Don’t Botch…

If there's one thing that people who have read half of the D&D rules get wrong, it's the rules for rolling a natural '1' on a d20.  If you are one of those people, allow me to inform you of the correct procedure:  YOU DO NOT HIT AN ALLY OR OTHERWISE 'FUMBLE' WHEN ROLLING A 1 TO ATTACK!  YOU JUST FAIL!  YOU DO NOT SUFFER A COMICAL HUMILIATION WHEN GETTING A 1 ON A SKILL ROLL!  IT'S NOT EVEN AN AUTO-FAILURE!"  *Ahem*

Botches and fubmles are fun, but only when they provide spice here and there, and aren't happening constantly.  So what's good and what's bad?

The Decent:

Abberant/Exalted/Etc:  Rolling no successes and any 1's is fairly rare, so humiliating botches don't come up often, so it's usually funny when they do. 

Alternity:  You critically fail when you roll a natural one on a d20.  BUT all the skill descriptions have specific results for what might happen.  They're usually bad, but the GM can't just say "gee, a plane falls on you."  Plus you have Last Resort Points so you can change it to a regular failure if you really really want to.

Savage Worlds:  PCs can 'botch' if they roll double ones; it's not terribly likely, and feels like a holdover from Deadlands.  Doesn't impact the game too much either way.

Shadowrun 3rd Edition:  Rolling all ones is not very likely to happen.  Botches really only occur at the 1-2 level.

The Good:

Deadlands:  Rolling over 1/2 ones happens often enough to provide spice.  Botches are only supposed to be so terrible unless you took the Bad Luck hindrance.   Huckster backlashes are random botches that regularly happen.  They are a feature, not a bug.

New World of Darkness:  Penalties have to reduce your roll below zero, and then you have to intentionally choose to roll a chance die anyways.  Botching doesn't happen very often, but when it does, you're specifically asking for it.

Shadowrun 4th Edition:  You can 'glitch' and succeed on the same action:  you get what you wanted, but there's some unfortunate complication.  I love it!

The Ugly:

d6 Starwars:  I've only read through the rules once, but you have a 1 in 6 chance of botching, and the GM is allowed to completely reverse the results of your roll with it.  Think about that. 

House Ruled D&D:  D&D does not have botches or fumbles.  Take them out of your game already.

Old World of Darkness:  1s counting as negative successes is really not fun.  At high target numbers, botching is exactly as likely as getting a success!  Isn't this fun?


6 thoughts on “Don’t Botch…

  1. Alex says:

    My housemate buried all my d20 books behind his boxes in storage in the basement, but as I recall the DMG provides guidelines for 1s as auto failures and 20s as auto successes. The specific recommendations for players that don’t like that randomness is to use a 1 as -10 and a 20 as 30.

    That said, auto failures are a vital part of the system. d20 rewards specialization like no system I’ve ever seen and the fact is after about 5th level, 90% of the time there’s no risk of failing at your specialized task. While this is good for players (What’s the point of playing a swordsman/teleporter/barber if I can’t cut people/travel through space/barber?) it tends to remove some of the drama. The ever-present possibility of failure is a necessary balance for dramatic purposes.

  2. Willow says:

    1s and 20s are auto failures and successes for attack rolls and saving throws ONLY, not for skill rolls. The rules for skill checks are very clear on this. The challenge comes from increasing difficulty and harder task. Your character with Profession: Barber +30 should never fail at cutting someone's hair. But giving the Neogi Queen a new and fashionable 'do? Now THAT'S a challenge!

  3. Daniel says:

    I certainly don’t mind there being the potential for failure or success on every roll. However, I’m firmly of the belief that characters should look -good- even when they roll -bad-.

    Fumbles are just stupid when compared to this. They’re excuses to make characters and, by extension players, look bad. In some few games, maybe that’s fine. In the majority of them, it’s bunk.

  4. Willow says:

    Very well put. The rule system won’t matter if the GM is out to screw you over. Part of the charm of the nWoD/SR4 systems is that they mitigate this problem, or by strictly defining the results of a botch as a “super-failure,” and not just a “GM gets to embarass you because you rolled a 1.”

  5. never a truer word said

  6. Canageek says:

    As a note the 3e DMG does list autosucess and failure as a house rule, and a lot of people seem to use it. The worst I’ve seen was that you hit yourself on a critfail. Well….one fight? Over half the opponent killed themselves. In one round (3 natural 1s, Skeletons have very low HP) Was more then a bit silly.

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