Let me begin by explaining something. I’m what’s called “old skool”. By that I mean I’m old. Mid 50’s old. Keep that in mind as you read this post.
I’ve been playing RPG’s since the early 80’s, starting with AD&D 1st Edition. The games I grew up with were often mechanically awkward (THACO, anybody?), crunchy, usually full of typos, and most either contradicted themselves on rules or often completely forgot important rules. It was those quirks that made them fun, even if they were sometimes frustrating.
The modern wave towards more narrative, rules-light systems is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but my world-view really sees heavier, more complicated systems as more enjoyable. As you should be able to tell by this whole site, I love the crunchy mechanical bits of these games the most.
Quite a few posts back, I wrote about the Ubiquity version of one of my all time favorite settings, Space: 1889. Ubiquity is named thus due to their very unique system of dice that can use any types of dice you like, as long as they have an even number of sides. In my opinion, it’s the best system in use for 1889. However, there’s one thing about Ubiquity, at least this particular variation of those rules, that doesn’t work with my mind set of RPG’s. Damage rolls.
I grew up with just about every game having some slight variation on Hit Points and random dice rolls for damage. Sure, it’s fairly unrealistic and quite a bit artificial, but it’s a really hard paradigm to break out of for me. I just like it that way. Ubiquity, however, doesn’t use that. Similar to White Wolf’s New World of Darkness, the number of successes by which the attacker’s roll beats the defender equals the number of points of damage the defender suffers. Usually, various weapon or damage types just add a number of dice to the attackers roll to hit.
The number of points of damage the defender can take is designed to accommodate that range of numbers, usually a small number like less than 10 or so. This works just fine. It’s how these games were designed, and it’s quick, straightforward, and simple to track.
But it leaves me wanting. Since weapons for example only add dice to the attack roll, most have pretty similar ratings. Just about every weapon has a damage rating of between 1 and 4. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that a switchblade knife (1) and a 20-guage shotgun (4) have such a small difference in how much hurt they can inflict on a body.
It gives me joy to roll a ton of dice when calculating damage. Sorry if that’s a bit rude. It’s also why I’m such a fan of the 3rd Edition of Shadowrun.
So what can we do about this? What can we change to make old timers like me happy without destroying the inherent goodness that is Ubiquity? I have an idea… but you probably won’t like it. Pick a freakin’ die type and just go with it. Instead of “any old dice will do”, pick one. If you’ve ever played Shadowrun, you’ve probably got a big old brick full of d6’s. White Wolf more your style? Then pick up your bag of designer d10’s. Tephra’s d12’s? Gotta lotta d20’s? Pick one.
Boom. Half way there. Instead of even or odds, just decide on a set target number, usually about 2/3’s up the scale. 5’s on d6’s, 7 or 8 on a d10, or whatever. At that point, you can still play Ubiquity exactly as written.
However, to go that one step farther, use the as-written damage ratings for the weapons as the number of those dice you decided on. Roll that number of dice, add them up, and then let the GM know just how badly you barely scratched his monster. If you’re me, that is, with my horrible luck at rolling dice.
Yep. I know what you’re saying right now. This adds another dice roll to combat, which is already complicated enough. You’re right. I don’t care. Like I said earlier, I like crunchy, and I like random damage dice rolls. I’m willing to put up with this. If you’re not, you’ve probably already given up reading this post and won’t ever see this paragraph.
Now comes the tricky part. Kinda. You gotta figure out how much damage each type of character or creature can take, and of course that also means more record keeping.
Space: 1889 a la Ubiquity characters have a health rating equal to three different statistics added up, so you’ll have a health on average about 9 or so I think. So roll 9 dice, add them up, and record that as the Health rating. If you think about it, mechanically it’ll work out to about the same amounts of damage.
Only now I get to roll lots of dice and come up with a big old number of damage points. That gives me joy, remember?
Of Course you can disagree with all of this rambling. Of Course you can just disregard all of this. Or maybe it’ll make you think about it a bit?