The Set Up
I saw a post on some social media site recently, and the author thought it would be great if there could be some way of playing every TTRPG with every other one. Some sort of conversion method, so people could consistently smoothly shift from one ruleset to another.
This got me thinking. First: it was not at all clear to me this is desirable. But, you know, if someone desires it, then, of course it’s desirable. Not to me, probably. If I want to play James Bond, I have James Bond 007 Role-playing in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and it is different from my game of cosmic horror, and from Toon, and from Amber diceless, and from Dread, and so on. Those differences are good, but if people want conversion, great!
Then I thought of my very own Mages & Mooks, specifically, and how it wouldn’t convert so well, because one of the things at the heart of the game is that players, none of them, know how difficult tasks will be until they throw the dice. Mages & Mooks uses a d6 vs. d8 resolution method. And, in my mind, at that moment, that method is so different from all those other methods that boil down to a percentage of success. Percentile systems, obviously, d20 + modifiers, only slightly less obviously. Advantage/disadvantage does, too, as I understand it.
Then, a moment later I remembered that I had written a 6×8 table of results, and giving ties to the player, had, in fact, figured out the percent of success for a d6 vs d8 roll. The real difference is not that it’s not calculable, the real differences are (1) if the task is difficult or easy, and (2) nobody knows how difficult or easy until the dice settle & everyone learns at the same time both how difficult it was and if it succeeded.
The Easy Thing or the Difficult Thing
Then I got to thinking about how determining difficulty works. Then I thought “I’d better re-read Mages & Mooks.” But I was walking along the side of the expressway picking up garbage, so I made up a different game entirely, and fleshed out a tiny sliver of the game to demonstrate how d6 vs. d8 works and how determining difficult or easy might go in this imaginary game.
A Silly & Long-winded Look
So, enjoy, if you will, a Happy Days flavored explanation of 6v8.
Characters have a thing called Cool. Maybe it’s a stat, maybe it’s a resource, maybe it doesn’t matter. Some characters have a lot of Cool, and others don’t have much. Some characters don’t have any Cool.
Fonzie has a lot of Cool. Ritchie has some situational Cool. Potsie has some Cool he’s borrowed. Pinky has a lot of Cool. Leather has a lot of Cool. Chachi has some Cool. Ralph probably has zero Cool, but has a lot of Laffs, and Fonzie has, like, maybe zero Laffs.
Making the juke box go without coins is a Thing people can do using Cool. Things people can do might require a die roll. If it’s impossible, no die roll. If the character has a lot of Cool, then it succeeds automatically, no die roll. If it’s Easy, roll d8 vs a d6 challenge roll, tie to the player (about 69% successful). If it’s Difficult, roll d6 vs a d8 challenge roll, tie to the player, because this is a sit-com, and characters should generally succeed (about 44% successful).
But the real question is: why is this Thing an Easy Thing or a Hard Thing?
Fonzie and Pinky have so much Cool that they will always succeed at making the juke box go without coin. Unless, that is, if there’s a situational reason. Maybe Fonzie has misplaced his leather jacket, and Pinky is around distracting him. Then it’s Easy maybe. As a demolition driver, Pinky is also going to have a Mechanic thing that might be brought into play if her Cool is suffering for some reason.
Leather’s Cool will make it an Easy roll, unless she’s having a bad day, and it becomes Difficult maybe. If she’s having a good day, maybe no roll is necessary, and it just starts playing.
Richie has enough Cool that it will always be, at best, a Difficult roll, but usually impossible. But maybe MaryBeth is around, and he’s having a good day. Maybe he has Fonzie’s leather jacket on, somehow. Maybe with these dealios the roll becomes Easy. But, probably, there will never be a time when Richie can just succeed, without a roll.
Potsie will rarely be able to make the juke box go without coins. His Cool just isn’t there, man. Yeah, he’s in a band, and has a good voice. That’s pretty Cool, so he’s not hopeless. He’s really just a guy who has friends with Cool, and friends count for a lot in Happy Days. So, maybe, if he’s enjoying the benefits of Joanie’s Dren phase, for example, and having a good night, so maybe with these dealios it’s a Difficult Thing.
Ralph. Poor Ralph. He’ll never have enough Cool and circumstantial dealios to be able to make the jukebox play without coin. But. But. He has Laffs, see. So imagine this scenario. The Demons have come into Arnold’s, and are getting all rude all over the place… unscrewing the salt shaker lids, squirting catsup around the place, and Fonzie is off somewhere getting hassled by Officer Kirk. It’s tense in the burger joint, and nobody in the place is feeling their Cool. But Ralph has Laffs. So after a confrontation where “Bag” Zombroski tries to play a song with a slug instead of a coin, and Arnold unplugs the jukebox, maybe Ralph comes over. Says a few funny things to take Bag down a peg, distracts the situation while Potsie plugs it back in, and then Ralph caresses and fist-bumps the jukebox on a Difficult roll.
For the Laffs.