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What are your favourite single game mechanics?

Morrus

Administrator
Staff member
Occasionally a game mechanic jumps out at me, and makes me think "wow!" -- it's not always brand new, and sometimes it builds on something else, or sometimes it's just new to me, but I like it when a simple mechanic catches my eye. Here's a couple of my favourites:

  • D&D's advantage/disadvantage is a really elegant way to replace all those fiddly bonuses. It's one of my favourite things about 5E.
  • 13th Age is full of things; I love the way backgrounds replace all those skills and stuff. (Escalation die comes in a close second).
  • I'd like to nominate my own countdown dice mechanic from WOIN - roll a dice pool and remove any 6s until there are none left. Great for tension!
What are yours?
 
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monsmord

Explorer
The Fate Chips as presented in original Deadlands. It was my first encounter with a mechanic allowing players to modify a situation (or potentially countermand a GM's call) beyond the regular roll of dice, and felt nicely balanced, fair, and limited.
 

Saelorn

Explorer
I really like Hit Points as a simple, abstract measurement of health. I like how it avoids the death spiral of accumulating penalties, giving the underdog a real chance to fight back in a losing situation; while simultaneously providing an extremely visible and understandable metric for how badly you're hurt. The efficiency of that game mechanic - the amount of work it does, relative to the amount of work required to use it - is off-the-charts.

I'm sure I'll think of something more unique later on, but that one deserves mention above all.
 

Arilyn

Explorer
I like many things from 13th Age as well, including backgrounds, one unique thing and the escalation die.

From Fate, definitely aspects.

The investigative system in Gumshoe games.

The character system in Robin D. Laws HeroQuest.

And the passions in Pendragon
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
D&D has a rule that prevents dungeon masters from killing Vin Diesel's character, which is pretty badass.

And +1 for WOIN's countdowns. I've been wanting to use it for bow ammunition, but haven't got around to it yet.
 

Jer

Explorer
A lot of my favorite 13th age mechanics are already mentioned, so here's another one: you get two ability bonuses during character creation, but only one comes from your race. The other comes from your class (and it can't be the same as the one you picked from your race - you choose between two). This little change actually open up a lot of room for players and I love it.

I also think Fate compels are a great mechanic (once I figured them out - I don't know why something fairly simple was hard to wrap my head around - it took Steve Kenson's explanation in Icons before it clicked for me as a GM how to make it work.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
WoD d10 threshold dice pools.

2d20 threshold dice pools plus roll under plus difficulty as successes.

Mutants and Masterminds damage/effect saves snd tiers of effect.

5e advantage/disadvantage and default fail to "some progress with setback" in the definition of fail.

FASERIP stunts
 
Helping each other as a Reaction / Immediate action.

I think I originally saw this in the Bad Axe Games supplement for D&D 3.5, Trailblazer. Taking the Aid Another action and changing it from a Standard action to an action that you can do on someone else's turn. This allows one player to help out another player without giving up their own ability to act, and makes combats seem much more cooperative.

I have since ported the thing over to my own home-brew game and slotted it into a Tactics skill (as well as into a couple of other places) that allows the players to help each other out on all sorts of things both in combat and out of it.
 
I totally agree. As much as it’s super-abstract, I still prefer it to systems that have you take increasing penalties as you get injured. It’s completely elegant in its simplicity.

I’ll add Shadowrun Anarchy’s Glitch Die mechanic. You don’t have to use it, but it’s a gamble if you do – your action could be wildly successful, or go totally off-rails, depending on this single die. I much prefer this to the traditional glitch mechanic.

Tunnels & Trolls’ DARO/TARO rule (doubles/triples always roll over). The simple exploding dice mechanic means there’s always a chance. In general, I think the simplicity of T&T’s mechanics, and how early they came about, deserves more recognition.

I really like Hit Points as a simple, abstract measurement of health. I like how it avoids the death spiral of accumulating penalties...deserves mention above all.
 
Stunts from Exalted and Scion (plus, probably, several other games I've never played). Basically the rule is if you say more than just "I attack" then you get a bonus. The better your description, the better the bonus.

Also from those two games (and lots of others): limited player control over the world. Don't ask me if there's a chandelier to swing from in the ballroom, how high it is, if it's heavy enough to hold you, etc. Just tell me you swing from it and enjoy your bonus dice for a cool description. :)
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
  • D&D's advantage/disadvantage is a really elegant way to replace all those fiddly bonuses. It's one of my favourite things about 5E.

From what I have heard...perhaps apocryphally...MM got the idea for that from The One Ring. (Although it's worth pointing out that the mechanic doesn't actually have a name in TOR, it's just spelled out wherever it's used. E.g., "Roll the Feat die twice and take the better result.")

But, yeah, I really like that mechanic, too. Although it's not just the mechanic itself that I like, it's the way it explicitly replaces summing up various positive and negative modifiers.

But, um, I'm supposed to pick a mechanic I like, so I'll go with:

The way that "Success, with Complications" in Dungeon World works.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
1) Success Chart from Talislanta 5E. Instead of base 10 + blah and hit target number, it is a chart of Critical Failure, Failure, Partial Success, Success, and Critical Success. Pathfinder 2 has vaguely borrowed from this with their 'Crit on DC+10 or more' system, which is awesome.

2) I'll second the 'Stunt' system from Exalted. Quick but vivid descriptions other than 'I swing my sword!' getting bonuses has been used ever since I first played that game, and we take it to every system we play now.

3) Action Points from D&D 3.5 (Eberron). I love the 'X per Level' approach, and that you can not only spend these to take extra actions or gain a dice bonus to a roll, but there were a ton of feats based around improving these. I really enjoyed them, and have also incorporated those into many games I've played.
 

Tony Vargas

Villager
From what I have heard...perhaps apocryphally...MM got the idea for that from The One Ring. (Although it's worth pointing out that the mechanic doesn't actually have a name in TOR, it's just spelled out wherever it's used. E.g., "Roll the Feat die twice and take the better result.")
Sounds plausible (that he'd like a mechanic like that), 4e had a lotta* re-rolls, from the notorious Elven Accuracy on, and it seemed like there were just more of 'em after he took over. In particular, the Avenger had a special ability that was "make two attack rolls and use either result. … If another effect lets you roll twice and use the higher result when making an attack roll, this power has no effect on that attack." Quite likely lifted from the same source of inspiration as Advantage, since it has both the roll-twice & the non-stacking features.

But, yeah, I really like that mechanic, too. Although it's not just the mechanic itself that I like, it's the way it explicitly replaces summing up various positive and negative modifiers.
Replacing or consolidating modifiers into something simple and non-stacking seems like a good idea. It's happened several times, then, more modifiers get added, and it's needed again. ;)

As long as they can resist letting Advantage stack, or adding more +dice mechanics like Bless, though...

The way that "Success, with Complications" in Dungeon World works.
::thumbsup::












*I was going to say "...lousy with..." but I had an odd premonition that might get snipped and go into a sig. ;)
 
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billd91

Earl of Cornbread
From Mutants and Masterminds
- Alternative Effects: they're cheap variations on a power that can generally only be activated one at a time - most often for alternate means of attack from a broadly defined power

- Extra Effort: for the cost of a bit of fatigue, a hero can push his powers, move farther, gain an extra action or, and perhaps most importantly, perform a power stunt which is an alternative effect that isn't already defined on your character. Didn't buy your optic blast with an area effect wide angle? Use extra effort and you can do it in a pinch when you realize you have a need for it.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
3) Action Points from D&D 3.5 (Eberron). I love the 'X per Level' approach, and that you can not only spend these to take extra actions or gain a dice bonus to a roll, but there were a ton of feats based around improving these. I really enjoyed them, and have also incorporated those into many games I've played.
Okay, yep, changing my answer. Action Points inspired my version of Hero Points, because what can't you do with action points? Well, extra actions was pushing it a little bit, but still, so much potential there.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Based on something pemerton wrote, I decided to check out Dying Earth. And I really like the Overarching Rule of Efficacious Blandishment.

"The overarching rule of efficacious blandishment states that a character who tries to do something outside the letter of the game’s other rules may do so, provided that the player convinces the GM that this action falls within the spirit of the story. Thus the only true circumscriptions on your actions are maintained by the twin poles of your persuasiveness and your GM’s gullibility."

That works for me. It's sort of the anti-Rules Lawyer provision; don't try and convince me what you think the rule is, convince me that the rule should be broken. :)
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
Fate's Aspects
Fate Accelerated's Approaches

and I just tried Forbidden Lands and like the Attribute Damage mechanic (although it does make Combat fatal)
 
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Aldarc

Explorer
Some of my favorites:

* Aspects (Fate)

* Fate Points (Fate): notably saw less cheating with rolls from players and less compulsion to "fudge/cheat" my GM rolls.

* Success with a Complication (e.g., Fate, Apocalypse World, Blades in the Dark)

* Countdown Clocks (Blades in the Dark)

* Single-Room Difficulty Class (Index Card RPG): less mechanic and more encounter design

* GM Intrusions (Cypher System): similar to Fate's compels

* Stunt Points (Dragon Age, Fantasy Age): roll 3d6, doubles on rolls generate Stunt points equal to the value of the off-colored stunt die that a player can spend on various cool things

* One Unique Thing (13th Age)
 

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