My current campaign, about to awaken from its Christmas hiatus, uses the Wild Talents role-playing game, published by Arc Dream Publishing. Wild Talents is built using ArcDream’s “One-Roll Engine” (ORE), much like how the d20 System is at the core of the newer versions of Dungeons & Dragons. ORE is used for a variety of games including Reign (fantasy role-playing with an emphasis on the characters becoming in charge of organizations), Godlike (gritty World War II super-humans), Wild Talents (more generic superhero gaming), A Dirty World (Noir role-playing), and Monsters and Other Childish Things (school kids with real monster buddies – Call of Cthulhu meets Calvin and Hobbes).

The various ORE games are customized to best suit the needs of the genre they are modeling. For example, Monsters and Other Childish Things uses a fairly simple version of the rules, without much detail when it comes to hit location in combat but a lot of emphasis on what motivates our little tykes. A Dirty World has pairs of opposing ability scores (like Purity vs. Corruption) such that as your character improves in one area he may diminish in others, much like how characters in Film Noir change throughout the course of a film, hitting rock bottom, pulling themselves back up, give into their vices, etc. These abilities don’t improve like in traditional RPGs but rather move throughout the course of a game. Godlike and Wild Talents default towards a gritty and deadly game, with hit locations and bullets that can down most heroes in a single shot to the head, though Wild Talents has genre emulation rules to handle less gritty settings such as a Silver Age inspired game.

ORE uses what in gaming terms is usually called “buckets of dice” – your abilities and/or skills are rated by how many dice you get to roll when your character wants to do something. However, unlike most games, this one roll is used for things like initiative, accuracy, damage, etc. – all at once. What you do when attempting some action is roll the indicated number of dice and looked for sets of two or more. From this you find the height and width of these sets. For example, if you roll 7 dice (always ten-sided) and get 4, 4, 4, 6, 7, 10, 10 you have two sets, one of 3×4 (i.e. three rolls of four, a height of three and width of four) and one of 2×10.

Any matched set is normally a success. As height determines the quality of your roll, tasks of greater difficulty might have a minimum height requirement. In games that use hit locations, lower heights represent limbs while a height of 10 represents a head shot. The width of your roll represents your speed. For example, in combat all characters first declare then everyone rolls simultaneously. Widest roll goes first. Also, wider rolls typically do more damage.

So which is better, height or width? The answer is it depends on the situation. If you are trying to shoot first, width is more important. If you are going for a head shot, height is more important.

Obviously if someone is taking some action against you, you might want to stop them. This is represented in actions like dodging or blocking (or in various social combat actions like those which are often found in A Dirty World). Matches you get in these rolls count as “gobble dice” which allow you to remove dice from an opponent’s die pool after they have made their roll. So a set of two with one gobble due becomes an unmatched roll, turning into a miss.

The various ORE games all use this engine at the core of their system. The different games have different permutations, depending on what they are trying to accomplish. This includes things like vehicle combat, superpowers, multiple actions, doing your homework while your pet monster is distracting you, etc.

Finally, though I indicated all dice are ten-sided, there are in many ORE games special dice. In this post I’ll be referring to the dice as used in Godlike and Wild Talents, but other games have similar concepts using different names. The first kind of special die is called a Hard Die. This is a die in your dice pool which is always a ten. If you have two hard dice you always get a success. This is handy to represent powers which always work. It is also useful to represent deadly accuracy, but uncontrolled deadly accuracy – you can’t shoot to stun for example, or you can never do anything but teleport maximum distance or fly at maximum speed. You will succeed, but without any finesse. This is usually a good thing, but in the two Wild Talents campaigns I’ve GM-ed we quickly learned it was important to use Hard Dice carefully. In character generation, Hard Dice are typically twice as expensive as regular dice.

There is also the concept of the Wiggle Die. The term does sound a little silly. A Wiggle Die is a die which you can set to any value you want, decided after you roll any regular dice in your pool. This is extremely valuable, as a single Wiggle Die, paired with any other die, guarantees at least one success. This is fantastic for representing a very skilled character, such as Batman from DC Comics. Wiggle Dice are typically four times as expensive as regular dice.

ORE is a system that is hard to classify as rules-light or rules-heavy. The basic rules of all the games are pretty simple. Some games, such as A Dirty World or Monsters and Other Childish Things are kept deliberately simple as far as rules go. On the other hand, Godlike and Wild Talents, while keeping their simple core, have a lot of different possibilities, given all the permutations when it comes to possible abilities. Even at its most complex, no ORE game approaches the complexity of a Hero System or GURPS-style engine. I’d say that Wild Talents falls a few notches below games like Dungeons & Dragons when it comes to complexity. I’ve rather enjoyed the system – it makes GM-ing pretty easy when it comes to prep-work and it allows for a ton of player flexibility. I’d suggest checking out Arc Dream’s web page for more info, free downloads, etc. if you’re looking for more info. In the future I’ll take a look at individual ORE games, but first I wanted to discuss the system as a whole.

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