I’m going to preface this with Yes, I have heard about the OGL fun times. It’s a mess! I’m not going to be commenting on it though, that’s far outside my realm of deep understanding. What I will say is that Fractured Lands (Or whatever it ends up actually being named) never had any OGL content and won’t have any OGL content. It will be an open license of some sort, but which one remains to be determined and is a long way off before I figure that out.
So with that out of the way, let’s get started.
The Prime Mechanic
So. Every TTRPG out there has some “prime” mechanic. In many cases, it’s roll a D20, add some numbers, and compare it to a target to see if you pass or fail. Sometimes you won’t know this target, sometimes you will. This mechanic is often used for nearly everything that needs a success or failure check, be it an attack, skill check, or something else.
For Fractured Lands, that check is the following: You establish a goal – a number from 1 to 19 – and roll a D20. If your roll is equal to or lower than the goal, the roll is a success. Note that there’s always a 5% chance of success (The lowest goal is a 1 and you can always roll a 1) and a 5% chance of failure (Highest is 19 and you can roll a 20).
The goal is always known before the roll, so you never have to double check with anyone to determine if you passed or failed. Most of the information will be known to the player before they make the check – The stat they’re using, any modifiers they have and such – and they’ll only have to ask for the total goal modifier from the GM.
Additionally, rolls are almost never modified – only the goal. This is for two reasons. First, you don’t have to do multiple sets of math, and second, so you can just roll and check really quickly and easily. Mechanically speaking, there’s little difference between a +1 to a die roll or a -1 to a goal, with the exception of bounds. I’m a fan of keeping bounds fairly low – if you can add to both the roll and the target, you end up in situations where the target is impossible without a bonus that’s significantly larger than the maximum roll of the die, which makes lower targets completely irrelevant. In a system with hard bounds of the dice, a goal of 5 is always difficult, 10 is average, and 15 is fairly easy.
This is also one reason why the system is a roll-under mechanic. A player reading “You get +1” is going to have to do less mental gymnastics because it instinctively feels good, where “You get -1” doesn’t. You want to increase a number! If we wanted high rolls, we’d want to decrease the goal, leading to a bit of backwards reading that negatives are good, actually. Instead, I’m playing into expectations that a +1 is good and a -1 is bad.
Originally, this mechanic was an easy port of the XCOM mechanics (The XCOM line of games is definitely inspirational), with a D100 or D% being rolled instead of a D20. While this was cool, I dropped it to a D20 for two reasons.
First, modifiers under 5% felt largely useless. Nobody cares about a 1% improvement to hit, it just doesn’t feel good enough. So all the numbers ended up being multiples of 5 anyway. And at that point, use a D20.
Second, a D100 is actually two dice, which makes things harder to read. Sure, most rolls would be fine, but I’m sure you’ve chosen two D10s, chosen one as the 10s and the other as the 1s, and then promptly forgot which was which as you rolled it. I’ve done it. It happens! It also opens up a little bit of annoyance in the case of party poopers who just want to win. Using two D10s and then saying “oh, no, *that* one was the 10s” isn’t particularly difficult to do. So, going to a D20 streamlines things.
And for our secret third reason, we have expectations. People use the D20 for determining things in a great many games. The variance was just way too large to use in a lot of things in the game, so it was pretty neglected when using the D100. It was a little strange to use literally every other size of dice except the D20, so I changed that.
Getting the Goal
OK so we know how the die roll works but… how do we get the goal?
In several games, you have stats. Attributes. Some other name for things that determine your character’s prowess. In many cases, this is a number which determines another number which is actually used.
For Fractured Lands, a character’s Attributes are a number between 1 and 20, and they form the basis of a roll. While determining the attributes is something that will be discussed in a later article, you can assume that some attributes will have a higher average than others. Not all attributes are created equal!
Regardless of how they are created, a character’s Attribute is the first number they use in setting a Goal. If their Accuracy is, say, 10, then their goal to hit a target with an attack, without any other modifiers, is 10. If the target has cover, that goal will be lower. If they have an ability that gives them a boost, it’ll be higher, and so on.
When determining the goal, the player adds all of the modifiers together at one step before applying the boundaries. The order in which these modifiers were gained doesn’t matter.
Opposed and Ranked Rolls
But what about when you want to have two rolls opposing each other? These are easy. Instead of a goal, you have a bonus. You roll your D20 and add the bonus. Whoever has the highest result wins. If scores are tied and the mechanic demands a winner or clear delineation, you go to a tiebreaker (Exact mechanics to be determined). Thus, if two characters end up with opposing Will checks, the character with the higher Will score will, generally, have an easier time. However, even a character with the max Will of 20 can be tied by a character with a Will of 1, if they’re unfortunate and their opponent is fortunate.
Ranked rolls are similar, using the same rolling method. However, instead of a single winner, characters are organized in order of their rolls. Some mechanics might care about characters that rank higher or lower than another character, not caring about ties, while some will demand that an exact order is taken. For these, the same tiebreaker method will be used.
As an example of a ranked roll, a character can attempt to intimidate a group. That character and everyone they’re attempting to intimidate roll a D20 and adds their Will – and then anyone ranked below the intimidating character is, unsurprisingly, intimidated. In this case, ties don’t matter – just ranks.
We have our dice rolls. Next we’ll be talking about how abilities work. They’re a favorite thing of mine, and how the whole game fits together, so it’ll probably be a much longer article than this one. Basically everything fits into the mold of an ability of some sort!