I just had an interesting idea that I thought I would put out there. Both WFRP and Edge of the Empire, by Fantasy Flight Games, use a custom dice mechanic that allows for an interesting result on top of fail/succeed. Each has a mechanic that governs fate – a special type of die that gives an overall “this goes well” or “this goes badly” result. What this means is that you can succeed on the die-roll, but then get the “this goes badly” result on top of that, so you succeed but in another way things escalate. On the other hand, you can fail, but get the “this goes well” result on the additional die-roll, meaning that you fail but you ‘fail forward’, or your failure opens up some new possibility.
The interpretation of both is up to the GM running the game, but I really like this idea. It also allows for something like “critical success” or “critical failure”. When you succeed and get the “this goes well” result, it goes REALLY well. If you fail and get the “this goes badly”…well, you get the picture.
This mechanic struck me as a great way to tie story more deeply into die-results, or as a prompt for less-experienced GMs perhaps. It gives you a cue as to when you move the story forward – in a beneficial or challenging way, either of which is interesting. I like this mechanic a lot, but I don’t want to have to have custom dice for every game I play.
What occurred to me is that there are a number of ways to solve this problem, and to add this overall ‘fate’ mechanic to any dice-driven game. One option is to roll a FUDGE die with every roll, where a + is beneficial, a – is a new difficulty, and the blank side is just blank. To make the benefit or difficulty less likely, you might roll two dFs, and require a ++ or — result.
This could really be done with any die, though. You could roll a d8, and if it is a 1 you get the difficulty, and if it is the 8 you get the benefit. And so on.
(I’m currently poking around with a rough system for Dragonblade, and it uses a 2d8 mechanic. In the system, if you roll two 4s, that is ‘bad luck’, because in various dialects of Chinese, the number 4 sounds like the word “death”, and as a result the number 4 is widely considered unlucky. If you roll two 8s, that’s lucky, because 8 is a prominent number in Chinese philosophy, coming up in places like the I-Ching and the Eightfold Path. 8 is a lucky number in the way that 4 is unlucky. 6 is also a lucky number in Chinese culture, generally speaking, but I liked the parity between 4 and 8. Anyway, the two 4s vs two 8s mechanic is in part inspired by the cool mechanics I see in WFRP and Edge of the Empire.)
What I like about this is that it ports a mechanic that I think adds a lot to a game, which most games do not have, into any game in which you want to use it. Most games that come to mind could potentially benefit from this mechanic, especially ‘traditional’ task-resolution style games where you only roll to hit/miss, succeed/fail.