The dice mechanic is probably going to be something along the lines of 2dX + Function (+ Specialty) vs. a target number. As arguably uninteresting and commonplace (from QUERP to Doctor Who!) as that mechanic is, it's ideal for two reasons. One, it's simple and accessible, especially if we're talking d6s. The premise doesn't really call for complex dice mechanics; instead, something straightforward just feels right for a game about discovery. Two, it meshes seamlessly and intuitively with the potential pools: Spend n potential on a roll and get a function of +n. It makes a lot more immediate sense than, say, adding dice to a pool or fiddling with a roll-under number. Plus, it works well with some other stuff below.
Anyway, for the time being, let's make it 2d6. 4dF would work too, as would d6-d6, but I'd rather stick with all-positive results. Depending on how things shake out, 2d8 or even 2d10 might be better. We'll cross that bridge if we come to it.
So then -- the new stuff.
In addition to the potentials, we have two other resource pools: Duty and Discovery.
When you fail a roll and a die matches the current total of your relevant potential (Physical or Mental), you gain a point of Duty. Spend Duty to add 1d6 to a roll. Conceptually, a temporary setback merely girds your resolve to see your mission through. What are the ramifications of this mechanic?
- If you let potential accumulate too high, you're not going to earn any Duty. You're encouraged to define functions and specialties on a regular basis.
- It's possible to be rewarded for failing a roll, but it isn't an automatic thing.
- You're encouraged to take a chance on a task that's likely to result in failure.
- If you're out of potential but have a few points of Duty, it's possible to attempt tasks for which you don't have a relevant function and still have a decent chance of success. You're powering through on sheer willpower and determination.
- Declare: Add a detail to the world. Example: Goblins respect shows of strength.
- Minimum Bid: 1 Discovery
- Distort: Change a pre-existing detail. Example: Change "Goblins respect shows of strength" to "Goblins respect cunning above all else."
- Minimum Bid: 2 Discovery
- Deny: Eliminate a pre-existing detail. Example: Remove the "Goblins respect cunning above all else" detail from the game altogether.
- Minimum Bid: 3 Discovery
Distorting or denying a detail works the same basic way, but with a higher initial bid: 2 Discovery to distort or 3 Discovery to deny. The winner of a distort auction gets to alter the detail in question, but not beyond all recognition. For example, "Goblins respect strength" could become "Goblins respect cunning" or "Ogres respect strength," but not "There are three moons." The winner of a deny auction gets to remove the detail in question -- just take the index card off the table, and it's gone. The winner of either of these auctions also has the option to keep the detail as-is.
If the detail is successfully distorted or denied, the player who first declared the detail receives 2 Discovery (if distorted) or 3 Discovery (if denied). Messing with someone else's details lets you refine the world to your liking, but it also empowers them to declare, distort, or deny further details -- maybe (probably) even yours.
So what are the ramifications of this mechanic?
- Tying this into successful rolls means that you're rewarded for using your best functions and specialties. That's okay -- if you're doing that, you're acting in accordance with your purpose. That's what you're supposed to be doing anyway.
- Again, you don't want to let potential just build up, because if it goes too high you'll never gain Discovery. However, neither do you want to use it all up. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but neither am I going to worry about it. It does encourage you to turn successful rolls into failures when using your other potential, though, and that seems good.
Speaking of the GM: The GM's part of this process, too. He has an analogous resource pool called Mystery. The GM can bid Mystery to distort or deny a detail declared by a player, just like a player would bid Discovery. However, the GM never has to bid anything to declare a detail. In essence, just about everything the GM says is "declaring a detail," so we don't want to bog down the natural GMing process with a bunch of unnecessary mechanics.
That said, the GM can explicitly declare a detail by writing it on an index card and slapping it down with the others. There's no bidding process for that, but what it does is make that detail susceptible to distortion and denial. Why would the GM do such a thing? If that detail is distorted or denied, the GM receives 2 or 3 Mystery, exactly like a player would receive Discovery.
The GM doesn't just use Mystery for this detail business; it's also a pacing mechanic for the opposition the players face. More on that later.