Dice in Your Games

January 05, 2015

Every table top RPG fan comes to associate dice with the hobby. For some they are the tools of the trade, helping them craft one fun-filled evening after another. For others, they are their weapons of choice, much like a grizzled warrior and his favorite battleaxe. For myself they were an odd fusion of opposing concepts. For the most part, dice remind me of good things, predominately the laughter shared by myself and my friends. The Dreamweaver in me however finds them a strange source of frustration. I’m sure if you've every played a popular RPG you know how dice can play a pivotal role in the game session’s outcome.

In most games, dice represent a huge randomness that can cause even a world renowned archer to miss a reasonably routine shot. Now don’t get me wrong, this has in it’s own way supplied a great deal of laughter for my play group. For example, one of my good friends is notorious for serving up good rolls, so much so that he started enshrining his favorite dice as a sort of mockery over his fellow players. His often stupidly good luck would turn a dangerous task into a laugh fest as he massacred any foes he met, or accomplished the impossible. Another example would be one of my other friends who was the complete opposite. This particular friend was practically cursed. His terrible rolls at key moments would become the source of amusement for years. Fortunately, he was a good sport and never took it too hard when his mighty character would inexplicably fall victim to weaker opponents, due only to his crummy luck.

My feeling regarding dice in my games has always been this: They should not be overshadowing the player who’s rolling them. While I certainly agree the wild casino-like feeling of watching big or small numbers pop up is surely exciting, it can easily take away from the over all satisfaction of gaming if it is not handled properly.

I could list dozens of situations that occurred in my own experiences that made me come to this conclusion.

  1. A heroic warrior of legendary status being struck down by a foe via a string of consecutive criticals
  2. Running a low level adventure for a first time player and having to lie so some crappy enemy doesn't immediately kill them with lucky rolls
  3. One friends renowned archer missing a stationary target only to then hit a guy on horseback with what is still to this day, the most consecutive perfect rolls I’ve ever seen

The list goes on and on. That of course is not even addressing the silliness that would ensue because of how odd extreme rolls could be. One player of mine would occasionally fudge die rolls just to make sure things went their way. Oddly enough I often would agree with his efforts in retrospect, mainly because it would often be something I’d have had to openly hand wave and over rule anyway, for the better of the game. This always left me feeling like it wasn't really the dice that deserved the blame, rather the rules that governed them. The impact dice have had on my experiences lead me to design my own game system, mainly because for all the laughs they’d sometimes provide, they inevitably become more important to the outcome than the players actually playing the game. I personally find that very unrewarding.

Whether you agree or not, I’d love to hear how dice have affected YOUR game experiences. Drop me a line in the comments or use the Contact Us link to send an email with your favorite story of dice in your games.

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