Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Luck in the Head

I'm a big fan of having a luck stat in RPGs. Perhaps this stems from my childhood love of all things Fighting Fantasy, where your LUCK score was often the difference between life and death as well as a more mundane combat variable. It's also a stat in Cyberpunk 2020, which we always treated as a dump stat until we figured out how much more fun it was to give it in-game import.

Some ways in which I've seen luck used in a game:

  • Determining injuries in scenarios like car crashes, large explosions and collapsing buildings - roll under your luck score or you end up with something Bad happening.
  • Determining miscellania in games where the players are already "established". Is it likely my character has any aspirin lying around in his flat? Roll luck. Does my character have enough loose change to buy a pack of cigarettes? Roll luck. Does my character's servant know how to read and write? Roll luck.
  • Allowing players to get out of a bad scenario if they make a successful luck score, with the caveat that if they fail things will get worse. Your character falls off a horse - you can roll luck to see if you avoid a broken leg, but if you fail you get a broken neck. (Or you can just take the broken leg and not gamble.)

I like all of these, because they do away with having the GM have to adjudicate in many situations. They also inject randomness into the game, which is always more fun.


  1. I've never understood Luck as a stat. You're already rolling dice.

  2. Back in the OD&D days, we used to average STR/DEX/CON and INT/WIS/CHA to get physical and mental luck stats, which we used as a test for unusual circumstances.

  3. I always use a luck stat, its key to my games. Hitpoints (luck points) are based on luck, etc.

  4. The old Fighting Fantasy LUCK mechanic has always been one of my favourites. I love how the more you rely on it, the less reliable it becomes. It's simple but elegant.

  5. Me on the other hand, I don't understand how one could not like Luck. I don't use it in all my games, but it was one of the first things I fell in love with in Chaosium's BRP system. Using Luck for the small things is great; it eliminates the D&D "mile long equipment list" syndrome.

    Another favorite wrinkle introduced by a Luck stat is calling for party Luck rolls--the PC with the lowest Luck rolls against their stat. Makes for some fun collective groans if you've got someone with a paltry Luck score jinxing everyone else.

  6. Stuart: You're already rolling dice so why not use MORE randomness?

    mthomas768: That's a nice idea. Might steal it.

    sirlarkins: Yeah, I like moments like that too.

  7. "I like all of these, because they do away with having the GM have to adjudicate in many situations. They also inject randomness into the game, which is always more fun."

    I am in total agreement. I have been working on implementing a Luck mechanic for my Labyrinth Lord house rules. I like what mthomas768 has proposed, and I also like how luck is handled in Mazes & Minotaurs.

  8. Kelvin has said pretty much what I wanted to when I read this post - I always envisaged LUCK in FF as being a direct quantification of the length of thread being held by the three Fates of Greek myth - and each time you asked it to get you out of trouble it shorted a little bit.

    In what is essentially a throwaway system, LUCK is a little gem of a game mechanic. Hated it when it sank to levels like 6 and 5 though :)

    Surprised you didn't mention T&T though, where Rogues generally live or die on their LK stat.