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Thread: What's Diceless?

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    What's Diceless?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.
    Last edited by fmitchell; 10-19-2007 at 01:57 AM.
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    Nobilis. . .
    . . .and the Marvel Universe RPG both use resource pools. I knew I'd forgotten something.

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    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?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    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!

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Riftwalker View Post
    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.

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    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.
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    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.)

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    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.
    Last edited by Skunkape; 10-22-2007 at 07:15 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    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.

    Catch me if you can.

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    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. Just meant I needed more non-combat obstacles.

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    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.

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    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.
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    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.

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