How often do you roll dice?

Or rather how often do you determine a resolution via a random generator :)?


Im tinkering with a idea of unlocking abilities with some kind combo mechanic where you check of boxes for the outcome of your resolution and therefore unlock a special move. Think of getting XP for rolling a six and special moves like in streetfighter like aabca or sth like that.

The question that i have is: how often does one “roll” in average in one session. To get a startingpoint to designing those moves.

Im curious for your answer

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I’m afraid the only answer I can offer is ‘when it’s interesting’ or ‘when it seems necessary’. I’m not conscious of trying to roll dice more or less often. For me it’s an instinctive decision to call for a roll or not, or present a situation when a roll might be necessary.

It’s a really big question that’s very dependant on the system. Something like DnD has a fairly long time between individual players resolving a conflict but requires several dice rolled per issue. PbtA games roll a chunk of dice at a time but in my experience have large downtime between rolls.

To give an answer more useful than “it depends”, I would ask, how often do you want players to roll on your game? The chance to roll any specific number on a die is 1/6 (assuming d6), so you’d need an average of 6 rolls/6 dice rolled per ‘tick’ of experience by your proposed method. The answer to your question is to determine how often you want that experience to trigger.

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I run old school D&D and my approach feels to me as if I roll all the time (hard to quantify as x rolls per hour, though).

When somebody asks which way a door opens, I roll the dice (unless it’s obvious from the architecture / purpose of the room, but with dungeons that’s not a given).

When the PCs meet NPCs or monsters, I normally make a reaction roll (though the result is interpreted relative to a default, so a “hostile” travelling merchant isn’t going to attack – he is simply going to refuse selling anything or perhaps give misleading information).

When a creature attacks, I typically roll to determine the target (because I run a very lethal game and don’t want to decide). I have a bunch of monster templates with built-in tactics (e.g. “go for the toughest looking target”) but I use the dice to determine which monster has a template, and which template that is.

I even roll to decide rules issues occasionally (e.g. “Does magic missile function underwater?”).

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This is going to be incredibly dependent on play style.

I tend to play very early versions of classic D&D and the unspoken player goal is to reduce the amount of dice rolled because dice lead to uncontrolled risk, so for this sort of game a mechanic that attached character advancement and ability to intervene in the game world (via feats/special move) to die rolls would be largely counter productive. Perhaps you could make this a way for players to decide how they want to balance more risk (more appeals to the dice to resolve obstacles) in exchange for greater experience/abilities … but… there’s a second issue.

In a lot of games (not just old D&D) there’s a worthwhile distinction between the dice that the Referee rolls and those that the Players roll.

Most of the rolling that happens at my table is background information - it’s important, but not exciting or something the players have much control over. Random Encounter/Exploration die rolls every turn/move, and the entire Referee facing set of rolls that determine NPC reactions, attitudes and actions, not to mention minor details sometimes derived from a random table. These are likely the majority of rolls in my game at least, with player “Action” rolls: combat, skill use, attribute tests being far far less common. and they’d seem like a strange thing to attach player feats/experience to.

No if I was running a tactical combat based game where the majority of play was players rolling to see if they pulled off their war-game style maneuvers, or another game that required a player roll before any event to determine the result of the next scene hanging additional benefits and mechanics off these constant player rolls would make more sense?

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Indeed, the range here is huge. There are games with no rolling at all - or games where you’re supposed to roll, but hardly anyone ever does.

There are other games where the dice are rolled all the time, for very minor things. I have seen one group roll dice 5-6 times per minute! That was wild, but it’s how they play.

It depends entirely on the design of the game, and can’t be answered in the abstract. As a designer, it’s probably best to see if there is a similar game people are familiar with, and ask, or, more likely/realistically (if your game is fairly unusual or unique), play a session or two and keep track of how many rolls are made. Take a guess as to how quickly you want your points to accrue, play a bit, measure and recalibrate.

But also be aware that other groups might play the game differently… there are a lot of variables in play.

Thank you all for your insights. You all have very valid points. Maybe I should have given you a better understanding on what I was trying to do. And dont ask a question you are not really sure what it is good for.

So this is all just me thinking out loud. There is nothing subsentional (game wise) behind my idea. As I said, Im tinkering with this idea in my had :slight_smile:

Not long ago - as all good things start - I was reading Freeform Universal (FU) for the first time. And it really got me thinking how smart the system is. Breaking everything down to the barebones: The dice are for situations when you ask a question and you are not sure what the outcome should look like. Thats - Im paraphrasing - whats Alun_R was saying as well.

For sb. not familiar with FU: Everytime there is a situation thats outcome is unsure (and the different outcomes are interessting) you ask a question. E.g.: Can I jump over this lake of lava without hurting my self.
Outcomes are: (1) Yes and, (2) Yes, (3) Yes but, (4) No but, (5) No, (6) No and
There is more to it. But thats it in a nutshell.

I was wondering if you could take the system and “simplify” it even more and get rid of the dice entirely.

So the idea is a game about Destiny. Is there a predetermined path, or are you forging your own happiness (sorry if that sounds wrong in english, thats not my first language).
There is not much more at this point of time :sweat_smile:

I thought of two system how I could do this. Both a bit boardgamy. But I think they could match well …

  1. There are three outcomes: (1) Yes, (2) No but, (3) No and
    When you ask a question you choose one of the outcomes. BUT you can not take the same outcome twice in a row. So if player 1 chooses (1) for his answer. Player 2 could on his “turn” only choose the outcome (2) and (3).
    There was a collaborative warhammer 40k card game with a similar mechanic. But I couldnt find it any more.
    When you choose an outcome you can tick of the box on one of your special abilities to “unlock” them.

  2. There would be a number (maybe three) common pools of outcomes. I was thinking: head, heart and physic or sth. like that.
    Every pool would consists out of a list of the three outcomes. Maybe 2x (1), 3x(2) and 3x(3). Again this is all just from the top of my head :innocent:
    Everytime you choose an outcome you cross one of the list in the corresponding pool.
    Here you could do the same like in method one: When you choose an outcome you can tick of the box on one of your special abilities to “unlock” them.
    In addition or instead it could be possible to give an effect when one pool is completly “filled” or sth. like that.

The point is. Im not sure how good this system would work. Our play sessions are mostly 4 hours long and we prefer to play “one shots” with one to three sessions.
And Im not sure how to start distribute the available options so that everybody could unlock their special abilty early enough to be used.

Also there is the problem of “exploiting” the system of asking to much questions :grin:
But one: That could be used for the advantage of the story in heavyly failing forward and two: I havent thought about it enough :laughing:

Sorry, for my long response.

We roll every 15-30 minutes. More in trad game because everyone gets “a turn”, and less in neotrad or story games where one can roll for the decisive stuff in the scene or simply scenes are about one character only. Belonging outside Belonging I never played, but it’s done without rolls. Check it : it’s great !

I’m always going after XP : if it means rolling in a Desperate position, with a big malus, or create opportunities for rolls, I’ll do it every time. That’s where your system can go boink I think.

On the system :
“Yes, and” in Improv and “degrees of victory” in wargames are different. Which one are you trying to do ?
Picking one out of 3 (or 4?) is a neat idea. It’s more or less what BoB does (Yes and/Yes but/No and). Twilight Struggle does this (Yes/No, note how it’s a wargame) with the “China Card”. I like the unbalanced balance the China Card mechanic provides. Also, ticking is one way, but having a card face up/face down, handing a token or a die are all very physical ways of making the rule live (and not forgotten). Like, instead of ticking, having a token cover the zone where the ability is written (or drawn, if it’s heart, head and guts), and when you give then token, the ability is readable, therefore unlocked. Or anything of that sort, really, according to the gamefeel you want to associate with it. Typically : do players get rid of burdensome tokens or do they gain empowering ones ? etc.

Usually, this type of mechanism is used per character, but a pool for players is an interesting approach. It manages positive spotlight (and therefore status) very efficiently. Only… nothing prevents the situation where one player is always last in the pecking order ? Card games and worker placement games offer a bunch of solutions for this, but that doesn’t sit well with simplification. In any case, I’d find another mechanism to tie this mechanism to, so it will sort of handle itself. Like, the one with the more token chooses when they pick.

On the simplification goal : it sets a clear course and you will have many ideas along the project that you won’t keep for simplification’s sake. For me, I keep all these ideas in a text file to make spinning tops, that is, later projects.

On “picking the outcomes”, I’d keep it per player, make rules for “healing one” and “refresh all” that foster the kind of game you want to see (once per night, when you hit your flaw, whatever) without being too deep. Then you can crash test extreme scenarios in your lab, and soon after try it at the table. A system simple as this will be mostly about how the players handle it anyway (think monocycle, short skis, rolla bolla). If some of your fellow-gamers like to tinker with the rules, let them in and try to keep adjusting the system as you go.

On the top of my hair, I’d go with : XP every time you fill your bingo card of outcomes. If you refresh, no XP : that’s self balanced. Heal one “Yes, X” for each extra “No, X” you do : basic Karma balance. That’s crude, but will only be used in fringe cases. As always, uncertainty is a good start, but not enough : without a mechanic or starting situation for it, the stakes should be manually upped. Provided they are, no one will think of gaming the system. It’s like when players start to scratch your trees for fresh paint, they are just falling out of the game (hint : the answer is not fast-dry paint).

I think there is definitely the potential for non-random resolution along these lines. There have been a handful of games that have done this kind of thing, and there’s lots of potential for more.

One thing to be careful about is avoiding situations where no real choice is left. Consider carefully how you want those to go. (For example, if you’re checking off outcomes, what happens when there is only one outcome left to check off? Does the game become deterministic?)

I’ve experimented with this as a diceless GM tool, and also as a diceless group resolution mechanic (in my game “As the Worm Turns…”, which I really should type up and resurrect, now that Story Games is gone).

Check out board games with “rondels”. In a nutshell, a rondel is a sectioned of circle, each section corresponds to an action. You “choose” and action by moving around the rondel a variable but limited number of steps. This creates a built in “refresh” mechanism that also creates strategy around what options you choose.

IMO the design of a game should be such that “exploiting” the system is indistinguishable from playing it correctly. A player trying to optimize their options and bonuses in your theoretical system is inherently shutting their character out of other options that may be narratively/mechanically desirable. If I’m playing a mean murder man, me choosing the “yes” option on all my kill “rolls” should be locking me out of the “save your daughter from the monster” roll.


Hi everybody!

I just realized that I didn´t answered your replies. My apologies.

Nevertheless I read them all and found them very useful. So thank you all for your time.

I want to finish my current “project” and then hopefully get to sit down on my desk and write a first draft and will playtest/refine from there. That will be more effective than theorize multiple variants/paths.

I will - if that’s of interest to you - get back to you when I got sth. more than just some vague ideas in my head :wink:

Once again thank you and I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t answered all your responses in particular. They are much appreciated!