Teaming in PDQ

Over the course of several products Atomic Sock Monkey has generated many variations on its basic PDQ mechanic. One set of mechanics that has received multiple treatments are the rules for teamwork.

Mechanics

For non-conflict rolls in PDQ players roll 2d6 and add the result to the character’s skill, which will be divisible by 2 i.e. 0, +2, +4 etc. If the total equal or exceeds the target number set by the game master the roll succeeds. Conflicts are slightly more complicated. In The Zantabulous Zorcerer of Zo and Truth and Justice rolls in conflicts are basically the same as normal but instead of rolling against a target number the attacker rolls 2d6 and adds their attack skill while the defender rolls 2d6 and adds their defensive skill. For every point that the attacker’s total is higher than the defenders the defender takes a point of damage. In Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies players get to divide 3 dice between attack and defense rolls, so an attack will be 0 to 3 d6 plus the attacker’s skill against 0 to 3 d6 plus the defender’s skill. The point of this article is to compare the teamwork rules, not the huge change in the basic combat mechanic. So for this article it will be assumed that all rolls are made on 2d6.

The teamwork rules from Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies use added dice. For a group working together to accomplish a task, say lifting a large stone or trying to kill an opponent, the character with the best skill rolls the dice and adds their skill. However, for each character aiding them they roll an additional die, but only get to keep the normal number of dice. For example, if three characters tried to lift a rock and the highest skill was Strong +4 that character’s player would roll 4d6, the 2 original plus 1 per helper, keep only the 2 highest die and add 4. If the roll was 6, 3, 5, and 2 they would keep the 6 and 5 and add 4 form the skill for a total of 15. The same applies to combat. However, as an attacker can use 0 to 3 dice normally they would decide on how many dice and then add extra dice for their helpers and keep the original number of dice. For example, if three characters attack someone and the best skill is Fighter +4 they could choose to roll 1 die for their attack. The would then roll 3 dice, the original 1 plus 1 per helper, and keep one the best single die, as they decided to only use 1 die for their attack, and add 4. Again, in this article it will be assumed that they are using 2d6 and so it will be identical to non-conflict rolls.

The teamwork rules from Truth and Justice simply add the skills together. So three characters with Strong +4, Huge +4, and Athletics +2 respectively trying to lift a rock would choose one player to roll 2d6 and then add all of the skills together, for 2d6 +10. The same applies for conflicts.

Effects of Teamwork

Obviously, adding skills together just increases the final total. 2d6 +6 will roll 4 higher than the same 2d6 +2.

Adding dice is not as straight forward. Because only the best dice are kept, the maximum roll does not increase. 2d6 +6 has a maximum of 18 while 6d6 keep 2d6 +6 also has a maximum of 18. However, as seen in figure 1, the extra dice shift the roll towards the higher end of the curve.

The result is very different probability curves for the different teamwork mechanics. Figure 2 shows the chance of making specific skill rolls or better for a single character with skill +4 to the above mentioned group with +4, +4, and +2 using either the adding dice or adding skills rules.

As can be seen, the skill adding rule is quite powerful compared to the die adding rule.

Teamwork in Combat

Because of their very different effects on the rolls the choice of teamwork mechanic can greatly influence the utility of teamwork, especially in combat. The easiest way to see the difference between acting individually and the two types of teaming is with an example. Suppose that a group of characters like we’ve been discussing (+4, +4, and +2 skill) is attacking a target. They can always roll individually, each rolling 2d6 and then adding their appropriate skill. The target would roll defense rolls against each attack and take whatever damage came through. They could also team up on the target making one attack roll using whatever teamwork system the game uses. Table 1 shows the average damage per round that the team would do to an opponent of different skills rolling either individually or using the add dice or add skill teamwork rules. Results that are better than attacking individually are shown in red.

Using the add dice rule teams work better than attacking individually only when the target’s skill is pretty high compared to the attackers, +8 or +10 compared to the attacker’s best of +4. Using the add skill rule is better for all but the most incompetent opponents, anyone better than 0.

Table 1 Average Damage per Turn Attacking Alone or Teams

Group Skills Target Skills Individuals Add Dice Add Skills
+4/+4/+2 0 11 6.4 10
2 6.6 4.5

8

4 3.4 2.8

6

6 1.4 1.4

4.2

8 0.44

0.6

2.6

10 0.09

0.15

1.4

+4/+4/+4 0 12.6 6.4 12
2 7.8 4.5

10

4 4.2 2.8

8

6 1.8 1.4

6

8 0.6 0.6

4.2

10 0.12

0.15

2.6

+4/+2/+2 0 9.4 6.4 8
2 5.4 4.5

6

4 2.6

2.8

4.2

6 1

1.4

2.6

8 0.28

0.6

1.4

10 0.05

0.15

0.6

One interesting upshot of the add dice rule is that the bonus is dependent on the number of helpers, not their skill. For both attacking individually and adding skills if the helping teammates skills are lowered, to say +4, +2 and +2, the average damage will go down, but not for the add dice team. This means that the utility of teamwork using the add dice rule should change depending on the level of the helpers skills. If they are very skilled it should favor them acting on their own, if not so skilled it should favor them aiding a more skilled teammate. Table 1 also lists average damage for a team consisting of equally skilled fighters, +4, +4, and +4, and a main fighter with lesser skilled teammates, +4, +2, and +2. As expected, using the add dice mechanic the higher skill team is better off teaming only against a very skilled foe. For the lower skilled team teamwork is called for against most opponents. The add skill rule continues to be better against all but the weakest targets.

Good Combat Option?

Looking at the two teamwork rules in terms of good combat options how do they stack up?

Sometimes better than a regular attack: Yes, both teamwork rules are sometimes better.

Sometimes worse than a regular attack: This is actually very important for teamwork rules as they have an inherent downside. When teaming one player is doing the rolling and everyone else is helping them out, so it is not quite as enjoyable for the players as everyone getting their own actions.
Yes, the add dice rule meets this requirement often being worse than individual attacks.
No, the add skill rules really doesn’t. In all the examples teamwork is better against everyone but non-combatants. So teamwork would be the optimal choice for pretty much every combat the characters undertook.

It should do what it is described as doing: Yes, teamwork is expected to give generally better results than one character trying to act alone and so to be used for dealing with difficult tasks, like hitting an incredibly skilled opponent.

Conclusion

The add dice teamwork rule meets the criteria for a good combat option, the add skill rule doesn’t as it is just too effective. I highly recommend the add dice rule for teamwork in PDQ.

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2 Responses

  1. The general principle is very interesting, and your text has convinced me that the unkept dice method is better than the combined skills method.

    However, there seems to be a problem or two with your tables.

    For starters, the text references “Table 2”, but the attached charts are only labeled “Figure 1”, “Figure 2” and “Table 1”. There is no Table 2 (or at least it’s not loading at the moment).

    Secondly, for the chart labeled “Table 1”, it’s unclear what the numbers in the cells actually represent. I think it’s the average damage done in one turn of attacks using the tactics described in the column headers, but it’s not 100% clear from the text.

    Lastly, also relating to “Table 1”, the three sections of the table seem to be out of order. +4/+4/+2 then +4/+4/+4 then +4/+2/+2 is non-intuitive, and that non-linear arrangement serves to make it a little more unclear as to what the numbers represent. Would be less of an issue if the other confusion weren’t going on.

    Anyhow, thanks for the interesting discussion of mechanics, it was well worth reading.

  2. Thanks Rolfe, I had originally split Table 1 into two different tables, then decided to combine them. Yes, the order isn’t intuitive. The idea was to run the numbers for the group example that I had been using and then show that by shifting the numbers up or down the results would change as expected.

    Erik

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