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What are your favourite single game mechanics?

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I'll echo "stunt points" mentioned above from the AGE system. I was introduced to the mechanic with The Expanse.

I also like "fortune" in The Expanse. I think this also comes from the AGE system. Basically, you have an amount of fortune points that refresh after an "interlude" (kinda a mix of an extended long rest and downtime) and you get more as you level up. You can spend fortune points to make a d6 have the number you want by spending the number of fortune points to make it that higher number (e.g., spend 2 FPs to change a 4 into a 6.

I also like the "Churn" concept in The Expanse. Basically you have a "churn pool" that starts a "0" at the beginning of an adventure. It goes up when someone rolls a 6 on their drama die, a character spends 4 or more stunt points to perform a stunt, the characters successfully overcome an encounter or hazard-or complete a section of the adventure, or a character spends a Fortune Point to alter die roll. It goes up to 30 with a minor complication/setback occurring when the churn pool reaches "10", a major setback when it reaches "20" and an epic when it reaches "30" (after which it resets to 0).

Churn is a helpful mechanic to increase the stakes and narrative tension and to create plot climaxes.
 
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Blue

Orcus on a bad day
2d20 threshold dice pools plus roll under plus difficulty as successes.

Mutants and Masterminds damage/effect saves snd tiers of effect.
Sorry, I'm not familiar with those two. Can you expand a bit?

Thanks.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Sorry, I'm not familiar with those two. Can you expand a bit?

Thanks.
Not sure on 2d20 mechanic.

Mutants and Masterminds. Basically if you roll a save and get a fail by between 1 and 4 less ( less than the DC DC 19 you get say 17 total) you get the minimum possible bad effect. If its between 5 and 9 below the target, you get a slightly worse effect, so and so on. Damage starts with a -1 to your next roll to resist damage (and this penalty accumulates with every failed save, regardless if its as by 1 or 20), and tops out at dead/KO'd if I'm remembering correctly by failing a save by 15 or more.

For example Captain Heropants is attacked by the Evilshirt. Captain Heropants rolls his damage save against a DC of lets say 23. He gets a total of 19, that's 4 less than 23 so his next roll against damage has a -1 penalty.

Next round Captain Heropants has to save again, but Evilshirt got a critical so that a +5 to the DC, so now its DC 28. Captain Heropaints rolls his bonuses, get a 19 total, but wait its -1 from last time. So he failed by 10, which results in three degrees of failure (1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15+) and is now Stunned and get another -1 penalty. Things are looking grim for Captain Heropants.

This applies other things as well. For example the multiattack effect works on high levels of attack bonus resulting in increased damage. So if Magnum Machinegun (he's the bad guy) shoots at Captain Heropants he rolls an attack vs Captain Heropants' relevant defense score. If the attack roll beats Captain Heropants' defense by degrees of success MM gets to increase the DC of the save Captain Heropants has to succeed on to avoid the damage. One degree is no bonus, two degrees is +2, and three degrees is +5 in M&M 3E. Previous editions had the same idea, but different values.

Other effects like tripping, the Affliction condition (which is really a whole bunch of stuff) works on degrees of success/failure to determine what happens and by how much.
 
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Elfcrusher

Explorer
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. :)
Sounds to me like just a high-fallutin' way of saying "Rule of Cool".
 

Saelorn

Explorer
If we're talking about dice mechanics, I remember hearing about one game that used a (1d6 x stat) method of resolving actions. Your stats would go between 1 and 6, and you multiply the value of the relevant stat by the outcome of 1d6, and try to score higher than your opponent who's doing the same. This method has a lot of interesting properties:
  • The outcome is always uncertain. No matter how low your stat is, or how strong your opponent is, you have at least a 1/36 chance of matching them.
  • Stats are small, so each increment is meaningful. A stat can only go up to 6, so going from 3 to 4 seems like a big deal.
  • At the same time, high stats offer diminishing returns. Going from a 5 to a 6 will only increase your check result by 20%, while going from 1 to 2 is a 100% increase.

It's really just a very efficient bit of game design. It does a lot, with very little effort.

As a runner-up for dice mechanics, I would go with the version of Advantage/Disadvantage from more than one percentile game: Roll 2d10, and determine which is the tens digit based on whether you have Advantage or Disadvantage. If it's a roll-low system, then Advantage means that the lower die result becomes the tens digit, and Disadvantage means that the higher die becomes the tens digit. (Reverse those if it's a roll-high system.)
 

Wightbred

Explorer
Based on something pemerton wrote, I decided to check out Dying Earth. And I really like the Overarching Rule of Efficacious Blandishment.
Another genius Robin D Laws idea: insightful, practical and written in a way appropriately for the game.

I also love the dice mechanic for Dying Earth for the same reason. If you want to do something, just roll 1d6 read the result of the roll to see what happens, but spend resources (based on stats) to roll again if you are not happy. It keeps you in the fiction more readily than any other random mechanic I’ve seen, as you don’t need to do any addition, compare any numbers or check your skills or stats on your character sheet unless you aren’t happy. Planning to use it for a PbtA / FbL hack I’m doing.

I also love the Wrath Die mechanic from Wrath and Glory (1 is complication, 6 is critical) as the simplest way to get complications into a dice pool system. In particular I like that the GM can just take a point of Ruin (a resource to power enemies) if no immediate complication comes to mind.
 
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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
DM determining when a check is called for. Likely in a ton of game but it's opened up a whole new world for me.
Sorry for my ignorance, but was that not the case in other editions of D&D?

I played 1e in the 80s and I don't have the 1e DMG anymore, so I'm not sure if it was a rule that the DM called for rolls, but I recall playing that way. Or maybe my memory is being shaped by my recent experiences with 5e. I never played 2nd though 4th edition.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
Many of mine have already been said so rather then repeat I'll move on to the next tier:

Marvel Heroic Roleplay (and presumably other Cortex games) of using your narrative to build your dice pool from separate sets of possibilities, and being able to target/take damage besides just physical.

Another MHR that XP unlocks cool things, not makes you more powerful in your main abilities. You are a competent hero to start. This breaks the mold of advancement of many games.

Blades in the Dark having recovery based on following your vices during downtime. (I guess MHR does this to a limited degree with recovery during transition scenes, but I like the vice-specific focus.)

Don't Rest Your Head dice pools made of different color dice depending on where you are adding it from, and the source of the highest die is very important.

13th Age ... whew, so many good 13th Age points have already been posted, I just want to mention weapon & armor by class and type and skin it how you want. So you there are no sub-optimal weapons/armor and you can describe what fits your concept. For example, all 1H martial weapons do the same damage for a particular character.

Effect first, then skin. Champions (now Hero) was the origin of this for me, with building super powers based on what they do and then adding special effects onto it. It has a whole bunch of classic types of powers stripped of special effects, such as Energy Blast instead of Laser Beams, Fire Burst, Ice Needles, Rockets, etc. You have advantages and disadvantages you can add on. That's it for the math. Skinning it is next. So you can cover a huge amount of super powers (or magic, or advance tech, or ...) with a base selection.

Recovery based on roleplay. I think I first saw this back in the early 90s with World of Darkness. Everyone had a exterior face and private face picked from a list, and you recovered based on RP that matched either of them. This concept doesn't have to be just recovery, Fate compels are a similar concept and that's to get plot currency.
 

dregntael

Villager
One of my favourite mechanics are the Darkness Points from Coriolis (there's also a similar mechanic in the Metal Adventures rpg). Basically, the players can choose to improve their chances at certain actions, but in exchange the GM gets some darkness points that they can spend at some later point to create various negative effects for the players. IME this creates a really interesting tradeoff for the players to choose between getting a much-needed boost now but not knowing what effects it will have in the long run.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Many of mine have already been said so rather then repeat I'll move on to the next tier:

Marvel Heroic Roleplay (and presumably other Cortex games) of using your narrative to build your dice pool from separate sets of possibilities, and being able to target/take damage besides just physical.

Another MHR that XP unlocks cool things, not makes you more powerful in your main abilities. You are a competent hero to start. This breaks the mold of advancement of many games.

Blades in the Dark having recovery based on following your vices during downtime. (I guess MHR does this to a limited degree with recovery during transition scenes, but I like the vice-specific focus.)

Don't Rest Your Head dice pools made of different color dice depending on where you are adding it from, and the source of the highest die is very important.

13th Age ... whew, so many good 13th Age points have already been posted, I just want to mention weapon & armor by class and type and skin it how you want. So you there are no sub-optimal weapons/armor and you can describe what fits your concept. For example, all 1H martial weapons do the same damage for a particular character.

Effect first, then skin. Champions (now Hero) was the origin of this for me, with building super powers based on what they do and then adding special effects onto it. It has a whole bunch of classic types of powers stripped of special effects, such as Energy Blast instead of Laser Beams, Fire Burst, Ice Needles, Rockets, etc. You have advantages and disadvantages you can add on. That's it for the math. Skinning it is next. So you can cover a huge amount of super powers (or magic, or advance tech, or ...) with a base selection.

Recovery based on roleplay. I think I first saw this back in the early 90s with World of Darkness. Everyone had a exterior face and private face picked from a list, and you recovered based on RP that matched either of them. This concept doesn't have to be just recovery, Fate compels are a similar concept and that's to get plot currency.
Erm, "single" game mechanics.

So I'm changing my answer again. In Trevor's Quest, you don't have to roll to see if you hit Dracula's minions; you just roll damage. If you're using a weapon that allows an extra attack before the minion reaches you (like the whip or boomerang), you can roll that (those) damage at the same time. You can kill off weak minions quickly this way, or leave yourself open to attack from tougher ones.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
From newer products I love the Corruption mechanic from Urban Shadows. Sort of like the darkness points mentioned above, characters take on corruption points for advantage in the moment but with the eventual result of turning into a monster when they accrue to many.
 

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
What are yours?
Some of mine are already mentioned so I'll get those out of the way (heh):

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.
Love, love, love how this got rid of all those piddly modifiers. I know other games have done similar things, but this was my first massive exposure to the mechanic.

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
I really like this one as it give each round something new and interesting.

One of the chief complaints I hear about the AGE system is that "hitting" the target becomes ridiculously easy as the characters advance in level. My own players, when I was learning the system a while back, really complained about it. But the 3d6 roll really isn't so much a "To Hit" Roll as it is a "Generate Stunt Points" Roll. Once we overcame that hurdle, the game really clicked for us and took off like a shot. (Unfortunately, the campaign and group died because of everyone's Real Life intruding.)

I also like "fortune" in The Expanse.
I really like Hit Points as a simple, abstract measurement of health.
These two are quite similar in outcome and I really like it. As I've mentioned elsewhere many times, I am a huge fan of Savage Worlds, but the "death spiral" can be a bit trying at times. So much so that I've just stopped playing it for other games that don't have that. I like the "unrealistic" feel of watching the points drop until the character drops while maintaining the effectiveness of the character until that pivotal moment. I didn't think I did, until I left SW to return to D&D5e. It was at that moment that I realized just what I didn't completely like about SW (I still love SW!)

And now for my new one:

13th Age Escalation Die. I use this or a variation of this mechanic in every game I run. Sometimes I have to tweak the numbers such as:

  • In 5e, I have the bonus advance by one every 2 rounds, so Round 1 = 0, Round 2 & 3 = +1, Round 4 & 5 = +2 and Round 6+ = +3.
  • In the AGE system, it adds to Stunt Points generated by the 3d6 roll, so Round 1 = 0 extra SP, Round 2 = +1 SP, Round 3 = +2 SP, etc. This both speeds up combat as Characters can start landing combinations of stunts as the round progresses which also shortens the round (ie., the possibility of combining Lethal Blows (5 SP) and Mighty Blows (2 SP) along with Pierce Armor (2 SP) if they make it to Round 6) and seems to decrease Decision Paralysis because the Players no longer are looking for that one stunt that'll Be Awesome since they can pick more than one stunt which also decreases the real time of each Player's Turn.
  • And so on
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
I really like this one as it give each round something new and interesting.

One of the chief complaints I hear about the AGE system is that "hitting" the target becomes ridiculously easy as the characters advance in level. My own players, when I was learning the system a while back, really complained about it. But the 3d6 roll really isn't so much a "To Hit" Roll as it is a "Generate Stunt Points" Roll. Once we overcame that hurdle, the game really clicked for us and took off like a shot. (Unfortunately, the campaign and group died because of everyone's Real Life intruding.)
There are certainly ways to adjust these things though, if "hitting" becomes too easy. I believe that the Fantasy AGE Companion provides some alternate rules (especially to address the oft-cited problem of HP bloat) and there is the upcoming Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder.

That said, the Stunt points are fun. They add both additional chaos and tactical choice to combat. Plus, players in my campaigns were engaged with each roll with the prospect of rolling doubles and doing cool things.
 

GrahamWills

Registered User
Disclaimer: Favorite is not quite the same as best.


  • Passions in King Arthur Pendragon. Simple, evocative way of ensuring that your character does stupid things in a way that is fun for all
  • Preparedness skill in GUMSHOE. Particularly for Night's Black Agents, it allows players to get to the action with only as much pre-planning as is fun for them, and smooths over disagreements about what a character "would obviously have brought with them" on a given mission
  • Colored Paper-clips indicating wounds in Classic Deadlands. As a DM, watching players slide them over their character sheet edges when they get hit with 3d20 dynamite is very satisfying. Players can also quickly look at other people's sheets and see how hurt they are.
  • Drawing a Poker Hand for Magic spell effectiveness in Classic Deadlands. Never has any mechanism felt more evocative than this. Its extreme randomness also makes magic feel highly unpredictable and irrational. Love it.
  • Critical Tables in MERP/Rolemaster. When a players rolls her D100 on an 'E' crit table, no-one at the table is doing anything except waiting in anticipation.
  • Montage Scenes as presented in 13th Age. Not new to 13A, and the many other 13A innovations are awesome, and definitely better -- but montage scenes have always generated fun and are a great way to have shyer players get into the roleplaying aspect ("so, <other character> decided the best way to avoid the heavy rainstorm was to open a portal to hell and dry off there. There's a group of flying bat-winged creatures vomiting fire and heading towards you. How do you handle this?")
  • Skill Challenges in D&D 4E. As originally presented they worked poorly, but later improvements really made a difference at Living Campaign events -- they provided a great framework for the sorts of scenes that pre-4E versions of the game had no support for and made all players care about skill that weren't just perception and diplomacy.
 
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Joss points from Dangerous Journeys.
D&D's advantage/disadvantage.
Crit Tables (would never use them now; too cumbersome and crazy) from MERP and Rolemaster.
 

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