Using two D6 dice to track character attributes up to 43 and three D6 to track up to 99—without pen and paper

If you haven’t discovered this yet, one of the self-enforced design restrictions we’ve adhered to is to build an RPG board game that doesn’t require pen and paper. This presents a number of challenges when dealing with numbers. For one, RPGs usually require a lot of calculations to arrive at all of a character’s various values and it only makes sense to simply write them down. What we’ve done to mitigate this is to only use simple addition to determine character attributes. There’s nothing like take X value, divide by 4, and round down. Nevertheless, once the attribute is calculated, how do we show it?

From the very beginning, I always wanted to use D6 dice to show attributes. Before we discovered we had a scaling problem, I figured one or two D6 per attribute would be sufficient, but this is definitely not the case. Some values are going to go up into the 30s (maybe even 40s, but unlikely) by the end of the campaign. If we just used D6 dice and capped attributes at a value of 24, this would require us to include close to 500 dice in the box! (I mentioned this in my previous post).

The immediate consideration to avoid this was to use D12s, two D10s, or even D20s. The problem with these dice is that they just roll around too easily. The D6 cube is stable and it’s a lot faster to pick up a D6, rotate it around to find the value you need, and then place it back down. Fumbling around with a D20 seemed too cumbersome.

I’ve spent numerous hours looking up threads on Reddit and Board Game Geek to see how others have solved tracking large values. The most frequent suggestion made was to simplify. We’ve done a lot of simplifying, including removing 6 additional attributes, but often these suggestions are coming from the premise of board game design. In addition to being a board game, Gambit is an RPG, so we need to maintain some level of complexity to handle the RPG aspects of game play.

Caleb came up with a unique solution that allows us to use D6 dice and cut the number of dice required by less than half. Depending on which attribute, his solution assigns two or three dice to each. Two of the dice have custom denominations:

  1. Standard D6: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  2. Custom D6: 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9
  3. For attributes that go really high, another custom D6: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

For most of the atrributes, the first two dice will allow players to display values 1-43. Zero is implied by leaving one die off the sheet. We may print zeroes on the sheet or do cut-outs where the dice go so they are inset with the sheet.

For the attributes that go up to higher numbers, the additional custom die (4-9) allow players to display values up to 99. The great thing about this solution is that the system can now scale way way beyond the scope of our campaign, so future GMs can go crazy in their home brews.

This system also displays the attribute values, as they are, at all times, preventing players from having to do calculations in their heads.

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