Dozens and Dragons

re: handling luck

reply to technoskald


One of my favorite procedures to use in games is some sort of a “luck roll”, which basically comes up when I want to introduce some amount of uncertainty in a game that doesn’t depend specifically on player actions. (This is distinctly not blorby but sometimes I want to be surprised!)

I’ve had the joy of playing a few Cthulu Dark and Into the Odd games with Kyle from technoskald lately. Outstanding human. Excellent, thoughtful DM. If you don’t follow him, you should.

His post got me thinking about luck and the way I use it in games. Namely in troika, my most played/run game of 2020-2022, the pandemic years (tm), and a game missing from Kyle’s list of games with luck mechanics.

So for the sake of completeness, here’s the intro to the luck section from the system reference document

Of all the numbers on your character sheet Luck is likely to fluctuate the most. This number represents your character’s fortune and intuition, tested whenever fate swipes at them. When this happens the GM will ask you to Test your Luck or suffer the consequences.

I use it mainly as a bargaining chip, a way to test fate or to fudge a dice roll.

Luckily, most of my troika the last couple years have been play-by-post, so I have a perfect log of every time I’ve offered a luck roll!

Observe, the most recent times I’ve asked for/offered a luck test:

  1. A player failed a skill test by 1 point. I offered them the opportunity to test their luck to succeed with cost: the spell will succeed but the subject will hold a permanent grudge against you. This is the kind of luck roll I like best! The odds are on the table. Everybody knows what the consequences are. Up to the player to decide whether to take the risk or not.

  2. To determine the rate of success/value: we’re in a magic shop, what kind of scroll do you find?

  3. As literal luck: we’re in a gambling den. How much do you win?

  4. In an especially memorable moment, to see whether a character can escape death at great cost. (He lived, but the proud, dandy wizard hunter suffered extensive scarring to his beautiful face.)

I feel like the luck examples from Call of Cthulhu—e.g. Do you find a cab? Are there keys in the ignition?—are the kinds of questions that don’t rely on the player or the character as much as they rely on the whimsy of the world. And as such, I don’t always think it’s that interesting to have the players roll for them1. I’m just as likely to roll on a yes/no orcale myself on their behalf to speed the game along. This is an occult horror game after all, not a luck simulator.

The kind of luck roll that is much more interesting to me is the Blades in the Dark style that Kyle describes, where the roll symbolizes bargaining with fate, jockeying for effect and position, avoiding outcomes at cost, etc. It won’t work all the time. But when it does, the payoff feels really good.

Bonus content!

The Gambler is a subclass for fighters or thieves that weaponizes a luck mechanic via a hexflower, something I’m a big fan of!!

« older | 2022-03-24 | newer »