A “Diceless” Idea

By diceless I mean randomless. The pseudo-random element comes from the fiction and from choices made in said fiction, and might be more accurately called a “changing” element rather than a random one. The mechanics simulate dice without rolling dice.

The result should be a game easily playable in the car on a road trip, or around a campfire. It may help to have the current state of the “dice” written down on a sheet of paper, but those with good memories ought to have no trouble remembering where the dice are currently at.

I admit to being largely influenced by John Harper’s Blades in the Dark, as well as 13th Age in the creation of this “diceless” system. This is only an embryonic idea, not at all play-tested.

Stats: Characters are represented by a number of stats with bonuses in normal D&D range (-1, 0, +1, +2, +3). The normal STR, CON, DEX, INT, CHA, WIS attributes will do, or your can come up with stats that better emulate your chosen genre.

Escalation Die: You have a virtual D6, which begins each session on 1. This die belongs to the heroes.

Trouble Die: You have another virtual D6, which also begins each session on 1. This die belongs to the monsters and villains (and any other opposition).

Position: Your position is how challenging your fictional situation is, and determines which dice you are permitted to choose when making your roll.

  • Dominant: You may choose either of the two dice. The die you choose is incremented by +1 after the roll is over.
  • Daring: You must choose the Escalation die. The GM must choose the Trouble die. This die is incremented by +1 after the roll is over.
  • Desperate: You must choose the lower of the two dice. The die you choose is incremented by +1 after the roll is over.

Choose and Add: Once you’ve chosen a die from those you are permitted to choose from depending on your position, you then add the most relevant stat to the die. Compare the result to the chart below:

  • > 6: Succeed with Style. For each point above six that you score, you get one “And”. For narrative games, this might allow you to add details to the narrative, but at a more basic level, you might simply say this is bonus damage.
  • 6: Succeed. You achieve your goal.
  • 4-5: Succeed at a Cost. You achieve your goal, but either in a mitigated fashion, or at some personal cost to you.
  • 1-3: Fail. You do not achieve your goal, and you suffer the natural result of your failure.

Spend Hero Points: Heroes have Hero Points, which they can use to add +1 to the roll for each point they spend. This allows players to have more input into the outcome, and make dice results more varied. Heroes have a number of points allotted to them at the beginning of each session (e.g. 3-6). The GM also has Trouble Points, which they can use to augment monster die rolls. The GM has a number of Trouble Points each session equal to the number of players (themselves included).

Deescalation: The GM may deescalate either the Trouble or Escalation die based on the fiction. If the heroes are holding position, playing their cards close to their chest, or waiting for the opponent to make a mistake, the GM may decrement the Escalation die by -1 each round. Likewise with the Trouble die, if the opposition is not making adequate progress, or if pressure is somehow being let off from the heroes. They are also free to set the die directly back to 1 if the heroes or monsters are fleeing, hiding, or stalling.


Wolf, Dog & Sheep: A Roleplaying Poem


You’ll need at least three players and a deck of playing cards. You won’t need all the cards, but you will need to set aside the following:

JOKER: There is one Joker. If you draw the Joker, you are the Robber. Your objective is that the Guard will not shoot you, but will shoot a Customer instead. No one knows you are a Robber. Everyone assumes you are a Customer until you tip your hand.

JACK: There is one Jack. If you draw the Jack, you are the security Guard. Your objective is to shoot the Robber and only the Robber. If you shoot the Robber, you win. If you shoot anyone else, you lose. Everyone knows that you are the Guard; you wear a security uniform.

2-10: There are enough numbered cards for  the remaining players to receive one. If you draw a numbered card, you are a Customer. Your objective is to not be shot. Therefore, if you can help the Guard identify the Robber, so much the better.

Playing the Game

Starting with the Guard, because everyone knows who he is, go clockwise around the circle. Each person says one sentence that begins with “I am…” e.g.

  • “I am wearing black slacks.”
  • “I am wishing the teller a pleasant morning.”
  • “I am reaching inside my coat.”
  • “I am slipping the teller a piece of paper.”
  • “I am shooting the man in black slacks.”

The game ends when the Guard shoots, at which point the target reveals their card.


You can experiment with different numbers of Robbers and Guards if you like. You might also experiment with an undercover security Agent.