A Fistful of Dice: Part 1

July 30, 2010    

When it comes to resolution mechanics for role-playing games, there are a lot of existing choices and a ton of room to create something new. Most games I’ve played use dice in one fashion or another but there’s also been playing cards, coin tossing and even a game that uses a Jenga tower. Even when just considering dice, there’s options like dice pools, Fudge dice and the more traditional “roll stuff, add it” method.

My original idea for Geeks and Elites really focused on the geek aspect. Binary, baby! I was going to have the players roll a number of d8s and calculate target numbers using bitwise operations. It seemed interesting that target numbers would be generated by asking eight questions: Is anyone watching? Is a member of the opposite sex involved? Is this physically dangerous? And so on. The answers would then be used to form a binary string that, when translated to decimal, was the target number. In this example, if a female spy was trying to kill Billy in private, the target number might be 00000110 or 6.

After running some permutations on my whiteboard, I decided to shelve the binary idea for a number of reasons. The first was that I own a lot of dice and even I don’t have as many d8s as this was shaping up to require. It was also difficult to appropriately handle how quickly the target numbers could grow — they could theoretically be anywhere from 1 to 255. I considered doing some sort of masking but really worried about trying to teach binary to the players. When I was in college, the TCP/IP class that introduced binary was pretty much a GPA killer for most people. And these were people studying to build computer networks for a living.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I discuss my second and current idea for dice in Geeks and Elites.