Umbral Domains: Paltery Bards System

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The Paltery Bard System

Quick: You're a Storyteller trying to figure out what what difficulty would give characters with average abilities (ie. a pool of 5 dice) a moderate chance of getting the three successes necessary to complete a task.

The advantage of the Storyteller System dice mechanic is that instead of adding up many numers in their head to get figure out how well they did on a roll the player is merely counting the total number of dice that rolled on or above their necessary target number (ie. "Difficulty"). While this may make evaluating your roll quicker, it also obscures the ability of the players, or more importantly the Storyteller, to determine the chances of success. It becomes a bit easier to determine in the few iterations of the game where the difficulty is

The various iterations of the Storyteller System have typically had a variable difficulty number which players had to attempt to roll. But although the book provides a list of these difficulties and what they mean it can still be a challenge to get any idea what chance a character has of attaining one or more success. The "botch" mechanics (rules for determining spectacular failures) made things even more complicated.

The Paltery Bard system keeps dice pools but attempts to simplify a couple aspects of them making it at least easier to figure out how many successes a character is likely to get on average and altering the implimentation of botch dice a bit.

The Basics

With the Paltery Bard system all rolls have a difficulty of 6 meaning that any dice that roll 6-10 are counted as "successes" and any that roll 1-5 are counted as failures. Because of this on average each pool rolled will produce half successes and half failures.

When two characters square off against each other in a contest (in combat for example) both players roll their dice pools. Their successes cancel out on a one-to-one basis. The number of successes remaining on one side or the other after canceling indicate which character won the contest and their degree of success. This degree of success is interpreted much as in the old Storyteller system with regard to what it accomplishes and how it's used.

Difficulty modifiers to Dice Pools

Althought the Paltry Bard system has set the target number for success at 6, not all actions are of equal scope and difficulty. To simulate the extra challenge or ease of various activities extra dice may be added either to your pool or your opponents pool. If the action is of average difficulty no dice are added to either pool. For more difficult activities dice are added to your opponent's pool, while for easier tasks your character may actually get one or two extra dice in her pool.

In cases where a character is attempting an action not contested by another character the Storyteller is still treated as their opponent. Assuming the role of "the universe" the Storyteller starts out with a pool of 0 dice (assuming a task of average difficulty), but may roll various numbers of dice for a more difficult tasks. A handy chart indicating these modifiers is indicated below.

The variable target number (refered to as Difficulty in White Wolf books) of the old Storyteller system is also taken into account in the table below for compatability purposes.

Bonus Dice
Bonus Dice
Description - Cooking example.
Typically no difficulties below 2.
Trivial - Normally you wouldn't even roll this.
Easy - Making a PB&J sandwich.
Routine - Cooking a frozen pizza.
Straightforward - Cooking from a simple recipee.
Standard - Cooking a typical dinner.
Challenging - Comming up with your own simple recipee.
Difficult - Cooking a major holiday meal with multiple courses for several people.
Exceptionally difficult - Inventing elaborate recipes, catering a major event.
+1 required
Difficulty verging on impossible (for mortals) - Inventing elaborate recipees while catering a major event (+2)...using nothing but the leftover scraps from a previous meal (+2). Or feats of gastronomic prowess to tempt the palates of the very gods!


Once you've rolled any given pool separate out all dice that rolled 1 or 2. If more than half the dice in the pool rolled 1 or 2 then the roll counts as a botch. Something pretty bad happens on a botch, generally even worse if *alot* more than half the dice rolled 1 or 2.

You may notice that it's possible to both get successes and botch at the same time with this system. Such a combination of success and botch indicates that the character has succeeded at the thing they were attempting but has done so at the cost of screwing something else up.

Multiple Actions & Split Dice Pools

Nothing really groundbreaking here, but for the sake of clarity:

When attempting multiple actions in a round you have to your dice pools to attempt it. To split dice pools determine the smallest dice pool of all the actions you intend to take in that round and divvy up it's dice among all the actions as you see fit. Actions which don't normally use a dice pool (such as running a moderate distance in a round) use up one die each, while free actions (most talking, etc.) do not reduce the pool at all.

The only major change is that this dividing up is done before any difficulty modifier dice are added. Each action gets difficulty modifier dice applied to it separately.