The Mini-FU games introduced a new dice mechanism to resolve actions. While it is straightforward, the format of the mini games doesn’t leave much room for explanation or clarification, so that is what I am intending to do in today’s article.

The Check

Whenever a character attempts an action where the outcome is uncertain AND both success and failure could be interesting, make a check. Whatever a character is doing, make sure you those two conditions are met – if a character does something and there is an obvious outcome, don’t roll dice just let them do it. Likewise, if a character tries something and failure (or success) will bring the scene to a stop, don’t roll dice – just go with the interesting / fun option and move on with the story.

A check proceeds in the following steps:

  • Declare the action and set stakes
  • Assemble the die pool
  • Roll the dice
  • Consult the oracle

Declare the action and set stakes

A player describes their character’s action and declares what they are trying to achieve. The GM may ask questions to clarify intent. Anyone at the table might suggest the potential risks and rewards of success or failure. Usually, it will be obvious what a character is trying to do and what the potential outcomes are, but it is good practice to ensure both the acting player and GM are on the same page about what is going on.

Assemble the die pool

The die pool will consist of power dice [+] and challenge dice [-]. These should be different colours so they are very easy to identify. Your pool begins with 1 power die, representing the character taking action (so the player should be encouraged to describe that action). Add another power die for every thing in the scene that makes the action easier. This could include:

  • Tags that describe the character
  • Scene descriptors and/or environmental conditions
  • Equipment
  • Taking their time or in an advantageous position
  • Being assisted by allies
  • Conditions that an opposition is suffering.

Then add one challenge die for every tag or contextual detail that will make the action harder. This could include:

  • Character tags
  • Scene descriptors and/or environmental conditions
  • Lack of equipment
  • Opposition expertise, numbers, or position
  • Conditions the character is suffering
  • The GM just deems the action is hard

Anyone can suggest things that might add power or challenge dice, but the GM always has final say.

An example: Dave is playing a daredevil explorer in a game of pulp adventure. His character, Tennessee Smith, wants to sneak past some guards at the entrance to a temple.

GM: Okay, you attempt to sneak past the guards, so your pool begins with one [+]. What else is working in your favour?

Dave: Well, you said there were plenty of shadows to move in [+], and I’m a daredevil which makes me good at generally athletic stunts [+]. Also, I have an eye for detail [+].

GM: Daredevil I can see being useful, but how does your eye for detail help you to sneak?

Dave: I am going to keep an eye on the wind in the trees and only move when the trees and bushes are blown by the breeze.

GM: Alright, that makes sense. So that’s a total of four power dice. The guards aren’t actively looking for anyone and aren’t particularly skilled, let’s make them a modest challenge at two dice [-][-].

Dave: Cool. My pool is four power and two challenge dice. Let’s roll.

Roll the dice

With the dice pool assembled, roll it! You are going to compare the highest power dice with the highest challenge dice. If one or more power dice are higher than the best challenge die, the action is successful. The more power dice that are higher than challenge dice, the more thorough the success. On the flipside, each challenge die that exceeds the highest power die is a degree of failure.

If the highest power die has the same value as the highest challenge die, discard the pair and compare again.

Lets continue the example. Here, power dice are green and challenge dice are red.

Dave rolls the dice pool and gets the following results:

The highest [+] is 6, which is the same as the highest [-], so both dice are discarded and the next highest dice are compared:

The next highest power die is a 5, while the best remaining challenge die is a 4. That means one power die is higher and the action was a success.


But, what if we got a different distribution of dice? Let’s look at what would happen is this was Dave’s roll:

Once again, the best [+] and [-] are 6, so they are discarded, leaving Dave with:

Now when the power and challenge dice are compare we find that Dave has TWO power dice that are higher than the best challenge die.

Consult the oracle

With the dice rolled and compared it is time to consult the oracle – this tells you how well you did.

ROLLRESULT
[+]One power die is highestYes but / Partial success
[+][+]Two power dice are higher
than the best challenge die
Yes / Success
[+][+][+]Three power dice are higher
than the best challenge die
Yes and / Critical success
[-]One challenge die is highestNo but / Just failed
[-][-]Two challenge dice are higher
than the best power die
No / Failure
[-][-][-]Three challenge dice are higher
than the best power die
No and / Critical failure

Yes but / Partial success: you did what you wanted to do, but it cost you something. If you were attacking, maybe you got hit too, or fell over, or put a friend in a bad spot. Maybe succeeding required you to burn an asset or give up some hard-won advantage.

Yes / Complete success: you did exactly what you set out to do. Describe what your character does, and the impact on the scene.

Yes and / Critical success: not only did you succeed, but you gained some other bonus along the way. Maybe you learnt an extra bit of information, or your spell affected more people than you intended, or someone important noticed your skill with a blade. Maybe you found resources to replenish a burned asset. If it was a combat action, you not only hit your target, but put yourself in an advantageous position, or inflicted a serious wound, or set a friend up for a cool move.

No but / Partial failure: you failed, but only by the slimmest of margins. While you did not get what you wanted, all is not lost – you leaped the chasm, but are hanging on by your fingertips; you couldn’t sneak past the guards, but they didn’t spot you either. If taking a combat action, you missed your mark but avoided injury yourself, or put yourself in a better position for next time, or didn’t expend too much ammo.

No / Complete failure: the action failed in the most obvious of ways. Describe how the action failed and how this affects the scene.

No and / Critical failure: you failed – spectacularly. Not only did you not jump the chasm, but you lost your backpack, too; you couldn’t sneak past the guards and they spotted you when you were out in the open, nowhere near cover. In combat, a critical failure might result in not only an injury, but also being tripped, distracted or or put in a very bad spot.

Weird dice results

There are a couple of situations where you might get weird dice results or situations. The two most likely are:

  • All the dice are cancelled out. This is a botch and counts as a No and / Critical failure.
  • The dice pool only has power dice or only has challenge dice. In this case the missing dice type counts as a result of zero. For example, after dice are cancelled out, a player only has two [+] left. They would both count as being higher than the “zero” result of the [-] dice.

Things you might notice

This dice mechanic does a couple of things that are different from previous iterations of FU.

  • You cannot get a Yes and result unless you are rolling 3 or more power dice. This makes critical successes harder to achieve, but allows players to roll a lot more dice without the outcome being certain. You also feel a lot more triumphant when you do get a Yes and result!
  • Yes but / No but results are common. This is intentional, because they are fun!
  • You can only get a botch when rolling an equal number of power and challenge dice. A botch is more common when the pool is small, so don’t be afraid to add power and challenge dice.
  • The numbers on the dice don’t actually matter – only whether they are higher or lower than the opposite type of dice. This leaves room for things like damage in Dungeon Crawlers.

Some examples of the check in action

October Jones, intrepid reporter and socialite, is hounding the police chief for information about a recent murder spree. She rolls her dice pool:

One challenge die is higher than the best power die, so this is a failure.


Tennessee Smith is being chased by a horde of neanderthals, and his way is blocked by a cliff! Luckily, his airship is hovering just ahead, so he makes a dramatic leap to safety. Dave starts with [+] and gets another for being a daredevil [+] and a third because he has had a good run up (being chased and all…). Unfortunately, he is being rushed [-], pelted with rocks and primitive spears [-] and has suffered a couple of injuries in the previous scene [-][-]. He rolls his dice pool and gets:

The highest power and challenge dice are both 4’s, so they cancel out…

Comparing the next highest power and challenge dice we find they also cancel each other out…

And….

Dave is left with a single challenge die. This is one challenge die better than the best power die (of zero), so is a No but / Just failed result.

Different; not better, not worse

This new resolution system has advantages and disadvantages when compared to the “classic” dice mechanic, and others proposed over the years. It has been implemented to allow players to quickly assemble their pool by grabbing power and challenge dice, without the math of cancelling before the roll. It allows the GM to quickly apply modifiers, and check that a player has applied them. It is also quite fast to determine the result, once you have rolled a few handfuls of dice – give it a go and see.