Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rule of 1 in 6

Random encounter chances are 1 in 6.

That's a 1 in 6 chance that something rather annoying-to-dangerous happens when just walking around the dank ol' dungeon.

But that's a wonderful thing to use any time a PC is doing something rather unseemly or getting into trouble that maybe they shouldn't be getting into. Let's face it, PCs are made specifically to get into trouble. It would be a dick move to summarily punish them for doing what they're supposed to do.

But there should always be a chance that mischief goes all to hell, even if it's otherwise harmless and has nothing to do with whatever else is going on in game.

Why not 1 in 6?

For example, in my last session it turns out there was a brothel very close to a particular location of interest (damn you Vornheim!). I decided it was disguised as a laundry, but that deception couldn't stop one of the PCs. So he's getting into mischief. Had nothing to do with anything.

You could just fast forward. You could just see what the other players are doing.

Or you can roll a d6 and see if something bad happens. That's what I did.

A 1!

The dice had just given me permission to screw around with that character. And so I did.

Here comes the priest with some minions, tarring and feathering everyone in the place!

And confiscating their stuff, for which they'd have to pay a fine to get back.

The PC was a Magic-User in this case, and I was kind enough to rule that the priest thought his spellbook was just a book of French pornography since he couldn't understand any of it. Cost the PC extra silver to get that back.


  1. I work the 1/6 logic pretty much exactly this way, myself. 16% or thereabouts is fine odds for anything in the game that I want to be considered and felt to be unlikely, but that I still want to have happen often enough for it to matter. ("Real" unlikeliness does not work in games of this sort due to the small sample sizes involved and our desire to have content be produced.)

    Rolling the 1/6 odds to give yourself permission as a GM to provide an exceptional event is a fine and disciplined way of making sure you're keeping it real. If the dice are saying that this particular time is when something you wouldn't expect to happen all the time is to happen, who are we to say nay? And even if in reality the odds would be <1%, that just goes to show how the game provides an enhanced reality for us poor people who can't waste the time waiting for something to happen.

  2. I usually go with 2 in 6 for most stuff and 1 in 6 for rare or dangerous stuff. I went through the original books and noted all the d6 probabilities mentioned, and it turns out that almost everything -- spikes slipping, characters dropping held items when surprised -- is 2 in 6. Even the rare things that are 4 in 6 are really 2 in 6, when you roll for the inverse.