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View Full Version : What's Diceless?



ronpyatt
10-19-2007, 12:37 AM
There are all sorts of ways to go diceless. Let's count the ways.

Using playing cards as a randomizer is one.

I can't think of any others right now, so I'll get back to you.

PhishStyx
10-19-2007, 01:18 AM
Coin flips would be one.

Simply not having dice would be another. Amber DRPG and Theatrix would be 2 of the best known examples.


Unisystem has a card option, but I've never tried it.

fmitchell
10-19-2007, 01:54 AM
To me, "diceless" means having no randomizer, a la Amber. The person with the highest stats always wins, unless the player can exploit his environment so that the GM gives him an edge.

Nobilis and other games augment the above diceless play with a resource pool: spend one or more chips (stones, whatever), and you can exert additional influence ... but eventually you'll run out of chips.

Dread uses a Jenga tower. I can't decide whether that's random or not. Pulling blocks out of a Jenga tower is a skill that one can acquire, although how much of an edge that is I don't know.

I also can't decide on the randomness of "rock, paper, scissors", as used in many LARPs. I suppose you could learn other players' biases, and use those against them.

Other randomizers include cards, as stated above. In addition to poker decks (Castle Falkenstein, vs. Monsters, and others), there's also the cards of Everway ... which I own but could never wrap my head around. Cards can combine resource pools and randomizers: you get a random hand, but you can choose which cards to play when. Also, unlike dice, which (theoretically) have the same probabilities every time they're rolled, discarding cards without reshuffling implies played cards will never occur again. (It's the Gambler's Fallacy made real.)

Flipping coins is equivalent to a "d2": roll a d6 and choose high/low or even-odd as 0 or 1; essentially it d2 - 1. The Ubiquity system as used in Hollow Earth Adventures uses that method for its dice pools, although the manufacturers offer Ubiquity Dice which combine the probabilities of two or three dice on one d8.

However, an I-Ching style coin throw considers the placement of coins in addition to their values ... but probability-wise it's no different from 2d8 with each face marked with trigrams.

PhishStyx
10-19-2007, 02:01 AM
Nobilis. . .. . .and the Marvel Universe RPG both use resource pools. I knew I'd forgotten something.

Riftwalker
10-19-2007, 08:41 AM
Anyone have any thoughts/inputs as to whether a diceless (non-random) game ends up being more fun/interesting/whatever than a game that uses dice (or random factors?)

MajereNoir
10-19-2007, 08:42 AM
To me, "diceless" means having no randomizer, a la Amber. The person with the highest stats always wins, unless the player can exploit his environment so that the GM gives him an edge.

That's what I figured diceless would mean too, though I've never heard of Amber and I still don't see the fun aspect of that... part of what's great about role-playing (with a little dose of roll-playing) is that there's the chance an inferior character can get lucky and rise above to save the day, even if he's totally out of crafty ideas. Maybe I just like rollin' the dice! :D

A friend of mine showed me a game called Chronicles of Babel that uses beads. Each player has different colored beads in an opaque bag (how many of which color depends on his stats) and then to resolve things, the player picks beads out of the bag and prays for the right color bead. I suppose that is technically diceless, but the beads could easily be replaced with dice, so to me... it's not really what we're talking about. It still seems cool though.

Moritz
10-19-2007, 09:28 AM
Anyone have any thoughts/inputs as to whether a diceless (non-random) game ends up being more fun/interesting/whatever than a game that uses dice (or random factors?)

A lot of the 'fun' factor is based on trust. Freeform or Consent is another aspect of a diceless system. In both, you trust that your GM or co-player won't jack you up too badly or put you into un-winable situations unless it fits the story. And even then, you must trust that the ultimate outcome will be better than the pitfalls that your character faces in the present.

Personally, I still prefer the randomness of dice, though the ability to affect the roll with "Karma spent" such as in the Marvel Super Heroes RPG. Especially when you're about to flub something really bad. However, I also play a freeform/consent game and it's also a whole lot of fun. But I trust my GM or co-players. Completely.

Farcaster
10-19-2007, 01:52 PM
I've never played a truly diceless system, but I have on occasion used the freeform method I think Moritz is talking about. These freeform sessions were almost always spontaneous roleplaying while walking or driving somewhere. The player or GM and I would get to talking about the game and it would just evolve into a impromptu session. Usually these were more roleplaying oriented, not combat situations, but I do recall a couple of physical confrontations we resolved through a sort of dramatic collaborative story telling. Flare in describing what your character was doing and capitalizing on your character's strengths was the key to success. The better told, the better your character did.

ronpyatt
10-21-2007, 10:31 AM
If Universalis can be considered an RPG then, yes, diceless gaming can be a lot of fun. Well, I've played other diceless RPG's in the impromptu way Farcaster described, and those were a blast.

What a lot of GM's don't tell you is that much of their game is Diceless (ignoring the dice, including what players roll). It would seem that some games lend themselves to diceless gaming more than others.

Would GM whim be considered at all random? I mean where the GM doesn't know what will happen until it comes out of his/her mouth. (That's actually happened to me while flubbing words.)

Skunkape
10-22-2007, 07:12 AM
We've played games of one or another GMs' design in our local group and a few have been more storyteller systems than ones that use dice. Generally, we work up some kind of system that rates the characters skills and then depending on how difficult the task at hand vs the skill level modified by player description, the GM determines whether you succeed or not.

If you've got a good group, this can be a really fun type of game. Only problem with this type of game, you've removed all randomness, but that doesn't mean the story will suffer for it though.

I ran a Tri-Stat game where we used a deck of cards, which also dropped the level of randomness, at least as far as the players were concerned. They drew a hand of 3 cards and could use which ever cards best fit the situation, which did allow them to plan a little better how the outcome of tasks and events that they were involved in a little better, but as GM, I controlled how often they could replentish their cards.

If they went through all of the cards in their hand, then they had to draw the top card from the deck whenever they had to complete another task, that is, until I let them replentish their hand. Was a fun game that most of the players enjoyed.

Jazz
11-12-2007, 12:57 AM
I've never played a truly diceless system, but I have on occasion used the freeform method I think Moritz is talking about. These freeform sessions were almost always spontaneous roleplaying while walking or driving somewhere. The player or GM and I would get to talking about the game and it would just evolve into a impromptu session. Usually these were more roleplaying oriented, not combat situations, but I do recall a couple of physical confrontations we resolved through a sort of dramatic collaborative story telling. Flare in describing what your character was doing and capitalizing on your character's strengths was the key to success. The better told, the better your character did.


I've done that before with friends. When you've got players/friends with vivid imaginations, it almost always goes exceedingly well. I think the best aspect of that style of combat is that even losing the battle is fun.

At least, it was for me.

GC13
11-12-2007, 10:05 AM
My friend and I only did total freeform once, but it was awesome. Generic sci-fi setting, was cool. Combat was a lot more interesting than it ever was in any other RPG (okay, that's not too many...) I've ever played.

Of course I was a softie and let him win all the time, but I really don't think he's complaining about that, and I certainly am not either. :D Just meant I needed more non-combat obstacles.

Mulsiphix
01-16-2008, 11:19 PM
Alright I've never played a real PnP RP before but, to judge if I would like RP, my wife and I played a short series of games in the car. IT WAS AWESOME!!!! She wasn't even really that into it and it was still AWESOME!! Given the right setting and people I think cooperative story telling can be a blast. The reason I'm really interested in this is I was hoping I could find something my wife and I could play in the car. We do a ridiculous amount of driving right now so it would be something nice to pass the time.

nijineko
01-19-2008, 11:38 AM
first, last, best, and only word in diceless, imho: amber.

however, i must admit that there are other valiant efforts out there. but seriously, how many of those systems has a cosmology that literally allows you to play any and every other system out there? built into the original concept of the story and game, both?

as a side note, i have never seen a better concept presentation for playing "powers-that-be" than amber, either.

Roman Roadwalker
12-13-2009, 03:00 AM
O've played Everyway and used the cards in other games. Think of the Everway cards as a tarot deck. Drawing a card does not only tell you success or failure but also hints at how the success or failure may occur.

For example one of the cards is called "Missing the Diamond" Drawn in upright form it could mean the player just misses an opportunity by failing to see it. Turned to the reverse it could be a success by noticing something useful.

Add into that the concept of Virtues, Flaws and Fates used in the game, The cards can get quite fun to mess with. They are still my favorite non dice option.

templeorder
04-29-2010, 12:30 PM
The best way i ever ran a diceless game wherein everyone thought i was fair and felt like they made a difference (its too easy to appear as if you are just telling a story and everyone is along for the ride) was to set aside three types of "uses" (tailored to the setting - it can be what you need it to be) that each character had a certain amount of (different characters can impact different things). Then, i went with best stats and story effect combo unless a character wanted to step in and play one of the "use" actions that would ensure success in an activity.

yukonhorror
04-29-2010, 12:41 PM
pieces of paper in a hat

templeorder
04-29-2010, 02:10 PM
I guess it would all depend on why you are moving to diceless. If its to sped things up and focus on story, then my previous answer applies. If you just don't want to use dice, then you are just substituting some other form of random checking and i have to ask whats the point? If its just to change things up, great... but systems are designed around averages and math behind dice and if you are using what you think is just some other manifestation of dice, it may be the math behind your method is different. I've never actually tried to do that... i've only gone diceless in order to speed up resolutions and focus more on story... of course i prefer checks (using dice or appropriate resolution means).

Edsel2012
01-02-2011, 03:15 AM
look at ....:eek::eek:

mrken
01-03-2011, 07:09 PM
What everyone has failed to mention is the dice less RP we used to do as little kids before we discovered dice and random results. In the way old days we played without dice and it was fun. Actually, it still is fun as long as we don't have to play with the kid who never died in army man or cowboys and Indians. It's all about the people we play with.

Once, while making that four or five hour drive to Gen Con we did dice less. The five of us played the same game we had played for years even though our dice were all packed in the trunk. Was one of the best sessions we had ever had.

ronpyatt
01-09-2011, 06:45 PM
I'll be trying out an Amber Diceless game next weekend. So far, all the players rave about how good it is.

tesral
01-10-2011, 01:51 AM
The quality of Amber is highly dependent on the quality of the GM. Nuff said.

Blond Gamer Girl
01-10-2011, 08:09 PM
OMG! - We began diceless RPG'ing on long car drives. It really makes you think. One GM I had (a very good one) would sometimes say, "No dice figure it out yourselves." I adopt that philosophy many times when I GM. Once players have enough clues, I figure there's several of them and one of me. They should be able to outthink me. That's a player's job.

ronpyatt
01-12-2011, 01:39 AM
The quality of Amber is highly dependent on the quality of the GM. Nuff said.That could be said about a great many RPG's. What was your experience playing Amber diceless?

tesral
01-12-2011, 02:17 AM
That could be said about a great many RPG's. What was your experience playing Amber diceless?

Agreed, the quality of GM is important regardless. However some times it is more important.

Full Disclosure. My friend's experience with Amber. He was an advid Amber player what,fifteen-twenty years ago. And would speak at length on how the GM made or broke the game. With equal over all gaming expeiacne to my own and having played the game often.I'll take his word on that. I will also add that Ron can tend toward the negative. I am taking that into account here. It's not a knock on the Amber system. He had a lot of fun with it. He was a regular Ambercon attendee for several years running. He stopped going when Eric Wujcik left Michigan for Sierra Studios. With Eric no longer with us it's highly unlikley he will return to it.