Ability and Roll High

Ability and Roll High

Back in the days, when I moved from First Legends to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, I liked the directness of rolling 3d6 (we probably rolled best 3 of 4d6 then), but going from a system of additions flowing gracefully into a skill system, to a serie of six tables with each its own logic, it felt off.

The conviction that AD&D was the superior form of the game soon drowned the feeling. And the Monster Manual was a cornucopia of inspiration, the source of hours of reverie. First Legends bestiary felt meager.

It's now 2022, the time I have left for dreaming has shrinked dramatically. I want less rules and I want to piggyback the "roll 1d20 ≥ DC" and "no armor is AC 10" systems.

Gallant & Bold put abilities on their heads and says, 3 is the best, not 18, since you roll 1d20 high, with 3 you are very strong, you roll 1d20 ≥ 3 to succeed a check about strength. It seemed that while being appreciated for its elegance and its beauty, Gallant and Bold players were complaining, longing for ability scores pointing back towards 18.

I thought that it was very simple to roll the abilities high as usual and then simply compute the corresponding "y = 21 - x". It slows down a little bit the character creation, but players feel good comparing their above 12 scores, and the "roll high against y" shines, just a few centimeters away.

(y = 21 - x)

If a subtraction is a scary thing, it's easy to turn the exercise into a small table lookup, as seen on the left side. If you rolled a 6 for Strength, you have to roll 15 or better to succeed in a strength feat, likewise, if you rolled 15, the corresponding "DC" is 6.

I was happy to have 2 × 6 ability scores on the character sheets for my table rules. This business of having "low" ability leveraged as DC was intriguing. The greater the AC the better, the smaller the DC the better, both directions have a use in a 1d20 roll high context.

When challenging yourself, you roll against the low number, when opposing an enemy action, the offender rolls against your high number.

For now, I labelled the high number "DC" and the low number "TC". I chose the mnemonic Defend / Transcend. I also chose a lozenge, close to the shield symbol used for AC. so lozenge and shield, DC and AC when defending, while a simple circle and TC when transcending oneself.

This is the core of my Aachen system, it goes further but the opposition DC and TC provides the referee with target numbers for rolls. The skill levels come later and they're simply modifiers to the rolls.