Steampunk Gangs - Rolling Dice

DICE! They're great, I love dice. When it comes to randomisation on the fly in non digital games there's nothing quite like them. And, in my opinion, the more the better. So I've decided to make a combat system for Steampunk Gangs that has players picking up handfuls of dice, rolling them and working out a result.

There's a good precedent for this in games. the World of Darkness RPG has you rolling a D10 (10 sided dice) per point you have in a stat/skill and counting up how many roll 8 or higher. Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror needs you to roll D6s and get 5 or more, with bonuses based on equipment and status effects.

Needs more tentacles, or maybe less. What's important is there isn't the exactly correct number of tentacles.

Needs more tentacles, or maybe less. What's important is there isn't the exactly correct number of tentacles.

All of these are good, but Fantasy Flight's Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Mice and Mystics and Armello do something I particularly love. This system has symbols and blanks rather than numbers or pips and, rather than trying to get a dice over a certain value, you're adding together all of these symbols you can see to work out the result. In Start Wars RPG you're adding the number of successes you have along with special symbols to activate weapon abilities, in Armello and Mice and Mystics you're counting the number of a particular symbol based on your special abilities, the type of check and even the time of day.

The dice rolling system I'm after has to do a few things. First and foremost it must differentiate the different characters and load-outs. I have a ganger who's an incredibly good shot but armed with a rusty pistol they found in the sewers, whereas my opponent has someone who needs to be told which end of the gun to point towards the enemy but has (unwisely) been given an overcharged Lightning Gun. In some systems (like Eldritch Horror) these 2 people would likely have the same combat effectiveness, the first one would just be rolling their skill in dice, and the 2nd would have very few dice but get a load of bonus ones from his overpowered gun. In Steampunk Gangs I want each character to feel different, so that system is out.

Note to self: Dice required to be absolutely beautiful.

Note to self: Dice required to be absolutely beautiful.

So, first we need to make the weapons feel different. So, lets make them roll different dice. We can have generic dice for attacking and using skills (more on skills later) and then special dice for types of weapon. Eg: projectile dice, energy dice, explosive dice, slashing dice, bludgeoning dice, magic dice and so on. Each of these dice will have their own layout, generally better than the basic dice, and their own special symbols that can be used to activate special weapons.

The weapons now feel different to each other, but character skill should also definitely play a major part in the roll. Some scrub ganger who's barely held a gun shouldn't be able to effectively wield and use a massive repeating cannon. So lets borrow something else from Star Wars, upgrading dice. This is something common to most of the skill checks in the system, basically you have a stat with a rank, say Agility 3, and a skill with a rank, like Ranged 1. In the example you'd take your 3 "untrained dice" and replace 1 of them with a "trained" dice. In the system the higher number dictates the total number of dice, so an Agility 3 Ranged 2 character would have the same pool as an Agility 2 Ranged 3 one. I like this system, it leads to characters that balance skills and stats and leads to a nice diverse pile of dice. So with a few tweaks of system and intent we can use it for Steampunk Gangs.

Useful for warring with starts apparently.

Useful for warring with starts apparently.

So we have characters who have combat skills like Fight 2 and Shoot 3. These have a rank which dictates how many basic dice you roll for them. Then you have weapons like the previously mentioned Lightning Gun, which would have Energy 2. In this example the player would have 3 dice to shoot with, then upgrade 2 of them to Energy dice. The gun would also have a special ability called Chain, where if you roll enough of the special Energy symbols you can apply half the damage rolled to an additional target. Suddenly you really need to get that gun into the hands of your trained gunfighter to get the most of it. Additionally I'll strip out the rule that means you take the highest value as the number of dice. If you give your new kid with Shoot 1 an Energy 4 Flare Cannon then he's not going to know how to fire the thing, so he'll just have the 1 Energy dice to roll.

This same system can be used for both Defence and Skill Checks. When defending you use your Defence value in dice. If you're wearing something with Armour 2 then you'd upgrade 2 of those dice to Armour dice that have a higher chance of blocking damage, or skills like Dodge or shields can upgrade the dice in different ways. For Skills there'd be base Abilities like Strength, Agility and Intelligence, these are the number of basic dice you roll and upgrades and equipment would upgrade those dice.

This is all starting to consolidate, we have dice and we know what we're doing with them. Next time I'll be looking at how they're actually used, mostly killing folks and stealing stuff.

Adam Carter-Groves