Earlier today, +Michael Prescott and I were chatting about my latest article over at Draconic Magazine. Long story short, his description of another game's mechanic (some RPG called Ghost/Echo) collided with something I've read about but never used (the wild die from later editions of the old school Star Wars RPG) inspired a crazy idea... the danger die.
Here's the gist: whenever a character attempts to tackle a problem, there's always a chance an unrelated problem will rear its ugly head, either in that exact moment or soon after.
For example, the party's thief attempts to rig a guillotine so that it won't cut his friend's head off tomorrow at the execution. He rolls the standard die or dice roll and... succeeds. Yay! However, he also rolled a danger die which came up a 1. Little does the thief know that someone is lurking in the shadows, watching him.
So, this separate die roll is the wild card of a situation. And I could see this idea going in a lot of different directions. Below are a variety of ways to use the danger die concept.
- Roll a d4 (along with the normal dice rolled) whenever a skill check or non-combat maneuver is being attempted. If the d4 comes up a 1, then a new but extraneous problem occurs.
- Roll a d4 after a standard d20 combat roll comes up a natural 1. If the d4 is also a 1, then either describe a critical failure (assuming that doesn't automatically happen on a natural 1) or describe some fresh horror unconnected to that swing and a miss.
- Roll a different die than a d4 to determine danger. If you want it to happen less likely, then maybe a d6 or d8 is more your speed.
- Use the d4 but a roll of 1 allows the GM to roll on a special "bad stuff" d30 table... you know, just because.
- Benevolent GMs might want to offset the danger with something favorable. So, if you rolled a d12 danger die, the 1 could be bad and the result of a 12 could be good.
- Every +1 a character asks for means that another danger die is added to the pool. Want a +3 bonus to hiding in the fireplace? Sure, but then you'll have to roll 3d4 to see if you jump from the frying pan into the fire (lame pun intended, unfortunately).
- Want to attempt something with a relatively low risk? Roll a d12 danger die; average difficulty gets a d8 or d6. Super-duper challenging maneuvers get a d4 or perhaps even a d3!
I'm sure there are more awesome possibilities out there but for now that's sufficient. So, what do you think? Is this something you might try out in your next game? Want to tweak it? Go right ahead. Comment away!
p.s. Dice image by JihCe