One of my major roles is conducting playtests and analyzing user behavior; using data to make TotA a better experience. The responsibility of any game designer is to listen to feedback, whether it is good or bad. A game's developmental cycle is iterative, always changing.
A while back in our cycle, we showed the rulebook around to a few people. We had the system of opposing skill checks I've previously outlined, but we didn't have a lot of the options an depth that we do now. One colleague of mine - let's just call him "Mike" - felt the system was too simplistic. An avid veteran of the tabletop genre, one of the first things he looks at in a rulebook is the kinds of dice the system makes use of.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, not all dice are six sided. There are twenty sided, ten sided, four sided, negative sided, backward sided, frontward sided, and every sided dice. Many well known tabletop games use many kinds of these dice at once. As our goal for TotA is to make a system that is accessible, easy to use and to understand, we opted to dice roll require the same set of dice: percentiles. Also known as a hundred sided dice (although you can just use two ten sided dice and pretend one represents the ten's place,) they put probabilities in terms that are easy for people to comprehend, into percentages.
Mike is the type of player who enjoys diving into dice pools. He lamented the single, recurring dice roll found throughout the game, dubbing it "a simple single dice roll simulator." His voice was a dissenting one, as most of the others who played the game cited potential in its other features; however, that did not necessarily mean his feedback was worth discounting.
As we continued playtesting, other minor issues came up. Most other games of the genre use various dice rolls not only for determining success, but calculating damage as well. As the damage on all weapons and spells in TotA is scaled for characters who have a static maximum of ten Hearts, we do not have much wiggle room for the wide variety of values that can come off a random dice roll.
After spending some time crunching several months worth of data, we ended up solving both of these problems with the same solution: critical hits. While most games are rather binary in their implementation of critical hits (a hit is either critical or it isn't,) TotA has many tiers of crits. Each character has a set of critical ranges; when you roll a number on the dice that is within the appropriate range, you score a critical. When that happens, you roll again; if that next roll is also in range, it's a double critical. And you roll again. You can score a single crit, you can score a double crit, you can score a triple crit.
I once observed a player score a quadruple crit. The result was terrifying.
Naturally your odds of reaching a given critical tier become exponentially smaller with each level, so it almost never reaches the point where it becomes infinitely ridiculous.
For most weapons and spells, you deal one additional damage for each critical level you score, in addition to their base damage. Others grant you two additional damage instead. A few even offer three. Or none at all, to compensate for massive base damage or some other very good effect. So a weapon that deals lower base damage might have the potential to vary higher to a point beyond even heavier ones.
Now if, good people of TAY, you have been wondering why I haven't been posting any information regarding my holding playtests with you here on The Great Net of Inter, then I will tell you critical hits are the reason. I have been trying to set up roll20.net to play with TotA rules, and our critical system has not been playing nice with the software tools. While the concept of rerolling your dice on certain values (also known as "exploding dice") is relatively common enough, it would appear that all other games who make use of it add the totals of all the rolls together, including roll20.net. It vexes me to no end.
So there you have it! If any of you are brave enough to offer roll20 wizardry assistance, I would be happy to draft up some kind of schedule for you guys to come an try out our game! Otherwise, you can find us on Facebook and on Twitter. Don't forget to tune in next week!