Central Resolution Mechanics

Central resolution mechanics are something of a pet peeve of mine. Not because they are bad or anything, but how their importance is overstated by almost everyone trying to design a game. The impact it has on the game’s numerical mechanics cannot be overstated, that’s not what I am talking about. When we’re talking about actual games in action, most of the time the central resolution mechanic doesn’t define the game the slightest. The difference between 1d20 and 3d6, modifiers or no modifiers, doesn’t influence the deeper mechanics in the game, it just provides a feeling.

The numbers you use in the resolution mechanic do influence the moment to moment gameplay, you can use them to adjust how often you want players to succeed and all. But in the end, it’s often just a matter of what dice you roll. It does not influence how your primary features interact with each other, except adjusting their potency and balance toward each other.

Thus, my personal view on the resolution mechanic is that of glue. It is necessary to keep everything together, but it is not a factor that defines everything else. Fit your glue into your game, don’t fit your game to the glue.

This is not to devalue games that use their resolution mechanics as one of their primary features. For those games, it is massively important to get it right, and adjust accordingly. Games that use custom cards, poker, russian roulette, tokens or other fundamentally different resolution systems should by all means put their as many chips to that pot as possible.