Last THORSDAY, we continued looking at using a quest as the basis for the questions that players answer at the beginning of a session of Iron Edda. As has become custom, I’ve had not as much time as I thought I would, and have realized the topic is deeper than I thought, so we’re going to continue looking at that topic. This time, it’s how to set up the questions.
Numbers and Distribution
In the questions setup that War of Metal and Bone uses, there are two levels of questions: Top-level categories, and drill-down questions. The top level of categories are each assigned to an outcome of a roll of four Fate dice (4dF). The drill-down questions are chosen by rolling two Fate dice (2dF).
What this means in terms of how often the questions come up to the players is this: the top-level questions follow a probability curve, with some options being more likely than others. Here’s a look at the regular probability curve for Fate dice.
The difference is that the table in War of Metal and Bone doesn’t care about the number of your result, but the actual results of each dice face. That means you’ve got a much smaller chance of not only getting all + results or all – results, but the same chance of getting all 0 results. This helpful table will give you a look at similar numbers. For some reason, this table seems to use 5dF, but the principal remains the same.
Many thanks, by the way, to the various forum-goers over the years who have put these images together. I understand this stuff at a very surface level and it would have taken me hours to be able to generate these images on my own.
So, if you want certain categories to come up more for the top-level questions, you can situate them near the middle of that table, where the mix of dice are more likely to get you that result.
For the drill-down questions, again because the table only cares about what’s showing on the faces of the dice, not the numeric total, 2dF gives you a completely even distribution. There’s as much of a chance of rolling ++ as there is +- or 0+ or –.
What About Other Distributions?
I’ve thought about the possibility of using other methods of distributing the questions. When I set up the table for War of Metal and Bone, I put the most extreme questions in the less-often rolled sections of the table. This serves to keep the bulk of the questions focused on the core of what makes for a good Iron Edda experience, but it also means that if you’ve played the game a lot (raises had), you see a lot of the same questions come up.
If you want to change the probabilities of certain categories coming up, you can change the number of dice, how the dice are read, any number of things. That will change how the table is set up, though, and might change the number of questions that you have to create.
For example, if you still wanted players to roll 4dF, but wanted to use the distribution of numbers that 4dF produces (first table, above), then you’d have a nice even bell curve, but only have 9 top-level categories where there are currently 15. That’s not a bad thing, just something to be aware of.
For quest-based questions I’m thinking about going 2dF all the way down, which would means six top-level categories, and six drill-down questions for each, much the way Fiasco! Is set up.
A Quick Word About the Bees
If you’ve played War of Metal and Bone with me, anywhere, you’ve probably heard me talk about the “Bees Question.” It’s an innocuous little question, sitting under the “Local Resources” question. Here is it in full:
“The land around your holdfast is particularly well-suited for the cultivation of bees and honey. How has the war affected the hives? How can they be protected?”
And I swear to you, against all odds, I have ended up with this question in my games of War of Metal and Bone nearly 75% of the times that I run the game. It has become my boogeyman question, the one that I get unnecessarily incensed over, and the one that I will actually ask players to re-roll if it comes up as a result. I kid you not, I have been in the situation where I tell the story about how often the question comes up, and the next person to roll a question gets exactly that question. It haunts me.
Now that we have a better idea of how the questions can be set up, we can start looking at top-level categories and drill-down questions for each of them. We’ll start that next week, and if you have suggestions for top-level categories for quest-type questions, leave them in the comments!