Play worlds, not rules, part 3: playing around with dice

In part 1, I took a look into how people played roleplaying games before any “official rules set” was published. In part 2, I shared how we handle experience at our table.

In today’s part 3, I’m writing about the dice rulings I use at the table.

2d6 — the Blood of Pangea method

I much prefer target numbers (“roll on or over”) when I’m using 2d6. +Olde House Rules games are perfect in this regard:

There is no damage roll separated from the to-hit roll. The better you hit, the more damage you do.

d100 — d20 — 3d6

Here we’re stepping into the territory of Phil Barker’s Perfected rules. When using 3d6, d20 or d%, I prefer rolling against each other, with the higher number winning, and with short “negotiations” when the numbers are close. Another approach I like a lot is our house system (Wyaul Hyoiwto): I give the players a number to roll on or over, and if they do, it’s a good result.

Another system I’ve used quite often is the one Phil Barker also used (probably before he came up with the Perfected rules, but sometimes in addition to them): low=bad, middling=nothing changes or moves forward, high=good.

Very good dice results may trigger special abilities and/or behavior of monsters.

Ouch, I’m hit!

(or AAAAAAAAAAARGH!, as the case may be)
Sometimes, I’m using hit points or “hits” in the D&D sense, reducing their total amount by a certain number of damage points. Most of the times, I can’t be bothered, and use the characters’ hit points as a gauge for how much damage they can take, without any math. Rule of thumb: 3 hits and you’re down, plus/minus a couple more/less if you’re really tough/fragile.

Sometimes, I ask the players to roll dice when their characters are hit; good results mean they take the blow without serious consequences.

What I’m after

These rules are not for players interested in gaming procedures. They’re way too simple to be interesting. What they do, though, is: They get out of the way and allow my players to explore and experience the world, almost in real time. This is my goal: to present a living world that responds to the heroes’ actions, with minimal interference from rules. After using the guidelines described above for almost 30 years, I can say: They work.

One more thing

Sometimes, going from an existing rpg system to pre-rules is too demanding for the players. You can easily avoid that by using a game system you know to create characters, and then use the numbers/facts created as gauge for your pre-school rpg. This works very well. (And that’s how Phil Barker did it first, after OD&D had hit the shelves and some players were familiar with it).

Pitching my own free game here

minimald6 is a game I wrote with the principles I mentioned above in mind. Take a look:


Play worlds, not rules, part 1: Juggling ideas for stone-age rpg sessions
Play worlds, not rules, part 2: Experience levels
Play worlds, not rules, part 3: Playing around with dice
Play worlds, not rules, part 4: Short example of true Blackmoor gaming
Play worlds, not rules, part 5: How we roll

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