116 – Core Dice Mechanics, Part One

The Mythcreant Podcast

Roll to understand game mechanics, because today we’re talking about core dice mechanics. This aspect of a game’s rules can sometimes get overshadowed by flashier combat and spell mechanics, but the way a game rolls dice is essential. So essential that we had way too much to say about it, so this podcast is in two parts. Join us for part one, where Oren explains why his ranking of systems is always correct all the time, Chris extolls the virtues of easy-to-read dice, and Wes makes a case for rolling less whenever possible.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Mouse Guard


Burning Wheel

World of Darkness and the Storyteller System

Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game

Legend of the Five Rings

Blue Rose


Epic Level Handbook

5th Edition D&D

Treat your friends to an evening of dark ritual murder. In a fictional game scenario, of course. Uncover your lost memories and save the day in our stand-alone game, The Voyage.

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  1. Roleplaying Nerd

    World of Darkness is at the top of Oren’s hierarchy of dice mechanics despite the fact that the better you are at something the more likely you are to have a critical failure.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      You know I always forget about the “1s take away from successes” rule because I don’t think we have ever used it in any WoD game I’ve run or played in.

  2. C. R. Rowenson

    I love the flexibility of the d10 systems presented by White Wolf Publishing. I’m currently brushing up on Scion to run a one shot.

    My biggest problem, regardless of the system, is keeping the challenges balanced for the players. Do you guys have any recommendations on this besides more experience? (I’m working on that angle already)

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      If I understand you correctly, you mean keeping the difficulty of rolls at a good difficulty, not to hard and not to easy, right? If that’s the case, I have two pieces of general advice.

      1. Set some standardized difficulties based on how many dice the characters are likely to have. You want a go to Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulty level, which will do you for most of the rolls you need. You can experiment with fine tuning as you get comfortable with these.

      For old WoD, where dice range from 1-10 on most rolls, and you need a 6 and up to be a success by default, here’s how I do it.

      Easy: Requires 2 successes. This way someone with two skill and two stat, which is a low level of competence, has a better than average chance of making it.

      Moderate: Requires 4 successes. For this task, someone will need 8 dice to have a sure chance of passing it, but it’s not too difficult for someone with 6 dice, which is exactly what you want. Failure should be a possibility.

      Hard: Requires 6 successes. Your characters will have to be really good to make this a certainty.

      2. Once you’ve set those standards, the next important thing to remember is to always fail forward. When your characters fail a roll, they shouldn’t just be denied what they wanted, something else should happen to keep the story moving. If the thief fails to pick the lock, it’s not that they suddenly forgot how to pick locks, it’s that they weren’t able to do it before the guard showed up.

      If you can’t think of an interesting complication from failure, you can always give the PC what they wanted, but at a cost. Systems like Torchbearer and Mouse Guard have special rules for this, but in something like OWoD, the cost could be a point of damage, or the temporary gaining of a new flaw.

      Basically, your players won’t mind failure so much as long as it keeps the game going and doesn’t make their characters look incompetent.

      • C. R. Rowenson

        That is exactly what I was talking about; thanks for the tips. I’m planning a Scion game but grew up with the DnD d20 system.

        Looks like I’m going to have to do lots of test rolling to get things right. The automatic successes for the Epic Attributes is something else that will have to be factored in.

        Any tips specifically for a Scion one-shot?

        • Oren Ashkenazi

          This is actually the first time I remember hearing about Scion, sounds neat. Is it like New World/Chronicles of Darkness, where you need 8s and up to be a success, or is it like Old WoD were six was the default?

  3. C. R. Rowenson

    Really? Then permit me to rant a moment. *Ahem*

    Scion is another Urban Fantasy game by White Wolf (now Onyx Path, I think) where the key players in the world are children from one of the many pantheons like the Aesir, the Dodekatheon (Greek), and the Loa. It’s kind of a blend between New WoD and their superhero system Aberrant. To answer your actual question, 7s and up are the default success.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      7s and up, huh? Weeeiiirrd. But It sounds like a fun story.

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