So, back to the drawing-board for us. I’m sussing out the details of a basic mechanic I’m rather proud of. I’m assuming a classless system with skills. (I’m going classless because most of our gaming is one-on-one, so niche-protection isn’t an issue.)
When you want to use a skill, and the outcome is uncertain, you roll against a table that looks something like this:
Now, if you’re an utter neophyte, with no real training to speak of, you roll a d20 on this table and hope you get lucky. If you’ve had some training (maybe at the level of an apprentice, for instance) you roll 2d10. Those with more skill (journeyman-level, to continue with our analogy) get to roll 3d6. Finally, those who have mastered this skill roll 4d4.
Thanks to the wonders of the bell curve, the more dice you roll, the more likely your results are to cluster at the middle of the table. Thus, the more skilled you are, the more dependable your results will be.
Of course, if that were the end of the story, as you can see, a master craftsman could never fail. And, generally speaking, that’s fine with me. A master at his craft shouldn’t fail under normal circumstances. Unusual circumstances, however, are another matter.
Adverse circumstances force you to work at less than your peak ability. Working with difficult or unusual materials, for instance, might lower your skill ranking by 1. Working without the proper tools might reduce it by 2. Trying to work based on instructions written in a language you don’t understand to recreate a device you’ve never seen before might reduce your skill ranking by 5 or more, and these reductions would be cumulative!
However, you can get help, as well. Each additional helper might add their skill ranking to yours. Exceptionally high-quality tools or materials might increase your ranking by 1 or 2. So your circumstances might move your ranking for any particular task up or down. It can never lower it below rolling a d20, or above rolling 4d4 (though 5d3 is a possibility).
So that’s what I’m playing with so far. Next time I discuss this, it’ll be to mention stats and maybe character creation and advancement.