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Hot Button: Dice Pools
Posted By Walt Ciechanowski On December 6, 2010 @ 8:58 am In Hot Buttons | 16 Comments
Some of my current freelancing projects involve All for One: Regime Diabolique, which uses the Ubiquity rules system (pioneered in Hollow Earth Expedition). Under this system, you roll a number of dice and count the “evens” as successes. It doesn’t matter what dice you roll; indeed, you could even use coins or playing cards if you wanted to.
At first, my players thought it was pretty sweet that they got to choose their favorite dice and just count evens. However, when I picked up a set of Ubiquity dice (different colored d8s that let you roll less dice and just add the results), my group found them much more preferable. The Ubiquity dice are simply more convenient and speed play.
This got me thinking about dice pools. As an old-timer, I’m hardwired to prefer single-roll systems, such as using a d20 or percentile dice. When dice pool systems such as Shadowrun and Vampire: the Masquerade came around, my groups had difficulty adjusting. While the settings were very compelling, we usually ended up adapting them to GURPS (which was done for us in the case of Vampire) or some homebrewed single-roll system. I believe that the Victorian age supplement for Vampire actually included a “one-roll” option.
There seems to be a general consensus that dice pools get unwieldy after a certain point, as most dice pool systems that I’ve read include methods to cut down on dice rolling (limiting the number of dice, granting automatic successes in place of dice, using an average, etc).
Even today, while dice pool systems no longer bother me, I still lament the amount of time that dice pools take compared to single-roll systems, especially those that allow “exploding” dice. Players actively avoided fights in my 7th Sea games just so we wouldn’t get bogged down in a long dice-fest (which ironically kept us from enjoying what was supposed to be the meat of the game).
I’m wondering if this was just an issue with my group or if other groups have difficulty adjusting to dice pool systems (or, heck, single roll systems if your group is used to dice pools). Is there something about a dice pool system that makes you cringe, or do you not even blink when you realizing that “hot new game X” uses a dice pool? As a corollary, have you found some dice pool systems better than others?
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