# Thread: The Floating Dice System

1. ## The Floating Dice System

I am currently reading Sorcery & Super Science! by Expeditious Retreat Press. It uses a mechanic called the Floating Dice System. In short it does the following:

"Conflicts in Sorcery & Super Science are resolved using the floating dice
system. In this system there are no defined difficulties - the success or
failure of any action is based upon the relationship between the PC and the
task. Sorcery & Super Science uses a multitude of dice when rolling these
conflicts- 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16 and 20-sided. If you don’t have a d16 handy, 2d8
will work in pinch.
Most conflicts are ability conflicts: tasks that are successfully performed
based upon a primary ability of a PC measured against the primary ability
of an NPC or against the difficulty of an action. There are seven primary
abilities ranging in value from -4 to 20. A rank of 0 is considered the lowest
human rank and a rank of 8 is considered human maximum. The majority of
people fall within the 1 to 3 range. Such is considered average, with 2 being
the most typical rank.
In a primary ability conflict, the PC’s ability rank is added to the NPC’s
ability rank. This addition determines what die is rolled to resolve the conflict
and determines the target number for success. For example a PC with a rank
4 ability is in conflict with an NPC who also has a rank 4 ability. Adding the
rank values (4+4) results in an 8. Thus, 8 is the die rolled (a d8) and the target
number for success is also 8. The player would then roll a d8 and add the
PC’s rank 4 ability to the roll and any result of 8 or better is a success or even
a greater success.
The terms greater success and success are used throughout Sorcery &
Super Science. When rolling conflicts, a result that is equal to the number
needed or 1 point greater is termed a success while a result that is 2 or more
points higher than the highest number on the die is termed a greater success.
A 10-11 is a success on a d10, while a 12 or above is a greater success. On a
d8, a success is 8-9, and a greater success is a 10 or higher and so on.
Dice determination is always rounded down if the sum of both
numbers is not equal to 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, or 20. For example, a d12 is rolled
for a conflict between a rank 8 and a rank 5, a d6 is rolled for a conflict
between a rank 4 and a rank 3, a d16 is rolled for a conflict between a rank
9 and a rank 10 and so forth. The d4 is the lowest die that can be rolled and
any totals resulting in less than 4 result in rolling a d4."

Now, I have just read this, I have not played it. But only after a few lines I began to ask questions and make observations. In the primary example, "a PC with a rank 4 ability is in conflict with an NPC who also has a rank 4 ability. Adding the rank values (4+4) results in an 8. Thus, 8 is the die rolled (a d8) and the target number for success is also 8. The player would then roll a d8 and add the PC’s rank 4 ability to the roll and any result of 8 or better is a success or even a greater success" the GM *has* to reveal to the player what level of skill his opponent has. By saying, 'use a d8' the GM is telling the player that his enemy is a skill rank 4 challenge. I don't like that. I don't want my players to have hard data on what skill level their opponents have. That should be revealed through actual play.

My second observation is: Why? Why use this mechanic? What does it bring to the table? How is it superior to a static target number that must be bested by a die roll? One that would not require the GM to divulge information that they might not wish to reveal. Is it just to be different? My math skills are abysmal, does this mechanic bring anything different to how the statistic pan out? Like the difference between a d20 roll and a 3d6 roll for example.

The point spread between each die type is 2, 2, 2, 2, 4 & 4. That seems odd to me.

This just strikes me as being different for the sake of being different. I don't really see the point. And I really don't like that the GM has to tell the players a whole lot about the world around them whether they want to or not.

Can anyone shed some light on this system for me? Am I just missing some key feature? Is there actually some elegant and beautiful bit of mechanical subtly that I am not grasping?

2. ## Re: The Floating Dice System

The idea is that the RNG space grows with the characters' bonuses. Assuming equal stats, the result is half static component half random component, whether you have +4 or +20. That way you don't get predictable outcomes with high skill or outcomes all over the map with low skill.

I like how Cortex handles that problem better though.

3. ## Re: The Floating Dice System

Hmm, interesting. Between the PC number and the NPC number (or DC), a d20 skill check normally has the chance of success as:
(PC - DC + 21)/20
whereas this has:
(PC + 1)/(PC + NPC)
unless you need to round down on the die, in which case subtract 1 to 3 from the numerator and the denominator.

This means it's harder to become much better when the enemy is tougher. In this system, to have a 75% chance of success requires
5 vs 3 (+2)
14 vs 6 (+8)
For the same odds on a d20 roll:
4 vs 10 (-6)
14 vs 20 (-6)

It also means that even average people (2) have a significant chance against literal super-humans (10).

It's not a terrible idea, but it does seem unwieldy, as it's add->round->choose die->roll->add->compare
as opposed to

4. ## Re: The Floating Dice System

2d8 is very different from 16; true, they've got the same range, but 2d8 is much more likely to turn up average.

Really, any system that uses obscure die sizes is likely to stay an obscure system itself. D&D only got away with it by inventing the genre.

I can see how it balances, though; each party has a chance of success roughly equal to their ability level.

5. ## Re: The Floating Dice System

Originally Posted by Tetsubo 57
the GM *has* to reveal to the player what level of skill his opponent has. By saying, 'use a d8' the GM is telling the player that his enemy is a skill rank 4 challenge. I don't like that. I don't want my players to have hard data on what skill level their opponents have. That should be revealed through actual play.
This isn't terribly strange. Anything using opposing rolls - especially opposing dice pools - will tell the player exactly what the opponent's roll is by looking at the dice rolled.

I could argue that actually swinging a sword at an opponent counts as "actual play". After all, unless they just stood there or were caught unaware, you'll be able to see how well they reacted.

Originally Posted by Tetsubo 57
Why? Why use this mechanic? What does it bring to the table? How is it superior to a static target number that must be bested by a die roll?

This just strikes me as being different for the sake of being different.
Pretty much, yeah. Sometimes people just want a change, or something to break monotony. I'm familiar with a similar system (IronClaw) where the skills are increased by increasing dice size (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12) and all the "bonuses" are dice that are rolled together. You compare dice to your opponent's dice, one by one, to determine how many successes you achieved.

I will also note that I'm familiar with far more systems using a dice pool method than a static bonus method. "For the sake of being different" is not necessarily worse.

As for why? Two people of roughly equal skill always have a 50% chance of success. Larger skill gaps present larger differences in success rate.
4 + 4 = 8 difficulty, and 1d8+4 will beat that on a 4 or greater (50%)
2 + 6 = 8 difficulty, and 1d8+2 has a 25% chance of success

I can't help but think that there's a simplier way of doing so. Also, nearly any successful roll above 4 ranks will be a greater success, making them remarkably common.

I'm not too sure how well the system would work. Rank 8 vs Rank 16 is a 33% chance of success, easily determined but somewhat rediculous the way it is framed in the system. That would be like an olypmic weightlifter out-wrestling the Hulk and pinning him to the ground. As mentioned, anything beyond moderate human activity (rank 4) will be littered with greater success as well. And then, even exceptionally high ranks only does little to achieve success more than a moderate amount of the time. Rank 20 vs Rank 5 gives us an 80% chance of success, which is not what I would expect from the godlike penacle of achievement against someone who is just moderately above average.

6. ## Re: The Floating Dice System

Originally Posted by Figgin of Chaos
2d8 is very different from 16; true, they've got the same range, but 2d8 is much more likely to turn up average.
They don't even have the same range. Can't roll a 1 on 2d8. That really should be d20, reroll 17+. I don't care if it takes five more seconds to reroll.

For what it's worth the mechanic has an unnecessary step.

1d(TheirStat + YourStat) + YourStat, DC TheirStat + YourStat

Simplifies to:

1d(TheirStat + YourStat), DC TheirStat

7. ## Re: The Floating Dice System

The DM doesn't REALLY give any hard information on the npcs, just a limited range of strength. Remember, if the PC + NPC abilities don't add up to one of the set amounts, then its rounded down to the nearest size. That means that a d8 doesn't mean you had 4 and they had 4. It could mean you have 4 and they have 5, or you have 3 and they have 5, or you have 3 and they have 6, and so on. Sure, for most of the dice sizes, you pretty much know how strong you are in comparison to your npc opponent, but lets face it: the appearance of an enemy is usually a pretty good indicator of how strong how, most obvious exception being casters. I imagine if you found yourself against some big burly guy, you'd have a pretty good idea of how hard he can hit you with that greatsword.

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