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Vive la Resolution

In yesterday’s post (Turns, Turns, Turns (and Rounds)) I discussed the turn structure and how players choose their actions. This post is about the mechanics to resolve actions.

My first instinct was rolling dice. I love rolling dice. Most people I know who play RPGs and board games also like rolling dice (as long as it isn’t to determine the number of spaces you move!).  For the first draft of the game, I used Go First Dice (as outlined in Dice, dice, baby).

In the play test I did last year, I don’t know if it was my visual impairment combined with my crappily-scribbled-on dice, but I felt the game paused too long while I was trying to resolve the rolls I had made. Therefore I have decided to look at other ideas to see if there is anything better.

With that in mind, my design goals for the resolution mechanic are as follows:

  1. Once the player has decided which action to take, the action should be resolved quickly

  2. The mechanism should not allow the game to be so predictable that tension disappears from the game.

  3. Each player has three attributes (Physique, Vision and Intelligence) which are rated numerically, with higher being better. For each action, one of these attribute scores should be used.

  4. A target number is defined for the action – the higher the number the more difficult the task. This number is determined by either:

  5. for attacks: the appropriate defence score of the enemy (Fortitude, Reflex or Will)

  6. for environment checks: the number written on the map for the action

  7. The attribute score and the target number should both be used in some way in the resolution.m For example, the attribute score denotes the number of dice to roll and the target number is a score to beat.

Below, I discuss six ideas I am considering. I have grouped the methods by the components used.


Go First Dice (six-sided)

This is the method described in Dice, dice, baby, but stripped down. I am now using two types of six-sided dice in the game (instead of the four 12-sided dice previously used).

  1. The player dice has the values: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12 on the faces.

  2. The obstacle dice has the values: 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11 on the faces

When the player attempts an action, they roll the number of player dice equal to the appropriate attribute value and a number of obstacle dice equal to the target number.

For example, if the attribute being used was Physique and the character had a score of 3, then the player would roll 3 player dice. If the target number was 2, then the player would also roll 2 obstacle dice.

Out of all of the dice rolled, the die with the highest value is one of the player’s, then the player succeeds. If the die with the highest value is an obstacle die, then the player fails. As you can see from the numbers on the dice, there will never be a tie. If the two highest dice are the player’s dice, then they critically succeed.

This is also used if an enemy attacks a player. The payer rolls a number of obstacle dice as noted on the alien card and a number of dice equal to the player’s defence that is being targeted (noted on the player’s character board). If the die with the highest value is one of the obstacle dice, then the alien succeeds. If the dice with the highest value is a player die, then the player is not hit.

I like that the dice are clearly delineated between player and obstacles and in all cases, the player would want the player dice to be the highest.

Symbolic Dice

This would use only one type of six-sided dice. A certain number of faces on the dice would have a ◊ symbol on it. The player would roll a number of dice equal to their attribute score. If they get the number of ◊ symbols greater than or equal to the target number then they have succeeded. If they succeed and any of the symbols are actually filled in ♦ then they have critically succeeded.

There is nothing novel about this. There are lots of games that do this. There is a reason though, it is nice and simple and quick to resolve. I can tune the probabilities of getting successes and critical successes to exactly what I want and I think it should be a fast way of resolving actions.


Using cards opens up design space as it allows abilities that re-orders cards, put cards that are in the discard pile back on top of the deck, etc. However, I think this comes at the expense of being slower than dice to resolve. Each of the ideas below outline a deck that is shared by all of the players.

7th Continent Style

I came up with this idea and thought “ooo, what a great idea!”. Then I realised that it was 7th Continent’s resolution mechanism. I own 7th Continent and was planning on playing it, but so far I’ve only got as far as reading the rules, setting the game up and showing a friend the game. I must have subconsciously stored this mechanic in my brain and decided to invent it myself!


Anyway, example cards are shown above, with each card having 0, 1 or 2 ticks on them. The player would draw a number of cards equal to their attribute level when attempting something. If the number of ticks they get is greater than or equal to the target number then they succeed. Otherwise they fail. Critical successes would be handled by some cards having the word CRITICAL on them. If the player succeeded AND there is a card that has the word CRITICAL on it, then the player scores a CRITICAL success.

Choosing A Resolution Card

The cards in the deck would look something like the ones below:

The player draws a number of cards equal to their attribute score. The player decides which card to use from those drawn. They look at the entry corresponding to the target number and use that entry.

Some of the cards contain a negative if they are picked. I realise that introducing this choosing element into the action resolution will mean it slows down the resolution which goes against the design goals, but it could be fun…

Single Card Draw

For this method, the cards in the deck look like the one below:


With the icons of the six professions listed down the side and the three attributes listed at the top of the card. The numbers in the cards will be tuned for each profession. So the Scout will have more 3s in Vision then the Engineer and the Engineer will have more 3s in Intelligence then the Scout.

Whenever a player attacks or makes a skill check they draw one card. The player then uses the appropriate attribute for the action and compares the score of their profession to the target number. If the number on the card is greater than or equal to the target number, then the player succeeds. I haven’t worked out how to do critical successes yet.

The disadvantage of this is that because you only draw one card and the cards themselves are tuned to the profession’s Intelligence, Physique and Vision, that the numbers given to the attributes on the player board would be useless and therefore removed.

The fact that the player won’t have a score written on their player board for each attribute means that they have no idea what they are good at or not. I guess I could still have the three attributes on the player board and just describe the character as being excellent, good or weak at them, but would that be sufficient?


Spending Tokens

Each player is given a certain number of tokens (or maybe cubes) to spend on a mission. Any time the player wants to take an action, they spend tokens to boost the relevant attribute score up to the target number, with each token boosting the attribute score by 1. For example, if they are using Physique with a score of 3 and the target number is 5, they would spend 2 tokens to succeed. This way the higher their attribute score, the fewer  tokens they need to spend to succeed. For critical successes, they need to spend double the number of tokens that they need to succeed. So in the above example, they would need to spend 4 tokens to critically succeed. Alternatively there could be a certain number of critical tokens as well, which are spent to critically succeed.

Players will be able to recover tokens in some manner (maybe if they Do Nothing then they recover tokens for themselves and their colleagues?)

The big problem with this method is that it is deterministic. Maybe this would need to be paired with a way where the players would not know when or how many tokens were replenished.

Final Thoughts

For all of these methods, I was going to use the same method for the players resolving their actions AND for the aliens to resolve their actions. But then I thought that it might be better to just have the aliens auto-hit. I believe this is how it is done in Zombicide (I have only played it once and it was a while ago). The advantage of this is it puts the focus much more on the players ad their decisions which is a good thing as they, after all, are the heroes of this game.

So there we have it. Six ideas for the action resolution. Which is your favourite? Can you think of any improvements to any of them? Which would you use for a sci-fi dungeon crawler? Please let me know.

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