For the 15 years I’ve been GM-ing RPGs, it has mostly been a binary world – Did my heroes manage to find the clues they needed? Yes! Did their last-minute dive to stop the hail of arrows raining down towards the king succeed? No!
This is all well and good but when it comes down to how successful they are, the binary world I’ve been playing in does not compute. These games of 1s and 0s only tell me yes or no, on or off, hit and miss. How many clues did the heroes uncover? I dunno, the dice only tell me Success or Fail. How many arrows did the group’s heroic dive to save the king stop? Uhhh 5-ish, maybe but I’m just making it up because the roll of my d20 only tells me that I hit, or that I missed.
D&D has implemented a couple of mechanics (Climb checks come to mind) that allow me to know if I fall or stay put depending on how poorly I roll, but that sort of “story within the die roll” is the exception, and is hardly consistent throughout the rules. Natural 20s provide the only real context as to measure of success, and even then its still fairly binary in the sense of it being a massively good hit – there’s no variation to add layers of success and story to my dice rolls.
Admittedly, what initially drew me into Dragon Age RPG was the Stunt system (and the constant Twitter endorsements from @newbieDM and @DragonAgeOracle), but I’ve found myself more pleased with the Dragon Die mechanic as a whole. Every roll can tell a story – it doesn’t have to – but it can. In fact, storytelling dice is what drew me into Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (By Fantasy Flight Games), which is a slick albeit complicated game where pools of dice indicate degrees of success and failure. This concept is put into a more elegant practice with the AGE system, and below are some of the storytelling mechanics I’ve applied to my initial Dragon Age games (or plan to in the future).