View Full Version : Look ma! No, dice?

06-08-2009, 03:58 AM
Since Tamburlain brought up the subject of Nobilis, i thought i'd throw this out there...I'm working on a diceless system that i'll test run on World of Darkness games, but if all goes well, i'll convert it into a universal system for all types of games...

What are your thoughts on a diceless system? Is it a good idea? Bad idea? Don't know? Am i barking up the wrong tree? Would you play a game without dice? Would you be interested in contributing? Or am I a crazy ol' gamer pursuing a dream?

Let me know...

06-08-2009, 06:30 AM
If you build it, they will come.

And if they don't come willingly, then there is always ether and electrical tape.

Srsly, I'd like to know more about your idea for building a diceless rpg. Or, anyone's ideas... There are a few other designers here-abouts, and I was hoping to see some discussion about works in progress over in the Independent / Small Press forum. But here is just as well.

I think it's worth some thought to decide what level of popularity you are shooting for, realistically. And will you charge for the final product? On-demand print and digital media both make it relatively easy to eschew the traditional 3-tier model, if you are a game designer looking to find a smallish, yet faithful, audience of players. Personally, I'd consider it a smashing success to invent a game that pleased my handful of friends and, say, maybe fifty or hundred other gamers via word-of-mouth. However, even the most popular of self-published games (Dogs in the Vineyard, Polaris, Montsegur 1244, etc.) do well to sell in the thousands of units. And this level of popularity is still considered exceptional.

As far as card-mechanics go, I would guess that if trends in recent indie games are any indication, innovative mechanics are a plus.

06-08-2009, 06:48 AM
The system i have in mind in similar to nobilis in that it is more free flowing and doesn't consist of roll....see table...roll...check for results...

Its not THAT much of a hinderance, but does prove to be a hang up for arithma-phobes...i was going to use WoD as a test...and work out the kinks...and then move on to a universal system...i actually was inspired by a minis game created by a cat in italy who was selling his system for $6 american. it allowed for the use of any fantasy miniature you can use...and had only one statistic per model called quality...everything else was preset...from that the entire game played with the complexity of a minis wargame without the paperwork...it was absolutely great to pick up a game and cover EVERY rule contingency within ten minutes of introduction...unfortunately i can't remember its name...:(

Eventually i was going to market it for play by post to avoid the use of dice bots...and would hopefully pick up the rate of play...

we'll see...more as it develops...if anyone wants more detail, send me a PM...

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-08-2009, 09:52 AM
Never used a diceless system but have always been interested. Go with it! I'll send you a pm, shortly.

06-08-2009, 11:12 AM
I've enjoyed the games I've played with playing cards but jenga and ma jong were not fun.

06-08-2009, 01:58 PM
How exactly do you do combat and task resolution in a diceless game? I've never quite understood it. Is there some form of chance of failure above and beyond "the GM thought this outcome would sound good"?

06-08-2009, 02:08 PM
How exactly do you do combat and task resolution in a diceless game? I've never quite understood it. Is there some form of chance of failure above and beyond "the GM thought this outcome would sound good"?

In dust devils you play poker, he with the better hand wins the conflict, your stats let you hold more cards or replace a number of bad cards.

Jenga you have to pull a number of sticks (again based on your stats), he who makes it fall first looses.

06-08-2009, 02:39 PM
How exactly do you do combat and task resolution in a diceless game? I've never quite understood it. Is there some form of chance of failure above and beyond "the GM thought this outcome would sound good"?

There are diverse ways to handle outcomes with cards. Of course, it is always possible to mimic a random roll of any number of any sided dice, simply by arranging the ordered suits to produce the same range of probability. The difference is you're drawing instead of rolling.

But, that's not where the fun is. Who needs cards just to imitate dice? My point is simply to remind how, in theory, random draws can reproduce the same effects as random rolls. In fact, I believe that the drawing of numbered lots has a place in D&D system history, dating back to the days before polyhedrals were manufactured for die-purposes.

The fun comes in introducing extra layers of probability management to any given mechanic. Say for instance, if I am a fighter (with a strength power level = 3) and I am in combat with a slightly more powerful opponent. Instead of rolling dice to determine hits and damage, I might have already randomly drawn three cards (based on my power level) from each exclusive set of suits; and let's say that the two sets are made up of Spades and Hearts. My opponent, of course, has her own full set of each, too. And let's say we each have 2 Joker cards as well. Spades might represent my "to-hit" totals, and Hearts might represent my "damage" totals. My opponent has the same two-suit mechanic, except he has a strength power level = 5, so he draws five Spade cards and five Hearts. This will give him a decided edge. Each round take turns pulling a random card from a set of Clubs to see who attacks; higher card goes first. We each draw, look at our cards, but don't tell yet what we have. Why? Because either of us may have the option of bluff-increasing our initiative card by either supplementing the total with one of our Spade "to-hit" totals, or by including a token nothing-added Joker card. Point is, you would never know. My opponent has drawn a card, and I've drawn a card. Since it was her turn to draw initiative first, she has glanced over at her "to-hit" cards and inserted an extra one. Has she upped the ante or is she bluffing with a hidden Joker? Maybe I really need to win initiative this time, so I decide not to take a chance and to add my 5 of Spades to my 7 of Clubs, giving me a total of 12. Since she's been called, she turns over her two cards revealing a 3 of Clubs and an 8 of Spades. Whew! It's my attack. Okay I have only two cards left "to-hit" this round, so I choose to attack with my Jack of Spades, the equivalent of a 10 dice roll. For her defense, she spends two of her 4 remaining "to-hit" Spades to parry, needing a combined >10, she lays down a 9 and a 2. 11>10, so she successfully parries. Now I'm in trouble. She plays a 7 of Spades to strike at me. I have only one card left and it's a 6. How much damage do I take? She holds out her five Heart cards, and I choose one blindly. The damage is 6 of Hearts. I subtract 6 from my HP. etc. etc.

I just made this up btw. I know it's not balanced and will end poorly for me, but at least I hope it shows how the introduction of cards might make the game slightly less random and more tactical. The blind probabilities are all still in place, but now with the added layer of managing them as resources. When is a good time to bluff? When is a good time to splurge for an all-out attack? When should I concentrate on defense only?

06-08-2009, 04:03 PM
How exactly do you do combat and task resolution in a diceless game? I've never quite understood it. Is there some form of chance of failure above and beyond "the GM thought this outcome would sound good"?

The mechanic i use does not use dice, or cards or rock paper scissors...

The most elementary form i can describe is this...

Lets say that there is a duel between a character and an NPC goblin...

our PC has a Str Stat of 3 with a weapons skill of 4, and a renown rating of 2...the goblin has a dex of 3, and a dodge of 3, with a renown of 1...

(renown is overall character level...and is added to every resolution total...)

my notion...is that the skills would be tested first...so in this case the weapons skill of 4, plus renown of 2 surpasses the dodge skill of 3, with the renown of 1 by two ranks...according to the table that i have, that would be a hard success...in which the goblin would take a moderate wound...if the success were higher, lets say by three or four ranks, then the goblin would take a serious or even deadly wound.

in a result of a tie with renown and skill, then you would check base ratings...in this case the PC's Str...against the Goblin's Dex...if there is a tie after that...then spirit rating would be a tie breaker....

As for the chance of randomness...i've incorporated a pool of points available to pc's so they can boost themselves to take on higher level encounters...the catch is, using the scenario above...the PC could not use more than 3 fate points for any strength-based resolution this round...and if a PC uses all of their fate points within a 24 hr period then all of their resolutions are penalized by their spirit statistic...the character recooperates their fate points equal to the total of spirit and renown per extended rest...

it may seem a little choppy, but its hard to go into everything on a thread...hope it helps...if you have any questions...let me know...

06-08-2009, 04:04 PM
Interesting ideas, Tamburlain and Baron. I can see where you're coming from. Sounds like it could make for very interesting gaming, though perhaps not something I'd like to play all the time.

06-08-2009, 07:53 PM
If you're looking for an excellent idea for how to make a diceless game work, check out the talented Fred Hicks' RPG called Pace, formerly available at 24hourrpg.com.


I've wanted to give this game a spin badly since I first discovered it several years ago. Very cool ideas going on behind the scenes.

06-09-2009, 06:27 AM
Thanks for the link Webs...

While i was at work i can up with a simultaneous combat system, where the defender has a chance to actually inflict damage to the attacker...like real combat, instead of sitting there and taking it...not only that, but i've implemented fatigue rules...so the two combatants can't sit there and slug away for weeks on end...gives the advantage to he or she who hits fastest...just work in progress stuff...:D