Last night I noted that we had settled (for the time at least) on a 1d20 roll high to hit system in our Haphazard Homebrew™ after considering a ‘roll under armor class’ system, among other things. And in the post I wrote
As someone who’s never played an RPG engine newer than 2e AD&D, this sudden plan to use what I think is more or less the D20 core mechanic comes as a bit of a shock.
What shocked me was that someone who not only considered himself a bit of an oldschooler at heart but had never even done more than glance quickly at an RPG published after 1993 or so (not counting retro-clones of old rules) would be thinking about adopting what many in these here parts generally consider sacrilege. And I don’t understand A) why it’s generally considered sacrilege or B) why I feel that way myself.
Then a commenter on the roll low post wrote
Please don’t use a ‘core mechanic’.
An aversion to core mechanics is probably why a lot of people like retrogames, clones, and games inspired by them.
Now, I can hardly fault the guy, because I agree with him to a large degree. I think there’s more to it than “an aversion of core mechanics,” but I do think that “an aversion to core mechanics” is part of it and certainly one of the widely-discussed issues.
However, even though I think he might be at least partially right and I might agree with his sentiment, I don’t quite understand it.
Why is a “core mechanic” a bad thing?
AD&D used roll high on d20 to succeed for to-hit, saving throws, and turning undead, probably three of the most common rolls success rolls, but no one whined about it. And it used 1-in-6 or 2-in-6 for many other checks.
Is it that roll a d20 and compare it to the target’s armor class on a table is good but using a d20 to roll high with a Mace (+6, 1d6) or whatever it is that 3e uses is bad? I’ve done a lot of roll-low-on-1d12 things in our games…is that wrong because it’s getting dangerously close to a d12 core mechanic?
To be honest, this sort of strikes me as similar to the ascending vs. descending AC debate…what does it really matter which one we use if either way I need to roll a goddamn 13 for my fighter to hit the orc?
If a character has a 20% chance of finding a scroll in a library and we resolve that by rolling two d10s and reading them as percentile dice, is it fine? But what if we roll 1d20 and find the scroll on 17+? Is that suddenly wrong?
If it is wrong, what if our combat system is based on rolling low on d00? Do we need to use a roll high on some other die to find scrolls so as not flirt with a core mechanic?
I’m not trying to be argumentative…I’m simply asking some pointed questions because I’m genuinely curious about the “aversion to core mechanics,” even though I have it. Probably especially because I have it. I’ve never played a game newer than 2e AD&D or MegaTraveller, excepting retro-clones of games older than either. So it’s not personal animosity toward 3e or the piles of D20 stuff. And, as I noted last night, I’m not at all sure I would have been opposed to a D20 core mechanic back in the day.
Have I picked up a bias from spending time on oldschool blogs and forums? (If so, I blame you people. The whole bloomin’ lot of ya.)
Now that I’m thinking about this, I’m finding it strange. Is it really the mechanic? Or the fact that a standardized mechanic was adopted at the same time dice rolling (using the standardized mechanic) began to be used for so many things that used to be played out and the poor mechanic is the scapegoat?
And don’t tell me that there wouldn’t be love for a d12 core mechanic.