Let's start by discussing how dice work in Heavy Gear, since it's good to have a basic understanding of what happens when you have a conflict to resolve.. Similar to other systems, such as White Wolf and Star Wars, we throw a number of dice at a problem equal to our skill level. Different to those systems, we neither count successes nor add up all the dice for a total. Instead, we use the highest die as our roll. There may also be modifiers applied to your roll.
Janet rolls two six-sided dice and turns up a 2 and a 5. Her roll is 5 +1 = 6.
There are two special situations that may occur. Sixes and ones. If a roll has more than one six, each additional six is a +1. If a roll is all ones, it is called a fumble and the roll will end up a zero, no matter how much of a bonus the roller has.
Michael is playing paintball against his friend Tor. Both have three levels in Small Arms and Agility of zero.
Michael rolls his two dice and gets a 3, a 6 and another 6. His roll would be 6 + 1 (for the additional 6) + 0 = 7.
Tor is terribly unlucky and rolls a 4, a 1 and another 1. Talk about scraping by! If he'd had another 1 instead of that 4, he would have ended up with 0. As it is, he got a 4.
So, did Janet succeed with her 6? Well, that's going to depend upon the situation. Jumping over a low fence is probably pretty easy. I mean, she's in shape. She might have someone shooting at her - that'd make it tougher. She'd be a bit distracted, after all.
Here's a basic guideline for difficulty numbers. If you're trying to do something that directly competes with another person (such as gambling), the difficulty number you need to beat is the other person's skill roll.
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In many cases, if you beat the number, you beat the number. You succeed. But there are times that the amount you beat it by makes a difference. This is called a "Margin of Success" or MoS. MoS is calculated by subtracting the difficulty from the roll. This becomes most important when figuring out damage, but there are other times it can be useful too.
Jack is trying to punch Tony. Jack rolled a 5, Tony rolled a 4. Jack's roll is higher by 1. He hit, but not very hard.
Tony, of course, tried to punch back. Tony got lucky and rolled a 6. Jack only rolled a 3 for his dodge. Tony beat Jack's roll by 3. That's a much more solid hit.
It is worth noting that there are three kinds of rolls - two function the same and the third is different.
First up are Skilled rolls and Attribute rolls. This is as described above: a number of dice equal to the skill level are rolled and calculated as above. Attribute rolls are just like skill rolls except they always use two dice. The other are UNskilled rolls - if you're attemting to use a skill your character does not know. These are also rolled on two dice, like attribute rolls, but with the following difference: The lower of the two numbers is used and if either of them is a one it is considered a fumble. Unskilled rolls still get the related attribute applied to them.
Putting It To Use
So, now you understand the basics of how the dice work. Let's talk about when to use them. First and foremost, it's best to try to refrain from using dice when you can - that keeps the story moving more fluidly. There will, however, come times when you can't agree on an outcome with your RP partners. That's the first case to use dice. It could be something as simple as whether or not you can jump over the bar or as complex as a contest between two designers to see who can come up with the best design in a given amount of time. The second, and more obvious, is when you're doing combat.
We will use the combat example, since that's the most detailed. We'll assume both our parties, who we will name Sam and Tom, have pistols that do x10 damage and they're both evenly matched with two dice in Small Arms and +1 agility. They are both standing out in the open, no cover, not moving. Just like an old-school pistol duel.
Due to circumstances, Tom goes first. He declares he is going to shoot. Sam declares he is going to shoot. Now we roll Tom's attack.
Tom rolls 3 5 +1 = 6.
Sam rolls 2 3 +1 = 4.
MoS is 2. Weapon does x10 damage. 2 x10 = 20 damage done to Sam.
Let's say Sam is not overly wounded by that, being a big, tough guy. "It's just a flesh wound!". Now we roll Sam's attack.
Sam rolls 6 6 +1 = 8 (remember, that second 6 is an additonal +1).
Tom rolls 1 4 +1 = 4.
That's an MoS of 4! OUCH! 4 x10 = 40!
If Tom's not dead, he's probably wishing he was! Now, just imagine if that 4 had been a fumble! 8 - 0 = 8 ... x10... 80 points of damage! That'd be enough to kill anyone, probably even in armor.
But, you might ask, what about a non-combat situation? Well, the principal is the same. If Jane and Emma are playing cards at the bar, they'll probably be using their Gambling skills. Only problem is, Emma is unskilled at gambling while Jane has two dice in the skill. It's a good thing they're only playing for pretzels. Neither has a bonus due to their attributes.
Since it's hard to have a one-hand contest (gambling takes time, several hands - instant windfall on a single hand is a luck roll!), we'll assume they've been at it for a while. Now we need to see how they've been doing.
Jane rolls 4 5 +0 = 5.
Emma rolls a 2 6 +0 = 2. (remember, unskilled rolls take the lower of the two dice).
That's about it for dice and actions. It may take some getting used to, but in the long run, it's a nice system that tends to be reasonably well balanced.