Dice pools for damage too?

Sacrosanct

Legend
Many of us know or are familiar with dice pool systems. Most cases, the dice pools are used to making checks (ability checks, attacks, etc.) I can only think of one where quasi-pools are used for damage, and that's exploding dice (like WFRP). I'm sure there are others. But why don't we see more of it?

Had a really interesting playtest for GEAS on Saturday and this question came up. For context, all skill checks/attacks are dice pool based, kinda like RISK. You roll your pool and compare your highest die against the highest die of your opponent (or static target #). If you're higher, you win. The # and type of dice in your pool is based on experience, skill, magic, etc. So a novice PC might have 2d6 in their pool while an experienced adventurer may have 3d8 or 2d10.

We thought about instead of rolling normal damage, you use dice pools for that too. Since two of the top goals of GEAS is a) use the same mechanic whenever possible to reduce complexity, and b) get rid of math during combat as much as possible (no more applying modifiers), it was an interesting idea.

How it works
Every attack (spell, weapon, or anything doing damage) has a # of dice in a weapon damage pool (call it WDP). Then you've also got another pool for any bonus damage (BDP). This would be for things like sneak attack, boosted spells, etc. Light weapons would have 1 dice, medium would have 2, and heavy would have 3. The type of die is based on profession. Warriors would use a d10 while others might use a d8 to reflect how warriors are better trained with weapons.

Let's say you hit with an attack with a longsword (medium weapon). You roll 2d10 and take the highest. That's your damage. So instead of adding modifiers, you increase the # of dice which increases your chances of getting that higher damage total. Same basic effect without the math. If you have bonus dice in your BDP, you roll those too. This is where the math does come in, because you add the two highest die together from each pool.

But you're still capped at the max die amount, right?
I can hear the question, "But with modifiers, you can get a fixed bonus damage that's really nice to have, and with how you describe it, no matter how skilled you are or what magic you have, you are still capped at the die's max result." That is true, technically, but we also have a trade-in mechanic. For any dice pool roll (ability checks, attacks, damage, etc.), you can trade in any 2 dice for 1 dice of the next highest amount. 2d6 becomes 1d8, etc. So you can choose to trade in dice to get a chance at a higher result. This is how gaining multiple bonuses can be used to increase damage beyond the normal weapon's max amount to be comparable to adding modifiers without actually doing the math to add those modifiers together.

But wait, there's more!
I mentioned how dice pool works above (beating the target #). However, for every die in your pool that beats the target number beyond the first, you add an additional die to your WDP. These additional successes give you the opportunity to do better damage.

What it looks like in play
Basic example:
We've got Jo. Jo is a warrior, so they use a d10 for their core dice type (HP, damage, etc.). Jo is attacking with a greatsword (3 CD damage) and is pretty skilled (their attacking dice pool is 3d8). Jo attacks, rolling 3d8 (7, 4, 2). The orc defends using 2d6 (5, 2). Jo's highest die beats the orc's highest die, so the attack hits. Jo rolls 3d10 (9, 5, 3) and chooses the 9. The orc suffers 9 points of damage. (In gameplay this has been pretty speedy to resolve combat turns).

Complex example:
Jo has learned a cleave maneuver, which adds 1 CD to their BDP. Jo rolls their attack 3d8 (8, 6, 2). The orc rolls 2d6 (1,1). All three of Jo's dice beat the orc's highest die, so there are 3 successes, adding 2 CD of damage dice to Jo's WDP (one for each success beyond the first). Jo's WDP is now 5d10. Jo decides to trade in 4d10 to make those 2d12, then trades in those 2d12 to make 1d20. Jo's final WDP is 1d20 and 1d10 (the left over d10). Jo rolls a 15 and 2. Jo also rolls 1d10 for their BDP (because of cleave), getting a 6. Choosing the 15 from WDP and 6 from BDP, Jo inflicts 21 points of damage.

So if you succeed by a lot (consider it a critical hit), you can still do quite a bit of damage. And you're more likely to get crits against easier opponents, which I like narratively. I never really liked 1 out 20 chance for a crit no matter how powerful you are (champions excluded).

Want more flexibility?
Oh, but it gets even wilder when you start to think about it. You can also trade down. So if you are a higher level PC and you're going against mooks (who have low dice pools), you can trade in your dice to get more dice of a lower type. Let's say your dice pool is 2d20. And you want to fireball a group of mooks (2d6). You decide to trade in those 2d20 for 4d12, and then again to 8d10, hoping to get more successes than you would with 2d20, because you know more successes means more dice in your WDP, which can then be traded up for higher damage totals. In playtests so far, the trading mechanic gives a lot of control to the PCs on how to weight risk vs reward.

Back to the Point
Which is, dice pools for damage. The more we talk about it, and more we play with it, the more I think I like it over static damage dice + modifiers. Thoughts?

As an aside, as I'm writing this post, I've realized I'm turning into @Snarf Zagyg ...
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Although I'm not a dice pool kind of guy (kind of they?) . . . I have to wonder if the trading-dice system is beneficial as written. 2 chances to roll a 6 versus 1 chance to roll a 6, 7 or 8? Seems pretty good, since odds of getting a 6 from 2d6 are 11/36 or a hair under 1/3, while odds off rolling 6 or better of the trade-in are 3/8 or a couple of hairs over 1/3. However, odds of rolling bare minimum on 2d6 are 2.8%, while odds of a 1 on 1d8 are 12.5%...
 

aramis erak

Legend
Many of us know or are familiar with dice pool systems. Most cases, the dice pools are used to making checks (ability checks, attacks, etc.) I can only think of one where quasi-pools are used for damage, and that's exploding dice (like WFRP). I'm sure there are others. But why don't we see more of it?

Had a really interesting playtest for GEAS on Saturday and this question came up. For context, all skill checks/attacks are dice pool based, kinda like RISK. You roll your pool and compare your highest die against the highest die of your opponent (or static target #). If you're higher, you win. The # and type of dice in your pool is based on experience, skill, magic, etc. So a novice PC might have 2d6 in their pool while an experienced adventurer may have 3d8 or 2d10.

We thought about instead of rolling normal damage, you use dice pools for that too. Since two of the top goals of GEAS is a) use the same mechanic whenever possible to reduce complexity, and b) get rid of math during combat as much as possible (no more applying modifiers), it was an interesting idea.

How it works
Every attack (spell, weapon, or anything doing damage) has a # of dice in a weapon damage pool (call it WDP). Then you've also got another pool for any bonus damage (BDP). This would be for things like sneak attack, boosted spells, etc. Light weapons would have 1 dice, medium would have 2, and heavy would have 3. The type of die is based on profession. Warriors would use a d10 while others might use a d8 to reflect how warriors are better trained with weapons.

Let's say you hit with an attack with a longsword (medium weapon). You roll 2d10 and take the highest. That's your damage. So instead of adding modifiers, you increase the # of dice which increases your chances of getting that higher damage total. Same basic effect without the math. If you have bonus dice in your BDP, you roll those too. This is where the math does come in, because you add the two highest die together from each pool.

But you're still capped at the max die amount, right?
I can hear the question, "But with modifiers, you can get a fixed bonus damage that's really nice to have, and with how you describe it, no matter how skilled you are or what magic you have, you are still capped at the die's max result." That is true, technically, but we also have a trade-in mechanic. For any dice pool roll (ability checks, attacks, damage, etc.), you can trade in any 2 dice for 1 dice of the next highest amount. 2d6 becomes 1d8, etc. So you can choose to trade in dice to get a chance at a higher result. This is how gaining multiple bonuses can be used to increase damage beyond the normal weapon's max amount to be comparable to adding modifiers without actually doing the math to add those modifiers together.

But wait, there's more!
I mentioned how dice pool works above (beating the target #). However, for every die in your pool that beats the target number beyond the first, you add an additional die to your WDP. These additional successes give you the opportunity to do better damage.

What it looks like in play
Basic example:
We've got Jo. Jo is a warrior, so they use a d10 for their core dice type (HP, damage, etc.). Jo is attacking with a greatsword (3 CD damage) and is pretty skilled (their attacking dice pool is 3d8). Jo attacks, rolling 3d8 (7, 4, 2). The orc defends using 2d6 (5, 2). Jo's highest die beats the orc's highest die, so the attack hits. Jo rolls 3d10 (9, 5, 3) and chooses the 9. The orc suffers 9 points of damage. (In gameplay this has been pretty speedy to resolve combat turns).

Complex example:
Jo has learned a cleave maneuver, which adds 1 CD to their BDP. Jo rolls their attack 3d8 (8, 6, 2). The orc rolls 2d6 (1,1). All three of Jo's dice beat the orc's highest die, so there are 3 successes, adding 2 CD of damage dice to Jo's WDP (one for each success beyond the first). Jo's WDP is now 5d10. Jo decides to trade in 4d10 to make those 2d12, then trades in those 2d12 to make 1d20. Jo's final WDP is 1d20 and 1d10 (the left over d10). Jo rolls a 15 and 2. Jo also rolls 1d10 for their BDP (because of cleave), getting a 6. Choosing the 15 from WDP and 6 from BDP, Jo inflicts 21 points of damage.

So if you succeed by a lot (consider it a critical hit), you can still do quite a bit of damage. And you're more likely to get crits against easier opponents, which I like narratively. I never really liked 1 out 20 chance for a crit no matter how powerful you are (champions excluded).

Want more flexibility?
Oh, but it gets even wilder when you start to think about it. You can also trade down. So if you are a higher level PC and you're going against mooks (who have low dice pools), you can trade in your dice to get more dice of a lower type. Let's say your dice pool is 2d20. And you want to fireball a group of mooks (2d6). You decide to trade in those 2d20 for 4d12, and then again to 8d10, hoping to get more successes than you would with 2d20, because you know more successes means more dice in your WDP, which can then be traded up for higher damage totals. In playtests so far, the trading mechanic gives a lot of control to the PCs on how to weight risk vs reward.

Back to the Point
Which is, dice pools for damage. The more we talk about it, and more we play with it, the more I think I like it over static damage dice + modifiers. Thoughts?

As an aside, as I'm writing this post, I've realized I'm turning into @Snarf Zagyg ...
You're just re-inventing L5R...
Actually, L5R was roll (att+skill) keep (att) to hit, and roll (weapon + str) keep (weapon's keep score)
But conceptually, it's in the same space.
 

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