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Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Intro to the Bane and Boon Die Roll Mechanic

For a few weeks now, I've had a chance to play with what I think is the slickest die mechanic I've seen in probably a decade. This die roll has been used many times before in the past in all kinds of tabletop RPGs. But it was almost always used as a roll variant of some kind that GMs allowed in certain situations. One could make the argument that this particular roll is itself a mere variant of some kind as well. You at home can make that decision.

Some tabletop players, not all, will understand the mechanic used in Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition. It is the 2D die roll mechanic, which involves the rolling of two 6-sided dice. The result of which is a range of numbers from 2 to 12, as shown in the image below.


This mechanic works fairly well at helping players arrive at some prediction as to how their characters will perform when situations make it necessary. A difficulty for a task is told to a player, either verbally or mentally (not known to the player), by the game group's referee. Difficulties have numbers assigned to them, which are called target numbers. An average difficulty would be an 8. So a player would need to roll an 8 or higher for their traveller to succeed at an average task they are performing. Travellers are the characters in the game. I can do an entire blog post on explaining all what travellers are and can do at a later time.

A traveller's skill at something (if it applies to the task being performed) is added to a 2D roll. This helps (or makes worse) the chance of rolling a target number or higher to succeed. From looking at the image above, it is easy to see that the average for 2D rolls is the center target number of 7. There is roughly a 17% chance of rolling a 7, compared to roughly a 3% chance of rolling a 2.

And there are other things to add to a 2D roll to make success likely or not. Characteristic modifiers can be added or subtracted from such rolls. These modifiers may be based on how strong or how intelligent a traveller is, for example. Typically, a characteristic modifier is decided on by how a player is role-playing their traveller. Is a traveller using their strength in a situation? Or are they relying on their good standing with some high society people to get entrance to a fancy shindig? Or do they understand a medical procedure well enough to save another traveller's life? Every little thing counts for something here.

What's new about Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition are the new dice rolls, which are Bane and Boon. These new rolls are what I consider to be the closest a die mechanic can get to actual role-play while not feeling like dice rolls at all, if that makes sense. Players, who are in the middle of narrating what their travellers are currently doing in a situation, will provide their referee with enough detail and/or ideas where he may decide that a traveller is suffering from a bane or is progressing swimmingly from a boon. In which case, the referee asks for a Bane or Boon roll instead of the usual 2D roll players do.

The image below shows the results of a Bane roll. Notice that the range of target numbers is the same as that found in the 2D roll above. The results seem to clump around the value of 5 now, with a slim chance of rolling a 12.


So how is this done? By rolling three 6-sided dice, and removing the highest die from the rolled amount.

And for Boon rolls? The reverse. Simply remove the lowest die from the rolled amount. See the image below.


The Boon roll wants to clump around the value of 9 now, while the value of 2 is almost ignored completely. It too falls into the same range of numbers generated by 2D rolls (2 through 12).

So what does this mean as far as how 2D rolls use additions and subtractions to reach their target numbers? Well, Bane and Boon rolls will still work with a traveller's skill levels and their characteristic modifiers and other +/- values (known as dice modifiers, called DMs) just as 2D rolls work with them. Because Bane and Boon rolls are simply die rolls as far as the die mechanic is concerned. Their range of numbers will still be the same. Just their "shapes" (their probabilities) have changed.

I've said to others that Bane and Boon rolls are easy to master, but difficult to understand. It's kind of a play on sentences. But you should see how much chaos this slickest sweetest little gem of a die roll has caused many a so-called "30-year veteran" Traveller player to outright lose it all. Bane and Boon definitely separates the role-players from the chuckleheads.

So for now, I will leave things here at this point. In a future post, I will talk about the how and when and why of using these Bane and Boon rolls during role-play.

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