Thursday, June 16, 2016

Neoclassical Geek Revival: the dx instead of the d20

One of the changes that was formalized from table rule to be thrown in the book (Which is an odd thing in and off itself, but I frequently play around with new rules to see if they actually work and what the effects are)  is changing the d20 to the dX in most situations.

What is the dX?  Its a way to randomly generate a number between 1 and 20.

You are probably asking yourself isn't that a d20?  I mean a good portion of you are patiently awaiting an explanation in reality,  but I will add a flourish of my  genius instead.  No! it is different,  a d20 is only one option.

First, what problem is this solving:   The weird unpredictability of making checks for activities that most people do every day.  Even the strongest man seems to fail at lifting a sack of grain 5% of the time while a 95lb weakling will wrench open the portcullis 5% of the time.

So how does this work?

A character has states for the purposes of rolling a dX to generate a result between 1 and 20.
Calm:  They get an automatic result of 10
On Edge: They roll 3d6
Reckless: They roll 1d20

All characters start calm,  but can choose to step down one or more levels towards reckless before any roll of the dX.   Once they go down a step, they can't go back up until they sleep in a safe area away from danger.

Characters can be forced to shift down levels as they take damages and the like,  but the general idea is that characters are very predictable and able to bypass subpar problems until they need to break a sweat, then things get more random.

This also servers to ratchet up the tension as the problems get harder to solve,  each skill or piece of gear or marginally higher attribute becomes important as characters try to avoid needing to roll for as long as possible.

Some characters (or players more accurately) immediately decide to go straight to the hyper random d20, and that works too.

The main advantage of this from player enjoyment is to be able to move past minor annoyances easily in the beginning of the session without using a lot of time.  If you have a barbarian with a sledgehammer,  you don't need to roll for the stuck doors, they just open (loudly).


  1. Very nice. This simplifies a lot of other web articles talking about skill checks, randomization and what to do about failures. Thanks.

  2. This is an amazing mechanic - super simple, as all the best mechanics are, but nicely solves the swingy d20 problem and also just feels like it more closely matches "real world" experiences. Not that realism is a primary goal of D&D or NGR or the ilk, but we have all been in a state where normally simple tasks are hard to complete because of adrenaline or nerves. Nice work! Stealing this for my table :)