The 4 RPG Modes

I have studied tabletop roleplaying game systems for awhile now. With that has come =oodles= of learning that I then pass along here and there to you.

One of the patterns I cannot help noticing is the kind of experiences that recur again and again. From Dungeons & Dragons to Call of Cthulhu to 5e Hardcore to Tiny Dungeon and more, each picks from a small selection of difficulties. Or, what I call “modes.”

How Mode Is Established

A game sets its experience first and foremost with how well it prepares the fictional characters players use to face conflicts conflicts in the game.

Being well prepared decreases the difficulty and commonly increases the feeling of power in the player by overcoming conflicts. The opposite – likeliness of death, powerlessness in the face of adversity – grinds down the expectations of a player.

That laying of expectation is “mode,” a combination of difficulty and empowerment.

For example, a darkly-themed war between “the Heavens and Hells” would imply low expectations for a player playing as a meager human. However, if the player character slays demons and commands angels, that would clearly be a heroic or super-human achievement. Therefore, just because the theme says one thing, the tone is ultimately set by the mechanical achievement of the characters.

Let us explore the four modes I’ve identified (the most common to the least common):

Heroic Mode

This is vanilla Dungeons & Dragons, specifically the 5th edition (5e).

Though facing everything from giant rats to otherworldly gods and titular dragons in dark and dank dungeons, characters rarely die. Should a character bite it, they will not be dead for long.

With an abundance of healing potions, spells, and entire rituals to bring the dead back to life, 5e enables characters to slog through the worst. In addition, characters are given buckets of hit points (the things that allow a character to take punishment and keep on kicking), which lengthens both the attrition the characters can sustain and gives the players ample time to reposition or reconsider their actions!

Ultimately, the players are in near complete control of their fates, the randomness of dice smoothed out over the many rolls required to bring a character down.

At the end of the day, Heroic Mode is meant to make the players feel that they are the heroes in command of the story, and heroes never die.

Human Mode

A more grounded perspective on what a character is expected to do.

Characters may grow to become stronger, have eventual access to rare-but-powerful items, and can give as good as they get. Yet, “Human” characters can die, are more limited by their means, and may eventually cap-out with how truly able they can be.

Games I’d put into this category are Tiny Dungeon and Index Card RPG. Characters start at a common few hit points (e.g. 6 if one species, 7 if another, or 10 for everyone no matter origin), have a few useful-but-limited pieces of equipment, and the magic or technology of the world can only do so much (e.g. not make someone alive the way they were before death!).

Adventures can be had and bold actions taken, though consequences, if uncommon, will be felt. Confidence armed with caution is the rule of the day. (Luckily, Human Mode still lets folks run away!)

Hardcore Humbled Mode

Ah, the “grimdark” mode.

Games of this ilk are geared to punish characters for the hubris of attempting to right the game world’s wrongs, to fight against the will of things far more powerful than mere human understanding.

These games are brutal. Mork Borg, Call of Cthulhu, Zweihander, and Band of Blades would be appropriate inclusions, as would virtually all of the “old school renaissance” (OSR) games (some might be considered Human Mode if the game designers are generous).

Weapons break, armor protects but little, hit points are low and capped low, characters can become both temporarily better and permanently worse, and often the choice is whether to eat or have fire to stay warm and safe(r) from the dark. Characters are brittle and weak and progress but little towards any goals.

Obstacles are enormous: god-eating gods, titanic monsters that slay at a whim, powerful overlords that care not for the plights of mortals, and vicious consequences for any attempts by characters to do anything await. Characters will fail and they will fail often and failure will be all sorts of terrible.

Hardcore Humbled Mode is at the edge of what it means to be a game. This mode lets players know and know often that their fumbling is pathetic in the face of such impossible odds.

Super-Heroic, Herculean Mode

The last mode, the godly mode! The complete opposite of Hardcore and a step above Heroic!

I have included this because of how Dungeons & Dragons 5e changes as characters progress. At lower levels, characters will encounter threats that really are challenging. Even teamwork may fail (though the consequences, as mentioned, do not last). However, once top-tier levels are achieved, players become =unstoppable=.

A game enabling this mode poses no threat to character ability. With hundreds of hit points, equipment that smites mountains, magics and techologies that command the forces of nature and space and time, and other resources even the players stop tracking for their grandest treasures are but toys, players shall feel like gods.

Do what you want to who you want when you want where you want how you want, and consequences be cast to the wind. The only challenge might be fundamental cosmic and natural entities who band together to face the player characters, but even that is no guarantee of defeating the force of god-tier beings.

This mode I’ve encountered the least in my studies. I think it may be because such systems are immediately called “unbalanced” when encountered cold – why 5e gets away with it I suppose is because the gradual nature of slowly increasing levels to enter this mode.

Another reason Herculean Mode is so rare may also be this: Players find out that being godly is =boring=. When nothing can stop you, there is no real conflict, the spice that drives entertaining stories. Challenge with the possibility of failure is more fun πŸ™‚

Perhaps that is why people in general like to topple the powerful and rarely rise to accept the responsibility of power themselves πŸ€” I digress!

Four modes that every game adopts some form of. The theme tries to set the tone, yet the mechanical foundations laid for the players’ fictional characters establishes the feelings felt.

As an aside, BITS keeps these modes in mind for the specific kind of game it is trying to make. My WIP Gunslinger is a Human Mode game, while converting D&D characters is a Heroic Mode affair as opposed to BITS of Mork Borg and that Hardcore Mode adaptation.

I =really= think I have included all modes (there has been a lot of reading done!). Yet, if you have one or an amendment to make, comment! Let me know!

Toodles and cheers to your gaming ~

RPG Advantage Rolls

Roleplaying games are all about putting imaginations into fictional contexts of peril and adventure.

Sometimes, the characters imagined find themselves in a position of opportunity, or one of particular danger…

Thus, that character may have (dis-)advantage!

How that advantage gets reflected in the random outcomes of the situation is where the G – game – of RPG comes in. And that is where I’ve been struggling myself in consideration.

Follow me as I explore what kinds of advantage a game can have, and which my RPG system BITS might use.

Defining Terms

In RPGs, a character rolls dice and adds/subtracts value from those dice to randomly determine outcomes that are dangerous or might fail. In BITS, that roll is with 2d6 – two six-sided dice.

A roll can be altered in a few ways, one of which is having advantage, disadvantage, or neither. When disadvantage applies, it is virtually always the same-but-opposite of advantage (e.g. advantage gives a +2 to the final roll value? Disadvantage gives -2).

For brevity, when I talk about rolls, I will only talk about advantage – assume the opposite applies to disadvantage.

Advantage can come under many terms: Easy v. Hard Roll, Extra v. Less, etc. They all mean the same thing as advantage.

BITS has a few principles that apply to any game design with the system in mind:

    • Fewer Rolls (minimize the clatter of dice)
    • Less Math (adding one or two values is OK, subtracting values is iffy, multiplication should be avoided, and division must be avoided)
    • Rule of Two (BITS games are played with two and only two dice six-sided dice; link unrelated πŸ™‚ )
    • Simplify (less is more for everything in BITS, the same systems reused for every context)

We must keep that list in mind when evaluating the following.

Mechanics For Advantage

In no particular order:


The classic. Whatever you are rolling, roll all the dice a second time. Take the better result.

Dungeons & Dragons uses this and so do myriad other games. It is simple and can apply to any roll. Also, if the game uses ‘criticals’ (extreme success or failure on low-probability rolls; i.e. ~5% or less), rerolling increases the chance for these.

The only problem is that it involves picking up the dice and throwing again. While it can boost the feeling of anticipation a player has by waiting for that second roll, it can boost the feeling of disappointment too when the second roll fails to improve the situation of the first.

Increase Range

When rolling in an RPG, rolls are expected to hit target value ranges or they fail.

In D&D, X+ is needed where ‘X’ or more succeeds. Call of Cthulhu requires X-, where the roll must be at or lower than ‘X’. Tiny Dungeon succeeds when a roll of 5 or 6 happens; a special move can expand that range to also include 4 in a next turn.

For BITS, an ‘X’ target is an odd number and increases or decreases by 2 for each target level (e.g. 7 is easy, 9 is moderate, 11 hard, etc.).

To give advantage by increasing the range means hard things become moderate, etc.

This is cool because it is decently simple math and it may increase the chances of a critical success depending on system. (In BITS, doubles like 5-5 that are above the target ‘X’ count as criticals; the lower the ‘X’, the higher the chance of criticals!)

The downside is that does do subtraction for disadvantage (-2 in the BITS case; would be -5 in D&D‘s case). Can we find something better?

Add Flat Modifier

Pure math based on the average change introduced by a rerolling of dice.

For a d20 (the die D&D uses), rerolling the value of a d20 leads to an average 3.325 difference. That’s a +/- 3 or 4, depending on how the system wants to swing it. An example would be Index Card RPG with its flat +/- 3 modifier.

Rerolling 2d6 leads to ~1.37, so +/- 1 or 2. As an aside, if we look back at the Increase Range section, the +/- 2 matches up quite well πŸ™‚

BUT, a flat modifier does not increase the changes of critical hits. Therefore, for the same math as the previous, gameplay does not increase in intensity with that added critical chance.

Multiply / Divide Results

Let me start by saying, “yuck!”

For the sake of completeness, I’ll touch briefly here.

Some games would have advantage multiply results together instead of add them if rolling multiple dice, or multiply/divide the final value by, say 2.

This has been primarily suggested for some d100 games (e.g. Call of Cthulhu where you have to roll under a number, so advantage would divide your result by half, helping you come under the target).

Is this not obviously sucky? Math must be kept to a minimum in a game lest it become a simulation. Not just that, but math must be kept to the simplest forms possible: addition, subtraction sometimes, and perhaps a multiplication by 10 occasionally (adding a 0 to the end of a value is OK).

Doing any other multiplication/division on results is preposterous. No apologies.


Rerolling for advantage is the classic. Pick the better roll, add any modifiers to that. For saving the mental effort of extra math, time taken rolling is increased.

Increasing ranges and adding a flat modifier are closely aligned, though the former is a better option for players because of the manipulation of critical probabilities. Despite saving time in rolling though, it adds mental complexity with a bit of math being applied before the roll.

Let us let die the thought of using multiplication and division in any game ever.

So which is superior? …

That is a tough one. The rerolls get people to pay attention and can lead to dread or hopefulness for the second roll. The changing difficulty gives an immediate result, but removes anticipation and only increases chances at a critical for systems that don’t have a flat critical success number (e.g. D&D wouldn’t benefit because crits only happen on a value roll of 20).

With that in mind, perhaps the classic and tried-and-true method of rerolling dice has been roleplaying games’ default for decades for a reason. However, if a system would benefit from it, flat increases or decreases to difficulty target numbers is definitely worth one’s consideration.

I’m still kind of torn for which advantage system to use for BITS. What do you think BITS should ‘roll’ with? What systems do you use in your games?

Looking forward to your advice. Happy gaming! Cheers 🎲🎲

Not a BIT, Special

The roleplaying game system BITS was made to simplify and speed-up all a person needs to do in the famous Dungeons & Dragons while also being crunchier and less weak-wristed than rules-lite systems such as Powered By the Apocalypse.

To achieve that, the bodily statistics of a fictional character get compressed into the Body, Interaction, and Thought (BIT of BITS) values. To handle things like profession and life experience, Specialties exist to add advantage to any actions that involve the character’s expertise.

I’ve been thinking: If everyone is about the same (i.e. everyone is a human being, capable of about the same median skills and outcomes as anyone else), why include the minor distinctions of Body and Interaction and Thought?

What if a character’s training and life-lived were all that influenced how that character overcomes the challenges in their way?


For this October’s goals, I choose to explore this question by applying it in implementation. The result is Gunslinger, a dusty RPG set in The West where players only have different traits (i.e. specialties) to help them sling their guns (or knives, or fists, or harsh words – the game doesn’t discriminate).

To my surprise, the premise worked really well!

A character is advanced by gathering more traits. They can of course find better guns and supplies, but these items are available to everyone else, too. The only way to gain an edge is to have some experience with the thing in question.

The traits also speak to the premise of the game. Sure, a player may request some expertise not provided in a list of suggestions, but it is the suggestions that mean to convey what will be important to the player. Suggestions such as:

    • Fast Draw (always the first to shoot before anyone without this trait)
    • Short-Barreled Firearms (revolvers, shotguns)
    • Fist Fightin’ (advantage when in a scuffle)
    • Throwin’ (knives, axes, bottles, or, if creative, insults)
    • Horses (riding, easing, taming, etc.)

With these, not only are players given mechanical- and narrative-context tools for their roleplay, but the tone is also set to help the Game Moderator in guiding the other players through the game.

Applying Specialty Traits

So what does a special trait actually do?

In short, a Specialty gives a player’s action that requires a roll of dice Advantage. (This only applies if the Specialty can apply in the fictional context the roll is happening, e.g. a ‘Stabbing’ Specialty will not help a player’s character ride a mule).

What’s Advantage?

Advantage improves the odds of a roll succeeding.

Advantage can be applied in many ways that I will explore in more depth in another post. Some examples include: Adding a value to the dice rolled, rerolling a certain number of dice, and, expanding the range of what is considered a success.

Other Games

As a complete surprise last month, I was introduced to the RPG Tiny Dungeon.

This excellently concise game doesn’t have attribute stats (Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, etc. in D&D or Body, Interaction, Thought for BITS). Instead, a character only has their health (“HP”, defined by what species they are) and a set of three or more traits the player selects when creating their character.

As for adding narrative ‘flavor’, not all traits give flat advantage – some give extra hit points, alter actions, and more!

Character advancement comes in the form of additional traits. As discussed, traits help a character succeed, so as advancement happens, characters succeed more and more against harder and harder obstacles.

With a 4.6/5 on DriveThruRPG (unaffiliated link) and 4.4/5 on Amazon (also unaffiliated), traits-based games seem to do all right πŸ™‚

I’ll have a separate post for v0 of Gunslinger soon – keeping it as v0 since it really is a draft!

Where have you seen traits-based play before? How did you feel about it?

Checkout my other BITS posts when you get the chance – lots of RPG discussion on more than just this roleplaying game system!

Cheers for now.

October November Goal Review

A safe and spooky Halloween to you πŸ‘»πŸŽƒ October has been a long month, but now it has come to a close.

Time just flies!!!

Let us see how I have made use of mine:

October Goal Review

    1. Not a BIT, of Specialty
      1. Won. Gunslinger was my test game and it has been written 😎 Feel good about this one – expect a blog post talking about only using Specialty from the BITS roleplaying system in games!
    2. Play a TTRPG
      1. Won. (Or will.) Have a session planned on this coming weekend, which happens to still be in October! I’ll be the moderator and the characters will delve under piles of ashes to rescue a king’s son from a foul pit πŸ€˜πŸ’€πŸ€˜
    3. Outings
      1. Won. Kind of. The cooking classes fell through, but learning to handle firearms was excellent fun! That, plus a couple of movies made for a grand October. (I’m writing this before Halloween, so perhaps there is even more fun being had!)
    4. Self-Improvement, Self-Care
      1. Won. Had some events this month that required great bedrest. However, I prepared for this timeout by working my body in luxurious ways with exercise and pushing its boundaries.
    5. Crypto (Bonus!)
      1. Won. Shortly after writing last month’s blurb, I got it into my head that it was about time I learned about crypto currencies and coins and such. I did, and now have diversified my investment portfolio – let’s see if it’ll take me to the moon!

November Goal Proposal

    1. Give Thanks
      1. Perfect for Thanksgiving, no? Going to start my EOY letter, summarize my adventures from the past year, collect notes, etc.
    2. Future of BITS
      1. I ought to actually figure out what I’m doing with this game system I’ve been working on for a few years. Where will it go? How does one get there? Who might need to be involved? Time to get that down πŸ™‚
    3. Outings
      1. A copy of #3 from last month. At least once a week, go out for some special treat πŸ™‚
    4. 5 km, 100 Pushes, 1 Pull
      1. Taking a note from self-care in October, I’m getting back into shape after weeks of bedrest. Aim here is to, all in a day, run 5 km, do 100 push-ups, and get my first pull-up in months.

Bam! Goals are met 125% and goals are set!

How have your goals been coming along? November looking to be ambitious or will it be a recovery period?

Whatever you get after, here’s to it πŸ‘

In the meanwhile, happy and safe Hallows’ Eve to you and yours! Catch you back here next week! Cheers ~

Bringing d100 to 2d6

With the conversion of d20 table-top roleplaying game systems into BITS’s 2d6, I figured we should follow up with another incredibly popular system of d100.

About d100

In d100, two 10-sided dice are rolled, one being the 10s spot on a number, the other being the 1s spot.

A player’s character has stats or attributes that represent how good they are at certain things. These could be numbers from 1 to 99, 0 and 100 reserved for critical failure or success on rolls.

There are two kinds of d100 system: roll target or under, and, roll target or over. Because the latter requires a lot more math for reasons I’ll leave out here, the rest of this post only deals with rolling at a target number or under πŸ™‚

When a roll needs to happen, the rolling player picks their best applicable attribute. When rolling, the value of the roll must be at or under that target. So while the attributes of the character increase as they experience the game, so too do rolls get easier!

That’s d100 at a glance.

Roll %s

To get from d100 to 2d6, we need to talk percentages.

A d100 has an average value of 50.5, or that ~51 and above will happen half the time. Makes sense. 2d6 averages at 7, where any number at or above that comes out 58.33% of the time.

But 58.33% is a significant departure from 50.5%! However, if we consider percentages are rounded down, that 58.33% can become 50%. With that bit of fudging, percentages are back in safe waters.

Ability Score to BITS

This is where the conversion happens.

How can a player know what their d100 stat is in BITS 2d6?

Easy: consider everything below average is a 0 in BITS while dividing everything above into decreasing proportions.

A simple use of the 1-2-3-4 nature of BITS is we invert how much weight is put on each element. A 1 should have 40% ownership of anything next above average, 2 30% after that, 3 20%, and 4 10%.

Starting at the lowest percentage of 10%, 10% of the 2d6 average percent of 58.33 is 5.833. Since it has already been decided rounding down is key here, the value of 4 in BITS will own the last 5% of all scores and 1 will get 20% of the total.

That’s a bit wordy. Here’s a chart:

d100 Value RangeBITS Value
Give or take 1 on the d100 Value Range.

Easy, right?

And, depending on what’s available for a given game, group skills and abilities equally under each BIT (Body, Interaction, Thought) to get that BIT’s value. Average together the values there, round down (if needed), compare with the chart above.


Other Considerations

Now I know some d100 systems use additional scores that aren’t based on 100. Some systems use poly-dice.

For those numbers in those systems, I refer you back to my d20 poly-dice conversion post. That can convert Dungeons & Dragons and it can convert here too.

Applicable Games

Any game that uses a d100 system!

(Though I must admit my exposure to d100 systems is much lacking compared to d20s and polyhedrals.)

If it is a weird one with a roll-over mechanic, there shouldn’t be too much fiddling with the values to get things back on track. Set everything below-average to 0, then divide-up the remainder with 40%-30%-20%-10%.

Some games using the d100 system:

Missteps Along the Way

That’s the end of the d100 conversion so you may move on to another article on this site.

If you’d like to know what was was reviewed before the above was settled on, keep reading ~

Don’t think that I had all of the formulas and math pop into my head at once. I looked up dice probabilities and ran multiple graphs to confirm what was both mathematically sound and friendly (i.e. easy) for player use.

However, starting off with the wrong premise can make any outcome moot.

The first failure was looking at the value of 1 as a percentage of 2d6. That’s 14.3% (1/7, the average value). Because it handles better, say 15%. 15% per point of BITS value (best calculated starting at 4 and going down to 1 at 60%.

This looked fine to start:

    • BIT Value – d100 Conversion
    • 0 – top 100%, nothing special.
    • 1 – top 60%, a 40 and above in d100 gets 1, OK.
    • 2 – top 45%, 55+, good.
    • 3 – top 30%, 70+, great.
    • 4 – top 15%, 85+, excellent.

But you can see already that a value of 1 allows below-average performance to attain above-average results. Further, the progression is linear, whereas 2d6 is inherently parabolic (lines and curves don’t mix).

Scrap that.

Next I figured out the value of 1 in 2d6 for above-average values. I.e., what is 14.3% of 41.67% (difference of 58.33% average)?

The answer is 6, but already the premise is wrong – I was using the below-average range to affect the above-average allocation of BITS values.


But that didn’t stop me from using 42% with the 40%-30%-20%-10% conversion. This actually got really close to the final result, but I rounded down first (i.e. I stepped by 4% of the total):

    • 0 – >0
    • 1 – >60
    • 2 – >76
    • 3 – >88
    • 4 – >96

Ignoring that these numbers look kind of ugly, if we round up (4.2% is 10% of 42%, rounding up to 5%), we get what turns out to be the final conversion:

    • 0 – >0
    • 1 – >50
    • 2 – >70
    • 3 – >85
    • 4 – >95

So despite starting from the wrong place, we got to the correct answer πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ Wild how that works!

Anyway, I caught these mistakes before and during writing, so now you can see some of the method that goes into the consideration of BITS and other systems πŸ™‚

The End

Appreciate you getting this far, reader.

For the d100 games you’ve played, what considerations are missing from the above? Did they get handled in last week’s d20 poly-dice blog? How could this all be improved?

Will be writing more on BITS for a while yet, so stick around! Cheers ~

Bringing d20 Poly-Dice to 2d6

My favorite game system BITS uses at its core 2d6 (two six-sided dice). With 2d6, monsters are slayed, gold plundered, and crowds wooed.

2d6 is virtually unseen in the most popular roleplaying games (i.e. the Don and uncontested king of roleplay, Dungeons & Dragons), only showing up in well received though still pretty niche engines like Powered By the Apocalypse.

Yet, where 2d6 does show up, the dice are used in mechanics that are nearly untranslatable to the bread-and-butter d20 and poly-dice systems in use by mainstream games a la D&D.

BITS fixes that by using similar modification and resolutions to D&D (the crunchier part) while using only 2d6 instead of an entire rock-quarry of *d* rolls.

Here’s how:

Roll %s

First, a comparison of percentages in rolls between D&D (which uses a d20 at its core) and BITS 2d6.

D&D uses various difficulty levels that a player has to roll at or above to succeed depending on context. The player can add different modifiers to their rolls to help them get the number they want. However, as a general guideline, challenges can be divided into the following:

    • Roll at or above.
    • 5 – Very easy, 80% success rate.
    • 10 – Easy, 55% success.
    • 15 – Moderate, 30%.
    • 20 – Hard, 5%.
    • 25 – Very hard, cannot be accomplished without some value boost.
    • 30 – Godly, cannot be accomplished without major value boosts.

The percentages above seem really low. That is, until you consider they take into account adding everything from -5 to +10 to the rolls based off the the six abilities a game character has.

Further, “natural” criticals are when a player rolls either a 1 or a 20 (ignoring all modifiers). These crits have a 5% each to give a player something especially harmful or helpful, relatively.

Now 2d6, both with and without D&D‘s heavy use of modifiers.

    • Roll at or above.
    • 5 – BITS has this as easy, 83.3% success chance. D&D would have this as very easy.
    • 7 – BITS moderate, 58.3%. D&D easy.
    • 9 – BITS hard, 27.8%. D&D moderate.
    • 11 – BITS very hard, 8.3%. D&D hard.
    • 13 – BITS very, very hard, and can’t be done without some help. D&D very hard.
    • 15 – D&D‘s god-tier difficulty needing top-level characters and lots of luck.

BITS also has criticals when “natural” doubles are rolled (1-1, 2-2, etc.) above or below the target difficulty number. This means criticals scale with the difficulty of the challenge encountered: easier targets offer more opportunities to really wallop ’em.

However, if the linear scale of D&D roll probability needs to be kept, natural 1-1 and 6-6 (both a 2.8% chance) can be adopted for BITS, no problem. But why? 2.8% does not equal 5%…

Take a look again at those percentages. 55% and 58.3%, 30% and 27.8%, even the 5% and 2.8% for criticals! The conversion from d20 to using 2d6 as a core mechanic is never more than 4%, a sneeze of a difference in gameplay. Fundamentally, swapping 2d6 for d20 has no noticeable effect on outcomes.

Therefore, as a core mechanic, 2d6 can substitute for D&D-like d20. Though, there are still modifiers to add πŸ™‚


D&D has six abilities that have both a base number and a modifier that slowly scales with the base. These six abilities are Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom. Each ability’s modifier applies to challenges that are primarily in those abilities’ wheelhouse.

BITS has three abilities that are the modifiers added to the kinds of challenges that best fit their use. They are Body, Interaction, and Thought.

Now, the BIT of BITS has a 1:1 correlation with D&D: Body (Strength and Constitution), Interaction (Dexterity and Charisma), Thought (Intelligence and Wisdom).

If given a D&D character, the modifiers of that character’s abilities translate into a BIT value. By adding together the D&D modifiers, dividing by 2, and rounding down, new BIT values are found.

For example, let’s use the level 1 Fighter, Mage, Rogue, and Cleric starting characters for D&D.

Their stats (including health, aka HP, for later discussion):

Fighter+3+2+1-1+0+113 (d10)
(BITS value)B =+2I =+0T =+05 / 7
Mage-1+2+2+0+3+18 (d6)
B =+0I =+1T =+23 / 3
Rogue-1+2+3+2+1+08 (d6)
B =+0I =+2T =+03 / 3
Cleric+2+2-1+1+0+310 (d8)
B =+2I =+0T =+14 / 6

BITS expects starting characters to have no more than 1 or 2 in any given BIT, so the numbers above for abilities work brilliantly. Not all classes in D&D are created equal, so in exchange for a BIT value perhaps a BITS specialty (the S in BITS; describes history or role and gives advantage when that context applies to a challenge) is gained, or unique equipment acquired, or HP gained (more on these things next).

Since some ability modifiers can be negative, thus resulting in a negative BITS value, what should be done?

Well, BITS could flatline the BIT value as “-“, meaning whenever a challenge would be solved by that particular BIT, the roll has disadvantage. Or maybe a “anti-specialty” where if certain situations come up, all failures are critical failures.

Even though BITS on principle refrains from using negative numbers, a conversion of d20 to 2d6 doesn’t need to use that tenet of BITS, maybe in this one case negative modifiers can remain πŸ™‚


Health, the lifeblood of player characters, the timer of how long a fight can possibly last.

The chart in the previous section has two numbers for BITS HP: the average of the die used in D&D (specified by class; d6, d8, d10, etc.) divided by 2, and that die average with the Body BITS value added.

That’s done because in D&D, HP is a certain die roll (d6, d8, d10, etc.) plus the Constitution modifier. For BITS, Body can be added to the average of the die for a class to achieve the same result.

Including the Body value in HP calculation can lead to HP bloat. While this may give more a feeling of heroic superiority to the player characters, it also leads to longer fights, less caution, and more flippant actions when the consequences aren’t that, well, consequential.

Depending if the Body value is added or not, and if there is any cap on HP (BITS typically likes to aim to cap at 12 HP), that changes the way combat and the use of equipment as a mechanic occur in the 2d6 conversion.


BITS divides both fictional beings and their equipment into six tiers:

    • BITS Fantasy Weapon Tiers
    • 0 – Fists, unarmed combat.
    • 1 – Knives, small swords, cudgels, sticks, brass knuckles, hatchets, throwing spears.
    • 2 – Swords, axes, clubs, maces, short bows, light crossbows.
    • 3 – 2-handed mauls and bastard swords, pikes, longbows, flails, heavy crossbows.
    • 4 – Ballistae, claymores, halberds, tree-trunks.
    • 6 – Especially heroic or magical devices, such as Excalibur or Hercules’ club.
    • BITS Armor Tiers
    • 0 – No armor, clothing, robes, a buckler used as a shield in hand.
    • 1 – Leathers, round shields.
    • 2 – Mails, full-body shields.
    • 3 – Partial plates (a mix of mail and plate), 2-handed massive shields.
    • 4 – Full plate, a rolling barricade of treated wood used as a shield.
    • 6 – Heroic suits that are probably enchanted.

Gear can play into the BITS 2d6 conversion two ways. Either A) gear does nothing to a roll and gives its value as damage or reduced by 1 to negate damage, or B) gear adds to the roll value and the difference between the roll value and the target value is the damage given to a target (in the case of armor, it increases the chances of deflecting damage).

Let’s call option A the realism option, and B the heroic option.

Realism ought apply when a character’s HP is limited, either capped or very slow growing. Some characters ought die in a hit or two from a sharp object (just like real life!).

Heroic damage comes into play when characters feel overpowered. They smite small threats and can weather harsher punishment because their HP grows to accommodate.

Non-Player Characters

Whichever equipment mechanic is used to match the HP mechanic, non-player characters (NPCs; beasts, town guards, etc.) have their own tiers 0 to 6.

I personally am a =huge= fan of reducing enemy complexity in simulators games like D&D. Thereby in BITS, NPCs have HP equal to their tier and do damage equal to their tier. Players have to roll at or above the tier equivalent if wanting to either act against or defend against an NPC (e.g. a tier 1 may require a 7+ roll).

No rolling extra damage, no having to calculate HP, no having to figure out what every goon is wearing and carrying!

Keeping it simple like this should remain balanced between d20 and 2d6 implementations. Since I can’t vouch completely for it, if taking a D&D NPC into 2d6 territory, determine its abilities, HP, and equipment the same way done for characters detailed above.

(It does help that there are a plethora of NPC creation and balancing tools for D&D available, each ripe for conversion to BITS!)

And that’s it! Just about all that’s needed to convert a poly-dice d20 system into a 2d6 BITS-like.

The joy of having the tools to do this means a lot of games can be converted into a concise system shared between multiple fictions and titles for faster-yet-still-hefty play.

What’s your take? Any sections of d20 and poly-dice mechanics from games like D&D missing here?

Hit me up and let me know! If you’ve any other suggestions or would like to see a test IP get converted into 2d6 and BITS (even if the IP doesn’t have a widely-recognized game with it!), I’d be happy to walk through the challenge of the conversion.

In any case, do well! Cheers ~

RPG Action

Action is how things happen.

Since there are opposite reactions, conflict arises and story develops.

This is especially true for tabletop roleplaying games. What a player has their character do (and the mechanical resolution to opposing reactions) is the core of these kinds of games.

I’ve been wrestling with actions in the BITS TTRPG system for awhile. I think I have it, but what do you think? Here’s my analysis:

First Things First

I’m going to avoid talking in depth about who goes when or in what order things happen (aka initiative). No rolling, no going clockwise, no group or simultaneous happenings.

Today’s focus is all about the action!


A person cannot discuss TTRPGs without invoking the name of Dungeons & Dragons.

D&D uses a two-action system that really comes down to this: You can move, and you can do anything else (attack, prepare, prepare, move again, etc.).

The two-action economy is classic, in use all over the gaming landscape. You move, you act (and perhaps you get a free action of speaking or dropping whatever’s in your hand).

In all honesty, that sounds like one-action, with movement as a passive condition every character has regardless of any other action.

The only explicit limitation D&D places on action is that a character can only attack once without other special rules affecting that. To paraphrase D&D‘s terms, “you can always move but you may only attack once.”

Got it.


BITS can reimagine the “twofer” as Free, Automatic, and Focused actions.

Free actions are like those in D&D – letting go and shouting. Can be used anytime!

Automatic actions are muscle memory – moving, drawing, reloading, speaking, etc.

Focused actions require just that: focus. Anything requiring attention or caution, such as attacking, giving detailed information, doing something delicate like sneaking, etc.

Take two actions a turn, with exceptions: one and only one free action doesn’t count, and one and only one focused action at most per turn.

Free-Automatic-Focused is nice. It liberates the options of a player with distinct language and increase flexibility over D&D.

But what can a player do? There are examples above, examples that don’t do justice to actual expectations in gameplay.

Always Action

Whether swooning lovers, bartering goods, or stabbing robbers, BITS seeks to bring action to everything that can fail a player’s intention.

BITS divides conflicts into Environmental (passive bodily danger), Combative (active bodily danger), and Social (“sticks and stones” but words always can hurt). The same mechanics for action and resolution apply to each.

We’re not talking about conflict types here, but keep in mind how actions can apply to any of the conflicts above.

Kinds of Actions

Other than Free actions (which almost exclusively are shouting and dropping), I have found four kinds of action that fits any action a player could take: Move, Attack, Defend, Prepare. MADP.

Move actions see a player character walking, running (might need to take some caution), sneaking (definitely needs caution), jumping, crawling, swimming, or getting up. A social action would “move” the conversation on to another topic or point.

Attack actions slash, smash, stab, throw, cast spells, grapple, or commit other acts of aggression and violence. Social intimidation, charm, and deception apply.

Defend actions help others, escape from another, prevent others from passing, or stop the consequences of personal or potential violence. Social defense proves a point or deflects blame and provides excuses.

Prepare actions increase the probability a future action is successful, pick up or get out equipment, operate machinery, build up, tear down, search, or ready a future response. Social preparedness means keeping silent only to improve the next action taken in conversation.

Wow! That’s a lot!

But its utility is limited – MADP only applies when a ruleset takes it into effect.

What could use this method?

No Two of a Kind

Instead of Free-Automatic-Focused actions, up to two actions of any kind (Move-Attack-Defend-Prepare) can happen in a player’s turn.

Attack-then-Move, Move-then-Attack, Defend-then-Prepare, Prepare-only, Attack-and-Attack, etc. Whatever happens, the player must declare what they intend to do in their turn before they do it.

However, if the second action is the same as the first, both actions have disadvantage in their rolls.

If there is only one action taken (not two of the same kind), that single action has advantage.

MADP adds a little more realism to the actions of play. As a reflection of Free-Automatic-Focused, actions that get the complete focus of the player character get a boon while dividing attention or being speedy-but-reckless give progressively worse boons.

Does a fighter focus all effort into one strong attack, duel with an opponent while defending against future attacks, or flail strikes with multiple attacks at once?

A curated and concise set of choices are offered to the player, enabling them to weigh pros and cons to make their own decision. If working with a two-action economy, this seems to be the best bet!

Multiple Actions?

We’re back at the start: have two or kinda-two actions in a turn.

Whatever the case, having multiple actions in a turn – even if in name only – slows play down.

Heck, in BITS critical success rolls, an extra action comes as a reward, exacerbating the problem. And it is a system meant to be quick!

So what can be done?

Call of Cthulhu

The most popular tabletop roleplaying game in Japan, Call of Cthulhu gives a character five possible kinds of actions on their turn (I paraphrase): Attack (harm another), Maneuver (attack without harming), Flee (run away!), Other (healing, investigating), and Spell (use Eldritch terribleness).

A character can only do one of these on their turn. Any movement is implied in the action being taken within the area of engagement.

While having a concise list of actions, removing the tactical tediousness of movment and exact positioning, and limiting the number of actions-per-turn to one, CoC does well to speed up play.

Where CoC stumbles is how many times the dice need to be rolled for any action. Further, the action list may be too concise – it tends to rob creativity as any in-game act must be shoehorned into one of the five kinds specified, regardless of context.

Another game though takes the metacontext into consideration:

PBtA Moves

Powered By the Apocalypse is a game system lauded for its ease of play. A major mechanic contributing to that are the “Moves” it uses.

Every player has a common set of Moves they can use on their turn, along with Moves unique to the kind of character they chose. Every Move is meant to feed back into whatever “vibe” or “feel” the game means to convey.

During a turn, a player can pick a Move and do it (rolling dice dependent on context). One turn, one action, fast play.

While PBtA has streamlined action, it has also railroaded what players can do. Moves are extremely specific to the context of the game being played, further niched to the character role a player has.

Yes, PBtA characters can adopt the Move talents of other characters as they advance in skill. Yes, PBtA players can work with each other to “hack” or introduce new Moves or do something outside the guardrails of the game.

Yet, this does not address allowing players freedom to act in the ways they see fit depending on the situation they find themselves in.

Can it be better?

Freedom to Act

I think it can be better.

BITS adopts the one-action turn of PBtA but opens up the possible actions of a player to whatever they can and want to do.

Shoot a bow or gun? Throw a rock? Climb a tree? Balance on a wall? Socialize with the bartender? BITS handles that with a unified resolution system.

However, exact positioning is not required with the BITS system. If needing to attack someone but a few steps would be needed to get there, that attack happens. If a potion needs to be unloaded from a bag, do it and be ready to act again on the next turn.

Games like D&D act as “simulations-as-games” and would care about the exact distances and contexts of the simulation in progress. With BITS one-action, so long as a declared action doesn’t blend together seemingly different actions too much, BITS cares more about the consequences of intention rather than the consequences of inches.

This rewards players with carrying out their intention for their turn, keeps turns flowing quickly because beans need not be counted, and offers extra actions as a prize (i.e. critical successes in rolls).

Conclusions About Actions

There are improvements available for the current two-action system in use by the most popular roleplaying games.

Despite those improvements, the more actions a player takes, the slower the game goes.

The more actions are tied to the meta-narrative of the game and not the context of the player’s current situation, the more agency is taken away from the player. Game context should provide actions and other verbs as inspiration to what might be done, but cannot dictate what a player may or may not do.

Like Captain Barbossa put it in Pirates of the Caribbean:

The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.

Therefore, to increase agency and reduce time taken on a turn, a single action-per-player-per-turn that focuses more on intention than precision is the best gameplay option for rules about actions.

Phew – this was a long one. I wanted to bring forward multiple analyses for popular game systems’ action-economies.

Though I’ve clearly looked over games like Lasers & Feelings or any of the Blades games, the principles remain the same: more actions taken slows the game, but reducing the actions ever able to be taken (i.e. PBtA) comes with its own consequences.

Therefore, for BITS, one-action is the way to go. Further, one-action breeds an economic scarcity, forcing players to think critically of what’s possible to get them closer to their goals.

And adding an extra action for a critical success is something I’ve not come across in my studies – what I feel is a sharp improvement as “critical success” has been so far relegated to either extra damage (not always applicable) or an allowance for narrative dictation by a player for just that moment. I’m not much a fan of keeping player participation in the narrative sequestered away as a reward for play πŸ™‚

OK – enough about actions for now! If you think a one-action economy is not the optimal, why? I must know! Cheers to when we get to talk it out.

September October Goal Review

Do you read these intros? I’m not sure if they’re worth it. Let me know. In the meantime, business:

September Goal Review

    1. Update All BITS Guides
      1. Won. All guides are updated. BITS is a better roleplaying system than it has been before. Can I get some players? Maybe I just need to write more BITS games πŸ™‚
    2. 1-4 Page RPG
      1. Won. I made a game!! It is 10 pages of abbreviated action. However, writing the “Turn Example” to show what gameplay could be like, the game was not fun πŸ™ƒ But that’s still great!! That’s a first draft, right? Near complete trash?? πŸ”₯ Anyway, I ought also trim the sucker down to the 1-4 page-count promised, but that’s for another time.
    3. Move (Again)
      1. Won. I’ve a new destination in Vegas with pool, privacy, and a lovely location, not to mention some fantastic friends.
    4. Private
      1. Won. I can’t overstate how… happy I am. Things are turning out and pretty cool right now ~

October Goal Proposal

    1. Not a BIT, of Specialty
      1. The role-play ruleset BITS is “Body Interaction Thought Specialty.” Got to thinking in September, “can I make a game of only having advantage in things?” So I’ll write what I’m calling “Gunslinger,” a wild-west TTRPG where a player “levels-up” by gaining new specialties, thereby defining their trade.
    2. Play a TTRPG
      1. This one is a finky one – how do I gather people recreationally around a table during a pandemic? What RPG should be played, and for which adventure?? Am I the dungeon master / game moderator / guide, or a regular player??? Guess that’s part of the challenge of the goal (lucky I’m half-way decent problem-solver) 🎲🎲
    3. Outings
      1. It’s been years since I’ve used a firearm, so a refresher on safety and handling is in store. Also looking to schedule a cooking class, because that never hurts. Oh, and Halloween? Time to be spooky, methinks πŸ‘»πŸŽƒ
    4. Self-Improvement, Self-Care
      1. October is going to be a month of improving my conditioning and getting some needed appointments taken care of. Though I need to be scaling back on my physicality for some events upcoming in January, I can keep myself lean and mean, so I’m prioritizing doing what I can πŸ’ͺ😎

September was golden (even if not everything turned out 120%), and October looks to be a lot of fun. I like the idea of writing treatments for games and stories, so let’s see if September’s #2 and October’s #1 can happen more often.

For the last month of summer, what did you do? How are you spending your first month of autumn? Give me your inspiration, and we’ll meet back here in a month!

(Or sooner – let me know if you’d be interested in playing a table-top roleplaying game, something fantasy, sci-fi, or even horror.)

Lots to do! Cheers to you ~

Improvised RPG Pt 2

What do you do when waiting for food delivery?

You roleplay 😁

I’ve done this before a year ago – time to share how far things have come.


2d6. My go-to: roll two six-sided dice. Again, I as the game guide (aka game- or dungeon-master) roll the dice when dice need rolling.

5-7-9 difficulty. Whenever the players need to do something, it’s either easy, medium, or hard, and the sum of the dice must be at or above the difficulty to succeed. At most a roll gets a +1 or a +2 if the player is especially good at something, or the lowest die becomes the same value as the highest die if there is contextual advantage (the opposite applying if there’s disadvantage).

Always going. The fictional world doesn’t stop just because a player is making a decision. If not fast enough, fictional characters and contexts advance to force player decisiveness.


Player one. I enjoyed this latest game with only one player. The gameplay was superb, thereby undermining the held belief that multiple players are required for a roleplaying game to blast off.

Self as character. The player existed as a character in the game world. Their motivations and self-reported abilities where their own, the dice deciding how well they fulfilled their sought-after actions.

Orc and pie. The classic mini-beginning to a roleplaying game, the player started in a stark-white, narrow room or hall facing an orc holding a pie, the orc not too enthused the player is there. Everything else in the world is made on the fly!

“What are you doing?” After describing a scene or the action of some imaginary character, this question is the modus operandi to keep the focus on the player. It is the player action that ultimately decides what happens, no matter the fiction being thought up around them.

Probably happens. Rolling dice slows things down. To keep things feeling ‘hot’, most things a player ought be able to do without resistance. Only when there is some sort of challenge to an action occurring do dice get rolled.

Talk it out. Ask for intentions and clarification. As a game guide or player, if something is unclear, get it clear. Only then will the resulting context of the game be able to be figured out and feelings saved from a misunderstanding!


Over the course of thirty minutes, the game went from the white room with the orc to a sandy beach. A summary:

The player started in a white room with an orc at the opposite end who also held one of the best-smelling pies ever to exist. After a brief questioning of the orc, the orc leaves in a huff, followed by the player.

Outside the room is a park, and beyond that a street and warehouse buildings. The orc disappears into one, hotly pursued by the player.

The player searches for the orc, finding them in a dark storage area stacked with crates stamped with “Meat“.

A tussle gets the player captured and drug back to the front of the building, where another orc, Boss, finds out the first orc Rudolph let the player follow them in.

Alone with Boss in Boss’s office, the player makes a break for it as the Boss decides he needs to keep the meat-pie plant a secret.

Blowing past Boss, the player exits to the street where a surprised Rudolph lounges. Continuing to race away, the player is chased by two shouting orcs. An alley provides some cover, enough that the player makes their way to the opposite building side.

There lies a beach stretching out left and right across a busy highway. The player, risking a lot, proceeds to dance around the traffic and leap down an embankment to the beach.

Dashing across the sand to a lifeguard stand, no one is found. Screeches and honks let the player know that the pursuit isn’t over.

100 meters away is a second stand. Luckily there’s a speechless lifeguard there. Unluckily, Boss and Rudolph have just reached the sand.

The player explains themselves and the lifeguard locks both of them inside the hut. A radio-call later has the police on their way… In five minutes.

A pounding and breaking-down of the hut’s door lets the lifeguard surprise the first orc that storms in with an air-canister to the face. The guard is less lucky with the second orc wielding a pistol.

The player makes their escape, pushing past the distracted orc still standing (Boss) and knocking him onto the sand.

Gun cast down between them, the player and Boss face-off.

A grapple in the sand a second later has both characters with hands on the weapon, but the player’s finger is on the trigger.

BLAM. Boss’s hand is mulched! The big orc thrashes and shouts on the beach, clutching their disfigurement.

But the player takes no chances with someone who tried to kill them – BLAM.

Rudolph sees the carnage and beats it across the sand. The player fires, but misses the retreating orc as sirens begin to wail.

Dropping the weapon, the player surrenders to the police just as food arrives in the real world πŸ™‚

Well, that escalated quickly πŸ˜… Yet shouldn’t all quality stories?

Playing while waiting was an absolute joy. I look forward to future games where I might encourage players to set the scene and declare who they are. Wizard fighting a flaming monster? Survivor of the zombie apocalypse? Secret agent stealing the codes? All doable with this simple system of improvised RPGing.

Feel free to use this system yourself for your own time-killers! Improve your game-guiding skills and impress your friends 😁 Let me know how it goes, too!

Cheers to that 🎲🎲

Riskier Risk

It has been a minute since I last wrote about the game of Risk, the classic table-top wargame.

Now I’m back with a new take on the game: Catastrophic dice rolls.


In the game of Risk, commanders (the players) know immediately and iteratively how well their armies are doing in combat. Using dice, no more than two units at a time can be removed from either side, while the math tends towards a 1:1 loss of units on both sides (slight advantage to the attacker). Between losses, an attacker can choose to preserve their forces at any time, stopping the wanton destruction of armies.

If only real war were so charming.

After reading military histories by author Rick Atkinson, it came to my attention how quickly even the most advantageous of battles can devolve into a debacle of incredible losses before commanders and generals are aware of what’s happening. Risk hardly lives up to its namesake, as while single army groups tend towards dozens of units, only two are at risk at any time.

A Problem

Losing one or two units over and over again is, well, tedious. Dice need to be rolled, compared, units removed, and dice rolled again until someone gives up or is eliminated.

Speaking from experience, a problem with Risk is how long it takes to play. (I don’t seem to be alone in this regard.) The dice rolling and one-two unit removal certainly plays a part in exacerbating the situation.

Thereby Risk is neither very accurate historically or quick.

Let’s stab at a fix to both those problems.

Riskier Rolls

In place of capping losses at one or two units, the dice themselves offer a way to increase the variance of the battles.

Normal Risk rules have the attacker rolling up to three dice against up to two defender dice. The highest dice are compared (up to two), any others discarded. Whichever player has the lower die in each comparison loses a unit (attacker loses ties).

It first came to mind that all values might be added together then compared, the difference being applied as losses to the lower-valued player. This is bad because it involves addition and subtraction. (More mental math in games is a hard no-go.)

Math is also a problem if the difference between individual dice is used. (Say, rolls of 6 and 4 are compared; 6-4=2, or 2 units lost, but that is still too much math from the original game.)

A method without extra math, and the most satisfying of our criteria of historical accuracy and fewer, faster rolls, is this:

Compare dice normally for the rules of Risk. Remove a number of units from the lower-value-die player equal to the value of the higher-die player.

So say an attacker rolls a 6-2-1 and a defender rolls a 5-4. The dice comparisons are 6v5 and 2v4 (the attacker’s 1 is discarded). Using the risker rolls rule, the first comparison requires the defender to remove six units; the second has the attacker remove four.

With all removals of units for a roll happening at the same time, an attacker’s advantage can quickly evaporate or a defender’s line be broken in but a single roll.

With riskier rolls, units are removed at pace, battles become decided in a fraction of the time, math remains minimal, only a single rule is changed from the base game, and more accurate swings of fortune get injected into the base experience that is Risk.

I’d count that as a positive πŸ˜‰

Riskier rolls rules! Gosh, I’m a sucker for alliteration ~

I’ve given these a swing with friends, and the feel is *French kiss*. More playing is required though, so give these rules a chance in your own games of Risk.

Let me know how your games go! Here’s to all the games you’ll enjoy ~ Cheers.