Sunday, July 26, 2020

Transforming Black Hack's Usage Die Into a Quality Die for Equipment

At lunch I was listening to the Purple Worms podcast. The specific episode was titled Spicing up Combat. They mentioned Black Hack and its usage die and the idea of changing the usage die into a simple quality die for equipment banged into my head. I've heard since there are variable versions of this already, but I thought I would explain my version.

Before I get too far into this, the quality die I am considering is just a rough idea and I haven't put into play yet. I understand that it adds extra dice throws, but shame on you if you complain about that. And I thought about it, in my game the extra dice throws might happen once to three times in game. So the intrusion is minimal.

What Items Would it Work On
For this post's purposes I am focusing on combat items. Weapons and armor.

When to Roll
After a combat I'd have the players make a single roll for each  weapon used. Even if the PC missed all three attempts. Combat considers all the dodging, parrying, and so on. Also missile weapons would need to roll. While a bow or crossbow isn't used as a contact weapon, it does wear. Wood cracks, strings snap. Armor and shields would need to roll also. I'm guess a fighter might need to make three rolls after combat, most classes two, and possibly none for a magic-user. 

How it Would Work
I would use the Black Hack version where an object is designated a die of quality and if a 1 or 2 is rolled the item's quality is reduced. A d8 quality die would reduce to a d6. A d6 would reduce to a d4. If a failure occurs on a d4 the item breaks.

Example, if you had a d8 quality sword and during your adventure of murder hoboing you fail and your sword drops to a d6. Then in the final fight against the big bad thingy you failed and now the sword is a d4 quality. When you return to town and want to get your sword repaired. Repairing it only improves the quality die by one. So that d8 quality sword is now only a d6 at its best.

Repairing a magic item is difficult due to the quality level it needs to be before hand. I'd say a crafter of exceptional skill would have the ability to repair a magic item. Again, I am writing about combat items.

What Happens on a Critical Failure/Success
The item loses a quality die automatically. No roll. And I would say if the PC was critically struck the armor quality die is decreased automatically. I considered a chance of catastrophic failure but decided against it. The item automatically declines a die, the player then makes a roll using the new usage die and if a 1 or 2 were rolls the items breaks on the spot no matter the quality die.

Example of Standard Quality Dice
If the party is buying things straight out of the book I would assign those pieces a d8 quality die. If they are buying used items on the cheap, a d6 quality die. Say they find an item made by some sort of quality craftsman I'd bump the quality die to a d10 or d12. This gives a little range for craftsman ability. Then the d20 would most likely be assigned to magic items. But not necessarily. Some of the magic items may decrease in quality due to use or age.

I like the idea. I really do, but until I put it into play I'm not sure how it'll work and if the players will find it annoying. But I like the fact that a found sword wears out after usage and a new one would need to found after a time. I run a tight resource game, so sometime the store in town may not have a sword, but if you have a game where resources are plentiful it won't have much impact.

And don't be this guy. Cannon balls are not your friends.


  1. This is a great way to handwave complicated encumbrance rules and gives the game added tension a grittier dangerous feel without even messing with ability scores, also adds an incredible amount of opportunity and depth to role-playing downtime activities.
    This is what I came up with so far what do you think?

    Item Usage Die / Depletion Dice
    Each time you would "use" this type of consumable, roll the Usage Die. If it comes up 3 or higher you get the use successfully no problem, if it comes up 1 or 2 you get the use successfully, but next time you use the next smaller die size, number of average uses before an item is used up: d4(2), d6(5), d8(9), d10(14), d12(20), d20(30).
    Rolling a 1 or 2 on a d4 means you get a successful use but have run out of that consumable item.
    Rations Food & Water d6 (see Exploration Phase for more info)
    Oil Flask d4
    Torch d4
    Hemp Rope / Silk Rope d6
    Grappling Hook d8
    Crowbar d6
    Exception for The Items Below (roll once at the End of each combat encounter)
    Poor/Looted d4-8, Standard d10, Master Work d12, Magical d20, Legendary d20 (Usage Die rolls are with Advantage).
    Ammunition d12
    Spellcaster Component Pouch d12
    Material Component Pouch d12
    Devotional/Pact d12

    When to Roll Usage Dice
    After combat players make a single Usage Die roll for each.
    Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons and Ammunition. (see above weapons and ammunition chart for *d)
    Armor and Shields roll a metal fatigue die (see armor shield chart for *d)
    Arcane Spellcasters roll a depleting material components die, start with a d12
    Devine Spellcasters roll a devotion die, start with a d12

    Standard Weapon Repairs
    Only Weapons of Master Work are fully repairable negotiated with Weaponsmiths, and Blacksmiths (DM)
    Weapons of Standard or lesser can only ever be repaired by one *d max d8.

    Magical Weapon Repairs
    Only a Weaponsmith with Spellcrafting will have the ability to repair a magical or legendary weapon.

    Special Weapons
    Silver, Iron, Adamantium, Magic no attack bonus

  2. The Black Hack includes a table for the average number of uses per starting Ud: d4(2), d6(5), d8(9), d10(14), d12(20), d20(30).

    So this means in your system, a character purchasing a sword with a quality die of d8 will—on average—only be able to use it for nine combats. That seems really low to me.

  3. Yeah, I agree. It seems like it would make more sense to use it at the end of each session/episode. If you wanted it to be slightly scarrier, you could do a usage check each time you roll a 1 on your first attack of a round (for weapons), or each time you take a natural 20 while wearing armor.

  4. Actually, thinking about it some more, they'd be expected to go about 4 fights (d8(9)-d6(5)), and would be able to repair back up to d8 as long as they didn't keep using a damaged weapon. It would be more troubling for magic weapons, since you need a master weaponsmith to repair it in that case.
    Maybe the standard weapon quality should be d10?
    I would argue that magical weapons are more robust, and so should at least start out at a higher quality level, and maybe only wear on a 1 instead of a 1 or 2.

    I guess the mo


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