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A Defense of The Death Roll System

Hey guys. First off, I want to start by saying two things. The first one being that while I know there are threads talking about the Death Roll system already, I wanted to make this new one for the specific reason of explaining why I believe it works. The second thing is I am not making this to start an argument. Please do not turn this into some sort of fight. Alright, with that out of the way, let's get started.

So a lot of people were complaining about how the new system worked yesterday, and I felt it necessary to give my own thoughts on the matter. I believe that the current Death Roll system makes the most sense. With abilities like Divinity Slash, Black Lotus, etc as well as the entire mechanic of Dangerous Terrain would make those things far too strong and it is too late for those to be changed anyway. The season has been in many ways designed around Death Rolls in their current state so changing it would be far too detrimental to begin with. That being said, that isn't really a defense of the system, I just wanted to lay that out as some foundation for all of this. 

When it comes to the system itself, it is designed to be as player friendly as possible whilst still maintaining suspense. The goal is not to kill the player characters, it is to put on a show and tell a story. If the player characters died all the time, the entire thing would be much less fun. When someone dies, they basically have to leave the table or hang around as some companion. That is clearly not what we want to see. The system is purposely forgiving because if it wasn't, I would wager most shows would end up ruined by stupid Death Rolls. 

Now, that segways into my next point, what is a stupid Death Roll? Well, to understand what I mean by this, I'll refer back to how the old system advanced. If I recall correctly, to die, it went as follows;
1st Death Roll: 1
2nd Death Roll: 1,2,3,4
3rd Death Roll: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
4th Death Roll: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15
5th Death Roll: You need to roll a twenty

This could be slightly off, but the point I'm making works regardless. Let's say that Justin is playing a Wizard character one week and the party is in their first encounter. Now let's say that he casts Pyroblast and by the sheer unluckiness of it all, he rolls a 1. Now keep in mind Justin here played correctly, he did nothing wrong, he just rolled a 1, that's how the RNG works. Now, he has to Death Roll three times. For the sake of this hypothetical, we'll say that Rob decides that the Pyroblast's Death Rolls shouldn't count as his first three, only his first. That means he only dies by rolling a 1 on any of them. He doesn't, and he lives. Now, let's say that in the second encounter, Justin is playing extremely well. In fact, he's playing so well that he has earned himself over 1000 EXP from this single encounter thus far. Then, out of nowhere, his ally Roamin rolls a 1 on his Slamshock and hits Justin. Now, following the old system, this would be a 1,2,3,4 Death Roll. Luckily, Justin survives this one as well. Now, the party wins that encounter and goes on to the next encounter. In this encounter, Justin is doing well, but has taken a lot of damage, but is still playing extremely well. He has been constantly working his ass off and has saved Coe and Roamin each from having to Death Roll by doing god tier interrupts. However, as a consequence of this, he has been put down to 3 stamina. Deadbones, who is playing a Paladin this week goes to Lay on Hands him, but is interrupted by one of Rob's mobs and it doesn't reach Justin. Justin decides that he can't stop now, and goes to kill a Gemling. This is because Justin has bonewall which will really rectify this situation for him. However, he rolls a 4 on his attack against it and the Gemling decides to interrupt. The Gemling successfully does so and deals three damage to Justin. Justin is at 0 stamina and has to Death Roll. He now must roll higher than a 10 to live. He rolls a 7, and now he is dead. Justin just died to a Gemling minion. That doesn't make any sense and now Justin is gone from the rest of the campaign. He played everything correctly during this game, and still died. He saved his fellow party members a bunch of times, strategized extremely well by using everything he had to the fullest, like Bonewall. He got unlucky at the beginning doing something that he should have done, which ended up screwing him later on. Now, what has Justin taken away from this campaign? You should play extremely passively and not put yourself in harms way because a weird game mechanic could screw you when you get thumped by a Gemling Minion. So now imagine that in coming campaigns, Justin is completely uninteresting in combat from what he learned here, and the other guys eventually have similar experiences that cause them to do the same. The thing is, what they're doing isn't wrong. That Death Roll system punishes you severely for mistakes that aren't your fault and things that your allies do, but is also something you can't really amend in any way. Now, the current system where you only die on a 1 could still make this happen, but Justin would understand that what happened there was just extremely bad luck, as the chances of rolling a 1 were minimal, while in the other system it got to a 50/50. Even if Justin had survived his third Death Roll, the next one would have been a 75/25, and after that a 95/5. While the new system still allows something stupid like this to happen, it is so rare that it's doubtful we'll see it happen any time soon. 

I feel like this scenario really highlights why I approve of the new system over the old one, by a lot. That being said, there is one criticism I have for it, which is that the only die on a 1 rule should be applied solely to players, Hero NPCs, decently strong companions (So not something like a little bloodsnake), and most enemy mobs (like when Venomburner stepped on the dangerous terrain). It doesn't make all that much sense for a Jimmy to abide by that same rule that everyone else does. I'd also say that yes, the defeated stance thing was probably very confusing for many viewers, as so many of us likely understood it as the unconscious state from previous seasons, not simply protecting themselves on the ground. Still, I'd say that in the case of a medium strength companion like William, (Justin's porc) that after the first attack while he was "winded" (since it was agreed in another thread that this is probably a better term) maybe should have died on a Low Roll after the first attack. That being said, this was only really a problem because of PvP, which it is fairly apparent is not what Urealms is designed around. The game is meant to be a mostly PvE fight so we won't see what happened with Roamin all that often I would imagine anyways. Still, that's my only real criticism. I also think I should point out that this was the first time Rob used the system, so it was bound to have a flaw or two. This one flaw was really only amplified by the fact that this was an Ageless centered campaign that was going to be forcing lots of Death Rolls, which is something I didn't even touch on in the post, but Ageless would basically always result in a party wipe if we used the old Death Roll system and we could very well see some major Hero deaths under it that wouldn't make sense.

Overall, I fully stand by my belief that this is a far better system than the previous one, and given the entire Ageless situation plus Rob saying he didn't feel that great still, further builds upon my belief that Rob did a great job with the pieces he had given himself last night. Now, I've said my part, and would love to see what else the community has to say about my post. Feel free to comment back, this is a forums after all, just please try and keep it civil, we obviously don't want any fights here. :)

I would also love to know what you think of this @Rob , if you have the time of course. Please don't feel obligated to take time out of your day to respond to this unless you really want to. Love you Rob, as well as everyone who works on the show. Even if I did rage a bit internally yesterday at the Empahversion thing, I have complete faith in all of you guys. I can't wait to see what's next.


  • edited May 2017
    I am also in favor of the new system, but like the original change to 3 Anytimes it will take some getting used to.

    FOR POSTERITY, here's what @Rob said about this campaign in particular:

    Every single attack by almost every single Character has the "intent" to kill so you are not bothered by the fact that was being attacked over and over, you are bothered by how he was attacked over and over in relation to what you in your head were imaging. Literally 90% of these complaints will go away with new terms and if they don't then you don't like the system and that's that. This is the one I'm using because it produces much better stories and interesting encounters. Stamina is the buffer before attacks make you "Roll for your life" and the only reason I'm seeing that people dislike is simply the how we are describing this system of gameplay. I think after the next campaign if I can afford to rewrite the cards that need it, you guys will be able to better imagine how the battle is going and I'll be a better game master.

    I think anyone who has a problem with the new Death Roll system is skipping over the critical problem of this campaign and it was my performance. I did not perform well and described things poorly and made many errors. I understand you guys can't really just say "Rob you sucked this week" but blaming the issues you had with the campaign on the system is far too hasty because from my perspective it worked AMAZING today and gave me moment after moment of entertaining encounters. You can be annoyed that "oh roamin just kept attacking him and i thought he should be killed by now" but all your really saying is that you didn't give a shit about justins porc character and that's not a Deathroll issue, that's a gamemaster issue. I decided Justins Porc character was VALUABLE enough to treat as if he was a Player Character and apply the system equally. If the Porc Character was replaced with Coe's Main Character, you would not have felt like the death rolls dragged on and to be honest I think that's stupid. Small side Characters should not be treated as worthless garbage just to die as fodder every campaign. It's fun when small side Characters can be developed alongside the player characters too. 

    He also voiced that he might want non-player characters (or non-Companions?) to have to roll above a Low Roll, rather than a Critical Fail, which I think is fair. Depending on the situation. I'd still want a previous Player Character to keep having the better odds.

    My personal thoughts on Rob's GMing: I felt nothing for William and was weirded out that he was so sturdy, but I cared immensely about Mikael, Heathera, Lance, etc. because Rob was extremely successful in making them likable. So I feel that while he made some mistakes as he said, largely the campaign was tense and fun.
  • edited May 2017
    @kilozombie I hadn't seen this comment by Rob yet. I largely agree with what he said. I could tell he was trying super hard to manage everything at the same time. Not feeling well plus the sheer amount of things going on plus chat yelling at him was not going to make it easy. We love you Rob :heart: 
  • I think there should be consequences for getting put into the defeated/winded/danger state, and as things stand I feel things don't make as much sense as they potentially could. Say for example that a character was put into the defeated stage and they were subject to one of two scenarios.

    Scenario 1:
    Character is defeated and is approached by a dragon breathing a 5x5 death fire attack that does 99999 damage.They have to death roll for a 1 once because it's only one action on the dragon's part. This is even if the dragon rolls a 20.

    Scenario 2
    Character is defeated and is approached by 9 unintelligent goblins with sticks. Because there are 9 of the goblins and they are all attacking separately there will be 9 separate death rolls.

    There is no regard for context as things were played in the previous campaign and I think this is a point that needs to be addressed to tell a better story. Not every character will or should have the power to keep fighting forever, and they should have to think of more creative solutions to complete their missions. Or else people could just be jumping into dragon mouths with suicide vests all day.

    If a player character dies the player does not necessarily have to leave the table. The entire game is designed in such a way you can easily draw a completely random character from the decks and have something to work with. completely_random
    I think in one of the really early behind the scenes videos Rob said that one of the good things with companions was that if the player character died then people could play the companion instead. Characters develop from player death, hence why you got things like Bearo from fall of Dundinburough and arguably the talking donkey from Gobos of Pat.

  • @SugarSmear I agree context does matter, but Rob did kinda follow context yesterday. The double 20 glaciate for instance. I feel like context will kinda be a given. As for the multiple people attacking all at once, it needs a bit of an improvement but I feel Rob handled it decently well.
  • As long as the show flows well, im not gonna care how the Deathroll system is done. Nothing can always please everyone.
  • edited May 2017
    I think the new deathroll system works for the sake of the show, because it adds suspense while making valuable characters less susceptible to dying, but for the sake of the game (like if I was GMing a game), I think the old death roll system was good - 1,4,10,15,19... with the number resetting each combat. Or even 1,3,5,7... could work. I personally would say have deathrolls in the show go 1,2,3,4... to make situations where characters legit could die more realistic, but I trust that Rob and the guys know what they are doing, and have total trust in them about the rules of the show. And, as @SugarSmear Already mentioned, I think contextual deathrolls would make sense. Being eaten by a Whelpling? Roll a 20 to live. Getting poked by a random stupid Porc? Roll a 1 and he accidentally stabs you through the head. The game should move fluidly to the roleplay, which it seems to be doing.

  • edited May 2017
    I'm still of the opinion, despite what Rob has said (I really think he's overly critical of himself), that a character who isn't in defeated state but has been hit with a deathroll has to roll a 1 to die. And a character in the defeated state has to roll 1-4.

    I think that's fair, and allows the GM a good opportunity to not outright kill a player if he doesn't want to.

    Then again, I'm also of the opinion that in role playing games no one should really ever be "anti-party" outside of a charm. Evil? Sure. But you can be evil whilst not being anti-party.

    But this, at the end of the day, is just my very cheap $.02.

    And regarding context of 1 big dragon attack vs 9 goblins armed with sticks. As a GM I would just roll all of the goblin attacks as 1 death roll instead of 9. Making an argument that they're not strong enough on their own.
  • edited May 2017
    I liked how the Deathroll system worked out with this campaign, since it does focus on the story rather than 'you must die very quickly because this is a game', especially when you consider how many actual deaths there were of known characters, which Rob had tallied up in another Thread:

    1. Roamin Twice, first was saved by Justin's sacrificialguard, second from shooting himself in the head with iceblast [albeit second roll was a 50/50 chance]
    2. Heathera, Resurrected by greaterlayonhands from Galen, which Rob says is super rare
    3. Mikhail Zankovich, from the Aftermath of his Spell Grenade [Bottle o' Spells?] which casted empahvision, causing the deathroll which he failed.
    4. Justin's Porc Companion, William, after being beatdown by Roamin's barrage of Iceblasts.

    The last campaign [Grand Paladin Order] did have alot of deathrolls, but you can see that this system does work for killing characters, heck Roamin, despite his second death being from a 50/50 deathroll died TWICE during that campaign, yet still being unpredictable and can mean some characters can endure multiple attacks while 'Defeated' yet live.

    Pretty sure that the main idea of Deathrolls is to present that chance for death to keep up suspense and to avoid it becoming the Attrition game which Rob doesn't want it to be should regularly-increasing deathroll risks be in the show.

    Personally, I prefer the idea of keeping the Deathrolls in a sense which works better for the story, but at the same time also being in favour of Contextualisation when it comes down to certain things.
    Most attacks, yeah I can reasonably justify being the standard living except on Crit Fails, as you're still capable of some form of defending yourself while defeated, you're still Conscious, so attacks from most enemies can be blocked in some sense.

    But some powerful attacks i can reasonably see the point of causing more dangerous Deathrolls, such as in attacks which drain all of your stamina in one hit. If an attack can do this to a character, then it is clearly very dangerous to a character, and as such I feel would warrant a more dangerous roll, maybe having 1,2,3 for death.

    Or taking a Crit which then causes deathrolls, since it's clear that Crits can be very dangerous to characters and NPCs alike.

    Or even just in the sense of what some attacks are. It'd be more dangerous than rolling above a 1 if you was blasted by Dragonfire, or took a full blast from someone like Dalfgan [who can control creation magic], or even just an attack which extreme forces involved which would reasonably be more likely to cause fatal injury, like a Greater Pyroblast [Seriously, why is that only 1 deathroll above 1 for regular characters? Divines i understand being like that, but it makes no sense for a Divine and a Porc to have the exact same odds of death from this...]

    But this is how i think of all this in my opinion, and besides, if you host a game you're more than free to use your own deathroll systems, you're not forced to apply rob's way of playing the game if you play one yourself.
  • tl;dr: DMing is hard, especially when you're designing your own system from the ground up!

    It basically comes down to, Rob doesn't want people to feel like they can't keep going just because they've been "defeated". We saw this a lot in earlier campaigns where someone would get knocked unconscious and it would be better for them to literally lay there and do nothing because having their character stand back up was too big of a risk. The new death roll system favors player and other important characters not dying because that's the path Rob wants to take. They probably feel that's more interesting for the show and what creates the best story. It's so the players can keep going and not feel like they need to stop just because they ran out of stamina.

    I feel like it definitely needs some work just because it doesn't feel like anything is actually at risk when characters are defeated, which in its own way feels cheap. It really only sticks out when there's combat between special characters. If Rob hadn't ended that final fight, it probably would have literally taken at least another hour or two to resolve.

    I would be interested in seeing them go with a rule somewhere in between. Maybe something like the death roll range doubles every time you've been "defeated". But then add something like, characters that are in the "defeated" state deal 50% more damage because of bloodlust or some other thematic reason. Or make up for it by allowing all characters to tend wounds or something, which would take the death roll range down a stage for themselves or another character.

    We also need to consider that Rob was obviously not at his best and this was the first campaign back of the new season and after a LOT of (untested) redesign work.
  • I think Rawb should remove the strictness of the death roll system, and should just go with the flow based on the situation.  So, if a regular target gets hit with an ability that forces death rolls? thats a 1.  If you are defeated and you get hit? maybe still a 1.  If you have been defeated and are on your 4th consecutive death roll?  maybe a 1-10.  If you just got defeated and you get hit by an ability that forces a death roll? maybe a 10-4.  If you have been defeated 5 turns in a row and have death rolled 13 times, and someone divinity slashes you, maybe you should have to roll a 20.

    I think that for the standard situation, the new death roles are great.  Main character deaths to straight up RNG can SUCK, and should be minimized while still kept possible.  However, Roamin shouldn't have to death role a defeated porc 9 times before the thing dies.

    The issue with the new system is it emphasizes the RNG part of dying, making you only die on a 1, regardless of the situation.  Where  as if it adjusts to the situation based on how the GM interprets can bring out the importance of the way you go about trying to kill someone(like when roamin tried to pin someone down) if they really want to go for a kill.  Sure characters might have a higher chance of dying, but only because someone tries really hard to kill them, or they messed  really bad and managed to get defeated in the middle of a huge mob of enemies and get death rolled 7 times.

    Dont get me wrong.... I think the way death rolls worked in Grand Paladin Order were WAY better than the system used in den of devils and buckaroos, but could still use some improvements.  Just my 2 cents though.
  • I feel this new system is healthier for the prosperity of the show, but I in part like the old system better, I'm not saying by any strech we sohuld go back, but there has to be some sort of middle ground
  • Even if you strategize and play the best you can with making complex plans that will 1 shot enemies and such, at the end of the day it comes down to rolls and if Justin was playing the best he could, he still rolled a 1 on a pyroblast which means he hits himself and gets punished. You cannot plan for rolling all these important actions that lead to death rolls. If Justin was at 3 stamina and a gemling put a death roll on him which was a 1/20 and he rolls a 1, it is still the same effect as 10/20 because people would think "How could the gemling kill a wizard". 

    So for the increasing death roll, I have not seen a suggestion that it increases through the campaign but through the encounter and resets like stamina (I think this is how it was done in Den of Devils but I may be wrong). I have seen people suggest that it goes 1,2,3,4,5 etc, adding 1 each time not 1,4,10,15 like S2. Think Michael Langstrom last season, Duke Daring dropkicked him into lava when his son just died so for story purposes it would be fitting if he would die so he has a high death roll, but imagine that being a 1/20, you don't get a fitting end to his character.

    Also what defines "a decently strong companion", Rob has stated in a different thread that if a player character was in the porcs place that no one would be mad but during the campaign he insta-killed Jimmies without a death roll. Really I think it is just the complaints of the wording and they will go away as time goes on
  • My problem with the Death Roll system isn't the system itself but how the players (on the show) respond to it. Every time a player survives a Death Roll they immediately get back up, even if they were knocked 20 feat into a wall.

    Just once I'd like to see someone go unconscious for a round, or to say "I'm ok. I'm ok. But me back is killing me.".
  • @Mega_muncher I was thinking the same thing, espeically if it resets each campaign, if Rawb is really worried about rolls being too punsihing anytimes could even be used to clear a death roll by 1 if it gets too high, but just the potential for it to get more twnse is imo needed
  • edited May 2017
    I think the problem with S3 Death Rolls thus far isn't a problem with the system, more so the context/application of them. I think becoming "Defeated" and having to Death Roll then only getting back up as long as it isn't a 1 is fine. It was more so what Roamin was trying to do and what Rob was allowing him to do. There's a point where having Death be Random doesn't make sense. Roamin was Bloodlusted, he needed to kill those characters and despite being in what couldn't be a more perfect scenario to do so, Rob wasn't letting him have it. William the Porc had just been hit with a 9999 Damage attack and Roamin was just hitting him on the ground and still couldn't kill him. It made Roamin being Anti-Party way less impactful. He was supposed to be a broken, overpowered character and could barely kill a Companion. It meant if he had of tried to attack a Player Character it wouldn't of had any tension because Rob made it nigh impossible for him to kill anything.

    In any conventional scenario the Death Roll system is fine. But if they're going to do more Anti-Party stuff they have to change it up in some way otherwise it will just be whoever Rolls a 1 first loses, which is incredibly anti-climactic.
  • I think a good alternative might be having it scale with the damage being taken, like being hit with a 9999 damage attack basically requires a 20 for you to survive and then having a character taking only 1 damage needs to roll a 1 to die.
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