Ubiquity’s New Dice

For readers of this blog, what comes next will be no surprise and will be nothing new. What follows what follows, might be new, and it is for them, and those who might stumble across this post after discovering a Ubiquity game that this post has been written.

Ubiquity is a very quick and responsive game to use at the table. This innate speed is enhanced by the use of the optional Ubiquity dice which reduces both the number of dice you need to roll and the speed of recognizing results.

As the result of a Stretch Goal in a recent Kickstarter, a design that Exile Game Studio had been researching as an update to the classic Ubiquity dice was able to be brought into being. This new design retains the same functions as the first, but includes a new feature, they explode.

Not literally.

For once, the customs department got that point without having to investigate the package. I think my friends were more concerned when my backer rewards arrived last week.

“They explode? What does that mean?”

“How did you get explosives in the mail!?”

Exploding Dice?

So what does it mean that they explode? Many dice pool systems include some sort of mechanic where a die can be re-rolled if it rolls its maximum value and the new result is added to the total. Ubiquity is somewhat noteworthy in its lack of such a mechanic, and in the rules as written the number of successes  a character can earn in a roll is capped by  the skill’s Rating. With these new dice, those who would like to have access to some sort of explosion mechanic are able to add it to the game.

The new dice are still, in a sense, D8s like the original U-dice, however the shape has been truncated which produces 8 large faces and 6 small faces. The large faces carry the blanks and numbers of standard U-dice, and the 6 small faces have an explosion symbol. According to the wizards of math who determine such things, there is a 2% chance of a die landing with the explosion showing. I managed to catch my first ‘explosion’ on video and it is both surprising and exciting to see that happen. Even not knowing the math, when you hold the dice you can be certain that it will be a rare and special event when the dice explode.

Jeff Combos, the system designer, has helpfully defined the three approaches which groups with these dice can take.

The first approach, is for those who do not want to include the concept of exploding rolls in their campaign. While it might seem unnecessary to go into that, sometimes people can be misled about things they ‘need’ when investigating on the Internet. As any type of U-dice are purely optional and any sort of even-sided die will do, no one should feel compelled to use these or feel like they are missing out on some aspect of the system. As a result, the first approach to using the dice is to not use the dice, or if these are the only dice you have, to simply ignore the explosion should one occur.

For those who do want to include exploding rolls in their game, there are two different options which can be employed. The group should choose one and run with it consistently.

Using the Dice

Option 1 allows for a re-roll which allows the chance to improve the result of the rolled total, without exceeding the character’s maximum number of successes for their pool. If a die explodes, roll two identical dice and keep the highest result of the two. This adds a re-roll without adding to the size of the die pool. This improves the odds of getting a success to add to your total number of rolled successes. It does not guarantee that the total will be improved.

Option 2 allows for a re-roll which allows the chance to improve the result of the rolled total, and allows the total to exceed the character’s die pool. If a die explodes, roll two identical dice and keep the values on both dice. This improves the odds of getting a success and actually adds to the size of the pool.  This could conceivably produce a noticeably higher result than average, and may – in unusual circumstances – even allow the result to exceed the normal value of their pool.

Possible Problems?

As for downsides, I find there are none other than that if an explosion occurs it adds the need for a secondary roll and a moment of celebration which could slow down play. It would of course be slowing it down with a cool thing, though, so this is a minor thing to me. Additionally, a spin-off effect might be that it would encourage players to roll more often, rather than Taking the Average,  just for the thrill of gambling to get more successes. Again, as rolling is often seen as a fun aspect of gaming, this is not such a big downside.

Thoughts

It is good to remember that given the way that Ubiquity identifies a success (evens) that dice rolls will tend toward an easily recognized number of successes for each pool. It is interesting when the dice go below this value, known in play as ‘the average,’ and it is exciting when it is exceeded. The option to include an explosion mechanic can, if chosen, add in a second layer to the expectation as players wonder if they will get an explosion result, and then if there will be any benefit from doing so.

I have received a number of sets of the dice as a part of my participation in the recent Kickstarters for the Hollow Earth Expedition ‘Revelations of Mars‘ setting, and I will be making use of the dice for games I host in person. I may not use them for every campaign, but I think they will be a nice tool to add to the game.

 

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