9 June 2012

Characters as Dice

Today I was thinking about dice. Specifically, I was thinking about ways to use dice in an RPG that I haven't seen before. One of the most credible of these ideas was to use the dice as the character sheet, at least to an extent.

The Idea

I envision a character being made up of a handful of dice, probably six-sided. Each face on a die could represent a different aspect of the character, such as a skill or ability. 

Imagine a die flattened out:

2 3 4

Each side could be assigned a different icon which translates to a character skill or element of the character. If you can't get stickers to do this with then you could always write out on a piece of paper what each side means.

For example:

1 Stealth
2 Knife
3 Knife
4 Acrobatics
5 Acrobatics
6 Persuasion

A character has one of these dice for each level that they are. They roll 1 or more of these dice and the corresponding face determine their action/outcome

The GM can set difficulty in the number of faces that need to come up across all dice rolled with the desired effect. For example, if a player is trying to defeat a monster the GM can state it is a difficulty 2 monster, meaning there needs to be two matching faces. The player rolls 2d6 and gets Knife twice. They narrate that they stabbed the monster, defeating it. If they rolled persuasion twice they might have narrated that they were able to talk their way out of the situation or distract the monster for a turn.

Players choosing which of their dice to roll in any given situation is part of the strategy of the game. When building their character/leveling up they need to assign skills/abilities to their dice as well. So if one player were to place acrobatics on all the faces of one die they are guaranteed to always be at least somewhat successful if they role that die for acrobatics. Another player might spread acrobatics across 3 dice, two on each die. This character would be less likely to roll acrobatics in any given situation, but they have the potential of rolling up a larger set and thus beating more difficult challenges.


Further extending this system could be special abilities for characters that require a certain set or sequence to appear on rolled dice. For example if a character rolled 3d6 and got Stealth, Knife, and Acrobatics this might activate their Backstab power.


If a player doesn’t roll exactly what they want they could narrate their success, but incorporate a complication. The GM might also add in the complication depending on the group play style.


With a dice system like this it is easy to implement things like Races or Classes. All you need to do is add another die to the character. An archetypal die might have predefined faces rather than player selected faces. After all, an elf is always an elf.

Using something like a racial die could be a good idea as it would give players an extra die to roll at the beginning of the game, assuming that 1 level = 1d6. Mind you, a starting character could always just have a number of bonus dice depending on the desired power level of the game.

Final Thoughts

You know, I really like this idea. I don't think I would like to play a regular game this way, but as a quick sit down and play kind of game I think it is a cool idea. It might be fun long term for groups that are more interested in narrative-based play, but for any group that likes numbers and mechanics I fear it would be a little too light to keep them engaged for long.


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