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How to Play Tabletop RPGs: Understanding Dice Systems

How to Play Tabletop RPGs: Understanding Dice Systems

It can be mind-boggling to navigate the world of RPGs when terms like percentile system, d20, block system, and more are being thrown around with nary an explanation in sight. It can be even harder to watch games being played without understanding why one player was able to climb over the wall and another falls flat on their face. New players, never fear! This article will explain some of the game systems our hosts have played on our Twitch channel. Now everyone, can understand the joy of having a hit be a crit!

One-Shot Campaigns – d6 and d10 Systems


Image Credit: Geek and Sundry

There have been several single-campaign RPGs played at Geek & Sundry that use different game systems. Game Master Ivan Van Norman has led the Twitch hosts through both the World of Darkness and Gum Shoe systems. World of Darkness functions in a d10 system, meaning that 10-sided dice are rolled to determine if actions are successful. Players will add up modifiers, such as skill and equipment, to determine how many dice are rolled. The more dice rolled, the higher chance of success.

Gum Shoe is a modified d6 system. In Gum Shoe, when players need to roll, they roll a single 6-sided dice. As long as what they roll is equal to or higher than the difficulty number, the player will succeed. So, if a player tries to do an action with the standard difficulty of 4, and rolls a 5, they will succeed. However, in Gum Shoe, unlike many dice systems, there are no attributes, just a pool of ability points which can be added or subtracted to help a roll succeed.

Critical Role – d20 System


Image Credit: Geek and Sundry

The ever popular Critical Role uses the classic d20 system. This means that events in the game are largely determined by rolls made on 20-sided dice, though other dice sometimes come into play. Typically in a d20 system, and certainly on Critical Role, the higher the roll, the better the result.

So, if you want to do a really cool flip in the air and land on the other side of someone in game, your DM (dungeon master) will probably ask you to roll an Acrobatics check. In that case, you’d roll a d20, add any modifiers you might have, and tell the DM the final number, which will determine how well you flipped in the air. If you roll a 1, you’ve critical failed and probably fell flat on your face and injured yourself. If you roll a 20, it’s a critical success (usually just called a crit) and you probably managed several spins in the air before landing in the most amazing pose ever.

The d20 system is extremely popular and is utilized in many games, including Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. If you’re interested in d20 systems, check out Critical Role Thursdays at 7pm PT on Twitch!

No Survivors – Percentile Dice System


Image Credit: Hunter’s Books

No Survivors is the newest show to hit the Geek & Sundry Twitch stream and features a wide variety of tabletop RPGs. For October, the party will be trying to survive the zombie apocalypse in Outbreak: Undead, which uses a percentile dice system. This style of playing is more complicated for new viewers, but actually creates a more realistic feel to the game. Basically in a percentile system, players will have certain challenge ratings associated with a task that they cannot exceed. If someone is trying to shoot a gun at zombies and has a challenge rating of 40 for their weapon, they must roll 40 or less to succeed.

This score can either be rolled on a d100, two d10s, or on specially marked d10s known as percentile dice. If players are rolling two d10s, the GM should have them designate one of the dice to be the tens column before they roll. That way, players won’t be able to manipulate the score to their advantage and the game will remain fair. This is not a problem when rolling a d100 (though they can be more difficult to roll) or with percentile dice. Percentile dice already designate a dice for the tens column, so one dice will increase numbers by 10 (20,30,40,etc) while the other will increase by one (2,3,4, etc).

The percentile system can be a lot of fun once it’s understood. Tune in to No Survivors every Monday at 7pm PT on Twitch to find out if this is the system for you!

There are many gaming systems waiting to be discovered and many amazing tabletop RPGS waiting to be played. What’s your favorite gaming system?

Featured Image: Wizards of the Coast

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