Four D Two System

Four D Two, Four-D-Two, 4D2 are wordplays on 42.
The answer to the wrong question.

4D2 Mechanic

4D2 is both a descriptor and a joke. The 4 indicates that the Mechanic uses 4 dice. The 4 also indicates that there are 4 steps in the process. The D refers to dice, as in the "D" in the 4d6 convention. The 2 reflects that the Mechanic has two directions. The joke is that 4D2 sounds like 42. Forty-Two is the answer to the question. The 4D2 Mechanic gives the answers to questions you don’t understand.

The 4D2 Mechanic uses four six-sided dice to guide the story in the Role Playing System. The 4D2 Mechanic is a bespoke decision tool for EXP’s Role-Playing System. 4D2 replaces Attack Rolls, Performance Rolls, Attribute Rolls, Saving Rolls, Sphincter Rolls and more.

In the Role-Playing System, the 4D2 Mechanic is used to guide the story. Players ultimately guide the results generated by the 4D2 Mechanic.

Four steps of the 4D2 Mechanic
  1. Get a Number from the die roll

  2. Get an Outcome from the Number

  3. Get a Descriptor from the Outcome

  4. Continue the Story

Number to Outcome to Descriptor to Story

The die roll begets the Number. The number begets the Outcome. The outcome begets the Descriptor. The descriptor propels the Story.

Number

A player generates a number by rolling two pairs of competing six siders. The player rolls 2d6, generating a number between 2 and 12. The player rolls 2d6 again, generating another number between 2 and 12. The player subtracts the second roll from the first roll. The sum of these two numbers generates the Number of the 4D2 Mechanic.

4D2 Number Generation

Number = 2d6 - 2d6

The number is always between +10 to -10.
A positive number gives a positive outcome.
A negative number gives a negative outcome.
Zero gives a neutral outcome.

How to Roll Dice

The more dice rolled at once, the more efficient the mechanism. The player first rolls two six siders (2d6). The first roll is the positive value. The same player rolls another two six siders (2d6). The second roll is the negative value. Some quick arithmetic generates the Number.

The player can roll all four dice at once to save time. One pair of dice generates the positive roll. A different coloured pair of dice generates the negative roll. For example, the positive six siders could be green, and the negative six siders could be red.

Two green dice and two red dice. Total score plus one.

(6+1) - (4+2) = +1

The player can generate the number by rolling one six sider four times. Rolling this way makes the process more dramatic and more time-consuming. Ultimately players and playgroups will develop their style for generating 4D2 mechanic Numbers.

Example Rolls

The player rolls 2d6, and the sum is 12. She rolls another 2d6, and the sum is 2. The 4D2 Mechanic Number is +10 (12 - 2). +10 is the best number possible for the player’s persona.

The player rolls 4d6 all at once. Her red dice are positive, and the sum is 9. Her white dice are negative, and the sum is 8. The 4D2 Mechanic Number is +1 (9 - 8). +1 is a typical number and represents a slight win for the persona.

The player rolls 1d6 four times in a row. Her first roll is 3. Her second roll is 1. These two rolls generate a positive roll of +4. Her third roll is 4. This roll is subtracted from +4 to get 0. Her fourth roll is 6. This roll is subtracted from 0 to get -6. The 4D2 Mechanic Number is -6. This number is terrible, and badness is coming for the player’s persona.

Outcome

The outcome translates the number into a colourful account of the die roll. The 4D2 Mechanic Number transforms into an Outcome for fun and efficiency.

The 4D2 Mechanic Number can be used as a raw number to determine what happens to the persona. Everyone at the table is aware that +10 is great and -10 is a disaster. What do all those other Numbers mean? Each Number result has an Outcome associated with it. There is an Outcome table that has correspondingly dramatic Outcomes for each Number.

For example, +10 is an Immaculate Success, and -10 is a Cataclysmic Failure.

4D2 Outcome from Number Table
4D2 Roll → Number → Outcomes.

Number

Outcome

+10

Immaculate Success

+9

Wondrous Success

+8

Magnificent Success

+7

Majestic Success

+6

Masterful Success

+5

Extraordinary Success

+4

Outstanding Success

+3

Superior Success

+2

Solid Success

+1

Barely Successful

0

Detent

-1

Minor Failure

-2

Clear Failure

-3

Major Failure

-4

Severe Failure

-5

Massive Failure

-6

Complete Failure

-7

Grievous Failure

-8

Disastrous Failure

-9

Calamitous Failure

-10

Cataclysmic Failure

Number

Outcome

The Outcome Table helps guide the players describe the Outcome of the maneuver. A positive Number yields a good Outcome. A negative Number yields a bad Outcome. The Outcome may be all the players need to move the story along. For example, a veterinarian is removing a splinter from a feline’s paw. An Outcome that is an Immaculate Success would be enough to guide a happy story.

Example Outcomes

The number +10 is an Immaculate Success. This Outcome is rare. Immaculate success represents the best possible Outcome for the persona. The player can choose to kill, wound, or incapacitate her opponent. A persona’s maneuver would be very successful, leading to unexpected benefits.

The number +2 is a Solid Success. This Outcome is quite common. Solid success represents a positive outcome for the persona, but nothing dramatic. In combat, the persona has won an advantage, but the combat story is undecided. A repair maneuver was successful but may fail sooner than expected.

The number of -10 is a Cataclysmic Failure. This Outcome is rare. Cataclysmic failure represents the worst possible Outcome for the persona. In combat, the persona will suffer total defeat. The persona could die or be lethally wounded. Instead of a successful surgery, the patient can die, and the persona loses confidence.

The number 0 is detent. This Outcome is the most common. Detent represents a balance between the positive and negative. The struggle is ongoing. Dramatic fight music continues, and neither persona has the upper claw.

The Outcome may be enough to move the story along.

Descriptor

Often the Outcome gives enough info for the players to tell the story. The description of the outcome is easy for Immaculate Success and Cataclysmic Failure. For the other 19 Outcomes, the players may need some help.

For recurring 4D2 Mechanic decisions, there are Descriptor Tables. Descriptor Tables give examples of what could happen according to the Outcome. Concrete descriptors are critical when a persona’s life is on the line.

The Descriptor can come from the players or a table.

There are only two Descriptor Tables included in the Role Playing System. There is a Descriptor Table for Combat and a Descriptor Table for Maneuvers. The players may never need or use either of these tables. Players can use the Descriptor Tables to save time for repetitive acts. The referee and players can create their own Descriptor Tables as they see fit.

Combat Descriptor Table

Below is an example descriptor table for combat outcomes. For details and examples of this table jump to Theatrical Combat.

Descriptor Table for Combat
4D2 roll → Number → Outcome → Descriptor

Descriptors for combat

Number

Outcome

Organic

Inorganic

+10

Immaculate Success

Fatal Wound

Attribute Loss x 2

+9

Wondrous Success

Fatal Wound

Attribute Loss x 1

+8

Magnificent Success

Mortal Wound

Attribute Damage

+7

Majestic Success

Mortal Wound

Peripheral Destruction

+6

Masterful Success

Severe Wound

Programme Destruction

+5

Extraordinary Success

Wound

Peripheral Damage

+4

Outstanding Success

Severe Stun

Programme Damage

+3

Superior Success

Stun

Severe Rattle

+2

Solid Success

Knockback

Rattle

+1

Barely Success

Backfoot

Cosmetic Injury

0

Detent

Ongoing combat story

-1

Minor Failure

Nil

Nil

-2

Clear Failure

Backfoot

Cosmetic Damage

-3

Major Failure

Knockback

Rattle

-4

Severe Failure

Stun

Severe Rattle

-5

Massive Failure

Severe Stun

Programme Damage

-6

Complete Failure

Wound

Peripheral Damage

-7

Grievous Failure

Severe Wound

Programme Destruction

-8

Disastrous Failure

Mortal Wound

Peripheral Destruction

-9

Calamitous Failure

Mortal Wound

Attribute Damage

-10

Cataclysmic Failure

Fatal Wound

Attribute Loss x 1

Number

Outcome

Descriptors for combat

Maneuver Descriptor Table

Below is an example descriptor table for maneuver outcomes. For details and examples of this table, jump to Theatrical Performance.

Descriptor Table for Maneuvers
4D2 Roll → Number → Outcome → Descriptor

Number

Outcome

Descriptor

+10

Immaculate Success

Invention

+9

Wondrous Success

Enhancement, Permanent

+8

Magnificent Success

Enhancement, Temporary

+7

Majestic Success

Shift for Days

+6

Masterful Success

Shift for Hours

+5

Outstanding Success

Shift for Minutes

+4

Extraordinary Success

Lasts Months

+3

Superior Success

Lasts Weeks

+2

Solid Success

Lasts Days

+1

Barely Success

Lasts Hours

0

Detent

Keep struggling.

-1

Minor Failure

Try Again

-2

Clear Failure

Wait Minutes

-3

Major Failure

Wait Hours

-4

Severe Failure

Wait Days

-5

Massive Failure

Wait Weeks

-6

Complete Failure

Complication

-7

Grievous Failure

Severe Complication

-8

Disastrous Failure

Damage

-9

Calamitous Failure

Severe Damage

-10

Cataclysmic Failure

Destruction

Number

Outcome

Descriptors

Descriptors are cumulative.

Shifts

Shifts are similar to bonuses or penalties. A shift is anything that moves the Outcome of the 4D2 Mechanism. A Shift of +2 would move a Solid Success (+2) to an Outstanding Success (+4). Shifts are significant and are the only way personas can gain an advantage in the 4D2 system.

Shifts come from the persona’s attributes, abilities and skills. However, anything can become a shift if the players accept it. In hand-to-hand combat, a player could use the PSTR as a shift. When shooting a pistol, the player could use a pistol skill as a shift. A glorious description of throwing a grenade can earn a shift.

Shift Maximums

The maximum number of shifts a player can add to her Outcome is three. The maximum Outcome is +10, which is an Immaculate Success. A roll of 11, 12 or even 13 becomes +10.

Shift Penalties

Shifts cannot be negative. The lowest a player’s shift can become is zero. Penalties can only take away a player’s shift. If a persona wanted to use her DEX as a shift, but her hands were tied, she could not use her DEX shift. However, another persona in the same situation without a DEX attribute would not suffer a -1 shift.

Shifts and Skills

When the player rolls a high number, her persona can gain skills. A high number is one pathway to earning new skills and strengthening the persona. Players cannot use shifts to gain skills. Using shifts to score new skills can lead to rapidly overpowered personas. A +1 shift increases the chance of the persona gaining a new skill three times.

A shift only moves the Outcome and does not change the Number. For example, a player rolls +6 for her number when attacking an enemy. She has three shifts (skill, DEX and a good description). Her number is +6, but her outcome is +9. The persona deals a fatal wound to her target but does not get a random skill.

Example Shifts

A persona is in a pistol shootout. She has pistol skill and DEX attribute. She can Shift her 4D2 Outcome by +2. A Shift of +2 would move a Solid Success (+2) to an Outstanding Success (+4). If her opponent has Pistol 2, then the competing Shifts would cancel out.

A persona is repairing an antigrav modulator on a skimmer bike. She has engine skill one and an INT attribute. The player casts a great yarn about using a piece of wire to reverse the polarity. She can shift her 4D2 Outcome by +3 (skill, attribute, good story). The shift of +3 moves her Minor Failure (-1) to a Solid Success (+2).

A persona is play wrestling in the mud pit of a bar. She has no wrestling skills. She can use her PSTR and DEX attributes. She can shift her 4D2 Outcome by +2 (two attributes). The shift of +2 moves her Magnificent Success (+8) to an Immaculate Success (+10). The persona earns the accolades of the bar crowd (Outcome = +10) but does not earn a wrestling skill.

Rules maintain game balance and assist creativity.
Do not let rules get in the way of the story or the fun.

Folded Rolls

A folded 4D2 roll is for when a +/- randomness cannot apply. A persona falling from a great height should not earn a skill from a Wondrous Success. A persona winning a lottery should not have become bankrupt from Catastrophic Failure. These are examples of where the folded roll comes into play. If it is good, how good is it? If it is bad, how bad is it?

To create a folded roll, the player makes a regular 4d2 roll generating a number between +10 and -10. The mechanic would indicate a positive outcome with a positive number and a negative outcome with a negative number. We will avoid any maths here to stay in the spirit of the Role Playing System.

If the 4D2 roll is folding for a positive outcome, all the numbers become positive. The player’s roll now ranges from +10 to +10. The outcome and descriptors remain the same. Only detente and good things can happen.

If the 4D2 roll is folding for a negative outcome, all the numbers become negative. The player’s roll now ranges from -10 to -10. The outcome and descriptors remain the same. Only detente and bad things can happen.

4D2 Mechanic Learning Tools

Busy Graphic

Poster describing the four die two mechanic.

More or less complicating?

PDF of Entire Role Playing System

Download a colourful One Pager (177k PDF) here.

Nerdy Curvey Graph

The 4D2 Mechanic generates a smooth curve of numbers between +10 and -10. The Number is player-centric. Positive numbers indicate success, and negative numbers indicate failure. The most common Number from this Mechanic is 0. 0 represents balance, detent or ongoing struggle. +10 represents the epitome of success for the persona. -10 represents the epitome of failure for the persona. The curve is quite beautiful.

A graph showing the result curve of the four die two mechanic.

Thank you anydice.com