At the heart of the way actions are resolved is a single mechanic that covers the vast bulk of dice usage in DB. There are a couple of other things that dice are used for: launching the ball, scattering the ball, doing Ref checks and so on, but these are less common and are simple cases of form following function.
Core Dice Notation
The core mechanic is used for most action tests, and that means most of the game. A test is written in a standard format. This means that I can, should I ever need to, introduce other tests and they will slip neatly into the core of the game without a ripple. This notation is as follows:
3 dice Skill test (1)
This notation is made up of three parts.
3 dice Skill test (1)
The first part tells you how many dice you get to start with for your roll. This is usually 3, but can vary. Also, it can be modified by your player role and the situation. It is very important to understand that modifiers always apply to the number of dice you roll and never to the the number you are rolling against.
3 dice Skill test (1)
The second part is the stat you are rolling against. This can be Strength, Speed, Skill or Armour. They are all defined as X+, so 3+, 4+ and so on. This number never changes during a game. Each dice that rolls this number or better is called a success.
3 dice Skill test (1)
The final bit is the target number. This is the number of successes you need to roll in order for the action to succeed. There are 3 possible types of target number.
- (1) A simple number.
- (X) An opposed roll – you and your opponent roll and the one with more successes wins.
- (123) An increasingly difficult target – each time you try that roll within the same action the target number gets one higher.
So, the example above (which is for picking up a loose ball, by the way) means that you roll 3 dice, and each one needs to be equal or better to your Skill stat in order to be a success. If you roll at least one success then you pick up the ball.
Most of the rolls have a small number of possible modifiers. A fair number of these are +1 for being a specific role. This helps make each role better at what it is supposed to be good at. The rest of the modifiers are situational and include things like standing in opposing player’s threat hexes. In general there are only a couple of these for each test and they are memorised fairly rapidly.
So you roll a handful of dice, compare each to the appropriate stat and that’s your number of successes. Well, yes, but there’s more. Each dice that rolls a 6 counts as one success and you get another dice to roll. Leave the first one where it was as a reminder and roll another dice. If you get another 6, do it again, and so on. If you roll several 6s then roll each of them up. In this way a lucky player can beat someone with far better stats. It’s always fun to be able to turn the tables once in a while.
Many (but not all) rolls have an enhanced effect which kicks in if you double the target number. For example, if your roll to pick up the ball gets double the target number of successes, ie 2 or more, then you not only pick up the ball, but get a free action to either Run or Throw as well.
So, by combining the simple stats, roles and armour together with a pretty straightforward dice mechanic you have something altogether more subtle. The difference in stats is compounded by both the way the dice mechanic works, plus the role bonuses to makes apparently similar players from different teams work very differently on the pitch. Let’s look at an example.
I can never decide whether I prefer Orx or Veer-myn Guards. They are both Guards so they have the same armour and same bonuses for different actions. Their other stats (Strength, Speed, Skill) are:
Orx Guard: 3+, 4+, 5+
Veer-myn: 4+, 3+, 5+
Not a big difference, right? Wrong.
Start by ignoring the Skill. Guards can’t pick up the ball so it’s never used.
Strength is mostly used for Slam actions, which is the signature theme of the Guard. You run up to someone and thump them.
Speed for a Guard is mostly used for Dodge responses to opposing Slams. You see, when someone Slams you then you can choose to either Slamback or Dodge, ie you fight it out or you get out of the way. However, if you are looking the wrong way and they Slam you from behind then you don’t get to pick – you can only Dodge.
A Guard making a Slam will typically roll 5 dice (3 basic, +1 for being a Guard, +1 for taking a run up). Rolling against a 3+ gives an Orx Guard an average of 3.9 successes (including a likely roll up). A Veer-myn in the same position will have an average of 2.9.
Dodging looks rather different. If the Orx is Slammed from behind and needs to Dodge they will probably be rolling 3 dice and will get an average of 1.75 successes. The Veer-myn has an average Dodge of 2.3.
Slams and dodges are opposed rolls so your number of successes is compared to your opponent. On the pitch these numbers translate to the Veer-myn generally surviving better than Orx, especially against Strength 4 Guards (humans and other Veer-myn) who can’t knock them over easily when they sneak up behind. Orx against Strength 4 Guards are not enormously vulnerable, but it’s a world away from the lethality of attacking them from the front (3.1 Slamback vs 1.75 Dodge). And people you hit from behind don’t hit back if you lose.
The differences in these average numbers are not large, but the cumulative effect of all these slight variations, plus other considerations such as Veer-myn moving faster, plus the differing numbers of each role available to each team all mount up. It is this interaction that gives the character to the sides, and a point of stat here or there adds up to a noticeable difference.
Still not quite finished with the wrinkles.
Each team gets a number of Coaching Dice at the start of a game. These are usually blue so that they stand out from the white dice for the home team and the red ones for the visitors. The reason they need to stand out is that they are one-use per game dice that can be added to any of the above type of rolls at the Coach’s discretion.
As well as starting with some Coaching Dice, you can also earn more during a game by impressing the crowd. Your cool Strikes and brutal tackles get them going, and their cheers in turn inspire your team to greater efforts.
When you choose to use these dice is up to you, but you must decide before you roll any dice for that test. In the test they work just like any other dice, so an Orx will be more likely to get a success if he adds a Coaching Dice to a Strength roll than a Speed test, but he’d not need the help as much there either. It’s a balancing act.
What is particularly interesting is that Coaching Dice can be used to attempt something that would otherwise be modified to zero dice and therefore be impossible. So do you save it for then?
Either way, when they’re gone, they’re gone. You could always use more than you have.