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Three Ways To Use Writers Dice In Your Game

Posted By Phil Vecchione On January 26, 2012 @ 4:00 am In GMing Advice | 7 Comments

A few months ago, I backed a Kickstarter for a product called Writers Dice, by Daniel Solis. I just got my dice this past week, and wanted to use them in my All For One game. So I started to think about how to work them in. I came up with three ways that I could use them to enhance my game and add a bit of randomness to it.

Writers Dice: A Quick Summary

Writers dice are d6’s, but rather than the standard numbers they have the following words on them: AND, OR, AS, SO, BUT, and IF. You use the dice to connect one thought to another. For instance:  The heroes must enter the dungeon…ROLL…SO… that they can find the cure to the plague in the town…ROLL…BUT… the cure is guarded by trolls.  Simple and fun.

The dice were not made for any specific game, though they are a great fit for story-based RPGs like Do: Pilgrims Of  The Flying Temple or Fiasco. But what about more traditional RPG’s like D&D or my current campaign, All For One?  How could these Writers dice help enhance the game?

As I worked on my most recent session notes, I sat the dice on the table next to me, and started to look for ways to integrate them into my game. I came up with a few ideas…

Idea One: Consequences of Failure

This concept is covered in the Writers Dice guide and is not my own idea, but its a natural fit. When a character fails a skill check, there should be consequences for their failure (something I talked about before). Often GM’s, myself included, take the mental shortcut and just say that the skill check failed.  Writers dice can be used to help create consequences for failure.

GM: Make a Larceny check to pick the lock.
Player: Failed.
GM: You fail to pick the lock. Rolls: OR
GM: The lock does not open OR the lock opens but your lock pick is broken in the lock.

It can work just as well with with a successful check, but for my use, I am going to stick with just failure since success often has a good definition of what will happen built in.

Idea Two: Enhance Player Narrative

I like to include scenes in my game that are not key to the plot, but are there for the player to expand and grow their character. For instance: The character goes and talks to their teacher, goes shopping in town, or they decide to live it up in the tavern. In these cases, I typically will just ask the character how it went, and often get a very safe answer: “I talked to the shopkeeper for a bit and then got the equipment.”

With the writers dice, you can now ask the player to narrate and include one or more writers dice in their description.  For instance:

GM: “You went to see your teacher…”
Player:  rolls  AS and AND
Player:  …AS he was in the middle of an argument with another student, AND the student attacked my teacher.”

Now from a simple trip to visit his master, a new story has unfolded.

Idea Three: NPC Motivations

You can use Writers Dice to help decide how an NPC is going to react to a situation. Perhaps you know the overall disposition of the NPC: friendly, unfriendly, indifferent, etc, but the players now ask a favor. Using the Writers dice you can enhance the NPC’s response.

Player:  Captain, you must take us across the sea, we need to get this cure to our people.
GM: The Captain is unfriendly. Rolls: BUT
GM: The Captain is no friend of yours, BUT her sister lives across the sea so she will help.

A Dash of IF and a Sprinkle of SO

Writers Dice can be a fun way to enhance your game. The word on the die takes you down a path that you may not have thought of at first, and in doing so can create those serendipitous moments of gaming that are unforgettable.

Writers dice are not out for general sale yet. I talked to Daniel Solis on G+ and he let me know that after all the Kickstarter backers have been sent their dice, they will be available for general sale. Details will be posted on his blog page about Writers Dice. That pages also has links for getting the Writers Dice app (iOS, Android, and Windows) as well as the Writers Dice Guide.

I have named three ways you could use Writers Dice in your game, now how would you use them? If you have a set, what ways have you worked them into your game?

About  Phil Vecchione

A gamer for 30 years, Phil cut his teeth on Moldvay D&D and has tried to run everything else since then. He has had the fortune to be gaming with the same group for almost 20 years. When not blogging or writing RPG books, Phil is a husband, father, and project manager. More about Phil.




7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "Three Ways To Use Writers Dice In Your Game"

#1 Comment By Razjah On January 26, 2012 @ 7:24 am

This is a really neat idea about how to help kick start more creativity and help bring more to the table. I would never have come up with using the die for a consequence of failure.

You can even do this really cheap with regular 6 sided dice and a chart. Heck, you can use it for some cool adjectives on a d8 or d10… I’m working on those charts when my players are making characters this Saturday. Thanks for the lightning bolt to my brain, Phil.

#2 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 26, 2012 @ 7:37 am

@Razjah – There’s no reason a chart and a couple of ordinary d6s wouldn’t work, but these are actually really nice dice. They’re slightly oversized, they feel good in your hand, and they’re pleasant to roll. Yes, I’m a huge dice dork, but I still think they’re worth the money.

#3 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On January 26, 2012 @ 7:42 am

Phil, have you thought of tying the Writer’s Dice to Style Points? If the player spends a Style point then you roll the writer’s dice.

As an option, you can allow the player to have the Style point back if she comes up with the explanation based on the roll.

In any event, I’ve decided that I need these dice!

#4 Comment By DanielSolis On January 30, 2012 @ 9:31 am

@Walt Ciechanowski – Hey Walt, here’s your chance! We’re selling off our inventory on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/SmartPlayGames

#5 Comment By Tsenn On February 1, 2012 @ 7:21 am

That’s a pretty neat way to complicate things. I like it.

#6 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On February 3, 2012 @ 8:34 am

@DanielSolis – I have! Thanks!

#7 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On February 3, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

I’ve seen chatter about these, and this article convinced me to buy four of my own. Two for the table, two for my office.


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