One Rolled To Rule The Role

I’ve been going a bit Unisystem crazy recently. I blame Kurt Wiegel and his inspiring fanboy reviews. Thing is, Kurt has such boundless optimism and positive attitude towards products that he likes, it’s infectious.

The cheap copy of the Angel rpg was the gateway drug – before I knew it I’d bought three AFMBE books, a couple of Buffy sourcebooks off a certain popular auction site, and my copy of Ghosts of Albion should be in the mail.

Ghosts of Albion cover

Man, I am really excited about GoA. I was already set to run Helmouth (Buffy / Hex / Morning Glories in an English boarding school on the river Hel) using Angel, Magic Box and Monster Smackdown. If the promise about GoA is true then the magic system will be even better.

There’s just one thing that’s weird. Rolling one die.

Orange 10 sided die

Kinda looks lonely, don’t you think? Of course that’s years of playing Storyteller (and more recently ORE) talking. What the hell am I going to do with the other 49 d10s I have in my dice teapot?1

Yes, before there was Vampire there were games where you only rolled (gasp) one die at a time. I think some people still play them; the d20 features quite a lot. But the last time I played a single die roll system was before I ran Vampire and became a (resentful) slave to the World of Darkness. That was Cyberpunk 2020.

And that was one of the best campaigns I played in my undergraduate years. There are some things I don’t like about CP2020 but rolling 1d10 isn’t a problem. No watching players drop a handful of d10s only for two to skitter under the sofa. No hunting and pecking for successes. A simple, linear roll where the probability of success is almost completely transparent.

These days I’d favour a percentile system over buckets of dice because it offers the same transparency – and if you’re using criticals and fumbles, a roll of 04 or 99 really means something. It’s immediate; it’s exciting. But despite owning a metric ton of BRP books I never really clicked with percentile systems.

However there’s something to be said for 1d10 over d100. Firstly, a linear scale of 1-10 is much more tactile than a percentage, especially when it’s added to stat+skill rather than rolling under an arbitrary number for a binary result. Secondly, in Unisystem (and CP2020) when you roll a 1 or a 10, you roll again to see if it’s really bad or really good, respectively (at least you do in Classic). So there’s a delicious moment where the player wonders if that 10 is going to turn into a triumph over the odds, or if that 1 is going to ruin their day forever. It’s really effective.

For some reason I’ve got it in my head that rolling at least 2 dice is mandatory. Because they click together in my hand. It’s some perverse form of gamer OCD.

I’m going to try Unisystem for my next one-off (a game I previously ran with Lace and Steel). It’ll be interesting to see how my players react.


[1] We broke the lid of the teapot. So it holds dice now. And we make tea in a stainless steel teapot.

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