The Dice-less Role-playing Game

Chris Gunter

First Post
No listing for this game so used RPGs.

IDLE HANDS…

We’ve rolled dice for as long as we can remember. Playing our beloved games and hoping for that great roll. Sometimes fate shines upon us and sometimes it leaves us in a dark cave. The element of chance is incredibly exciting. How could we live without it? Some game developers have said you can. I’ll enter one contestant. Marvel Universe Role-playing Game. I use this example because I have experience with it. In the game you start off with points to put in to your character to flesh out abilities, skills, powers, etc. Pretty standard. Once that is all done, one of your abilities will determine how much energy you have to spend each round or page. Marvel Universe Role-playing Game does not use the standard round but panels and pages like in a comic book. The goal was to give the feel of being in the comic book that you write as you play. Back to the energy pool. The Game-master explains the situation to you. Say you have arrived at an abandoned chemical factory and you are searching for clues to a villain. If you have a power or skill that would allow you to do that then this is the time for energy allocation. Let us say you have 10 energy. You have a 4 in Infra-vision and a 6 in Force Field. You can allocate your points to max out those two powers so if you find something and it triggers and attack, you will be prepared. However, you have no points in movement. Moving will not be something you can do this page. This is just a small example. It seems like it gives you a new experience with great freedom and control. The time I ran it, it seemed clunky and slow. This was years ago. I am considering giving it another chance. The questions is, what do you guys think? Is a dice-less game possible? Are we too rooted in the roll? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
 

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Zhaleskra

Adventurer
There are several diceless RPGs on the market. Some simply use a different randomizer, others are more of a "whoever's loudest wins" to me.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Yeah, diceless RPGs certainly exist. The Amber Diceless RPG was back in 1990 or so, and there's Nobilis. More recently, Dread uses a Jenga tower for resolution, while Keith Baker's upcoming Phoenix Dawn Command RPG is card-driven. I'm sure there are plenty more I'm not thinking of right now. Of those, I've only played Dread, and that was great fun.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (aka "Marvel Saga") was also diceless.

Yeah, that's the game the OP is talking about. Or is that a different one?

[Edit - oh, Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game. I'm not familiar with that game.]
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Yeah, that's the game the OP is talking about. Or is that a different one?

[Edit - oh, Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game. I'm not familiar with that game.]

Yeah, Marvel has had a bunch of games, with different mechanics, and it is often difficult to keep them straight.

Marvel Universe used a bidding system, while Marvel Saga used a card system. Both were fairly short lived on the market, though I'm told both actually play pretty well.
 


Jhaelen

First Post
Marvel Universe used a bidding system
IIRC; Amber also uses a bidding system, at least during character creation.
I don't think that trying to play any 'regular' RPG without dice will work, though. You need a system that's been designed for this.
 

Bagpuss

Hero
Some simply use a different randomizer, others are more of a "whoever's loudest wins" to me.

Rather than whoever is loudest, others use systems to pass narrative control between players, either by turn taking (Microscope, A Penny for My Thoughts), bidding (Amber), or role assignments (Kingdom).

I can't think of any that is whoever is loudest, I guess a some to be whoever is most creative (Baron Munchausen, although that involves turn taking as well).
 
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Bagpuss

Hero
The ones that come across as "whoever's loudest wins" is where narrative control is determined primarily by interruption.

Could you name some examples. I've played a few diceless games, I guess the only one I can think of that this kind of counts for is Baron M, where you need to work in interruptions. But there the interruptions are necessarily short and it is more a case of one player having the spotlight at a time.
 

Zhaleskra

Adventurer
Unfortunately, I don't have game names to give you as I do not currently recall them. This is also less about dice-less and more the so-called "GM-less" games. I say "so-called" because whoever currently has narrative control is the current GM in my mind.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
IIRC; Amber also uses a bidding system, at least during character creation.
I don't think that trying to play any 'regular' RPG without dice will work, though. You need a system that's been designed for this.

I think some FATE variants might run well enough without dice, though you might have to change your ideas of what target numbers should be. It then boils down to a Fate point bidding game.

As a generalization, though, I agree - if a game is designed with a randomizer, you probably don't want to try to play it without some randomizer.
 


aramis erak

Legend
I've seen several alternate randomizers over the years:
Cards
Sometimes cards are used purely as dice replacement - they contain a value, and are drawn only to resolve an action, and so are "dice with memory". (CJ Carella's Unisystem Witchcraft allows replaceing d10's with cards... Hell, there's a Catan expansion for straight up replacing the resource roll with cards)

More often, cards are used in a hand, and you play one from hand - kind of like replacing the dice, but having your next 3-5 rolls in front of you. (Saga system Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game & Dragonlance 5th Age, RTG's Castle Falkenstein)

Coins
Really, their just d2's... usually.

Point Pools
The Marvel Universe RPG by Marvel Studios was such a game. I've encountered a couple others using it exclusively, but not any that people would recognize.

One interesting take on point pools is the little known Epiphany RPG, by BTRC - you used your whole pool, by dividing it between offense and defense, and all rolls were opposed. This was accomplished by right offense, left defense (think sword n shield).

For things like ranged attacks, you had to get it right in both sides...

Chit Draws
drop counters in a cup. Pull one. Basic D&D, blue box, 1st printing. Several board games. essentially, tiny, thick, die-cut cards.

One game I saw was put in a number of mini poker chips... white for skill, red for difficulty, shake, pull one out. I don't know what the game was, because it was at a con, back in the 90's. It may not even have been published.

Roshambo/RSP
The World Of Darkness Mind's Eye Theater lines use RSP to determine most cases. Some abilities add a 4th that beats two but is beaten by the third. I don't know of any that go to RSPLS... (and now I'm having a flashback to BBT...)

Drop Tables
a few rare small press games used drop tables. GW used them for boxed board games.The question became, "What about on the line?" They can be quite an interesting method. C7's Lone Wolf uses a drop table... as a d10 alternative.

Physical tasks
Pull the jenga block! - Dread.
Beer Pong or tiddlywinks - used by a couple of free RPG's I've stumbled across.

Random Number tables

I used one for combat resolution in a Space 1889 PBP once - I borrowed the one in Module N for SFB.

Attribute Comparison
No randomization, just compare the attribute to the difficulty. Only one I've seen uses this by itself - Amber.
WW's VTM 1E and BTRC's CORPS use it as a means of reducing dice rolls.


Decision Trees
A flow chart method. Figure out where to start, then answer the questions. Usually not a lone mechanic - Theatrix uses story points in addition to an attribute/skill vs difficulty comparison to pick where you start on the flow chart.

GM Fiat
A rare few games specify GM fiat as a sole means, but in practice, its the most common partial dice-replacement out there. Often stated as "Only say no if the narration makes no sense"

Multiple methods
Attribute comparison + pool is not uncommon. Fate can be played this way as an option - no rolls, just fate points to invoke aspects, then compare.
Mind's Eye Theater allows "spending" a trait to retry the roshambo you just lost. And on a tie, it goes to who has the most traits.
 

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