The Secret Downside Of Rolling Modifiers
The Secret Downside Of Rolling Modifiers

A rolling modifier gathers no moss. But it sure does gather extra damage and debuffs!

In case you’re confused, rolling modifiers are some of your attack modifier cards that have this symbol on it:

rolling modifier symbol

It means you pick another attack modifier card and add the two effects together. If you draw more than one in a row you keep going until you don’t. 
Alright, easy enough, so why am I writing an article on it? 

Because it will absolutely ruin your Advantage if it pops up at the wrong time. 

Before we get too deep into this, let me start off by saying that if you’ve just started, and you’re playing a game where there are lots of rolling modifier cards coming up, like, 5 consecutive rolling modifier cards… then I regret to inform you that you’re using the wrong deck. 

I’d highly advise you put those away and use one of the decks numbered 1-4. If the above situation seems familiar then you’re using the deck with your character’s symbol on it, which is meant for upgrades. I’d also like to take the opportunity to entice you with this article on most common rule mistakes for beginners just to make sure you’re set up for success. Not saying that you need it! But it never hurts to be too careful… 

Right, with that small formality out of the way, let’s chat about the Rules-As-Written (RAW) and how rolling modifiers are going to mess up your awesome advantage. 

Rolling Modifiers Can Neutralize Your Advantage

If you have a rulebook readily available and on hand then I’d invite you to go to the bottom of page 20. If you don’t, fret not, I have the pertinent information quoted here: 
(With regards to rolling modifiers during Advantage)

“If one rolling modifier card was drawn, its effect is added to the other card played.”

If you’ve read that and think “No kidding, that’s how rolling modifiers work” then I invite you to continue reading, because it is not what is included in this rule that is troubling, but what is omitted that we must now highlight.

You don’t pick again. 

That’s it, that’s all you get for the use of your advantage. You don’t follow the rolling modifier card to a full conclusion, you simply add the two cards together and calculate your result. What this amounts to is that the mere presence of your rolling modifier card has completely negated the advantage you have so rightly earned yourself, be it through Eagle-Eyed Goggles or perhaps the use of Strengthen. 

Let’s take a look at the example below. If you’re doing a regular attack, no Advantage, this would result in a +1 Push 1. However, if you did that attack, but this time with Advantage it would result in +1 Push 1.

If this clarification of the rules has left you none the worse in the morale department, then there’s a very bleak outcome of which I feel you’d ought to be forewarned. So important (and seemingly counterintuitive, given the nature of Advantage) that it will actually be the title of our next section…

Rolling Modifiers Can Make Advantage Result in Null

If we were to remove rolling modifiers out of the equation for just a moment, there is a fundamental concept that, when attacking with Advantage, it is impossible to whiff entirely. You can’t draw a null because you get to select the best out of 2 and there’s only one null card in your deck. 

The rules we just ran through in the last section throw a monkey wrench into our works. If, with Advantage, you draw a null and a rolling modifier, you add those two together and take the result. You don’t continue to pull modifiers until you get a number. 

Null card paired with a push 1 rolling modifier
Even with Advantage, this results in 0 damage, Push 1

There are many that find this entirely contrary to the nature of what Advantage is meant to be, and view this rule as something of an ill-advised anomaly. If you fall into that category we will discuss a possible solution further on. 

Disadvantage Ignores Rolling Modifiers

Different from Advantage, if you pull a rolling modifier while you have Disadvantage you don’t add it to your other card. It does, however, count as one of the two cards that you pulled, so whatever your other card is, that’s what you get with disadvantage. Like with the Advantage section, this too completely neutralizes disadvantage, because you’re only really drawing a single card.  

Rolling Modifiers Can Make Disadvantage Result in a Crit

To clarify for those new to gaming in general, a crit is short for critical hit, which in our case is the 2x card that we have in our deck (and by extension, Bless cards). Generally we’d never be able to land a critical hit on disadvantage because we always need to take the worse of two cards. 

You can see here, the rolling mod Stun card takes up one of the disadvantage spots and therefore makes the result of the disadvantage attack a 2x.

A 2x card next a rolling modifier Stun card
Even with Disadvantage, the rolling modifier is ignored and this results in a 2x

Having rolling modifiers in your deck means there’s a higher likelihood that your disadvantage will be neutralized and you can land a crit on your ugly adversary. 

Rolling Modifiers Can Make Your Deck Worse

With this information in mind, it is worth noting that rolling modifier added to your deck (they only come in perks, so if you have one it’s because you chose it) can have a negative effect. This information becomes highly relevant when you’re sitting there with your 3 checkmarks, perusing what options you have available for your perks. If you’re early on, it may be advisable to select one of the more direct “take out a negative card and add in a positive card” straight swap, rather than including an effect/element with a rolling mod. 

This shouldn’t put you off the idea of including rolling modifiers altogether. They will be beneficial to you far more often than not. In theory the positives and negatives should even out, but because you’re likely to have Advantage more often than Disadvantage the balance is a bit skewed.
It’s important to know all the ins and outs so you know what you’re getting into. An informed mercenary is a dangerous mercenary. 

House Rule: The Two-Stack Solution

The potential solution to the peculiarity that we have been discussing is to create a house rule that will work with modifiers instead of ignoring them. There aren’t many house rules that I endorse, often I find they make the game unbalanced in one way or another, but this is one I’d definitely consider if you’re looking to keep Advantage as a benefit and Disadvantage as a… disadvantage. It’s been tested out and is widely accepted, so you wouldn’t be the guinea pig in this situation.

The Two-Stack Solution just says that if you draw a rolling modifier when you have Advantage/Disadvantage you continue to draw until the modifier reaches a conclusion. That’s Stack 1. Then you draw again, follow that stack to a conclusion (Stack 2) and pick the result that is either better or worse (depending on if you have Disadvantage or Advantage).

This method stays true to having two options and taking the better/worse one, instead of having a rolling modifier eat up one of those spaces. 

Null is on top as stack 1. The push 1 rolling modifier is now the start of stack two, then leading to a +1
Continuing the example above, in this method Stack 1 is represented by the whiff, and Stack 2 is the Push 1 rolling modifier (which is continued) with a +1. If you have Advantage the result is no longer a Null.
In the second example with this method, Stack one is represented by the crit, and Stack 2 is the Stun rolling modifier with a -1. With Disadvantage this is just a -1.

By the rules-as-written, you’d draw only two cards. With this house rule you draw two complete outcomes and then decide which one you have to take. 

There Isn’t One Unanimous Decision

This is definitely one of the most common house rules that have been adopted, and it’s not necessarily going to make the game easier, just a bit more intuitive. There are others out there who are purists and want to stick to the rules as they’ve been written. 

You’ve got to search within your soul to discover what will be right for your group. Maybe meditate on it a bit. Or just try them both out and see which option is more fun. This is one of those rules that doesn’t come up all the time, but when it does you’re like “Wait a second… what happens in this situation?” 

Now you’ll know. 

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