This weekend I started a one-on-one Dirty World game with Robbie. Dirty World is a noir mystery/crime thriller game using an unusual variation of the One Roll Engine (ORE) created by Greg Stolze. I happen to like ORE quite a bit having played both Wild Talents and The Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor previously.
The base mechanic is a die pool of d10s where you’re looking for matches. So you end up with sets like two fives or three sevens. When you’re rolling on your own, typically any set is a success. However, when you’re in an opposed roll situation the defender’s set dice are treated as Gobble Dice because they cancel out the aggressor’s dice if they are of greater value. So three sevens will beat two fives but three twos wouldn’t.
The weird thing is that A Dirty World in particular and, if I’m recalling right, most ORE text talk as if opposed rolls are binary in outcome; like it’s assumed one side will have a winning set. But that isn’t true. It’s possible for neither side to roll a set. I suspect that the intention is that this is just supposed to be treated as failure on the part of the aggressor as if the defender had scored a defensible set. But that has never felt right to me because in play there is at least some kind of intention behind the defender’s action and apparently that didn’t work either. So the way I read it there are three outcomes, not two.
- The aggressor wins.
- The defender wins.
- Neither party succeeds.
So, what does case three look like fictionally? It reminds me of the Tie rule from My Life w/ Master or the “No Shot” rule from Spione. Here’s how this manifested in our game.
Robbie is playing Jeg Stripe, an up-and-coming film maker whose mentor has mysteriously disappeared. The game began with big-time movie producer Harry Sternwood giving Jeg a mediocre movie to make on the condition that he include an unknown, middle aged actress named Virginia Carville in the project. Sternwood tasked Jeg with giving Carville a tour of the studio and generally taking care of her needs.
Over drinks Virginia made advances at Jeg suggesting they go back to her place. Jeg had noticed that Virginia was wearing a wedding ring and decided to counter with the suggestion that they work on developing some of the scenes in the script. Perfect. So we both roll and the exact situation I had already been pondering happens: we both failed.
So here’s how I interpreted it. She doesn’t get him to go back to her place, but also she doesn’t acquiesce to go work on scenes. She just calls it a night and decides to go home alone. (Jeg did offer to give her a ride, but he didn’t go into her home after dropping her off). I think this outcome felt pretty good and pretty natural based on the die roll. But I still find it weird that the game text doesn’t acknowledge this state at all.
I’d be curious to hear about others’ experiences with systems that have a “we both fail” state in their opposed mechanics.