Dice Uses Beyond Rolling

Gamers love dice, and game-makers love to sell us dice, from very standard six-sided dice to the iconic polyhedrals of D&D to even stranger fare. Obviously dice are most often used as randomizers, but that’s not the only use that can arise from their design.

For example, Avery Alder’s brilliant The Quiet Year uses dice as countdown clocks: you place dice on the map to represent long-term community projects, and tick them down turn-by-turn until they are completed—or something derails the project to set it back or destroy it entirely.

I also know a couple games that call on players to stack dice into towers and see how high they can go before they fall. Icarus has a teetering dice tower that represents the fragile achievements of a decadent civilization. (You can listen to me playing the game on the podcast Bored Ghost here, where we tell the story of a collapsing Martian colony.) My own game Victory Garden is a solo journaling game where you’re stacking a dice tower higher and higher to represent the plant you’re growing to send off to war.

What other ways to use dice have you observed? What else can we do with dice beyond rolling?

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In my game “#Ladybeard” I use dice to represent wrestlers forcing eachother out of a ring. You can slide, flick, or roll if you want though, so I am not sure if it fits what you’re asking.

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There are games where the dice are exploited to the bone : forming a constellation of brighter or duller stars Des étoiles plein la tête (Axoona et Gobelin Nounours)
mapping a complex / dungeon according to all the visible sides (up and side) (missing reference)
mapping a cyber city (Augmented reality)

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Hell For Leather is worth looking at; using dice in a stack and also throwing a die!

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My game Matiné uses an initiative board, where the players place colored tokens on the board and the game master places dice, matching the players’ colors, to tell the player how many opponent it’s character is facing.

Zombie Cinema rolls dice, but I really like one nifty mechanic that creates active listening (which I feel is super important in roleplaying games). It’s participant vs participant. The ones who aren’t involved in a conflict may give one die to any side to show their support for where the story is going. I like tactile mechanics like that, handing a physical object over to someone, rather than just saying “I support you, grab an extra die”.

I like using dice to keep track of hit points or to set a maximum level for the character. I mean, it’s pretty obvious what is max level if the player is handed a sixsided level die. I use this mostly in board games.

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You know Dogs in the Vineyard and Swords Without Masters use them as a Talking stick.
So does The lion’s court and I suppose many other games.
Only this one may also interest @Rickard for another reason, a ^^ croaking ^^ reason. :wink:

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There are a handful of games that do the gift dice thing, The Shadow of Yesterday being just one. By gifting, I mean player to player, and even I suppose player to story guide(in the case of TSoY).

In Agon, you split your attack dice and defense dice by putting them in a particular hand.

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In 1st edition Fiasco, setup worked through drafting dice (like a card draft in a TCG), for narrative purposes. Roll a big pile and then take turns picking dice and adding details to the fiction based on what it rolled and different available charts.

You could probably have a game that uses that for the entire system, really.

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In Shinobigami, combat initiative is decided by each player taking a D6, secretly choosing a number, and then revealing it. Higher numbers move first, but it also becomes your threshold for fumble (on 2D6 rolls), and certain attacks can only be used if your initiative and the target’s are within a certain range.

There are also some special abilities that let you modify up or down 1 after everybody reveals, hide two dice and pick one, etc…

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I’ve seen systems where you drop dice onto a surface to aid in drawing a map, but I’m having trouble remembering where I saw it.

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I remember two of those, one some years back, where the dice help you draw the room and consult a simple table to see its content, and you make various passes of this process to get the history of the dungeon, with collapsing, new uses for old spaces, etc. It’s very well known.

And there’s this other, more recent game I have mentionned, where all the visible sides of the dice are used to tell what’s in each room, its style, etc. It has a cyberpunk equivalent (or is it the other way around ?) which tells you the number of stories, the default security level for the building, etc. Being newer it may not be so well known, but still.

I am pretty sure a kind OSR person will find the time to switch the maglite of their knowledge on and illuminate this poorly lit place of our memories.

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In Cobwebs, you have a dice drop sheet for scene selection, which is pretty interesting. It means that when you want to have a certain kind of scene, you can drop dice very carefully where you want it to occur. But if you’re open to a variety of scenes, you can drop from higher, with less control, and let the dice decide. (The number rolled by the die is also used for other purposes, getting two pieces of info from one interaction.)

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And here’s an example of dice dungeon from the Random generator jam 2021 : https://lbonnette.itch.io/dungeon-trappings

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Thank you, everyone! I included a couple of my favorite dice uses in the latest issue of my Substack:

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The name of “that” game I had forgotten is Wallet Dungeon.