Advantage and Disadvantage in PBTA games

I think there’s a key difference between the “superhuman effects” situation you describe, and the kind of advantage/disadvantage scenarios described in the OP. In your game, the extra die comes from something the player does. In that sense the trigger is consistent with typical PbtA moves (and very similar to the extra question each PdlP playbook has). Whereas in the OP, disadvantage or advantage is being given by the GM for external conditions – i.e. things the GM controls, such as aid/hindrance by an NPC or weather conditions.


Yes, completely! They are different. I don’t know how I feel about the GM just deciding to grant it or take it away. It doesn’t seem in the spirit of PBTA to me.


Yeah, it seems like the general consensus is that advantage is good when it’s player-driven and has clear conditions in which to gain advantage. It seems like any time the GM is just making judgement calls in pbta is sub-optimal. A way to improve the example in the OP might be lists of conditions that would call for advantage that players would need to trigger.


What is wigging me out now though is the deeper underlying philosophical side of it. If the GM needs to consent that the conditions were met in order to trigger the mechanic, what is the practical difference between that and the GM assigning the bonus?

You could say the same thing of every move. They trigger when the GM decides they trigger, ultimately. It’s just generally pretty easy to come to a consensus between the players at the table.


I would probably say that it doesn’t really matter if the gm is consenting or not, because if the gm is being a fan of the characters (and as long as it makes sense in the established fiction) every time a player triggers an advantage condition it should basically be granted.


Here’s another idea that I’ve been toying with: You could take a little inspiration from Trophy (from Codex Dark 2) and have the other players offer advantage with a specific cost if they fail. Chances are that someone at the table has a better idea than you and it takes some pressure off of the gm, also if players know what they’re going to lose beforehand it might dissuade them from triggering advantage every turn.


So last night I tested an Advantage/Disadvantage system and it worked really well! Basically, in Mysthea the Aid move works by giving someone you have a bond with one of your dice, to roll alongside their own. They pick the highest two, as per Advantage, but you also check where your dice fell in the pool - if it’s the highest you strengthen your bond, but if it’s lowest it weakens the bond. This turns Aid into something that moves the fiction of your relationship forward, and does that without calling for extra rolls - just adding an extra dimension to an existing roll. It also means multiple characters can aid another without being so overpowering that it robs the moment of drama.


Yeah, I played in this game, and I really loved how it actually made an Aid move not boring :sweat_smile: Often I find players fictionally positioning to help out another character, but the move is pointless unless the active player rolls a 6 or 9, so it rarely seems worth using it. Whereas even if mathematically it doesn’t make a difference, the assisting player rolling the dice makes it feel more impactful. And the fact it fictionally adds some weight to the assisting players action too is really fun. (I loved the moment in our game last night where my character “helped” Angel’s legion commander to navigate, but made her job more difficult - but still successful. It was a real fun character moment)


Oh I like that idea of having the extra die a simple but effective extra feedback into the fiction!

However, that the result is purely random is a bit off putting for me. What about the following:
If you use the extra die from the other player in your final two, it strengthens the bond, if you don’t use it, the bond is weakened. Which would mean that you could prefer failing on a roll than failing on your friend. Or if it wouldn’t matter on the result stating something about your relationship by consciously taking or leaving the extra die out.


Huh! That’s a pretty cool twist on it. I’ll have to chat about that with my co-designer :smiley:


My only reservation on that is that currently it being the lowest dice triggers another move (Test a Covenant) which is a really cool move :sweat_smile: So I don’t think I’d want to give the the chance of opting out of this? I also think that succeeding despite someone’s mistakes is more interesting than failing because of them, or at least less commonly covered in RPGs.

(Not to distract too far from the main theme of the thread, but in short the Test a Covenant move makes you roll with the strength of the bond - on a hit, you say how your bond remains strong, with a 10+ increasing it, and failure makes it drop. It’s a really good move, and I love it a lot :sweat_smile:)


That sounds really great (the aid/bond mechanic). Very slick and fun, and makes narrative sense as well. I would caution anyone from having a roll immediately trigger another roll as I’ve found this awkward and unsatisfying at the table in my own tests. I love how everything resolves in one roll right now!


I think it works fine in this instance, as you aren’t rolling twice to resolve the same action. It’s more like the relationship between, say, Directly Engage & Take a Powerful Blow in Masks. YMMV of course, but it didn’t seem to slow things down in the game last night


I had something similar to Directly Engage / Take a Powerful Blow in my game and thought it worked well until I got rid of it. Obviously I haven’t played your game, but as a thought experiment think out how you would decouple the moves. You might be surprised at the results.

Disclaimer: It’s my first PbtA design, so more than normal even, I might not have any idea what I’m talking about.


Oh, I wish I could claim credit, but it’s not my design :sweat_smile: I just got a chance to play it last night!


My cluelessness on display!


Some great discussion here; as a new person on the forums, that’s nice to see!

Fooling around with other dice techniques for PbtA is something I have done a LOT. I also like the “look for 5-6s as successes” approach, which Brian posted above.

Some examples:

If you’re looking for something +1ish that doesn’t change things too much, add a d4 to the roll (and keep the best two). It tends to increase the chance of a 7-9 (or reduce the chance of a miss) without giving you too many more 10+ results, which feels “right” to me.

It’s also “safe” to stack, if your game needs stacking for some reason - you can add a pile of d4s to your roll and it’s still interesting, instead of being a guaranteed 10+.

I also like rolling a pool of d6s as well as another polyhedral, and counting 6s (or higher) as “hits”. Works well for “choose one option per hit” from a list of 3, like “reading moves” or Seize by Force.

For example, I designed a system with a d6 pool from your stats (let’s say your Hard is 4d6, for example) and a variable die for fictional positioning (maybe you’re at advantage, so you get to roll a d10).

My game “the Bureau” has a helping mechanic where you roll and then you pass over one of your dice (without rerolling it). Makes helping under dangerous circumstances very risky!

Generally, I agree that for most PbtA games, you don’t want or need too much monkeying with the dice, though - advantage is better represented by the way the move is interpreted (especially on a miss) and by the choice of move you get to make in the first place.


What would it take to calculate the probability of getting 3 5+'s and treating that like a 12+ on standard PBTA roll?

Apparently it will take about ten minutes. :slight_smile:


Those figures are assuming that you don’t change anything from the earlier rules which means it wont be possible to crit unless you are rolling at least 3 dice. You could expand the exceptions above (post 27) to include the possibility of rolling 3 successes but it might start getting messy.

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Here’s some similar results which will give you crits on fewer than 3 dice. This swaps out the exception for when rolling 1 dice (“When rolling just 1 dice, if it comes up 6 you can roll an additional die to try and get that second pass”), for the following:

If you have rolled fewer than 3 dice, 6s explode, allowing you to add another dice to your pool.