let's talk about small town gothic, part 2: dice

you like pokemon? how about megaten? well i sure hope you do! here is the sort of bloated system i came up with in small town gothic to support fights between monsters of all (metaphorical or literal) sizes.

let me, like, acclimate you first using small numbers. let’s assume that the strength of an average human being is represented by a level of like 3 or 4 (rounding down to 3 just cause). what other “power levels” are reasonable to expect?

  1. an angry dog
  2. a keebler elf
  3. behold, a man
  4. maybe a warthog or a puma
  5. a black bear (?)
  6. elephant

how do you decide who wins in a fight? first, add up the scores of the opponents. then divide the attacker’s score by that sum. let’s try this using the angry dog as an example:

  • angry dog has 50% against another dog
  • angry dog has 33% chance against a keebler elf
  • angry dog has 25% chance against a human being
  • angry dog has 20% chance against a puma (or a warthog)
  • angry dog has a 17% chance against a black bear
  • angry dog has a 14% chance against an elephant

i totally get if the examples are off bc i’m not actually trying to weigh the power levels of dogs, bears, and warthogs (or pumas) but i hope you get the point. instead of there being like a linear relationship between “power levels” (e.g. dogs are +1, keebler elves are +2, humans are +3), their chances of victory are proportional to the ratio of their power levels.

that sounds annoying to figure out on the spot, so let me give you a nice little table! a little big table. the reason i’m using d12 is because i like having damage rolls as a measure of partial success, and let me explain further. when the attacker succeeds, the defender loses HP equal to the dice roll. for opponents of equal power levels, you’ll notice this is equivalent to rolling a d6 for damage on a successful 50% to-hit roll! very familiar and good, i think.

this is the old table before changes i'll talk about in a sec

this also means that, since the amount of HP lost is also a function of relative power levels, the total amount of HP could be constant across all creatures. i let everyone have 6 HP max, so that being successfully attacked by an equal opponent will cause you to lose about 1/2 of your HP. like in pokemon! and if you're a human fighting an angry dog, there's a 50-50 chance you'll defeat it first hit.

on that note, that's what i like about HP: it's like partial success with memory. you might not succeed the first time, but your efforts aren't in vain.

the goal is to figure out what's fun. right now i want to see what it's like to fight smaller groups of enemies with the hopes that the referee can give them more personality, instead of crowds. but if that's not fun, maybe enemies will just be like one-hit-to-kill or something and there'll be more of them. need to test.

i might also see whether d20 works; it has the benefit that all creatures would have 10 HP by the same reasoning as to why they have 6 HP with d12. this means that there are more degrees of 'hurt', and it can easily be represented as a percentage. nevertheless, i think that the different fractions themselves are better represented multiplied by 12 than by 20. we'll see what my friends prefer!

bigger numbers

now i don’t want these numbers to stay this low because (1) you can’t roll 3d6 for stats, (2) it’s just not very evocative. so let’s multiply every stat score on the table by 3, and assume that you round up to the nearest multiple of 3. this means that we're not judging by intervals of 1, but by intervals of 3.

in other words, a stat score of 2 is as powerful as a stat score of 3, but a stat score of 4 is more powerful than both.

small table (3-18)

full table (3-72)

this allows greater variety of player and NPC strengths and weaknesses! not only can players roll 3d6 for their stats (recall the average roll is 9-12, ~48% of the time), but we can roll 1d6 for angry dogs, 2d6 for keebler elves, etc. this is sort of my reinterpretation of hit dice.

it also allows for greater variation of power levels between opponents of the same general level. for example, an angry dog’s stat score has a 50% chance of being in the 1-3 range or the 4-6 range. the possible variation increases as more dice are rolled. here is the array for possible human stat scores, by intervals of 3:

so that’s all nice and elegant! and it has the side effect that players are more likely to have “nice” stat scores without complicating the 3d6 process, because of how you round scores up to the nearest multiple of 3 when you compare scores between opponents.

this isn’t play-tested yet but i would like to soon! it might get complicated over like a voice call around my parents while i'm home for the summer, so i might run a game over a discord chat or a PBP forum. we’ll see!

the main problem is that this sort of complicates non-opposed rolls. with smaller numbers i could say "the difficulty score for dungeons is 7", but now i have to say "the difficulty score for dungeons is 21". which isn't bad, but you know. crazy. maybe i'll just find something simpler for that.


added this to clarify and sum things up! here's how it all works:

  1. compare stat score of acting character versus stat score of reacting character (round both up to the nearest multiple of 3)
  2. check the chart
  3. roll 1d12 less than or equal to the chart's number

during combat, if the roll succeeds, the reacting character takes damage equal to the roll.

for unopposed rolls against the environment or whatever, the default 'score' is 21.


if you're into small town gothic for an all-new system, that's basically the extent of it. you're welcome! how about we try applying this to good ol' d&d? the number represents the # of HD to roll for all stats:

  1. goblins, skeletons
  2. frogpeople, zombies
  3. humans, orcs, ghouls
  4. trolls, wraiths
  5. owlbears
  6. baby dragons

another possibility this opens up is the ability to assign different HD to each stat--like, maybe something is as strong as a bear but fast as a snail--but i'll leave that up to someone else. that's a lot of work, and i don't think codifying things in such detail is necessarily fun.


  1. This is very interesting, although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't skeptical about a few things. Whether it works or not, it's certainly worth consideration.

    So to make sure I understand:

    1. You do the calculation or look at the chart.
    2. The likelihood calculation is: pc_stat / (pc_stat + npc1_stat + ... npcN_stat), so in the case of dog vs. dog we have 3 / (3+3) = 3/6 = 1/2 = 50% = 18 (on 3d12)
    3. Roll 3d12
    4. If PC beats the difficulty, deals that much damage. If PC loses, they take Difficulty in damage (?)

    Anecdotally, people seem to dislike the multiples of 3 that Cypher System uses (with a d20), but personally I find it intuitive and sensible for the same reasons you're using it. I would recommend you check out Cypher System.

    This relative difficulty system and consolidating the "attack roll" and damage roll is cool, but I think it might be a little tricky at the table. FASERIP also uses a difficulty chart as did some other games from that time like some versions of Gamma World, and some people seem to like it, but again anecdotally, I found it to be one of those things that makes sense right up until you have to use it, but when trying to keep track of everything else in the game, I lack the bandwidth to mentally process it. Maybe some of that would come over time if I kept using it.

    3d12 is awkward, but I see the logic of what you're going for. I'd have to reread it myself a bit to articulate properly, but I really think you should check out Cypher System. They use a d20 with multiples of 3 for difficulty and it works well, although it might require some finagling to work with the rest of what you're doing.

    Anyway, if you do a discord playtest, I may be interested in trying it out, if you're looking for players.

    1. Hi there! To clarify, the player only rolls 1d12, and they do not receive damage on a failed attack. Although I appreciate games which combine attack/defense that way, I specifically want to emulate turn-based video games as part of the 'conceit'. (And unfortunately I only own one d12, so 3d12 is outside of the realm of possibility for me!)

      This means that the number shown on the chart is exactly what you have to roll equal/under using 1d12. For example, for STAT 3 vs STAT 3 the attacker must roll 1d12 <= 6 (50%). For STAT 3 vs STAT 6, the attacker must roll 1d12 <= 8 (67%). I have also not accounted for the possibility of multiple defendants using one roll; I would personally roll against each defendant's individual scores.

      Thanks for recommending Cypher, I'll have to read more into it! And I'll be happy to reach out to you about a Discord playtest :D


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