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5E Adding a "narrative mechanic" to 5E

Hello all,

Does anyone have suggestions regarding adding a narrative mechanic to 5E in the style of FFG's Genesys system (said system is used in their Star Wars line).

For those who don't know what I'm referring to, when making a check, you roll special dice which have 2 basic effects :
1) Determining if the action is successful or not, including crits and fumbles
2) (this is what I'm talking about) determining if there are unintended consequences, positive or negative but relatively minor, to said action

So you can succeed at something and have unintended negative consequences (you kill the ogre but it falls on you, trapping you momentarily), and your attempt can fail but something positive comes out (you fail to convince the noble of his impending assassination but his butler believes you and helps in some way, if you only to let you try again with a bonus).

Does anyone know if something already exists "officially" for 5E? If so have you tried it and did it work well?
If nothing exists, would you have a suggestion on how to implement it?
Or do you feel the game as written already covers this via the DM's latitude to direct the story?

Thanks in advance for your input and insights, and have a nice day!
 

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dave2008

Legend
There is nothing "official" like what you describe (with the two die types); however, pg 267 of the DMG describes the "Plot Points" Adventuring Option. This sounds similar to what your looking for.

Also, you could just adopt the mechanic you described and you wouldn't need to change a thing.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
For those who don't know what I'm referring to, when making a check, you roll special dice which have 2 basic effects :
1) Determining if the action is successful or not, including crits and fumbles
2) (this is what I'm talking about) determining if there are unintended consequences, positive or negative but relatively minor, to said action
This happened to come up in another thread, and perhaps my thought there bears repeating here:

Adding unintended consequences has significant impact on creature, encounter, and adventure design that are not currently accounted for in D&D.

Systems that have such consequence mechanics (Fate, Cortex+, and others) depend upon such consequences to drive action, and add content to the game. They are, in fact, part of the assumption of the design of adventures and the action economy. The GM often can run such games with the barest of outlines, knowing a great deal of the actual content is going to be created as a result of the mechanics in play.

They are not part of the design in D&D. The monsters, encounters, and adventures are typically designed with the expectation that the content that's in play is pretty much all on the page. The monsters have many powers and different actions, we put lots of dynamic elements on the maps, and so on, to make sure everything is interesting.

And in typical D&D you roll dice a lot, even for minor things. That means you are apt to generate a lot of consequences. A lot of consequences on top of a very busy adventure may become hectic, or incoherent in its narrative, and have things turn into a kind of comedy of errors.

If you add consequences, you may find you need to pare back adventure design, to a more "Orc and Pie" simplicity and allow complexity to come out of complications..
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Hello all,

Does anyone have suggestions regarding adding a narrative mechanic to 5E in the style of FFG's Genesys system (said system is used in their Star Wars line).

For those who don't know what I'm referring to, when making a check, you roll special dice which have 2 basic effects :
1) Determining if the action is successful or not, including crits and fumbles
2) (this is what I'm talking about) determining if there are unintended consequences, positive or negative but relatively minor, to said action

So you can succeed at something and have unintended negative consequences (you kill the ogre but it falls on you, trapping you momentarily), and your attempt can fail but something positive comes out (you fail to convince the noble of his impending assassination but his butler believes you and helps in some way, if you only to let you try again with a bonus).

Does anyone know if something already exists "officially" for 5E? If so have you tried it and did it work well?
If nothing exists, would you have a suggestion on how to implement it?
Or do you feel the game as written already covers this via the DM's latitude to direct the story?

Thanks in advance for your input and insights, and have a nice day!
There's the "Success with a Cost" section in the DMG.

Basically, if you fail within 1 or 2 on an ability check, you succeed at the cost of a complications or hindrance. One example they give is failing at an intimidation check against a goblin by 1 or 2. The goblin reveals the secrets but also alarms the guards.

In the same section, there's Degrees of Failure which means failing by more than 4 makes the scenario worse. For instance, failing to disable a trap by 5 or more might set it off while being within 4 or less would have caused it to have merely been a return to neutral state (the trap neither went off nor was disarmed).
 

Laurefindel

Adventurer
Dice pool systems are always difficult to translate into die+modifiers systems.

Suggestion #1
You can use odd/even numbers on the d20 to determine positive/negative side effects. Odd/even is the most a d20 can support more or less evenly throughout the whole success/failure range. But it’s binary, and no neutral results (without some convulsed subdivision like prime numbers, divisible by 3, or whatever)

Suggestion #2
Roll an additional die in addition to the d20 with no other purpose than adding positive or negative narrative results. Let’s say a d6: 1=double bad, 2=bad, 3 and 4 = neutral, 5=good, 6=double good.
 


Rhenny

Adventurer
I’ve experienced the narrative twist in the old West End Games Star wars and the new Age of the Empire Star Wars games, and both of those games use a random mechanic (a wild die in the old game, and symbols on the normal dice that indicate complications). Honestly, I found those mechanics too arbitrary and burdensome because complications happened more randomly and quite often. (I still really enjoyed playing both of those games by the way).

If you want to use a mechanic in D&D, I’d stick with the succeed with a cost method That someone mentioned earlier.

You will need to feel out the players to find out how much complication is right for your group.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I'm not aware of anything official for 5e, although I'm pretty sure I've seen a D&D clone that does something like this (I don't recall which).

A simple option would be to toss a d6 along with the d20. On a 1, something bad happens, on a 6 something good happens (irrespective of the outcome of the d20).

There are other approaches you could take if you want to get fiddly with it, but at that point you'd probably be better served by a system that has this built in. I also wouldn't use it for every roll, such as combat. But I think it could make something like a skill challenge more dynamic.
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
You could allow players to spend inspiration* or luck points to declare a fact about the setting or situation. And to encourage them to do this regularly, you could also allow inspiration to stack.

*(Note: DM-given inspiration, not bardic inspiration.)
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
I'm not aware of anything official for 5e, although I'm pretty sure I've seen a D&D clone that does something like this (I don't recall which).

A simple option would be to toss a d6 along with the d20. On a 1, something bad happens, on a 6 something good happens (irrespective of the outcome of the d20).

There are other approaches you could take if you want to get fiddly with it, but at that point you'd probably be better served by a system that has this built in. I also wouldn't use it for every roll, such as combat. But I think it could make something like a skill challenge more dynamic.
I'd be cautious about even using a d6 for this - by that system you'd have a complication showing up on average every two rolls (2/3 chance of no comp. times 2/3 = 4/9).

I would suggest starting with 1 and 20 on a d20 having external effects on non-attack rolls and seeing if that's enough to cause the desired result.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I'd be cautious about even using a d6 for this - by that system you'd have a complication showing up on average every two rolls (2/3 chance of no comp. times 2/3 = 4/9).

I would suggest starting with 1 and 20 on a d20 having external effects on non-attack rolls and seeing if that's enough to cause the desired result.
As I see it, if it's that rare why have it at all? The odds of a bad complication are only 1 in 6, while a good "complication" are also 1 in 6. These wouldn't affect the success or failure of the roll, but rather would simply add a little embellishment to the scene.

Perhaps a d6 is a bit much (1 in 3 rolls will have something extra happen) but I don't think I'd go higher than a d10. I think the point of using such a system is that you want these little additions to happen with some frequency. If you use a d20, not only do you have to distinguish it somehow from the actual check (which may also have advantage), but it's also going to be fairly infrequent. Having the player roll an extra die for something that happens quite rarely seems like adding more complexity than what you'll gain from it. IMO, of course.
 


Laurefindel

Adventurer
I'd be cautious about even using a d6 for this - by that system you'd have a complication showing up on average every two rolls
To be fair however, that’s about the probability of advantage/threats to show-up on a roll in the source material cited in the OP.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
Narrative Authority can be a great way of collaborative storytelling. I've played games like Other Worlds and Thousand Suns that allow it when linked to key words (in the case of Other Worlds the characters are made up entirely from key words.

You could just use inspiration linked to the characters personality traits and background, or give each player one extra key word/phrase equal to their proficiency bonus. Then once per session, if they have inspiration they can tweak the narrative in ways related to any of those.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
As I see it, if it's that rare why have it at all? The odds of a bad complication are only 1 in 6, while a good "complication" are also 1 in 6. These wouldn't affect the success or failure of the roll, but rather would simply add a little embellishment to the scene.

Perhaps a d6 is a bit much (1 in 3 rolls will have something extra happen) but I don't think I'd go higher than a d10. I think the point of using such a system is that you want these little additions to happen with some frequency. If you use a d20, not only do you have to distinguish it somehow from the actual check (which may also have advantage), but it's also going to be fairly infrequent. Having the player roll an extra die for something that happens quite rarely seems like adding more complexity than what you'll gain from it. IMO, of course.
The wild die in West End Games’ Star Wars was a d6, 1 being a Complication, and it was rolled inside a dice pool. I found those odds too high. Maybe it would work better if you only roll the d6 on a failed chance, so it would never ruin a success. If a 6 is rolled, maybe it could be a success with complication.

Just a thought.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
The wild die in West End Games’ Star Wars was a d6, 1 being a Complication, and it was rolled inside a dice pool. I found those odds too high. Maybe it would work better if you only roll the d6 on a failed chance, so it would never ruin a success. If a 6 is rolled, maybe it could be a success with complication.

Just a thought.
I think the charm of a system like this is that you can have something good on a failure, or something bad on a success (as well as something good on a success, or something bad on a failure). Otherwise, you can easily just use natural 1 (crit fail) and natural 20 (crit success).

I used to be familiar with WEG SW but it's admittedly been a few years since I last looked at it, and I don't really recall the mechanic. I was thinking roughly along the lines of FFG's Star Wars games, but much simpler (a more complex version of this is basically the core mechanic of those games).

Basically, when you succeed but get a bad complication, you succeed but maybe not perfectly, or you succeed but something bad happens. When you fail but get a good complication, you still fail but maybe not completely, or you fail but something good still happens. It can't ruin a success or redeem a failure, but it can offset them a bit.
 

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