I recently got to play two sessions of Marvel Heroic Roleplay (which rocks — it captures the feel of supers better than any other RPG I’ve played, including FASERIP Marvel; see Don’s recent article for more in that vein) and I used a trick to speed up my turns that I thought was worth sharing. While I was a player in this game, not the GM, the trick applies equally to GMs — and to games other than MHR.

And it’s super-simple: Just color code your dice.

Need a d10? Grab an orange die.

Doing stuff in MHR involves building dice pools, with d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 being required in various quantities. Most pools you build will be slightly different, you often need multiple types of dice in a single pool, and it can take a little time to get used to assembling pools.

After my first session, to which I brought five full sets of polyehdral dice of different colors, I realized I could speed things up a lot by color coding my dice by type.

By using a different color for each die type, I could keep my dice in a big pile and still easily grab the ones I needed. It worked like a charm, my turns got faster, and I was able to focus just a bit more on everything else I did at the table.

When I mentioned this on Google+, Tim Noyce made a great point:

Nice trick and sooooo simple. I am very interested in teaching RPGs and using them to teach. Giving the new players colour coded dice means that you can say “roll the yellow one”

The muffin tin

Fellow gnome Don Mappin and I joked during the session that we could put our dice in a muffin tin to make it easier to find specific types, and clever gamer Moe Tousignant on G+ took that joke and turned it into something cool: a teaching tool for new players combined with a convenient way to run pickup, store, or convention games where you don’t expect people to necessarily bring the right dice, or the right amounts of each die type.

Here’s Moe’s suggestion:

The muffin tin is a pretty good idea actually. It would be good for passing the dice around the table (which is what I did for our launch event).

…and how it turned out:

Used the muffin tray last night and it worked great. 5 spots were for dice and the 6th we used for our Plot Point beads.

If all you need for the game you’re running is a handful of d6s or d10s, this trick won’t save you any time (although even then, I’ve color coded single-die-type pools by using two colors: the dice I roll most often are one color, and the rest are another, so I can grab the common pool easily), but there are a lot of other games that use multiple dice which might benefit from this trick.

If you have a lot of dice, it’s easy to try it out for free. If not, it’s pretty cheap to buy dice in specific colors — and worth it for a game you really enjoy. I generally buy single dice directly from Chessex or from GameStation.

I hope this trick is useful to you!

About  Martin Ralya

A father, husband, writer, small-press publisher, former RPG industry freelancer, and lifelong geek, Martin has been gaming since 1987 and GMing since 1989. He lives in Utah with his amazing wife Alysia and their awesome daughter Lark in a house full of books and games.



11 Responses to Color Code Your Dice

  1. And here I’ve spent years building up a collection of same coloured dice (apart from my d7s, I just couldn’t find them in red). Don’t I feel a little foolish right now…

  2. Have two-tons of d6’s from board games, but did not have many poly sets. Buying the “pound-o-dice” from Amazon solved that problem. Will have to arm wrestle my wife for the muffin tin. Sounds like it would be a little noisy though.

  3. Not a bad idea to do that.
    When I originally saw the title, I thought you were referring to using different colours so you could roll all your dice for a turn at once.
    As an example: Imagine a wizard in leather armour needing to make an attack roll, arcane failure, and two types of damage in the same turn. Solution? Two different coloured d20s* and different colours for different types of damage. Saves a ton of time to roll everything at once.
    It works great in other kinds of games too.

    *In D&D Spell failure always increases by 5%.

  4. Maybe, but you’re obviously not using ROYGBV, so I object on general principle. :p

  5. I’ve done this on a per-player basis, when a newbie needed folding into a game of old hands. Works well enough, but there are situations, some of them not uncommon, where there is a need to differentiate between dice of the same type, and these situations slow down as several throws are needed.

    Still, it is a fine idea and one I approve of.

    • If you need to differentiate between dice of the same color, try a mix of dice, all the same color but otherwise distinctive. Yeah, all your d6s are yellow, but there’s the mustard yellow one, the lemon yellow one, the gold one, the yellow with flecks, the yellow with pips, and the tiny yellow one.

  1. Quick Note on Combat « Jack's Toolbox

    […] read there, but it has Combat on my mind, and Gnome Stew just posted a little trick about color-coding your dice that I thought was neat, and all that reminded me of a trick of my own that I’d been meaning […]

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