Split Decision

Split Decision is a method of creating temptation and dilemmas in your role-playing games and story games.

» Original lab notes
» Many thanks to folks on my Twitter feed for your great ideas!
» Translated into Spanish

Split Decision models two mutually opposing forces tempting a protagonist. Those forces might be cosmic (light and dark), moral (good and evil), romantic (Betty and Veronica), or personal ("Loyalty to My King" and "Love of My Family").

Additionally, Split Decision works best if you agree to an end state for whatever character you're playing. At some point, he becomes irreversibly "light," devotes himself to "evil," chooses to marry "Veronica," or prioritizes "Love of My Family." After that point, the character is retired, meaning that each short-term decision has real, lasting impact in that character's story.

Stuff You Need
Two red dice
Two blue dice
A pencil and paper

How to Play

Step 1: Roll
Roll all four dice and see the results. In the example above, you rolled B2 B3, R3, R5.

Step 2: Choose
Only choose two of the dice and combine them for a sum ranging from 2 through 12. In the example above, you have several possible combinations. B2 B3 gives you a sum worth 5, R3 R5 is 8, B2 R3 is 5, B3 R5 is 8, B3 R3 is 6, and B2 R5 is 7.

Step 3: Score
If you kept two red dice, record two red points.
If you kept two blue dice, record two blue points.
If you kept one red and one blue and red is higher, record one red point.
If you kept one red and one blue and blue is higher, record one blue point.
If you kept one red and one blue and they are tied, record one blue point and one red point.
These scores are maintained throughout the game, keeping track of your decisions over several turns.

For another scoring method, with larger totals, simply increase your red or blue points by any red or blue dice you keep. For example, if you keep B3 R5, you gain three blue points and five red points.

Using Split Decision in Your Game
At its core, this system creates two axes of information. Along one axis, you have numbers ranging from 2 through 12. Along the other, you have an axis that ranges from fully red to fully blue. To make the best use of Split Decision, you must first decide what each axis represents in your game. That, in turn, depends on the type of mood you want to create. Here are examples of how Split Decision can be used.

Fight the Machine
You play rebels fighting against an oppressive machine that has ensnared the minds of all humanity. The world they think is real is actually an illusion fed into their minds by the machine. It is a seductive illusion, but an illusion nonetheless. As rebels, you destroy that illusion from the inside-out, exposing its artificiality to as many people as possible. All this while also avoiding contact with the deadly AI assassins.

You roll whenever you are trying to expose the machine's illusion by doing something that shouldn't be possible. The results 2-12 show how successful this action is. Results below 7 are unsuccessful, higher are successful. Very low results are catastrophic, potentially resulting in injuries or dangers for yourself or others. Very high results are fantastic, resulting in superhuman feats of athleticism, creativity, and intelligence.

If you choose blue dice, you grow more attached to the machine's illusion. Each blue point shows your growing connectedness to this false reality and how hard it is to leave it. Blueness make it easier for the machine to tempt you. If you earn 10 Blue points, you surrender to the illusion by choice.

If you choose red dice, your defiance of the machine grows stronger. Each red point makes you an obvious aberration in the machine's system. Redness makes it easier for the machine to find you. If you earn 10 red points, you are discovered and destroyed by the machine's AI assassins.

Red points and Blue points are not mutually exclusive.

Mutant Angst
You play teenagers with new superpowers that are just barely under control. You try fitting in with a humanity, despite most of them fearing and idolizing you. You are tempted by two powerful figures in the media, each espousing very different philosophies. Professor Z preaches peaceful co-existence between the differently abled. Magnus O encourages active revolt against those who would stand against obviously superior organisms. Your choices bring you closer to one of these competing philosophies.

You roll when you use your special powers. 2-12 represents the scope of effect your powers have at this moment.

2 Nowhere
3 Direct Contact
4 An Inch
5 A Few Inches
6 A Foot
7 Five Feet
8 Ten Feet
9 A Small House
10 A City Street
11 A City Building
12 A City Block
2 No One
3 Yourself
4 Two People
5 Three People
6 Four People
7 Five People
8 Ten People
9 Twenty People
10 Forty People
11 Eighty People
12 Over 100 People
2 Never
3 An Instant
4 Fifteen Sec
5 Thirty Sec
6 A Minute
7 Five Minutes
8 Fifteen minutes
9 Half an hour
10 An Hour
11 A Day
12 A Week

If you choose blue dice, your action reflects a sympathy for humanity as a whole. Each blue point shows how far along you are in becoming a true believer of Professor Z's philosophy of peaceful co-existence. If you earn 10 blue points, you are recruited to join Professor Z's Z-Squad, a super-powered team defending humanity from super-threats.

If you choose red dice, your action reflects a growing enmity towards humanity as a whole. Each red point shows how far along you are in your belief in Magnus O's philosophy of superpowered superiority. If you earn 10 red points, you are recruited to join Magnus O's Brotherhood, a super-powered syndicate dedicated to disrupting and destroying humanity's institutions.

If you choose a red/blue pair of dice, your action reflects a disregard for both philosophies, instead choosing a self-centered pragmatism.

Blue points and red points are mutually exclusive. So, any blue points you earn will erase any red points and vice versa.

First Contact
You play an emissary in a foreign land, navigating unknown cultural rules. The slightest action could be gravely offensive or highly lauded. And along with those dilemmas, there are your long-term concerns about pleasing your employer.

When you roll...
  • A lower result (below 7) means that your action is not allowed according to the rules in this place.
  • A higher result means (above 7) that your action is allowed, according to the rules in this place.
  • Either way, you may want to make note of the rules as you discover them.
  • Use caution. Trying to disobey the rules once or twice may be excused as ignorance, but frequent attempts are signs of aggressive disobedience.
  • If you keep BB, that means your employer is very pleased about this rule.
  • If you keep BR (where B is greater than R), your employer is somewhat pleased about this rule.
  • If you keep a tied BR, your employer has no interest in this rule.
  • If you keep RB (where R is greater than B), your employer is somewhat displeased about this rule.
  • If you keep RR, that means your employer is very displeased about this rule.

For example: The king employs Megan to document the culture of an uncharted region for future conquest.
GM: You walk along a gravel road until you come upon an old stone fortress nestled in the brambles. What do you do?

Megan: I approach the fortress openly, waving my right arm.

Roll. B4 B5 R2 R6. She keeps BB, for a total of 9. This is allowed and this pleases her employer.

GM: You are allowed to approach and are greeted… well, ignored… by a man who has been laying in the grass. He seems to be enjoying the afternoon sun.

Megan: I step towards this man, again showing with right arm exposed and obviously not wielding a weapon. "Excuse me, sir. Do you know the name of this fortress?"

Roll. B1 B5 R3 R6. She keeps BB, for a total of 6. This is allowed and this pleases her employer.

GM: The man pays little notice to you and responds in a gruff, smelly voice: "Who's askin'?"

Megan: I respond, "I am a traveling storyteller, singing of my travels through this region and sharing the stories."

Roll. B1 B4 R5 R6. She keeps BB, for a total of 4. This is a pretty low result, but not too bad. Something she just said or did is a minor infraction, but she still wants to please her employer.

GM: The man stands straight up at the mention of "storyteller." He shakes the grass off his shoulders, but never breaks eye contact. He says: "Listen, friend. I don't know where you come from but we don't do no singin' nor tellin' of no tales inside those walls. Now, my memory's bad, so lemme ask again. Who are you?"

Megan: I respond, "Did I say storyteller? Ha! Sorry, my English isn't so good. What's the word… ah… Journalist. Yes. I am a journalist, documenting current events around this region for the good of all unaligned townsfolk. I see you have no banner on your fortress, so surely you're in need of some new news from beyond your city limits."

Roll. B1 B1 R6 R6. She keeps RR, for a total of 12. This will greatly displease her employer, but Megan can do her employer no good if she is thrown into jail.

GM: The man wipes the dirt from his eyes with a clean patch of his sleeve. "Ah, a journalist! Yes, we have such need of your services!" He escorts you into the fortress. "Tell me, what news comes from the war in Shiloh? Whatever happened to the Geldish baby trapped in the well? What are the latest fashions of the north…"

Master & Apprentice
In addition to the basic system described above, you can use Split Decision to model the relationship between a teacher and student trying to understand each other.

When you choose your pair of dice, the unchosen pair stays on the table and passes to the next player. This pair of dice is called the Lesson. Instead of rolling 4d6, she may either choose to accept or deny the Lesson.

If she accepts the lesson, she does not roll any dice. Instead, she just takes that pair of dice as her roll. She may earn or remove an extra blue or red point as she wishes.

If she does not accept the Lesson, she rolls two more dice. She then may choose whichever pair of dice out of those four she wishes. You may earn or remove an extra blue or red point as you wish. The pair she does not choose stays on the table and passes to the next player as a new Lesson.

More Ideas
Mischa: One player rolls 4d6 RRBB. Another player divides the dice into pairs. The first player chooses which 2d6 pair matters.

Insect King: Instead of having different colours the dice could be divided between two with number faces and two with dots.

Try working Split Decision into your own game!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.