Sunday, November 14, 2010

Keeping Single Dice-Type Games Fresh

There are many truly amazing games, such as Traveller, Shadow, Sword, & Spell, or one of the d6 versions out there, that only use a single type of dice. Usually, this is well and good, and done for simplicity's sake, possibly the approximation of some bell curve or result array, or just because. But as gamers, I think we love our dice, from the caltrop d4s to the sacred d30. And if we're in a game where the d20s or d10s are sidelined for an extended period, we can feel like something's missing.

Well, for certain games, you can add a bit of variety and the unexpected by swapping out dice for a large dice type as a reward, even if that's not normally the mechanic. For example, take the two systems I'm really keen on just now, Mini Six and Shadow, Sword, & Spell.  The use d6s and d12s exclusively, respectively, but I've developed "Bonus Cards", which can be drawn for various deeds such as good roleplaying or to mark a new campaign arc.  These Bonus Cards can be redeemed to swap out the normal dice roll with varying dice. Here's a few examples, taken directly from the cards themselves:

-Replace Your 2D12 with 2D10 For Any One Roll (Shadow, Sword, & Spell).
-Replace A D6 With a D12 (Mini Six).
-Replace 2D12 Roll With Single D30 (Shadow, Sword, & Spell).

Does it sometimes skew the results and make rolls more unpredictable?  Yes, but to me that's a feature, not a bug--and I like to tinker.  And nothing hurts more than being up against the Big Bad Evil Guy, playing your bonus card to roll 2d12 instead of 2d6 and rolling...a sum total of 3.

I need to test it out in a longer campaign, but I really think this could be a good idea for keeping players involved in a system without quite as much wanderlust, as well as a chance to exercise their cool dice regardless of system.

Of course, this wouldn't work with percentile games such as Rolemaster, but Rolemaster has enough results range already, wouldn't you say?  Thoughts?


Carlson793 said...

Another option is, instead of replacing the game's normal die rolling mechanic, offering bonus dice of a different type. Start the bonus with a d4, and have each successive bonus-earn before that die is used bump the die to the next type (d6, d8, etc. - you know the sequence).

Zachary Houghton said...

Very true! I want to make it clear those bonus cards were one-shot events; the numbers drop back down immediately after its use.

JohnK` said...

Sounds like a fascinating mechanic of sorts, Zach. Any chance of seeing what these cards look like? Any chance of getting a set? :)

Zachary Houghton said...

Of course, John! I have them on my other computer, but sometime this week, I'll post up a set I use, along with the .pub file. It's easy enough to make your own.

Richard Iorio II said...

This weekend I played Colonial Gothic with a d24. It was different, strange but fun.

Zachary Houghton said...

That's interesting, Richard--how did it go?

Barking Alien said...

I seem to be missing the point. Why would use do this?

I mean, I'll all for trying out unusual game mechanics and approaches but it seems odd to overcomplicate a single die system by adding other dice or cards.

One of the points of a system like Mini Six is you only need a few sixes to play.

Zachary Houghton said...

@Barking Alien: Why do half of the gimmicks, tips, and tricks out there? We're gamers. We like to tinker. :)

More than that, though, a group might what the basic ease of a single dice-type game, but may get bored or desirous of using all those other lovely dice which are sitting dormant.

Thanks for the comments!

Richard Iorio II said...

Re. d24.

It went pretty well. Instead of Dramatic Failure being a 2, it was a one. Having the 1 also did away with the concept of Degree of Success 0, and the minimum damage was DV x1 when it was rolled. It was a fun experiment, and maybe one day I will do a game with just the d24, but I love the d12s way too much to change.

Carlson793 said...

Richard, as someone who just got Shadow, Sword & Spell partially because of the die mechanic, please do not end the d12 love!

Richard Iorio II said...


The d12 will never go away. Trust me. Some times I like to tinker with new rule designs. If I do something with the d24 it will be a Rogue Experiment. I am married to my d12s. :)