Dabney (GM): Not bad! The dart lands pretty close to the bullseye—just an inch or two off. The pirate frowns and roughly shoves you out of the way. He says gruffly, “Alright, boy, let me show you how it’s done.” The pirate throws the dart and… not good. He got a 9. The dart hit the dartboard, but he wasn’t anywhere close to the bullseye.
Parker (Rogue): Ha!
Wesley (Warrior): I face down the pirate and say. “Alright, we won your stupid the game. Give us your map.
Dabney (GM): Not bad! The dart lands pretty close to the bullseye—just an inch or two off. The pirate frowns and roughly shoves you out of the way. He says gruffly, “Alright, boy, let me show you how it’s done.” Parker, your roll was pretty good—much better than average—so the pirate has some stiff competition. He throws the dart, which lands at the very edge of the board. You beat him by a longshot.
Parker (Rogue): Ha!
Wesley (Warrior): I face down the pirate and say. “Alright, we won your stupid the game. Give us your map.
CHAPTER 4: ROLLING DICE
The future is uncertain. When a player attacks a monster, nobody can be certain if he will hit or if his blade will swing harmlessly through the air. That’s where dice come in. The dice and the numbers that you add to the roll determine how likely you are to succeed at an action.
Tavern Tales uses the following dice: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. The number before the “d” represents how many of that particular die that you need to roll. The number after the “d” represents how many sides that die has. For example, 3d20 means that you roll three 20-sided dice.
Ultimately, it’s up to the GM to decide when someone needs to roll the dice. When he calls for a roll, follow these steps:
Step 1: The GM Determines Which Stat to Use for the Roll
Actions are always modified by one of the four stats. It’s usually fairly obvious which stat should apply to the roll. Sometimes, unique circumstances would allow a player to use an unorthodox stat for a roll. For example, spirit is the obvious choice if a player is trying to charm someone. But what if a scholar is trying to win the favors of his love interest by sending her beautifully crafted love poems? In that case, it might be more appropriate to use mind because the scholar is relying on his wits.
As a player, you should be creative when you suggest a certain stat to the GM. The right argument might allow you use your strongest stat instead of your weakest stat.
As a GM, try to walk a fine a line between lenience and adherence to the rules. The stat are intentionally left vague so that players can be creative in their use. If you are too strict, you strangle creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. If you are too lenient, the stats lose their meaning.
Step 2: Roll 3d20 and Take the Middle
The person taking the action rolls three 20-sided dice and takes the middle value. In the following 3d20 rolls, the player would use die result in bold:
1, 10, 20
8, 9, 15
8, 12, 12
11, 11, 11
6, 6, 18
2, 3, 4
The d20 that use you for your final result is known as your primary die. Ignore the results of the other two d20.
Why roll 3d20 instead of 1d20? Rolling 3d20 has an averaging effect, which means that you will get 10 and 11 much more often than 1 and 20. This makes rolls less swingy and more reliable. This graph charts the likelihood of each result on a 3d20 roll.
Step 3: Add the Appropriate Modifier
Take the bonus or penalty from the appropriatestat and add it to your result. If you have brawn +3 and roll a 10, your final result is 13 (10 + 3). If you have spirit -1 and roll an 8, your final result is 7 (8 – 1).
Step 4: Check for Success
Compare your roll result against the following chart:
The chart contains 5 tiers. In general, higher tiers are better than lower tiers. This means that the better you roll, the better you do. The worse you roll, the worse you do.
Very good: Your situation tremendously improves. You achieve what you were trying to do, and then some.
Good: Your situation improves. You achieve what were you trying to do.
Mixed: You get a mix of good and bad results. Something good happens, but something bad happens as well.
Bad: Your situation worsens. Your failure leads to bad consequences.
Very bad: Your situation seriously worsens. You fail spectacularly and make things worse.
The following chart gives an example of the types of results you can expect from some of the most common rolls in Tavern Tales:
The above table is simply a suggestion of possible roll outcomes. Ultimately, it’s up to the GM to decide the effects of a roll.
It’s often a good idea for the GM to let players determine the results of their rolls, even when they roll badly. For example, suppose a player makes an attack and gets a Mixed result. The GM might tell that the player that he and the player exchange blows, and it’s up to the player to describe how it happens.
Should the GM Roll Dice?
In the world of roleplaying games, there are two main styles of gameplay: Multi Roll and Single Roll. Tavern Tales accommodates both styles of gameplay equally well, so it’s important for your gaming group to agree upon a style.
This is the more conventional style of roleplaying games, and is often called “I go, you go.” In this system, the players and the GM both roll dice (hence, “multiple roll”). The players each have turns, and they roll the dice for their characters. Similarly, the GM takes turns and rolls dice for non-player characters and the environment.
This style feels more realistic, tactical, and fair. Consider this game mode if you want players and non-player characters to feel like they’re on the same playing field.
This is the newer style of roleplaying games. In this system, the GM never needs to touch the dice because the players do all of the rolling (hence “single roll”). Essentially, players roll for both themselves and their opponents all at once. When a player rolls well, his character triumphs and his opponents fail. When a player rolls badly, his character fails and his opponents triumph.
This style feels more abstract and story driven. Consider this game mode if you want a more cinematic and fluid gaming experience where the players are the most important.
Example of Multi Roll vs Single Roll Gameplay
Dabney (GM): The pirate leans back in his chair with a smug look on his face. He grins—what few teeth he has left are brown and rotten. He says, “I don’t care a whit that this map is yours. I ain’t just gonna give it to you. Wouldn’t be very pirate-like of me, would it?”
Wesley (Playing as a warrior): We don’t have time for this! I scowl at the pirate and say, “We bought that map from your boss. Hand it over or I’ll knock out the rest of your teeth.”
Dabney (GM): The pirate throws his head back and laughs. You can smell rum (bad rum, at that) on his breath. “You don’t scare me, boy. If you want this map, you gotta beat me at a game of darts. If you win, you get the map. If you lose, the map’s mine and you buy me another round of drinks.”
Parker (Playing as a rogue): Darts? I got this, guys. “Deal!”
Dabney (GM): The pirate’s grin widens, and he stands. It’s immediately obvious that he isn’t as drunk as he appeared to be. He leads you over to an old dart set hanging from the back wall of the tavern. “Let’s see what you got,” he says.
Parker (Rogue): Heh, well… here goes nothing. I take it that this is a Finesse roll?
Dabney (GM): Yep.
Parker (Rogue): Alright. I line up my shot and throw my dart at the bullseye. I roll and get a 16!
[At this point, the game’s mechanics diverge]
In the Multi Roll example, the pirate and the rogue both rolled separately. Each actor has a fair chance to succeed, so gameplay feels more even-handed and realistic. In contrast, the GM did not roll any dice in the Single Roll example. The rogue’s dice roll told the gaming group everything they needed to know about the dart competition. Because the rogue performed well, the pirate automatically performed badly. This game mode makes the story feel very player-centric because everything hinges on the players’ choices and rolls.
There are a few other minor differences between these two game styles. The following chapters explain special rules when these two game styles diverge.
Increasing and Decreasing Rolls
Not all rolls are created equal. Throwing a rock and hitting a building is easy, but throwing a rock and hitting a fly is next to impossible.
Effortless actions that are bound to succeed (throwing a rock and hitting a building that you’re standing right next to) don’t require a roll because they automatically succeed. Impossible actions that are bound to fail (throwing a rock across a continent) don’t require a roll because they automatically fail.
Use the increase/decrease system for easy actions that still have a chance of failure, or for difficult actions that still have a chance of success. Increased rolls use the highest d20 instead of the middle d20. Decreased rolls use the lowest d20 instead of the middle d20. This graph charts the likelihood of increased/decreased 3d20 rolls.
A marksman is trying to impress his friends with his archery skills. On the first shot, he aims for the wall of a nearby building, which is an incredibly easy shot. The GM declares that this is an increased roll, so the player rolls 3d20 and uses the highest d20.
On his next shot, he aims for a distant bullseye. This shot is somewhat difficult, so it’s just a normal roll. He rolls 3d20 and takes the middle d20.
On his final shot, he aims for an apple on his friend’s head. This shot is extremely difficult but still possible, so the GM declares that this is a decreased roll. The player rolls 3d20 and takes the lowest d20.
Follow these guidelines when you use the increase/decrease system:
Multiple increases and decreases cancel each other out. If your roll is both increased and decreased, then you ignore both effects and you take the middle d20. If a roll would be increased twice and decreased once, it is increased once.
The addition of the word “greatly” means that it’s two steps instead of one. For example, “greatly increase the roll” means that you increase the roll twice.
If a roll is increased twice, treat it as if it is automatically a result of 20.
If a roll is decreased twice, treat it as if it is automatically a result of 1.
Increased/decreases rolls don’t affect damage.
For balance reasons, increases/decreases generally shouldn’t “jump” categories. For example, a player who has the exploration trait “Increase all rolls you make to break objects” probably shouldn’t get the bonus if he tries to attack a rampaging golem (combat). The GM decides when to make exceptions.
Having advantage means that you have an edge. The GM might grant you advantage in certain situations, or you might gain advantage through traits. When you have advantage, you can spend 1 advantage to increase 1 of your rolls. You can only spend 1 advantage per roll.
Advantage falls into one of the three categories: combat advantage, exploration advantage, and interaction advantage. Advantage gained through combat can only be used on combat rolls, advantage gained through exploration can only be used on exploration rolls, and advantage gained through interaction can only be used on interaction rolls. Advantage eventually expires depending on the situation. For example, advantage gained during combat would probably expire after combat ends.
When the players do something that would logically give them an edge, the GM might award the players with advantage. Here are a few situations where the GM might grant advantage to players:
Before fighting a kung fu master, the players speak to every person the master has ever dueled in order to learn more about his fighting techniques.
A player drinks a special potion, which enhances his combat prowess.
Before venturing into a jungle, the players purchase a rare map of the region.
A player listens to an old man tell dozens of stories about the nearby haunted woods.
The players proudly wear the King’s Insignia as they socialize with a lower-ranking noble.
A player presents a merchant with an expensive and valuable gift, thereby earning the merchant’s favor.
Sometimes, the GM will just grant the players advantage by virtue of the fact that they did something heroic. Other times, he might require the players to roll for it. A successful roll results in gaining advantage.
Granting Advantage vs Increasing a roll
Ultimately, that’s up to the GM. This is the general rule of thumb:
Increase/decrease the roll when the task itself is much easier or harder than normal.
Grant advantage when the players prepare, practice, or use hard-earned resources. Players hold onto advantage because they have an ace up your sleeve, so to speak, which they can use whenever the situation calls for it.
For example, suppose that a thief is trying to pick locks to access the center of a castle. If he’s picking a very easy lock, the GM might have the thief increase his roll. If the thief visits the local locksmith and spends several hours studying locking mechanisms, then the GM might give the thief 1 (or more) advantage to spend on picking locks.
A barbarian, wizard, rogue, and bard are preparing to explore a jungle.
The barbarian goes to an arena and watches gladiators fight with jungle beasts such as panthers and giant snakes. After studying the beasts fight, the GM allows the barbarian to make a mind roll to analyze the beasts’ fighting styles. Barbarians aren’t known for their brains, unfortunately, so the barbarian fails his roll and doesn’t gain any advantage.
The wizard goes to a nearby library and spends several hours performing extensive research about the jungle’s wildlife and terrain. At the end of the research, the GM tells the wizard to make a mind roll to remember all of the information he absorbed. The wizard succeeds and gets 1 exploration advantage that he can use while exploring the jungle.
The rogue goes to the local thieves’ guild and cashes in a favor. Earlier, the rogue helped the thieves’ guild get out of trouble with the local authorities. He asks for a detailed map of the jungle, which the guild gladly provides. The map has 3 exploration advantage—whoever has the map can spend it to increase a roll that relates to exploring the jungle.
Meanwhile, the bard visits a local tavern and chats up a tribal warrior who came from the jungle. The bard spends this time talking about the various types of people who live in the jungle. The GM has the bard make a spirit roll, which he succeeds. The GM says that the bard gains 1 social advantage that he can use while in the jungle.
During their travels, the group of adventurers comes upon an old rope bridge, which sways dangerously in the breeze. Crossing the bridge should be fairly easy, but there is still a chance that one of the players might slip through a hole in the swinging bridge and fall into the chasm below. The GM allows the players to increase their rolls to cross the bridge.
Later, they come upon whitewater rapids. Crossing the river could prove very dangerous. Swimming across the river would be an excellent opportunity for the better-prepared adventurers to spend their exploration advantage.
Group advantage is the same as advantage, except that any of your allies who are present can use your group advantage as if it were their own.
If the wizard in the above example had taken the time to explain his research results to his allies, then the GM might allow the wizard to convert his advantage to group advantage. Any of the adventurers would be able to use the wizard’s group advantage while exploring the jungle.
Enemies with Advantage
Advantage is an area where the Multi Roll and Single Roll systems diverge. In the Multi Roll game mode, non-player characters spend advantage to increase their rolls. In Single Roll game modes, non-player characters spend their advantage to decrease rolls that
players make against them.