Nov 122008

Copied from and extensively modified in a Story Games forum post.

Roshambo dice in yellow with black ink

Dice similar to the above inspired me to think of a simple storytelling system:

  1. You, as a PC, have three Modus Operandi (MOs):
    1. Resolve, symbolized by Rock, which measures your ability to “grin and bear it” or otherwise bull through a situation.
    2. Manipulation, symbolized by Scissors, which measures you ability to change a situation into something more amenable to you.
    3. Flexibility, symbolized by Paper, which measures your ability to find alternate ways to approach and deal with a situation.
  2. Each MO has two ratings from 1 to 5:
    1. Skill rating determines the maximum number of Success dice you may keep when you roll (see below). Divide nine Skill points between your three MOs.
    2. Flub rating determines the maximum number of Failure dice you must pass to another player when you roll (see below). Divide nine Flub points between your three MOs.
  3. Every character has Aspirations which are accomplished in Stages, via scenes. A given Stage might take several scenes to accomplish, however, based on its complexity or difficulty.
    1. A character’s agenda in a scene is called a goal.
    2. A player may redefine a Stage any time between scenes, with one exception: a failed scene outcome can not become a new or an alternate Stage for the failing character.
    3. It is possible for accomplished Stages to become moot, and an Aspiration to be completely re-planned or abandoned in favor of a new Aspiration.
    4. When an Aspiration is accomplished, the player may revalue all of his or her MOs’ Skill and Flub ratings, up to their original total values for Skill and Flub.
    5. Every two Aspirations that a character accomplishes increases the character’s Skill MO value total by 1 (to 10, then 11, etc).
    6. Every Aspiration that must be completely abandoned increases the character’s Flub MO value total by 1 (to 10, then 11, etc).
  4. When it’s your turn to frame a scene, choose an MO that you will be using to achieve your goal in the scene and roll five Roshambo dice.
    1. Each die result that your MO beats in Roshambo is a Success die. Each die result that beats your MO in Roshambo is a Failure die. Each die result that matches (ties) your MO is a Neutral die.
    2. You may keep as many Success dice as are equal to your MO’s Skill rating.
    3. You must pass all Failure dice, up to your MO’s Flub rating; discard the rest.
    4. Distribute the remaining Success and Neutral dice evenly—you choose who gets any extras, if they are not evenly divisible.
    5. Each distributed die may be used in one of three ways, on another player’s turn, by that player:
      1. Discard the die to introduce one’s own character into the scene, state one’s own goal (which may not be identical to nor a simple negation of your goal), and roll the appropriate MO… with one restriction: Each MO may be invoked—by any character—only once per scene. So if you started with Resolve, the next player may only introduce him- or herself and state goals using Manipulation or Flexibility (and the following player introducing a character into the scene may only invoke the remaining MO). As such, a passed die is not usable for self-introduction after the third character introduction into a scene. Finally, do the above die-distributing Steps IV.A-D for this new character in the scene.
      2. Use a Failure or Neutral die to narrate a Complication against you—something which opposes your goal—while taking into account the MO of the die result (Resolve, Manipulation, or Flexibility) not the original player’s rolled MO.
      3. Use a Success or Neutral die to narrate a way past (bypass) an existing Complication, taking into account the MO of the die result (Resolve, Manipulation, or Flexibility) not the original player’s rolled MO.
  5. Narrate the scene flow, using all dice in play:
    1. You narrate one of the Success die results still in your possession, taking into account the MO that you used to make your roll (not the Success die result). This is the Opening Volley, which should establish your stakes and line of “attack.” If you have no Success dice, then you are relying upon someone to narrate a Success for you (Step V.B below).
    2. Starting with the player to your left (i.e. clockwise), each player may use a passed die as explained above in Steps IV.E.1-3.
    3. Continue clockwise, introducing players, narrating a(dditional) Complication(s), or narrating a Complication resolution.
    4. If your Successes (and others’ passed dice used as Successes) run out while there is at least one Complication still to be resolved, then you have been Thwarted: narrate how the unresolved Complication(s) brings you low and your plans to ruin.
    5. If you resolve all Complications (i.e. others are out of passed dice or choose not to use them for Complications) then you succeed in your aims and may make a last narration of that result (even if you are actually out of Successes, having used the last one up to bypass the last Complication).
    6. Any additional Successes may be used to narrate follow-on bonuses or accomplishments or boons, as related to your goal in the scene. This could result in a whole Stage being completed during one wildly successful scene.
    7. All remaining players whose characters are in the scene continue to use their dice (rolled and passed, for or against each other) until they have resolved their stakes one way or the other. The cycles of this entire Step V can become convoluted in two- or three-way conflicts; just keep cycling clockwise, offering each player a chance to Complicate or bypass (or self-introduce) until the scene resolves itself (or the dice resolve it, by running out!)
  6. Whenever your character is in a scene, you may Burn one point of a Skill MO (reduce that MO’s Skill rating by one) to narrate a Success for your agenda, taking into account the MO Burned. This reduction in MO does not affect the number of Successes that you may keep, because that distribution (Steps IV.A-D) happens prior to any Complication and, thus, prior to any reason to Burn.

  2 Responses to “Roshambo Dice And Narrative Control”

  1. CHANGE IDEA: Any die given away (Success, Neutral, or Failure) is treated as Neutral (can intro, be a Success, or be a Failure), with the usual caveat that the narration must suit the MO.

  2. Change idea above incorporated, resulting in a near-total rewrite.