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Do Not Let the Dice Fall Where They May - Monte Cook Games
I see a lot of people confusing Numenera, which uses a d20 (also a d6 and a d10) with the d20 System. I thought that might happen, but I figured as soon as people played the game, they would realize that it’s completely different (because it is) and it would no longer be an issue. I have written about why I used the d20 in the past. In short, I created a system using a d20 mainly because of the affection and identification gamers have with it. However, I underestimated some of the psychological connections that some people understandably have with the die and how the d20 System works. The confusion comes from what constitutes a “bad roll” and perhaps even the importance of die rolling in the first place. All you have to do is look at the Difficulty Chart in Numenera to see that things are drastically different. While “DCs” and “ACs” in the d20 System essentially start at 10 and go up, the target number for task resolution in Numenera starts at 3. That means the only rolls on the d20 that are inherently “bad” are 1 and 2, while in the d20 System, basically any single digit is a “bad” roll. But the difference between the Cypher System and d20 System is far more fundamental than that, because the very nature of the task resolution system for Numenera is the inverse of the d20 System. In the d20 System, you start with the roll and then go from there, adding modifiers from character abilities, situational constraints, spells, etc. The die roll starts the conversation. Player: I want to climb up to the ledge. GM: (The GM determines that this will be a DC 15) Give me a roll. Player: Ugh. I roll a 7. But I have +8 to my Climb skill. So 15. That’s not too bad. GM: The wall you’re trying to scale is a bit icy and slick. That’s going to be a -2 penalty. Player: Bob’s character is already at the top reaching down to give me a hand, can that give me a bonus? GM: Sure. +2. Player: That makes it a 15, then. Do I make it? GM: Yes, just barely. Numenera is the opposite. You have the conversation first. This is something that I’ve had to instruct a lot of people about when I’m introducing the game. Players expect that they have to just roll for everything. Rolling, however, is dangerous. Rolling can mean that you fail an action that maybe you shouldn’t fail. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the Numenera conversation: Player: I want to climb up to the ledge. GM: (The GM determines that this is a Difficulty 3 action.) How are you going to do it? Player: I’m trained in climbing, and Bob’s character is reaching down to help me up. GM: Okay. Both the training and the assistance reduce the difficulty by a step each. (This makes it Difficulty 1.) Player: Does it still seem like it’s going to be tricky? GM: There’s still a chance of failure. It’s wet and slick. That’s probably going to make it harder by a step. (Difficulty 2) Player: I’m going to apply a level of Effort, then. GM: (Knowing that this makes it Difficulty 1, which only has a target number of 3) Time for the roll. Player: I roll a 7. GM: You easily climb up. So in the Numenera conversation, the 7 is a triumph, not a worry, when it shows up, because the conversation’s already happened. Whereas with the other example you start with the 7 (which is a worry) and go from there. They’re …
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