3. Dice and Tasks

Some things a character wants to do are easy: cross a street, climb a ladder, dial a phone number. For these, a player simply makes a declaration and the game host okays it.

Others are more difficult or uncertain: jump from the path of an onrushing truck, climb an icy cliff face, crack a safe’s combination. For these a player must roll dice and compare the results to the character’s abilities. The game host may apply special modifiers for more difficult tasks, time-consuming ones, and so on. This page explains those rules.

Dice Rolls

Dice rolls in this game use two standard six-sided dice. Multiply the result of one die by the other to generate a total between 1 and 36.

Focus Number

Every dice roll in the game is compared to a character’s Focus number, which is that character’s total number of primary abilities. (See chapter 4, “Character Creation.”) The more abilities a character is familiar with, the higher this number, which affects the character’s chance of success at attempted tasks. Ability rolls fall into three categories:

  • Focused: For abilities the character is familiar with, roll the Focus number or higher to succeed. Additionally, exceptionally high rolls can enhance the effect. In general:
    • 10 points higher doubles the ability’s effect.
    • 20 points higher triples the ability’s effect.
    • 30 points higher quadruples the ability’s effect.
  • Unfocused: For abilities the character is newly learning, or which were practiced but have grown “rusty,” roll less than or equal to the Focus number to succeed. Additionally, exceptionally low rolls can enhance the effect. In general:
    • 5 points lower doubles the ability’s effect.
  • Unfamiliar: For abilities the character never possessed, roll less than the Focus number to succeed. (For dramatic purposes, these D6xD6 RPG rules allow characters to attempt skills they do not possess, though success is much more difficult.)

Rolling vs. Occupation

A character’s occupation is a sort of “super skill” representing a body of related knowledges. (See chapter 5, “Occupations,” for a fuller definition.) For task rolls, occupation is treated as a Focused ability.

Rolling vs. Skill

Besides an occupation, characters each have a list of skills to round out their abilities. (See chapter 6, “Basic Skills,” for a fuller definition.) The exact skills available will vary from setting to setting. For task rolls, skills may fall into Focused, Unfocused, and Unfamiliar categories, as explained above.

Reactive Rolling vs. Attributes

Characters each also possess four innate attributes that further define them: Brawn, Grace, Will, and Wits. Each character has one attribute treated as “Focused,” two as “Unfocused,” and one as “Unfamiliar” (See chapter 4, “Character Creation.”) While occupations and skills are rolled for as active abilities, an attribute may be rolled for passively in reaction to a situation.

Example: To spot a trap in ancient tomb might call for a roll versus an occupation of Archaeologist or of Tomb Robber. To disarm that trap might involve one of those occupations or the Lockpicking skill. If the trap is tripped, however, the game host might allow a roll versus Grace or Wits to avoid it (or to reduce the damage). Similarly, a game host might allow a Will roll to avoid a vampire’s mesmeric gaze, or a Brawn roll to avoid the poisonous effects of tainted food.

Task Difficulty Levels

Not every task is equally easy or difficult. Defeating a school locker is easier than a bank vault. Lifting a bookshelf off someone is easier than a car. Patching a simple cut is easier than a large-caliber bullet wound. To represent a range of difficulties, the game host can declare a die penalty of 1 to 3 points before dice are rolled.

Difficulty Ratings

Difficulty Modifier
Average: No penalty
Difficult:  1
Formidable:  2
Impossible:  3

Created with the HTML Table Generator

This penalty always applies to the higher die result and applies before the dice are multiplied. For Focused attempts, the penalty is subtracted from the die roll; for Unfocused and Unfamiliar attempts, it is added.

Examples: The game host declares a 2-point penalty on a Focused skill, and the dice results are 4 and 5. This adjusts the higher die to 3, so instead of a final effect of 20 (4×5) the effect is 12 (4×3). If the penalty were applied to an Unfocused skill, the higher die would be adjusted upward to 7, for a final effect of 28 (4×7).

Post-Roll Penalties

Some things—like wounds, and armor—slow characters and make them slightly less effective. These penalties apply to the roll result after the dice are multiplied. For instance, a character with two levels of wound, who achieves a Focused skill roll of 6×4, would reduce the 24 result to a 22. That same character making an Unfocused roll of 3×2 would increase the result from 6 to an 8.

Dramatic Exertion

At the beginning of an adventure session, characters each receive 6 points to use for dramatic effect. One or more of these points can be spent on any dice roll to help with its success. After the dice are rolled for a character’s action and the results seen, any single player may add points to either die to change the effect.

Usually, these points are spent by the character performing the action. However, they may be spent by another character instead, as direct assistance or cheering on.

Example: A character is trying to bullseye a swamp cat from a moving sand speeder. The character has Shooting as a Focus skill and possesses a Focus rating of 5; the game host decides the task is Formidable (moving vehicle and small target). The player rolls a 2 and a 5, and the 5 is adjusted downward to 3, for a result of 6, which would barely miss. However, the player really wants the character to impress onlookers, so the character Exerts (concentrates) for one point and applies it to the lower die, bringing that 2 up to a 3. With a 3×3 result, the character scores a 9, well above the Focus rating.

Minimums and Maximums

The minimum result of d6xd6 is 0 and the maximum is 36.

Cooperative Tasks

Often characters may wish to cooperate on a task: lift a heavy table to barricade a door, persuade a murder suspect to confess, lure a gorgosaurus into a trap, etc. In game terms, the involved players each roll for their own character, and the success levels are totaled.

Note: If timing is an issue (as during combat, see chapter 7, “Conflict and Damage”), the combined action takes place at the lowest rolled result. (“Wait. Wait. Let me get a good grip. Okay, go!”)

Extended Tasks

Some things, such as running a race, translating an ancient tome, or defusing a bomb, are not the work of an instant. In game terms, these require an accumulation of either points or successes. The game host may declare, for example, that finishing a race requires 100 points, with a new roll occurring every minute in the game world. The first character to accumulate that 100 points crosses the finish line ahead of all others. In the case of defusing a bomb, the host might say the character must accumulate five success levels before the timer reaches zero.

Uncertain Tasks

Not every situation in life has a yes/no answer. A police officer might be trying to discern, for instance, whether a suspect is telling the truth. Although training and psychology can do a lot in this regard, sometimes a character must act without being absolutely sure. These D6xD6 RPG rules simulate this by having the character’s player roll 1d6 and the game host roll the other in secret. Based on the result of the visible die, the player has some idea of success or failure.

Note: In the case of Uncertain tasks, penalties for Difficulty levels and bonuses for character Exertion are applied to the visible die, regardless of whether it is the high or low die.

17 thoughts on “3. Dice and Tasks

  1. Hey,
    a remark on the difficulty system : I find it great that the penalties are applied pre-multiplication, because it allows to introduce non-linearity in the difficulty levels without resorting to tables. But, it seems kind of strange to me that the difficulty to hit someone (aka armor reduction from stats) is applied post-multiplication, when the difficulty to do something is applied pre-multiplication.

    For me, it generates some complexity in a system which otherwise is quite elegant, and it doesn’t go well with plussed skills, because the bonuses from a plussed skill or occupation come in post-multiplication, so they don’t help you with difficult tasks.

    Why not just remove the task difficulty system and use the same system as for armor instead? Difficult : requires at least 2 success levels, Formidable : requires 4, Impossible : requires 6… (one could also add more difficulty tiers, like in Anima (bad translation by me : usual – easy – medium – hard – very hard – absurd – almost impossible – impossible – superhuman – zen), where the highest tiers are only reachable in particular circumstances )

    The other alternative is to give a choice when rolling for a plussed skill : use the plus to generate a success level in case of success OR to add one to a dice OR to reroll a dice (as ‘Jason Weaver’ suggested in the comments of 9.). But, the above choice is still interesting for players even when removing the task difficulty system.

    • You make some good points, Romain. Thanks.

      I’ve not been fully satisfied myself with the way plussed skills work, in terms of not enhancing chances of success but only effect of success.

      One adjustment I’ve discussed with D6xD6 Google Group members has been that skill pluses buy off difficulty levels first, and any remaining pluses then add success levels. E.g. two pluses would reduce a Formidable task to Average, or a Difficult task to Average plus a success sevel.

      Of major importance to me has been keeping this game as easy and inviting as possible to brand-new role-players, especially the person running the game. Although difficulty, armor, and wounds affect a roll differently, I feel they actually make learning simpler.

      Here’s why I feel that way:

      • When I demo the game at conventions and such, I first walk people through character creation. Within a few minutes players have unique characters that they’re attached to (instead of pre-gen characters they’re trying to connect with during play).
      • Then we play through some introductory scenes until the first task roll comes up. At that point a few moments is all it takes to explain tasks, difficulty penalties, success levels, and Drama Points. The difficulty system you’ve suggested isn’t much more troublesome, but it is a bit, and it’s less distinctive than dice modifiers. And of course a one-point adjustment pre-multiplication can make a huge difference when the high die is a 6, less when it’s a 3 for example. That makes choice of spending Drama Points more of a significant decision.
      • After that we play some more until combat comes up. At that point I explain the basic combat ranges, how success levels add or subtract damage ratings and armor, and how wounds affect rolls. Going linear at that point is pretty simple, and less wild than task difficulties. And wounds as a post-roll number effect are just enough to slow a character’s “initiative” a bit, and lower chance of extra success levels a bit, to be felt but not too punishing. (In campaigns it seems most people forget the innate defenses, but they’re there for game groups who want them.)
      • Then I say, “That’s it. You know all the rules. And people tend to smile in surprise.

      I suppose what I’m saying is, in essence, I feel that the dice effects are dramatic where they should be, and linear where they should be.

      I certainly have no objection to you adapting them to feel more satisfying to you and your players, of course. But other than the current plussed skills rule, I personally prefer them as they are.


  2. Just to point out there might be a typo in the sand cat example : it says that the character has 5 as focus and misses with a 6… probably it was meant for the character to have 7 focus? Or he’s wounded or wearing armor?

  3. Hi, again, Les. I’m looking over the rules again, as I really want to play this game soon. But it seems to me that focused and unfocused are two different things. It says in the rules that the player must choose the focused skills, and then (at least?) three unfocused skills. But the player sheet only has one place for focus points. So I’m not entirely sure how to integrate the two in game play.

    • Hi, Ben. Thanks for the question.

      The secret is that the same Focus number applies for everything—but sometimes you need to roll above it, and sometimes below it. Check the first heading on this page, “Focus Number,” and you’ll see how each category (Focused, Unfocused, and Unfamiliar) rolls against that number.

      After you grasp that, everything else will make sense.


  4. I posted this under Conflict and Damage. But this really belongs under this chapter.

    I bought the game, read through the rules, but cannot understand how this game can be played. I do not understand how having a high focus rating is a good thing. The rules state that when rolling for a focused skill, a roll that equals the number or greater succeeds. However, with a higher focus number, wouldn’t the chances for failure be greater. And wouldn’t it be more difficult for get higher levels of success with a higher focus rating? I do not see anything in the rules where this is compensated for.

    Or, is it just assumed that the character will succeed if using a focused roll? And the dice rolling is just to determine how much the character succeeds? I’m very perplexed by this.

    Thank you for your reply


    • Aargh, I posted under Conflict and Damage again, when I meant to post this under this chapter.

      Sorry about my wording “cannot understand how this game can be played.” I can see how it can be played. But it seems like a novice using a focused abilities would be getting more successes than someone who is a master on the focused tasks. And there would be a greater chance of rolling under the focus ability when it’s higher.

      • Hi, Ben. Thanks for the comment.

        Note the bullet points under “Focus Number” in the Dice and Tasks chapter. For Focused skills, roll high; for Unfocused and Unfamiliar, roll low. Consequently, a character with few skills (hence a low Focus number) has a better chance when making Focused rolls and a lesser chance with Unfocused and Unfamiliar skills. Conversely, a character with lots of skills (hence a high Focus number) sacrifices some chance with Focused rolls, but gains better chances with Unfocused and Unfamiliar ones.

        —Lester Smith

        • Thank you for clarifying. I thought that was how things went. But is there any way that a character with high focus can still have the edge against a fledgling? Or is it just assumed that the higher focus character has the edge?

          • Hi, Ben.

            A character with a high Focus number has a couple of advantages, in that Unfocused and Unfamiliar tasks are both easier, and the chance of a second Success Level with an Unfocused task is greater.

            Note, though, that low Focus doesn’t mean “Fledgling”; it simply means more devoted to a few skills.

            Novice vs. expert is really a different topic. As characters spend experience on their abilities, the effect of a successful roll becomes stronger. That’s the effect of expertise.

  5. Les, have you considered expanding on the unfocused skills slightly more? What do you think of making an unfocused skill roll below or equal to the characters focus +1? This way it would add a little more benefit to having an unfocused versus and unfamiliar skill.

    • Hi, John. Thanks for the comment.

      A colleague recently called this rules set the “haiku of role-playing games.” That description really pleases me. My aim is to create a simple central mechanic with more depth than immediately meets the eye.

      For example, Unfocused skills have three advantages over Unfamiliar ones:

      • They generally have a solid 5 percent (or more) better chance of success.
      • They can achieve an extra level of success at a roll of 5 less than Focus.
      • They can retain pluses from experience, giving them even more levels of success.

      With this in mind, I hesitate to blur that Focus number by making exceptions to it as a target number. But I’ll be mulling over other possible advantages to Unfocused skills themselves.

      Does that make sense?

      • Absolutely, it does. I should have known that you’d already run the numbers. I also forgot about the potential extra success level with unfocused skills.

  6. I feel, the sentence “any single player may add points to either die to change the effect.” needs a little more explanation, especially for non-native English speakers.

    What do you mean by “any single player”? Does it mean, of the players at the table only one can add points? Or does it mean, each of the players, no upper limit beyond the players at the table, can add points at the same time?

    What does “either” (in italics) mean here? Does it mean, if two points are added, they both have to go to the same die? Or can one point be added to one die, and another point to the other die?

    • Hi, Peter. Thank you for the comment. We’re still play-testing the limits of shared Drama Points. At present, the intent is that any number of players may contribute points to both dice, but the maximum to be spent on either die is 3 points. So if a player rolled a 1 and a 5, the 1 could be pushed up to a 4 maximum, and the 5 could be pushed up to a 6, with points coming from anyone or everyone. Similarly, if trying to roll low, the 1 is already at its minimum, and the 5 could be brought down to a 2, with points coming from anyone or everyone.

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