The Action Dice system has, appropriately enough, two basic concepts: Action, and Dice.
This is a game of Heroic (and Villainous) Action, and the mechanics are intended to reflect that. There are not a lot of fine details that must all be considered at length by the player who wants his character to succeed; it is presumed that the characters know what they're doing, and the details are subsumed in the normal use of skills and abilities.
Almost every aspect of a character that falls within the purview of the mechanics is quantified as a number of dice. These dice are ordinary six-sided dice, and when more than one is rolled, they are added together to find the total. This total is compared to a difficulty, which may be a fixed number or another character's total, and if the total equals or exceeds the difficulty, the action succeeds. The amount by which the total exceeds the difficulty is the degree of success; more is better. (A degree of success of 0 indicates a tie, or the most minimal amount of success possible that's not actually a failure.)
Sometimes the total or the degree of success will be added to, subtracted from, multiplied, or divided; this will be explained later.
Every character has some number of action dice (typically 1 to 4) which indicates, at least in part, the character's overall ability as a hero (or villain). The primary use of action dice is during action sequences (eg, fight scenes), where each action die permits the character one action during a round: the character's skill or ability dice are added to the action die (or dice; additional action dice can be used to improve an action) and rolled to find the total for that action.
Action dice are open-ended, meaning that if an action die rolls 6, another die is rolled and added to it. If the new die is also 6, roll and add again, until something other than 6 turns up. Action dice are the only dice treated this way.
Outside an action sequence, only one action die can be rolled for an action, but each additional action die that could be devoted to the action adds 1 to the total.
The Action Dice System does not strongly distinguish between learned skills, natural abilities, paranormal powers, or any of the other categories into which a character's faculties may fall; they're all dice. However, there are some distinctions in how various attributes are treated mechanically.
Most attributes will be listed as +Nd6, indicating that it takes an action to use them, and they are therefore added to one or more action dice. Roll all the dice (remembering that action dice are open-ended), sum them, and that's the total. Skills are the most common attributes of this type.
Some attributes will have a number of dice in parentheses after the +Nd6 (eg, "+4d6 (5d6)"). The number of dice in parentheses is the maximum number of dice that can be used to generate a total for that attribute. However, if more dice than that are rolled, the highest dice can be selected as the ones that count. Note that no matter how many times an action die is rerolled and added, it is still considered one die.
Attributes of this type generally correspond to physical quantities based on the number of dice; for example, each die of Running lets the character move 4m during a movement action, and each die of Strength doubles the amount the character can lift or carry. These quantities are not normally in doubt; if someone with a total of 3d6 Running wants to move 12 meters or less in a movement action, she can. The dice are rolled only when there is a competition of some kind, like arm-wrestling for Strength, or a race for Running. Whichever character rolls higher accomplishes the task faster or better; this may or may not prevent the other character from also accomplishing the task.
Attributes that do not require an action to use (typically passive ones, such as toughness or magic resistance) are listed as a flat number of dice, with no "+". Whenever they're needed, that's how many dice are rolled (usually; see below for ways to speed this up). At the GM's option, a character may take an action to add an action die to one of these attributes for one use.
To reduce the number of dice that need to be rolled and counted, the GM may opt to either have some dice rolled only once per round, or to presume that certain attributes always roll exactly average (3.5 per die, total rounded up; 7 per 2d6, +4 for an odd die). This is best done for passive attributes; anything that requires an action die should always be rolled in full.
Sometimes an action should be resisted at least partially by an attribute even if the target character is not (for whatever reason) using that attribute as an action. The standard example of this is passive defense, where a character in combat is considered to be at least not actively exposing herself to attack, even when not performing a specific defensive action. Another example would be sneaking up on someone; most people are at least slightly aware of their surroundings, even if they aren't specifically searching for something. In such cases, the difficulty of the active character's action is increased by 1 for each die of the target character's relevent attribute.
All characters have the attributes Strength and Toughness; almost all have Running. A normal human has Running +2d6 (3d6; 12m), Strength of +0d6 (1d6; lift 64kg), and Toughness of 0d6. An Olympic contender in each attribute would have Running +4d6 (5d6), Strength +3d6 (4d6), and Toughness 2d6. A character should not exceed these values without a good excuse; being nonhuman or superhuman is an excellent excuse, but not applicable to all games.
An average person will have one or two skills (generally relating to her vocation and/or avocation) at +2d6, and two or three at +1d6 (typically including important cultural skills, such as Driving for a Californian). Most characters will have at least this many skills; there is no limit to the number of skills a character can have.
Skills range from +1d6 (able to handle ordinary situations) up to +7d6 or so (world-class). A skill that the character can make a living at should be at least +2d6; someone thoroughly competent in her field should have +4d6; a character with a skill of +6d6 is likely to be well-known and professionally respected in her field. Obviously not all skills are suitable for earning a living, but the general guidelines apply to all skills.
The number and level of skills a character has should be okayed with the GM; even if characters are built on enough points to have multiple world-class skills, it may not be appropriate for the specific campaign.
A character is considered to have +0d6 in any skill she hasn't bought but could reasonably be expected to have familiarity with. Extremely complicated skills, or ones requiring knowledge the character has never been exposed to, usually have no chance of success.
Ordinary people, who do not live action-filled lives, typically have one action die. Those with some training or experience (soldiers, police, gangsters) will have two action dice. Heros and villains will have three to four action dice, depending on how action-oriented they are. Major villains may have five or more action dice, but only rarely; higher skills are more likely than more action dice.
Regular action dice can be used for any action the character can perform; these are also called full action dice. Some characters have action dice that can only be used for certain actions, either a particular class of actions (magic, defensive fighting, using vehicles) or a specific skill. The former are referred to as restricted action dice, the latter as specialized action dice. If the GM allows restricted or specialized action dice, they may be an exception to the usual limit of four action dice (although in such a case the GM will probably be using point-based character creation rather than a flat number of dice).
In most respects, combat actions are like any others. They are set apart by their reliance on an attribute called defensive value, which needs some explanation.
The base difficulty to hit a moving, human-sized target is 4. However, it is harder to hit people who are more skilled at combat, even if they are not specifically taking a defensive action. Each character has a defensive skill, which is just the highest of her combat-related skills (eg, Gunslinging, Fencing, Mighty Kung Fu, Dodge). The base difficult to hit a character is always increased by one per die of defensive skill: the difficulty of hitting a character with Fencing +7d6 is 4 + 7 = 11.
There are four standard combat actions: Attack, Defense, General Defense, and Group Attack.
Attack:Everyone's favorite combat action, an attack action allows the character to roll the skill for an attack ability of her choice against the defense rating of one target. The target may use one defensive action to increase his defense rating; the increase will last for the rest of the round.
Defense:Like an Attack action, a defense action has to be targeted at a specific other character. It increases the character's defense against that one opponent for the rest of the round, by an amount equal to the total of a roll on any skill that is listed as useable for defense. Most characters choose the highest such skill, of course.
General Defense:Like a Defense action, a General Defense action adds to a character's defense rating, but the addition is only half the total rolled. However, it applies against all attacks aimed at the character for the rest of the round.
General Defense is not cumulative with a Defense action; the character gets the better of the specific and General defense total plus passive defense.
Group Attack:Some attacks can affect an entire group of opponents at once; these will be indicated in the attack description, along with how large of a group can be affected. When used against a group, the total of the attack roll is halved and then applied to every member of the group as though he had been attacked individually. If the attacker spends an additional action die, she can not roll it in exchange for attacking twice as many targets as normal. Additional action dice can be spent this way to increase the targets to thrice, quarce, or more the usual number. Action dice can also be allocated to improve the total as usual.
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