How Did I Decide On Coins?

More for my own records than anything, I want to relate how I settled on a coin-based system.In mid-summer of 2007 I decided for God knows what reason that I wanted to try my hand at creating a role playing system. I suppose I wanted to see how difficult it was. Also, I think it appealed to my puppetmaster side. I wanted to run a system where I could end any player arguement by saying “It’s my system and that’s how I want to run it.”

At any rate, the first thing I had to figure out was how to resolve conflicts that carried a chance of failure. Sure, we all have skills that help us accomplish tasks, but it’s those damned random variables that always get you.

Dice, of course, are a natural fit for generating random numbers. Let’s face it, that’s their sole purpose. But frankly, there are so many other dice-based RPGs on the market that I figured a new one, no matter how solid, would get lost in the crowd.

So I began casting about for other ways to generate random numbers. I considered a spinner, something like what you use in the game of Life, but while it would certainly generate random numbers it seemed too cheesy.

I considered using a deck of playing cards, but soon found that that had already been done (see Pinnacle Entertainment Group and their Savage Worlds system).

I considered other gambling-related methods of generating random numbers. There was the spinning wheel, but that was way too bulky. There’s the roulette wheel. That would be cool and far more portable, but who the hell has access to one?

That’s the thought that got me headed in the right direction. I decided that not only did I need a way to generate random numbers, but it should be a something that most people would have on-hand. That could be the edge I needed.

I started looking around my house for ways to generate random numbers. I have an ass-ton of polyhedral dice, but I had already eliminated dice. Besides, unless you’re a gamer, who’s going to have polyhedral dice readily on-hand. Still, there was something viscerally satisfying about dice. I decided that needed to be part of the criteria as well: it had to feel ‘good’ or ‘fun.’

Our Scrabble set got me thinking about maybe having numbered tiles that you could grab out of a cloth bag. I still think something could be done with that, but what bothered me was that if you lost just one tile it could badly skew the results. Besides, nobody has numbered tiles sitting around the house.

Still, the idea stayed with me and I found myself looking for household objects that could easily be turned into numbered tiles. I finally found something that would work: my spare change jar. I could easily take the coins and use a permanent marker and add numbers to them. I toyed with this idea for a while, but it still seemed clunky to carry around a bag of coins.

Then one day while perusing a game book I saw the notation “d2.” I’ve always found that funny because it’s just short hand for “flip a coin.” But this time it set some gears in motion. There are d20 based systems, d10 based systems, d6 based systems… Why not have a d2 system?

Then all the tumblers fell into place. I reached way back to – God help me – my one and only college math course where I learned binary. It occurred to me that d10 systems use two d10s to represent the tens and the ones. You could do the same thing with a d2 – a coin. With only seven coins you could generate numbers from one to 128.

Eventually I scaled this back to four coins. It was simpler to calculate. Plus, I thought that if players wanted to use different coin denominations to represent their 1, 2, 4 and 8 coins then four coins would be ideal (penny, nickel, dime, quarter).

That was the seed. It was late summer when I started slowly drafting what would become PITCH and it’s been a huge challenge every step of the way, but I feel confident that I’ve stumbled onto something great.

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