Following up on my post about The Riddle of Steel RPG, here’s a broad question for readers at large, touching on many games: What, exactly, is the appeal of the “dice pool” method of generating outcomes?
I know it has a two-dimensional aspect to it, in that you can modify checks in two ways: you can both modify the “target number” that determines whether a die counts as a success, and you can modify the number of dice rolled. That sounds like it offers something richer than the classic one-dimensional, dice-roll-plus-summed-modifiers method, and I don’t yet see anything wrong with the dice pool method. But I’m curious: Do dice-pool systems establish a clear, easily-followed master rule for what factors modify the target number and what factors modify the number of dice? Or are GMs often left wondering why the system specifies a modified target number for this factor, but specifies additional dice for that factor? (And similarly, whether to modify target number or change the number of dice when some new factor comes up that hasn’t been specified by rules?)
More importantly, does the two-dimensional dice pool system generate notably more meaningful results than the classic method? If so, in what way? Or, if I may ask, do dice pools add a bit of complexity to rolling without returning some significant added benefit?
If it sounds like I’m a tad suspicious of dice pool mechanics, well, I’ll only admit that the method somehow feels more fuzzily abstract to me. But that’s doubtless the biased voice of my long experience with classic RPG dicing. I’d be interested in the wise words of gamers more versed in both styles. What say ye?