AWW: The Almighty DORC

Okay, let me tell you about the Almighty DORC, which is the system that’s going to put the desired degree of wildness into A Wilder World without having cumbersome dice schemes.

The Almighty DORC is the Deck of Result Cards.

This replaces die rolls for purposes of checks (which are now called “result draws”, to clarify that you’re being told to draw cards). It can itself be replaced by a random number generator and a chart, but the point of using cards is to offer more nuanced results without having to translate arbitrary numbers to results.

The cards come in three basic flavors: normal, wild, and critical. Normal cards are split right down the middle between success and failure. In the default deck build, there is one normal card for every wild card. Wild cards aren’t wild in the usual sense of “wild cards”; they just have wilder results.

Many of them start with, “You fail, and suffer an embarrassment in the process.” or “You succeed, but suffer a complication,” but some offer you a choice, or things that are harder to quantify.

That Was A Thing That Just Happened is a wild success that reads, “You failed, but through coincidental means, more or less the exact thing you were trying to achieve came to pass. Your arrow misses, but the target is taken out by friendly fire, or trips and is knocked out. You broke a pick in the lock, then discovered the door was just a little stuck in the frame. That was a thing that just happened.”

Its opposite counterpart, That Was A Hell Of A Thing, reads, “You succeeded, but coincidental means render your success moot. You knocked out the guard, just in time for the shift change. You picked the lock on the door, then discovered it’s barred from the other side. Whatever you were trying to do, you did it… for all the good it did you. That was a hell of a thing.”

The terms “embarrassment”, “complication”, and “injury”—the three most common meta-consequences—are roughly defined in the rules. An embarrassment is something that makes you look foolish or silly. It can spoil an attempt to impress or charm someone, or an attempt at subterfuge, but otherwise, it’s just fun (as long as you can laugh at yourself). A complication is something that makes your life harder or the situation you’re in worse. It can directly relate to what you’re doing, or be a coincidence. An injury means you take a wound, which in AWW can be either an HP loss, or the placing of one of the Qualities that defines your character into an injured state. Usually but not always such an injury will be to the Quality most applicable to the situation (pulled a muscle!)

The thing is, beyond the guidance for what constitutes an embarrassment, injury, or complication, the card leaves it up in the air. The Storyteller works it out from the situation, possibly with input from the player. Some groups may find it more fun to have players propose their own consequences. A rule variant called Parliament of Rooks means the player always proposes, and the whole group votes on it.

Critical cards actually have two parts: a card that says “Critical Failure” or “Critical Success” that gets shuffled into the Almighty DORC, and a corresponding deck of Critical Failures and Critical Successes. This allows there to be more different types of criticals, without skewing the odds in their favor.

Critical Failures include such hits as I Wanted The Opposite Of That, where you didn’t only fail, you achieved the exact opposite of what you were going for, with examples including things like spreading a fire you were trying to put out, injuring a person you were trying to heal, enraging someone you were trying to subdue, and so on. Critical Successes include things like Bank Shot, where you not only pull off exactly what you wanted, but you can accomplish another, roughly equivalent goal.

In cases where it’s hard to figure out an application for the extra consequences, the usual advice is for the Storyweaver to “bank” a stroke of good or bad luck to be dropped on your head later, though really a lot of the fun is in figuring out what it means to achieve the opposite of something.

The default DORC has 50 cards: 12 normal successes, 12 wild successes, 1 critical success, 12 normal failures, 12 wild failures, and 1 critical failure. A few of the wilds are repeats, as some are meant to be more common than others. One of the signature features of the game, though, is that you can adjust the “wildness” of the game up and down by adding or removing some vanilla success/failure cards from the deck (in equal numbers, obviously) or putting more critical success/failure cards in the deck.

Obviously, taking cards out of a deck each time you draw one changes the odds. Since there’s an equal chance for any card from a fresh deck to be good or bad, it ~*should*~ tend to stay fairly even, more or less, though players who keep a plus or minus count of good or bad cards used up might have a slight tactical edge.

The default rules call for the DORC to be reshuffled following any draw that results in a critical. The Vegas Rules variant has it keep going until the deck is exhausted. The Even Odds variant has all cards re-shuffled each time, which is likely to be cumbersome if you’re not using a virtual deck, but is the default assumption when you’re using a random number generator or dice chart.

Now, you might be wondering how this success/failure mechanism accounts for varying levels of user ability, and varying task difficulty.

Normally you draw one card and use it as your result. If you have advantage (total positive modifiers) for the draw, you take one extra card for each point you have, and then pick the one you want to use. If you have disadvantage (total negative modifiers), you take one extra card for each negative point, and the Storyteller selects the one to afflict you with.

Difficulty is just a threshold you have to reach in advantage in order to have your full points. If the difficulty is higher than your bonus, you lose one point for every point of difference. Most bog standard adventury tasks are difficulty 0, unless you’re going up against someone, then it’s based on their score (or what the Storyteller imagines it would be, if they haven’t bothered to define stats for the character). Sneaking past a sentry with +1 perception, the average person would have net disadvantage -1 (because their score of 0 is 1 shy of the sentry’s), while someone with +1 to stealth could use their one point unimpeded.

Note that result draws are always made from the point of view of player characters as the actors. The player draws to sneak past the enemy, or to spot the enemy sneaking past them. The player draws to hit an enemy, or to avoid an enemy’s attack. This keeps the player invested in what’s happening.

Now, this makes it so that each point difference effectively means you get to “try again” on a draw and use the better result. Any time you’re trying again at a thing with a set chance, you’re halving the chance of failure. So ignoring the complication that cards that come out of the deck are not immediately replaced, you’ve got a 50% of success with advantage 0, a 75% chance with advantage 1, an 87.5% chance with advantage 2, and so on.

While that’s a nice, significant difference for even one point—something that is a design goal—it does have the drawback that your odds of success change by less with each successive shift. But I feel like once you’re past the 75% mark, you’ve got a nice, reliable ability. Points on top of that are useful for helping you overcome difficulty. Plus, the fact that while the odds of success are 50% to begin with, the odds of success without hurting or embarrassing yourself are somewhat lower means that there’s always a benefit to having more points. Higher advantage not only means you succeed more often, but with fewer side effects and more control of the circumstances.

I feel like this resolution system, stacked with what I was talking about this morning in terms of how you define your character and how you describe your actions, puts the game into a flavorful, story-driven realm without succumbing to the typical “narrativist” tropes of “string together seven adjectives and three childhood traumas to decide how many fistfuls of dice you roll to win this gunfight”.