Friday, 10 September 2021

A Brand New Concept in Dice Rolling

Hands up, that title is bait. It's not brand new, I'm quite sure... but on Sunday this was new to me and sent me into a bit of a flurry.

  • You have six dice
  • Roll them
  • Put them in ascending order
You have no idea how long it took me to get this result...

So the question I asked myself was:
  • How many different combinations are there?
  • What possible use is there for this mechanic?
Here's what I discovered—and the exciting tale of the friends I made along the way.


So I'll confess: the ascending order really threw me. I couldn't work out how I could calculate a formula that could include these figures:

  • 111345
  • 223446
  • 455566

...but not 

  • 211156
  • 322654
  • 444441
So in the end I brute-forced it:

...and I counted 455 results (note: I messed up somewhere, as this is a few short... and I do not have the patience to check where UPDATE: actually I do, thanks to BlueWolf!)

Only later did Bluewolf of help me out with this:

2d6 6 5 4 3 2 1
3d6 21 15 10 6 3 1
4d6 56 35 20 10 4 1
5d6 126 70 35 15 5 1
6d6 252 126 56 21 6 1 adding up all the numbers in a row, you get the total number of ascending/descending  entries.

Thing is... when do we ever want 462 of anything? Google tells me about bus routes, and the fact that the year 462 was a common year (i.e. not a leap year) starting on a Monday (and ending on Monday...).

Fact is, we can make bigger numbers with fewer and simpler dice.

...but still I wanted this ordering to mean something...

Putting things in Order

Seems like ordering introduces a further layer of chaos: it also provides us with a reference rather than a numerical value. I see two possible outcomes with this:
  1. a reference for a 462 item table (a bit boring though)
  2. The "positions" in the sequence have individual values: we're rolling for a, b , c , d, e and f... where f is always the highest value we roll and a the lowest 

Interrupting the broadcast...

Worth a mention that this post was originally inspired by Hungriest Clone's post on the OSR discord—itself inspired by Mordheim. The city exploration table consisted of a 30 entry table, consisting of five tables of 6 entries:
  • Doubles 
  • Triples
  • Four-of-a-kind
  • Five-of-a-kind
  • Six-of-a-kind
...which is actually a neat way of staggering probability (each entry on the last table only has a 1-in-462 chance of being rolled, whereas other entries are more common). There's also the chance of rolling multiple entries with one roll (3 pairs, 4 of a kind plus pair etc.)

Here, have a look:

Fair use etc.

Magic System?

A common fantasy trope is the "learner wizard", particularly in children's animation: they're just getting used to their abilities, and amidst the backfires and fizzles there's always weird misfires and people turning into pigs/frogs/donkeys etc. It's something that tonnes of RPGs (including Pariah, which borrowed from the OG GLOG) attempt to replicate in some way, but rarely with the swinginess of the fiction.

What if...

What if there were 462 spell effects?

And what if anyone with a vague magical inkling (or device) could invoke them?

You just roll your magic dice and see what you get.

More powerful casters get to "nudge" dice results to cleave closer to the desired magical effect...

(this could actually represent "learning" spells- the spell list is secret, but through play they learn individual spells, and then learn new ones through trial and error...)


While mulling this over on a journey through the park I had another thought.

What if this but combat?

You have 3 dice. Roll them, arrange in ascending order:

  • The highest is the amount of damage you inflict
  • The lowest is the amount if damage you can defend against
What's the middle dice? My initial thought was that it could represent the ability to make multiple attacks...

I roll 3d6: 2, 2,5. 
  • 5 is the damage I inflict
  • 2 is the number of attacks I can make
  • 2 is the damage I deflect, absorb or otherwise ignore
My opponent rolls: 3, 2, 4
  • 5 is the damage they inflict (I deflect 2 so take 3)
  • 3 is the number of attacks they can make)
  • 2 is the damage they ignore (so they also take 3)
The number of attacks is used when fighting multiple foes, and damage is divided: in the above example my two attacks mean I can split my 5 damage against 2 opponents. This can replicate the function of the fighter's cleave against much weaker opponents.

What "damage" means at this stage is anyone's guess, but I was leaning towards each "point" represents a roll on a wound chart, with the worst result taken.


To build in choice and variety, a combatant might opt for a number of  "stances":

Fight defensively 

In this case, the highest die represents the amount of damage they can ignore. In the above example, were my opponent to fight defensively:
  • 2 is the damage they inflict (I receive no damage)
  • 3 is the number of attacks they can defend against (not relevant here)
  • 5 is the damage they ignore (they are not wounded)
An option in this instance would be to allow the side with initiative to choose whether to fight aggressively or defensively after their opponent has decided (i.e. the opponent calls, then they choose their tactic)

Attack Multiple Foes

My character is facing multiple foes. I roll 5, 4 and 6 against my 7 goblin opponents. To ensure I can cause harm to as many as possible, my dice are arrange in the following manner:
  • Highest "6" is the number of goblins I can wound
  • 5 is the amount of damage I need to share between them (this isn't actually great, probably best to split between 2)
  • 4 is the damage I can defend against
Now, splitting "5" into "2" and "3" might get rid of one goblin, possibly 2, but my character is likely to get absolutely pasted in the same melee (I can only defend against one opponent, and following that I am likely to receive at minimum 6 wounds... though again, what this means is not yet resolved)

That's a reasonable outcome in a low fantasy game I think: one individual versus seven is not going to last long, especially if they are equivalently skilled and equipped... which I suppose is where we factor in scalability (see below).

What if the emphasis was on defending against multiple attackers?

Defending Against Multiple Foes

using the same roll as above:
  • Highest "6" is the number of goblins I can defend against
  • 5 is the amount of damage I can deflect (shared between up to 7 attacks)
  • 4 is the damage I inflict against one of my attackers
Again, it's not looking good- but if we could scale these dice in some way to reflect the combatants armour and experience...


The obvious way to scale is to increase die size. 
  • We can start with D4 (or lower) in damage, no. of opponents and defence, increasing with experience.
  • Weapons might increase die size (we can also do custom wound charts for weapon types, rather than "points" damage): a small weapon doesn't increase attack (but it might cause nastier wounds than your bare hands); a sword or mace might increase your attack die by one... a halberd or Zweihander by 2)
  • Armour and shields also cause stepped increases: light +1, hvy +2. Shields can also be used in conjunction with armour and increase die size by 1
A foot soldier has D4 for each combat die. They pick up a spear, increasing their attack die to D6, and wear a boiled leather curaiss and carry a shield, giving them D8 defence. They roll D4, D6 and D8 together in combat against an unarmoured spearman (D4, D4, D6):

Both soldiers are attacking, with the foot soldier rolling 5, 4 and 6; the spearman rolling 3, 3 and 4:
  • Foot soldier does 6 damage versus spearman defence of 3 (Spearman takes 1 wound)
  • The foot soldier defends 4 damage versus spearman's attack of 4 (no wound)
Now, you may already have spotted the flaw in this design: is it fair that an unarmed knight (attack D4) wearing plate armour (rolls D8 defence) can potentially inflict masses of wounds by virtue of their plate armour? Well, maybe not at first blush, but if we do factor weapon specific wound charts, then maybe it could represent them getting close enough to me to inflict serious damage. 

Alternatively, we could apply this rule:
  • When attacking, no die rolled can be larger than the "attack" die.
  • When defending, no die rolled can be larger than the "defend" die
Then again, you could just roll individual attack and defence dice... but what would have been the point in this post?

Is this MOSAIC Strict?

Well, first have a look at the definition of MOSAIC strict:
  • Modular
  • Optional
  • Short
  • Attested
  • Independent
  • Coreless

I guess the key issue is "Attested": fundamentally, this is MOSAIC strict if I say it is. I could definitely fit the combat rules (and wound charts) onto a single spread in fewer than 1500 words... but the 462 spell magic system could be more of a challenge... unless each entry contained three word prompts...


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