Boons and Banes as a replacer for HARD/EASY and Modifiers alike!



There’s one thing I love more than cleanness and simplicity in my mechanics, and that is FLEXIBILITY!

Shadow of the Demon lord is one of my favorite games ever, not only for its funny player choices but also for their streamlined and well-thought mechanics. One elegant bit of them is the Boons and Banes system, which I translated to ALL of my ICRPG games as Advantages and Disadvantages:

  • For each Advantage (Boon) you gain, you add a d6 to your ATTEMPT and add the HIGHEST rolled to your result.
  • For each Disadvantage (Bane) you gain, you add a d6 to your ATTEMPT and substract the HIGHEST rolled from your result.
  • Advantages and Disadvantages canel each other out.

Pretty cool right? I went a step ahead and replaced mofidiers to rolls from many LOOT pieces with them (tools, buffs/debuffs, etc.) and even the HARD/EASY system, in order to make it somewhat more granular while retaining that magic feeling a player gives you when they understand completely how a mechanic works.

Player 1: I have 1 Advantage to my INTIMIDATION Attempts right?
GM: Yes, but this guard captain is a hardened veteran, add 1 Disadvantage!
Player 2: Remember I BLESSED you earlier…
Player 1: Right! So that’s another Advantage I can add to cancel it out.
GM: Indeed! Roll with 1 Adv.

Another thing this changes in my games is the fact that Advs/Disadvs also count towards CRITS and FUMBLES, which works wonders to fight that feeling of “omg my character is actually competent but I keep rolling crap :c” that one gets when rolling nat 1s all the time. If you are rolling Disadvantages you start to feel the fear of something possibly going REALLY WRONG too.

Overall I feel it makes everything more Flexible and Smoother, but is anyone else buying into this too? Have you experimented with something similar or completely different to manage modifiers and difficulty?


Player-Facing Dice Rolls
Index Card World PbtA Hack Teaser? (Not an actual thing... yet!)

While this kills the simplicity and elegance of Easy, TN, Hard…it is a decent way of adding in more pluses and negatives.

Might be the best I have seen on this aspect…I do love me a handful of D6s.

Roll under TN for GM creatures

Do check the probability calculations for this.

I believe they’d go way off.


Way off from what exactly?

EDIT: Shadow of the Demon Lord uses this same mechanic with a normal TN of 10.


Utilizing multiple adv/dis vs. EASY/HARD


It’s a totally different experience, I don’t claim it a Statistical/Mathematical replacer but a core mechanic one. The game WILL behave differently and that’s kind of why I use it.


A single d6 is 3.03 or something silly like that. Same as easy and hard…where it would get crazy is having to roll both positives and negatives at the same time.

Well that’s a distant shot and you are in low light
But you have a laser sight and you are a trick shooter
Roll 2 red d6s and 2 white D6s reds are negative.


Adv and Dis cancel each other out, per OP.

Problem is if you get 2+ Adv, or 2+ Dis - makes the curve go way out there.


It’s 2d6 averages out to +6.06 or 8 if you have exploding dice. But a variable of 10 (+2~12)…it’s not too crazy.

Again, removes the elegance of easy and hard, combat takes longer because of discussing bonuses. But until 3 D6 it does not break anything.

At 3 D6 target number variables need to exceed 20 to give things the “really hard to hit” when a party is geared up and ready for combat.

Again, no major breaks, but something to keep in mind. TN simplicity is also broken at that point.


Here’s the % distribution of 1d20 +4 adv vs +1 adv vs +6 adv:
image image image

In the end, it just pushes your floor/ceiling and you get a diminishing return effect (every die you add contributes less and less to your chances) because it is basically a dice pool.

Restating: You count only 1 of the d6’s rolled. Adv and Disadv cancel each other out.


OH!!! than it’s perfectly in the same ball park as Easy TN Hard…extra boons just increase the likelihood of getting the ceiling of +6 or -6…ya, this is straight up…only negative is the discussion for the number of dice rolled making combat a bit longer…and a Nat 1 is still a Nat 1, while a Nat 20 is still a Nat 20…

This is solid, Very good variable Nimloth.


I’ve playtested it a lot actually. It was a group decision to adopt the mechanic permanently becuse EASY/HARD was getting hard pressed to keep up with the rich descriptions of the players, we needed more granularity! There was also some discontent on the “swinginess” of rolling a d20+mods within some players who kept fumbling :stuck_out_tongue:


Totally off topic, but related (at least to me at the moment) how difficult is it to get RPG dice in Argentina at the moment? specialty stores? order online? what is the method?


Not that difficult actually… but it’s expensive. Also there’s only like 3 serious gaming stores around to get dice but you can pretty much contact them and get your dice mailed at you. There have been an incresae on Tabletop and Board games market in the recent years so you start to see more dice moving around (I can even buy a chesex’s pound o’ dice online rn) and there’s even some crazy people making their own dice with resin and whatnot.

The latest news are WizDice sets flooding the dice market so we got some quality yet cheaper dice.

The real distribution problem are still RPG books being either unavailable or stupidly expensive.


RPG books are expensive period. But I assume they are even more so there. What is the cost of print on demand?


We don’t have any official Print on Demand service here! You can hope to get an international credit card and grab PDFs from DTRPG or another online service (with a lot of hassle about currency exchange and taxes) and then find some printing bussines to get your PDFs physical.

I got my ICRPG CORE pdf printed softcover and not-so-decent grayscale interior for the equivalent of 25 or so US dollars. And I had to wait for a couple of months to get it delivered to me. Sadface


Ah…I worked at a print shop there in the late 80s…but we made books using scanners and laser printers for some of the locals. It was not cheap, but they where veterinarians…so it was needed for business. And if they made 20 they could sell it would equal their cost for the books.

Grey market is what Argentina is all about.


I’ll definitely have to try this in the future, it sounds fun!


I’ll start with the off-topic part. I have a relative in the US and I buy what I need from Amazon and ship to him. He brings everything I purchase to me during his visits, usually once a year. :slight_smile:

Back to the topic. @Nimlouth I think this is a cool mechanic to add more advantage/disadvantage situations to the game. If you and your players like it, by all means use it. My players would certainly welcome such a change. Sounds very cool to me. Total modifier is bounded at +/- 6, which is nice. :ok_hand:

The downside is, it is a bit convoluted. You have to count advantages and disadvantages and then determine the final number of d6s, then roll those d6s and then find which is the highest/lowest and then add/remove it to/from the ATTEMPT. Phew. That’s a lot. Yet having multiple Adv/Disadv at the same time should be rare so it wouldn’t be that slow.

By Adv/Disadv counting towards CRITS do you mean if you roll 16 on your ATTEMPT and then roll 4+ as an ADVANTAGE, then it makes a total of 20+ and that is a CRIT? Also I’m assuming if you roll 1 on your ATTEMPT but you have an ADVANTAGE, that doesn’t become a FUMBLE, right? Since you’ll have at least +1 to the roll.


It does makes some things a little bit slower, but because we also use it to replace many “+3 to roll” types of modifiers, it compensates with some other things being faster. Also, because I ruled that “helping” (a.k.a distracting or aiming) will add an adv to an attempt, you get that feeling of collaboration that effort grants with simple checks too, stacking those extra d6 with every player that helps.

And yes, we started counting adv/disadv contributing to crits/fumbles the way you describe it! I don’t recommend it right away to everyone, but in my different groups it has a positive impact on how players feel about the “luck” part of playing.