, many of which could affect them in the future.

As for the final question, if there are several possible recipients of an effect, a die of some kind might be necessary to decide who they are. This question makes me think I've overlooked a key point. Do you mean that we could use a die, for example the D100, to allocate effects from the negative dice?

Dave Garbe said...

I don't think a wiki is a good idea.. forum, maybe.. but wiki would suggest we have all these things decided, while I think this is a work in progress.

It's a good point though on how negative dice are a cancellation of positive ones. Perhaps -D1/4 would represent accidents/subconscious/mistakes the players and GMs make that open new doors? The numerator would be player created paths, denominator being GM created.

A D100 could be rolled.. but that would be leaving decisions up to randomness, rather than player decision.

Dave Garbe said...

Perhaps this is an example of -D1 to 0...

Porky said...

It definitely looks like one of our negatives, and a lot of fun to boot. I'd expect it to be a comedy, but it's marked up as a thriller. Philip K Dick really has been given a tight grip on the popular imagination.

As for setting up a forum, how is that done? It could also go deeper into many of the related issues.

GDMNW said...

I suggested a Wiki simply because it has the most functionality when it comes to editing. Each contributer can directly interact with what has been written by others. Setting their own text above, below, within what is already present.

It's an opportunity to move away from the linear comment structure.

I confess I didn't even think about the "finished" connotations that might come along with that functionality.

GDMNW said...

Ok, I've taken the liberty of setting something up. I've thrown some inital content together so that you can see how this might work.

If everyone likes it and thinks it will help then I'm happy to invest some more effort to bring it up to spec (more pretty, readable, images etc)

Take a look.

My initial thought would be to copy the discussion over to a new page and start to organise it according to sub topic, so all of the comments relevant to D1s would be together.

We could then start collaboratively editing the multiple comments into a more definitive form. Which is what I think we're working towards right? This isn't a conversation for conversations sake...

Porky said...

Thanks for that - just going and doing it is often the best way. This is a good route forward, and it avoids looking finished.

My one concern is that we should get the permission of all of the commenters before we copy across. I'll email those that I can and list them here as consent comes in. If email addresses are unavailable, I'll ask at their blogs or put a post up with the request.

Porky said...

Another concern would be that if we are going to reduce the comments to their essence, that somewhere at the wiki we clearly credit all of the contributors to the discussion here as initiators. We can't say for sure we'd have made it so far without each and every comment.

GDMNW said...

Ok, do you want me to remove them for the time being? It's easily done.

Porky said...

As you prefer. If they're already in place, they could be removed if consent isn't given.

Papa JJ said...

By all means feel free to do with my own contributing comment however you should please. To your point above, Porky, no doubt what I had to say was indeed quite valuable in charting the way forward for this conversation... ;) Best wishes on furthering the inquiry!

GDMNW said...

Thanks Papa JJ, as ever your light remains a real world illustration of the glorious Astronomican.


GDMNW said...


I'd suggest that we reduce the comments to their essence separately. We can have a page with a copy of the original discussion. A new page for the new discussion and an output page which contains the (editable) summary of the conversation that gained momentum in this thread.

Something like this.

page 1 - copy of this thread
page 2 - new discussion by area
page 3 - Summary of ideas

The last page would be the one which sets out the best summary we can produce collaboratively and would be the ideal place for a "credits" section at the head.

Porky said...

From the responses I've got so far, the concerns are that we don't let the unused ideas get lost, and that we allow plenty of space for the various D ideas, perhaps a page each.

To avoid loss of the many concepts we've had put, my suggestion is that there could be an extra page with all of the various used and unused concepts contributors come up with.

This list could form a pool of ideas for the main discussion, as well as form the basis for other discusions - with a wiki up, more interested parties and ideas could come in, and it could be that there are multiple branching theories to be followed.

netherwerks said...

Wow. Third time reading through all these comments and I think I'm going to go offline for a while. Maybe read a book. This is incredible stuff. The implications are ...well... bizarre and intriguing ...and who knows where this will lead. Great work getting this shepherded into manifestation Porky!

GDMNW said...


Sounds fantastic.

It's late here, but in the morning I'll start by laying out the pages and then copying the content over by topic.

The good news is that since the space is a wiki anyone can do this so if you want to get stuck in while I'm asleep and dreaming, feel free. You should be able to edit and create new pages if you just follow the instructions in the site itself.

Von said...

I consent. Regret not having time to continue engaging in the discussion, but aye, I consent.

Porky said...

@ NetherWerks - I really only put up the initial question, and chipped in when it swung into understanding..! I'm excited wondering where it might lead. Who knows?

@ Von - Thanks for all you've done so far!

@ GDMNW - I'll finish up here then head over to see what I can do - and whether I can understand those instructions..!

So far then we have permission from most:

GDMNW (presumably)

Papa JJ - given here
Von - given here

The Drune - given here at ix

Dave - given by email
NetherWerks - given by email

That seems to leave only The Angry Lurker, C'nor and Loquacious. I've no email address for either Angry or C'nor so I've left comments on older posts for now. I'm reading the wording of Loquacious' email cautiously just to be on the safe side and will wait for final confirmation.

Porky said...

@ GDMNW - Can contributors set up identities to track who makes the major changes? I've got the hang of the basics, but I can't see any option for this.

GDMNW said...

I'm liking the numbering. I should have thought of that.

I'll look into tracking contributions now.

GDMNW said...

The D1 page is up as an example of a condensed discussion.