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  Mechanic #115 - Dice Warriors
Posted: 06/10/11

A simplified combat system where each character class has its own combat die.

  Dice Warriors

Coming back to the Three Hundred after an extended absence, I found a half completed entry 115 for a game I had named "Dice Warriors". The problem is, it was just a bunch of strange notes that didn't make any sense to me. I had obviously started these notes as a way to organize thoughts that I intended to write down within a short amount of time. Unfortunately, I did, which left me with a bunch of gibberish. If I had bothered to do my illustrations first, maybe I would've had something usable.

But the name "Dice Warriors" does inspire somewhat. It'd be terrible to waste such a good name. After I failed to reconstruct whatever the heck the original idea was, I decided to just start over and take the name literally. Each die is a warrior.

  Each Die Is a Warrior

This is a competitive game in which two (or more) players have a collection of dice warriors. Each die represents a single warrior, and will be used tactically as a single unit. In fact, I'm thinking that graphically, the dice will be made up to look like little characters - each face of the die will depict a side of the character. For instance, the front face will show the character from the front. I think it would be nifty if you could set them up to look like miniatures, only cubes (or the more interesting 8 or 20 sided shapes).


Fig 115-1. Six-sided die with each face drawn up to look like a knight from different perspectives.
On each face of the die are small symbols which indicate a particular action, unique to that class of dice. For instance, a Knight-class die might have symbols which represent melee attacks, defensive stances, or even protective auras that support others. A monster might have symbols for breathing fire, attacking with claws, and so on.


Fig 115-2. Because my example wasn't awesome, here's an example I found doing a Google image search on "monster dice".

Not all dice in a particular class needs to have the same actions or the same quantity of actions. Assuming each die is unique, you might have Cecil the Knight which has three melee attack sides while Sir Harold the Wall has one melee attack icon, but two defensive wall icons. All dice from a particular class draw abilities from the same pool, but may have a different combination of abilities on each side. Each class also has a default abilities which I'll talk about in a moment.

  It's Actually a Miniatures Games

The game board is a small box in which both players roll their collection of dice warriors simultaneously. I think it should be a box or something with sides, to contain the dice within a specific area. For, you see, this is actually a tactical miniatures game. Where the dice land when rolled represents the position of that unit on the playing field.


Fig 115-3. Picture of a small tray with a bunch of dice warriors strewn across it.
Players then take turns activating each of their dice warriors, performing either the action listed on the top of the die or the default action for that particular class. For instance, a Knight who rolls a Charge may either use the Charge ability or the default Knight ability, Melee Attack. Each die can be activated only once in a phase.

Once all dice have been activated, the phase is over. Collect all the surviving dice from your respective teams, including dice in the reserve pool, and roll again and repeat.

The basic actions the dice perform are not that different from what you might find in a miniatures game.

  • Melee Attack - Defeat an enemy within 1 inch of activated die (move defeated die to the defeated pool).

  • Advance - Move activated die up to 2 inches in any direction.

  • Charge - Move activated die up to 2 inches and defeat any enemy die within 1 inch.

  • Retreat - Remove activated die from field, add to safe pool (to be rolled next phase).

  • Incite Fear - Move adjacent enemy to reserve pool (to be rolled next phase).

  • Fireball - Defeat an enemy with Line of Sight within 3 inches of activated die.

  • Ally Support - Reroll an ally within 3 inches.

  • Force Strategy - Reroll enemy within 3 inches.

  • Befuddle Enemy - Flip enemy to an adjacent side.

  • Magic Barrier - Self and Allies within 3 inches immune to magic attacks.

  • Call Familiar - Move animal die from support pool to reserve pool.

  • Resurrection - Take one ally from the defeated pool and move to reserve pool.

  • Call Reinforcements - Roll ally from reserve pool into field. Activate action immediately.

  • Summon Skeleton - Move skeleton die from support pool to reserve pool.

  • Call Meteor - Take meteor die from support pool, roll into play immediately. Destroy all die it touches.

  • Aura of Range - (Passive) All ally ranges are double for this phase.
  • Remember that each class has a default action they can perform instead of the action listed on the die. So each die will always be able to at least perform some basic action each turn.


    Fig 115-4. Line of sight for gray knight.
    Line of Sight is based on the front side of the die. If this side is at the bottom, there is no line of sight. If this side is at the top, LoS extends in all directions. If it faces a particular direction, LoS extends in a 180 degree arc coming out from that side. Generally, ranged attacks require LoS while melee attacks can hit anything with 1" of the activated die.

    There are three basic pools. The defeated pool holds all the warriors defeated during battle. Certain abilities can move dice from this pool to the reserve pool. These warriors are not rolled again.

    The reserve pool represents allies that will be rolled during the next phase. There are abilities which will move allies to the reserve pool, either from the field or from the defeated pool. Generally speaking, allies in reserve are not in play and can not be attacked, though some abilities can specifically target reserve units.

    The support pool contains dice that can be used additionally as part of field abilities. For instance, a Ranger may add a single animal die to the support pool to be called later. A Wizard might have three meteor dice that can be summoned. Summoned creatures are added to the reserve pool and are considered active units for the remainder of the game. In general, support dice are removed from play after being used once and can not be summoned or used for the remainder of the battle.

    Passive abilities are active the second they are rolled. Their unit does not need to be activated and elect to use that abilities. As such, when activated, they may only use their default class abilities when activated.

      A Note On Randomness

    There is a lot of randomness in this game. At the very least, what abilities are available to use, your units' facing, and their position in relation to each other are entirely up to chance. However, I think there is a lot of strategy that could be had here in the order in which you activate units. Since death is quick and instantaneous, the order of activation could be the difference between victory and defeat.

    Similarly, choosing the proper units to roll would also make a pretty big difference in how the game plays. Having units that can move or attack from a distance makes their positions less problematic, while being able to roll abilities that modify the various pools could stack things in your favor. Ranged units are very powerful, but are limited heavily by the need for their front side to be facing in the right direction. Melee units can hit in all directions by are limited by needing to be close to an enemy.

    The trick is to make the strategy about dealing with uncertainty. Rather than relying on lucky rolls, create situations where the randomness forces different strategies. Let the randomness create the situation. Let the strategies overcome it.

      Further Possibilities

  • Terrain can be set up in the box. I like the idea of the terrain being made out of dice too (ie a tree is two dice stacked on top of each other), but the force of rolling dice warriors into it will make all terrain temporary. This might be useful, such as a wall of dice that when hit, create boulders around the field blocking LoS. Or you could just glue the dice together to make solid, indestructible terrain?

  • I toyed with the idea of multi-dice enemies. Basically, roll the "head" dice, then add the other dice after the initial roll. For instance, roll a snake's head, then append the two body dice to the backside of the die. Or roll a troll's head. Afterwards, add the body dice in the same facing directly underneath it. The question is what to do when the front/back sides are on the tops or bottoms where you can't add dice to it.

  • Instead of rolling all the dice at the same time, perhaps alternate rolling one at a time. This could give a little bit more strategy to placement and make things that smacking enemies across the board even more satisfying. In fact, you could add passive rules for smacking enemies, like warriors who smack enemies during a roll defeat those enemies instantly. Wizards who smack any enemy dice during a roll are defeated themselves. Or something like that.

  • These rules are based on the premise of having six sided dice. The LoS rules won't work very well on a 12-sided die, where no die will ever land with an appropriate front facing. Using dice with different side will require a different set up than I used above.

  • Similarly, not all dice are created at the same size. Perhaps there can be rules for "Large" dice, or even units which can change in size. For instance, a Large Slime which, when defeated, adds two regular sized Slime dice to the reserve pool. Each of them are replaced by two small sized Slime dice, before being defeated once and for all.



  • Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.