Non-Combat Mechanics

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The Art and Tradition of Casting Lots


The Lost World is not a dice-driven game. Even so, the flats and angles of a single die- driven by gravity to strike a play surface again and again are an integral part of what think of as gaming and serve nicely to produce a ‘random’, and therefore unpredictable results. No matter how bold the hero; no matter how well prepared; no matter how well executed the mission; chance is an ever-present reality. Sometimes a story will simply take its own unexpected turns. Its time like these we need an unpredictable voice in the game.

The casting of lots is an old expression that describes the throwing of an object, or objects, to determine an outcome based on the way the object fell or landed. The practice of casting lots is mentioned 70 times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. Despite the many references to casting lots in the Old Testament, nothing is known about the actual style or techniques used. Sticks, coins, bones, stones, polygons and all manner of handled items have been used in lot casting since the beginning of recorded history. It has been widely believed that whatever divine force inhabits the world, depending on the culture, that ‘force’ will let no tiny thing occur without purpose and even premeditation. And so they would cast a handheld object and establish that if it landed one way; God wanted this, and if it landed another way; God wanted that.

Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. *Acts 1:24-26

A single, normal six-sided die simulates all random chance in the lost world. Each of the 6 sides represents about a 16 percent chance of probability. Whenever there is a call for something more in the story than lead player planned, whenever the heroes take a risk, or pit their skills against anything, or wander into the unknown- a dice will be thrown; a ‘lot’ will be cast. There are 2 basic types of casts in the game. In the case of marks, the goal in casting a lot is to achieve the highest number possible. In these cases, a roll of six always an instant success and a roll of 1 is always a disastrous failure. In the case of checks, however, the opposite is the case (see below).

Success and Failure (Casting a Task Mark)

Accomplishing anything from climbing a trellis to picking a lock, from bargaining with a merchant to slaying a vile denizen of evil can be the result of skill, divine providence and good fortune. Whatever the task facing the hero, the lead player, if there is any possibility of failure, must assign a number, which the player will attempt to meet or exceed by roll of the die called a Task Mark.

The player begins with the number of his or her heroes trait related, as closely as possible, to the task and then casts a lot adding the result to this number. If the total is equal to or higher than the task mark, the hero succeeds and the player must describe, or narrate, the success to the group. The LP may add to the basic task mark before it is challenged by a player to reflect what they consider to be difficult circumstances or a poorly executed approach to the challenge. Conversely, the LP may subtract from the mark to give the player an advantage due to advantageous conditions or a well thought through approach to the task. The following is a list of exemplary task marks (or TM’s) and the type of task they would represent.

04 Goof Ride a horse. Knock down a villager
06 Pro Ride a wild horse. Knock down a wooden door
08 Champ Ride a wild tiger. Knock down a metal door
10 Hero Ride a wild dragon. Knock down a stone wall
12 Legend Ride a raging dragon. Knock down a small fortress

The lead player may assign any number which is felt appropriate to any task he or she feels is not a sure thing. Any special circumstance affecting the mark is applied before the lot is cast. Once the player casts the lot the result is final unless superseded by the use of 1 or more favor points (see Using Divine Favor). In truly wild conditions, an initial lot may be cast in order to determine a task mark at random.

The Heat of the Moment (Casting a Check)

Rescue checks

When sudden disaster strikes or the hero is attacked in a way that does not involve mutual combat, unexpected rescues occur. These are called Rescue Checks and work a little different than Task Marks. There are three kinds of rescue checks based on the nature of the danger threatening the hero.

Mind Checks are called when the hero is drugged or threatened psychologically and are based on the Smart and Wise traits.
Flinch Checks are need when the hero’s quick thinking of reflexes are questioned and are based on Wits or sometimes Strong.
Force Checks are used when the hero must withstand sudden and severe physical trauma like taking poison or catching a falling friend or being struck by a tremendous blow. A Force Check is determined by Guts and, in rare cases, Wise.

In and emergency, the Lead Player will call for one of the three checks and specify which trait a player will cast his lot against. Unlike every other cast lot in the game, a rescue check is like a limbo contest in that the player is hoping to roll a result under the value of the trait. Any environmental or personal condition for the hero may be decided by the LP as call to add or subtract from the trait for the purpose of a rescue check and will be declared before the lot is cast. In this case, to add to the value of the trait would represent a factor in the hero’s advantage and to subtract from it would indicate a dangerous or unfavorable condition.

When a rescue check succeeds usually nothing will happen but rather disaster will be averted. When it fails, well…

Rescue checks are the cliffhangers of the game.

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Non-Combat Mechanics

Lost World Adventures VernHestand