Tag Archives: dice

What’s Wrong with Tabletop RPGs

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I love tabletop roleplaying games. They are, in some ways, the perfect game. That being said, they certainly aren’t without their flaws. I’ve been working on a tabletop RPG system, and one of the things any creator needs to ask is “what’s wrong with what’s already there?” and “how can I make it better?” Here, then, is a list of the things wrong with tabletop roleplaying games.
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Fumbling Critical Rolls and the LORE Approach

natural 20

Many tabletop roleplaying games and many digital games have a game mechanic called the “critical roll.” With this mechanic, a particularly good skill roll, say a 20 on a 20-sided die, can be a “critical hit,” which is better than a normal success. Likewise, a roll of 1 on a 20-sided die could be a “critical failure,” a “critical miss,” a “fumble,” or a “botch.” Critical failures result in an especially bad outcome.

Critical rolls typically represent the fickle hand of luck. Even in a game where randomness determines every important outcome, it is possible for characters to get especially lucky or unlucky. Sometimes, that arrow flies just right and hits the dragon right in the eye. Critical hits are often a cause for celebration among tabletop roleplayers, and critical misses are moments of frustration and (usually good-natured) anger at the game and the game master. Many digital games that use tabletop RPG-like mechanics also use critical roll systems. Notably, the action-focused game Team Fortress 2 also incorporates this mechanic in the form of random critical shots, which do more damage than normal shots and are more likely the more damage a player does.

Like many tabletop roleplayers, I’m working on a roleplaying system of my own, called LORE. During the development process, I’ve done a lot of thinking about a lot of the common elements of tabletop RPGs, and critical rolls has been one that I’ve focused on. I’ve decided that critical rolls have a part to play in game mechanics, but that there are many pitfalls that should be avoided. Here are my thoughts.

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