2 min read

Luck in D&D

I love Call of Cthulhu’s Luck mechanic. Can a similar mechanic work in D&D?

My Wednesday night gaming group has been playing Call of Cthulhu for a couple of years. Historically, we’ve been a Pathfinder/D&D group, but for various reasons, we’ve been battling evil cults and investigating strange doings in recent years.

I love Call of Cthulhu’s Luck mechanic. It’s a great player and GM tool. In brief, every character has a luck score, which can be used in one of two ways:

  1. The character can spend luck points on a point-by-point basis to alter the result of some dice rolls. In this vein, the player controls the expenditure of luck. (Luck points spent are gone forever and make the character less lucky, but characters may be able to regain a few Luck points at the end of an adventure.)
  2. The character can roll against their luck score to see if they are lucky (or unlucky). In this vein, Luck rolls are called for by the GM and are a handy mechanic to drive the story forward—perhaps in an unexpected direction. Is there a heavy object to hand to use as an impromptu weapon? Make a Luck roll. As the characters dash out into the street, is an available taxi passing by? Make a Luck roll. And so on.

I particularly enjoy the second use of Luck as it adds an agreeable element of randomness to proceedings and removes some potentially critical decision-making from the GM.

I’ve been pondering whether a Luck attribute might be a fun addition to my Monday night 5e campaign.

I like both ways that Call of Cthulhu uses Luck, but mechanically, it needs radical changes to balance it for D&D. For example, Call of Cthulhu is a d% system while D&D is a d20 system. Thus, a D&D character’s Luck score should be substantially lower than a Call of Cthulhu character’s. The mechanics of generating, spending and regaining a character’s Luck score all require careful design. The system must be easy to understand and use and not further overly unbalance play. (5e is already the most survivable edition of D&D for player characters, and play without meaningful challenges quickly becomes boring.)

Noodling about with a d20 Luck system will be a fun exercise in game design. If done properly it could also enhance play. (And if something isn’t enhancing your game, why include it?)

What Do You Think?

But what do you think? Could a Luck attribute make D&D more fun, or does the idea make you shudder in horror? Let me know in the comments.