Dice Modifiers – Edge, Advantage, and Desperation

Welcome back to the Let Thrones Beware design blog. This week, we’re taking a look at how the universal challenge mechanic uses a few different systems as modifiers. Last week’s blog answered a number of community questions about how the mechanic works. If you haven’t read it, you can find that here.

Dice Modifiers

One thing that I really wanted to be sure of in designing Let Thrones Beware was that there were as few fiddly modifiers as possible. Too many games of my youth had a billion different pluses and minuses to track. To make matters worse, designers would purposefully limit the compatibility of  bonuses in an attempt to make sure that characters wouldn’t be too powerful.
Recently, there’s been a lot of great innovation in this space. Some designers have adopted dice pools, giving us games like Burning Wheel, Legend of the Five Rings, and Blades in the Dark. Others have attempted to simplify the number of modifiers, giving us 13th Age and D&D 5th Edition. Still others have introduced novel new mechanics, like Shadow of the Demon Lord’s great bane/boon system.


Desperation is the first modifier mechanic we meet today. It’s active in every challenge the heroes undertake. Beginning at Composed (+1), Desperation climbs each round until it reaches Frantic (+4). Modelling how frenetic the challenge becomes, the role of this mechanic is several-fold.
First, Desperation interacts with Edge to provide the heroes with a source of enhancements to their rolls. Whenever a hero gains an Edge, they add the Desperation value to their Force Score. Conversely, when they lose an Edge, they subtract it. This is
Second, Desperation gives adversaries their combat AI. Each adversary type (Minion, Standard, and Commander), and category (Bandit, Militia, Condemned, etc) have behaviours which are triggered at certain Desperation levels. A group of militia foot will start combat in closely-ordered formations, but will break apart as Desperation grows, for example. These behaviours are just recommendations, but using them will provide each different adversary with a distinct personality.
Third, Desperation modifies the powers used by enemy adversaries. As the stakes grow higher and the heroes persist through combat, enemies will begin to use more and more powerful attacks. A brigand knife may open a fight firing arrows at a single target, but by the time Desperation reaches Panicked (+3) and shes’ grown worried about the battle, she’ll switch to using alchemical grenades that ignite entire areas.


The second modifier is Edge, which is gained when a hero has a temporary situational bonus (or penalty). It can be secured from a great many things. Examples include cooperating with an ally to flank an opponent in combat (yes, this means that positioning in combat is important), having appropriate repertoire for a non-combat challenge. Additionally, a number of  powers possessed by different classes and backgrounds provide Edge when used.  Unlike heroes, adversaries have a predetermined, set value for Edge when they gain it. In exchange, as the number of rounds in a challenge climb, enemies begin to hit harder and harder.
As mentioned above, Edge keys of the Desperation value, which means that it’s less valuable at the beginning of an encounter than it is at the end. This is important for a couple reasons – first, while cooperation is always important, it becomes even moreso towards the end of an encounter. Second, the escalation of values means that fights reliably end in the third or fourth combat round. This helps ensure that a battle doesn’t take hours and hours to resolve.


The last modifier is Advantage (and Disadvantage). Relatively harder to come by, Advantage directly affects your dice. Always applied in the next round (i.e. a hero never gains Advantage in the current round), this mechanic boosts your Tier Dice. A hero with Advantage rolls 2d8 rather than 2d6, while a Legend with Advantage will roll a weighty 2d12. Certain terrifying situations could result in Disadvantage, which decreases your dice in the same way. Yes, that means that an unlucky hero could be forced to roll 2d4!
In designing Advantage, I wanted to achieve a system that felt meaningful and allowed heroes to punch above their weight. The act of swapping out dice provides a concrete heft, and a hero who is rolling above his or her tier in a challenge becomes a real force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

Next Week

That’s it for the dice modifiers of Let Thrones Beware! As you can see, there’s not a lot of complicated fiddly bits to keep track of here. The design goal of “no million +1s” is neatly achieved. Next week, we’ll continue our examination of the challenge mechanic by taking a look at how it’s used in combat.


Try Let Thrones Beware for Yourself

As always, you can download the playtest packet and try it for yourself. Visit drivethrurpg to download the beta and introductory adventure for free.


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