Dicey propositions (pardon the pun)

Dice: do you prefer your own, or is it okay to share?

Recently, a new designer on a forum I frequent tossed out an idea for a system for a game that used dice as a physical currency to represent narrative control. (I didn’t mention that I had already done this with Diceconomy, because I didn’t want to skew the discussion, but the concept in general obviously appeals to me, and I like the thought of seeing more games do this.) One of the flaws in the idea was that the game required a huge number of dice. How huge? Over 20 per player. And because they represent a player asset, they can’t really be shared, meaning a 4-person game would approach 90 dice on the table.

Project Atlantis uses four dice, by comparison, and as such it may not seem directly related, but there is a point that bears consideration, and that’s how to manage the logistics of dice that do things other than serve as randomizers. Because one mode of activating character traits in the system for Project Atlantis requires a player to invest one or more dice in the trait, one quickly runs into a dilemma: if you’re playing with one shared set of Fudge dice, then a player who invests even one die has messed up the die pool for the rest. (Rerolling a die isn’t a good option because of the way die rolls interact with magic – to wit, magic manipulates the lay of rolled dice, so rerolling a die complicates the resolution mechanic.)

This isn’t a problem if everyone has their own dice, of course. But while statistics don’t seem to be available, I’m guessing the number of players with a set of Fudge dice remains comparatively small, and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s requiring players to buy too much proprietary equipment to play a game when it can be avoided. (One can convert regular six-siders into dF, but I recognize that many gamers like having the “proper” die for a roll). Another workaround dictates that one simply relies on non-dice tokens to mark investments and then just rolls fewer dice, which allows for sharing in the event that not everyone has appropriate dice.

As problems go, this one is rather insignificant, but it represents some of the factors game designers should take into account when creating a game. An early commenter on the Diceconomy games joked that I must have stock in one or more of the dice-making companies because of the number required to play (although compared to the example that prompted this post, Diceconomy is, if you’ll pardon the expression, rather economical: only 28 of a given color of die can possibly be on the table at a given time, and that’s an extraordinarily unlikely occurrence that practically requires collusion between the players to accomplish). Nonetheless, I’ll be considering the proper procedure for handling dice to please the most number of potential Atlanteans.