# Is there a problem using 6 sided dice in pen and paper games?

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I've never played a pen and paper RPG.  I'm interested in them, but I've never really had an opportunity to play.  In high school I was a huge nerd, and I hung around with other nerds, but for whatever reason none of us was into pen and paper games, and playing one just never really came up (in fact, my impression of D&D was that it was an old game that had been popular in the 80s, but which was out of fashion by the time the 90s rolled around).

BUT, I am fascinated by their mechanics, and I've been wondering recently why the norm for most of them (as far as I can tell) is to use twenty-sided dice.  Is there a strong reason why the games don't use standard six sided dice?  Like, why not give the chartacters lower stats (say, between 1 and 10 like in the original Fallouts) and resolve everything with 1d6?

Given my inexperience with actually playing the games, I feel like there might be some really obvious reason that I'm missing.  Is there some problem with the odds, or the spread of possible outcomes?  Or is it purely because leveling up a character means that their stats will get higher and thus require larger dice-roll scores to properly resolve stat checks or combat?

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My thought is that the dice chosen is typically used to represent the chance of success the designers want something to have and the more numbers the more nuance you can have.

Lets say you want a check to have a base 60% chance to fail.  60% of 6 is 3.6; so to represent 60% with a 6 sided dice you either have to go with 3/6 (50% chance) or 4/6 (67%) chance.  If you went with ten sided dice you could make 6/10 your score and achieve a 60% base fail rate.  If you go with a 20 sided dice, you can now start looking at half-percentages on one die (excepting .5).  So 65% would be 13.

Note some systems used to use direct percentile dice (two ten sided dice, 0 - 9) allowing the player to roll the tens and ones slots on a percentage up to 100% or up from 00% (depending on how you agreed to set your rolls).  This of course leads to the obvious problem of arguing over which dice was the 10s slot...

Original D&D stats were derived from 3d6 (3 six sided dice, or 1 six sided dice rolled 3 times).  So STR, CON, DEX, INT, WIS, CHA ranged from 3-18 ± racial stats with very little means of raising stats.  You used to also need a full battery of dice - d4, d6, d8, d12, d20, percentile dice and rarely a 100 sided die. And in the early days use could use chits for non-standard dice roles like 1d3 or 1d5...anyhow d20 system kind of standardized things to d4, d6, d8, d12, d20 and thanks to the open gaming license, a lot of systems revised their core rules to be more d20 friendly as I understand it.

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There's lots of PnP RPGs that uses 6-sided die in various manners.

Warhammer RolePlay 1st edition uses a six-sided die for damage rolls and percentage dice for everything else.

GURPS (Genereric Universal RolePlaying System) uses six-sided dice exclusively.

StarWars RPG, the original from WestEnd Games, also uses six-sided dice exclusively.

That's just the ones I remember on top of my head.

Edited by TMZuk
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• 2 weeks later...

It's also quicker and easier reading 1d20 than several D6's aswell, unless you've got a head for maths adding up the sums for d6's can take a few seconds wich some people find distracting.

I personally prefer D6's, but I'm biased since that is what my favourite games used (Swedish games; Eon and Neotech)

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. - H.L. Mencken

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• 3 weeks later...

Multiple die throws do offer a simple minimum value [the number of dice], with a common maximum value.   I've played many that would assign 3 six sided to a damage roll to get a value of 3-18 points damage.  Steve Jackson's "Toon" RPG only uses six sided dice, and even uses two six sided for a 11 to 66 value.

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• 2 weeks later...

IMO the biggest issue with a D6 (if you're only using one) arises when you have someone who is either very good or very bad at something, but still has at least 1/6 chance of failing/succeeding.

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• 2 months later...

Multiple die throws do offer a simple minimum value [the number of dice], with a common maximum value.   I've played many that would assign 3 six sided to a damage roll to get a value of 3-18 points damage.  Steve Jackson's "Toon" RPG only uses six sided dice, and even uses two six sided for a 11 to 66 value.

Multiple dice also cause the results to be more bell-curved.  It can be harder for some people to get their heads around what that means but it does tend to be better in the long run I find.

"That rabbit's dynamite!" - King Arthur, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

"Space is big, really big." - Douglas Adams

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I used almost all of my set in WHFR: D4, D6, D8, D12, D20 and D100.

D100 is life.

It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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Actually forgot to mention, that if they have D20 based rule systems, you're much more likely to need to buy dice from them, same with the other odd dice, d4, d8, d10, d12, d100. Most people (I know of) have atleast one yahtzee game at home.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. - H.L. Mencken

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d10

I doubt there are people using this:

It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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One of the reasons systems use increasingly polyhedral dice is that it gives more room for characters to grow whilst having the random range remain relevant. (check my alliteration).

Take the skill check system in D20 rules, for instance.  You roll a D20 and add your skill, and if you hit the difficulty target you succeed.  D20+Skill allows the random variance of the dice to remain relevant to the outcome if you have a low skill number like 4 or a highish skill number like 24 (I'm AFB and haven't D20d in a while, bit ISTR it's up to 4 points at level 1 and then 1 point per level to advance a class skill), because even at level 20 the random component of the die roll is still nearly 50% of the outcome.  (Ofc. you can add bonuses to make it less so, but the concept is still there)

If you used a straight 1D6 your skill numbers would have to be lower, and so the range of skill levels of a character your system could represent would be much narrower.

Which is why games that use D6s like the WEG Star Wars game tend to have the player throwing handfuls of the little buggers.

Even with D10s systems that use them like World of Darkness tend to use several at once.

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One of the reasons systems use increasingly polyhedral dice is that it gives more room for characters to grow whilst having the random range remain relevant. (check my alliteration).

Take the skill check system in D20 rules, for instance.  You roll a D20 and add your skill, and if you hit the difficulty target you succeed.  D20+Skill allows the random variance of the dice to remain relevant to the outcome if you have a low skill number like 4 or a highish skill number like 24 (I'm AFB and haven't D20d in a while, bit ISTR it's up to 4 points at level 1 and then 1 point per level to advance a class skill), because even at level 20 the random component of the die roll is still nearly 50% of the outcome.  (Ofc. you can add bonuses to make it less so, but the concept is still there)

If you used a straight 1D6 your skill numbers would have to be lower, and so the range of skill levels of a character your system could represent would be much narrower.

Which is why games that use D6s like the WEG Star Wars game tend to have the player throwing handfuls of the little buggers.

Even with D10s systems that use them like World of Darkness tend to use several at once.

There are a few D6 "roll under" games out there aswell, even if I can only recall two Swedish ones ontop of my head. "ObT6" is a Swedish rule system, as they call it, or "Obegränsad Tärning 6"/"Unlimited Dice 6" where 6's explode into two D6, until you roll no more 6's. This can be a source of great fun (Damage) or massive tears (Skill checks). While it's great fun to roll 178 damage with three base dice, with a damage system that is ludicrously detailed and has "descriptors" that sometimes puts Fallout AND Dark Heresy to shame, rolling two dies ("Easy difficulty") when your average skill level is 15 can still be nervewracking.

I'm going to keep on rambling, because I really love this ruleset, every 10 damage you do means you do an "Special damage" to your target, you have 26 different hitlocations, and each hitlocation has it's own "special damage" chart, such as bonepipe, ribs, spine, heart, lungs, 'organ damage' with it's own special chart for wich part of the guts you destroy, eyeball, genitalia, skin damage, flesh wound, deep cut and the list.. goes... on. With variations for the three damage types ofcourse, Slashing, Piercing and bludgeoning. And a damage chart for fire damage.

Awesome fun once you've memorized the ruleset. Only me and the other GM has it memorized anymore though, and noone else wants to play the old versions of these games. ;_;

Edited by Azdeus

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. - H.L. Mencken

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Exploding dice are often fun.  The Star Wars D6 game also had an exploding dice rule.  One of the dice you rolled in each handful was special, and if it rolled a 6 it exploded and you rolled it again.

It allowed even improbable events to sometimes happen (your skill at a thing was determined by the number of dice you rolled, so if you were average you'd roll 2 or 3 but if you were really good you might have 5 or so).

IIRC it also made fumbles happen though, if you hit the success total but the special dice was a 1 it was "you succeed but..."

I'm not a fan of hugely complicated damage rules.  They might be fun to write and fun to read in a rulebook, but boy are they slow to play.

(stories of improbably long damage rolls aside, Munchkin D20 had the Nuke spell.  Roll one million D6 damage separately to every object within one mile of the target.)

In other tales of crazy dice systems, old school Deadlands had a fun one.  You used all the dice, your stats were each a number and type of dice, ranging from 1D4 to 4D12.  And if that wasn't enough you used a pack of cards to cast spells with (play a hand of poker with the devil to determine strength of effect, hope you didn't draw a joker).

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The one drawback to those exploding dice is that they sometime take ages to roll, atleast in Eon & Neotech (The Swedish games I've talked about). I never got to play the old SW game, since the 3.5 version was out when we started looking into it, but their latest iteration has some über speshul dices. They follow the normal variations but each and every one has symbols instead of numerals. Ofcourse you get a conversion guide, but you really have to buy their special dices to avoid headache.

Fumbles can be fun, I managed to lop my own head of in Eon once. But they can generate some really tense moments if the GM handles them well. Eon and Neotech generated fumbles if you rolled more than two 6's on the first hand and failed with your skillcheck. A REALLY skilled character had 20 in his favoured skill, a normal one had 15-16, and a normal difficulty skillcheck was 3D6, so fumbling was quite common. You did'nt add the values of the 6's to your roll, but since they explode into two dice that is little comfort.

Yes and no, when we had the rules and hitlocations memorized a combat encounter took around one hour to play out. You weren't limited in your actions but for how many extra dices you dared roll and you had quite alot of combat manouvers to attempt, so you felt alot more engaged than I've ever done in more simple games.

Our DnD encounters take about as long, but instead of really engaging and trying to get it to play out well in your head, you just roll that dice and see what happens, with some rare exceptions. One really has to put more effort into making the fights interesting.

Haha! Nice! The magic system for that Swedish game was more of a thesis in how magic would work than an actual ruleset, magic was pretty useless as combat magic, but quite powerful if prepared well. It was possible to do similar things as a "nuke", the rules allowed it, but you'd have to venture into "crazy prepared" territory and years of work to get there.

The fluff for the magic was really well done too, there were several theories and lines of thought put into it, wich made for some awesome roleplaying moments when you debated your mates on magical theory!

Ahh, sounds like the rule system for the Firefly RPG, but I love the sound of having a pack of cards for some extra effects.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. - H.L. Mencken

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I had one of those. The problem with using it was getting it to stop rolling; it's like a golf ball. In practice, it was just a faster to use two ten-sided die instead.

Edited by Gizmo
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The books have sidebars which explain the reasoning behind it. There are optional variations of dice used and they explain what the difference will be. A twenty sided die has 5% for each number and covers 20 points. If you rolled a six sided die then you have 16.6% chance for each number and a +1 modifier from a six sided dice game would be a +3 modifier in comparison for a twenty sided die game. That means a larger die allows more room for character advancement.

If you used the 3 six sided dice method you would have numbers between 3 and 18 with a bell curve, so it favors average results. According to the D&D game designers that also means there would be more emphasis on maximizing your points because you can't rely on luck to win as much.

They also have a variation which does dice explosions which they suggest for epic games which reduces the chance of always winning and always losing.

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As an aside, sometimes the dice fit the game thematically. I only know of one example though: In Nomine / Magna Veritas (players are angels or demons) uses 3d6 for every roll, i.e. the d666 in their parlance.

Endure. In enduring, grow strong.

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• 8 months later...

I had one of those. The problem with using it was getting it to stop rolling; it's like a golf ball. In practice, it was just a faster to use two ten-sided die instead.

I found that as well, a d100 is an interesting novelty, but not super practical in my experience. Mine ended up being a bit fragile, too. I had it split along its "equator" within the first couple of months of having it, it was a real letdown.

Has anyone used dice rings? I found those quite interesting, good when you want something to fidget with as well. And I guess they don't really have as much restriction on what can be on them while staying statistically fair.

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• 2 weeks later...

As an occasional w40k player I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the hundreds of d6 I own, and the dozens i've lost when they've fallen off tables and disappeared to Nuffle knows where.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

Tea for the teapot!

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D4s are worse than legos. Nothing beats the feeling of being painfully ambushed by an inanimate object. Anyway it's not about the practicality of it as much as nerding out on a bunch of weird dice.

You could do it all with two D10s surely.

greg358 from Darksouls 3 PVP is a CHEATER.

That is all.

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D4s seem just like a way to help sell dice sets. Just toss them in a river and pair up numbers on your D8s.

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In a way I wish I could get rid of d10s in my games. Just the inconsistency they create by being the only standard die that isn't a platonic solid slightly irks me. But the utility of being able to be use them for percent rolls means they're not easy to dispense with.

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• 1 month later...

Required die needs for good PnP are d4, d6, d8, d10 and d20. For stat checks, weapon dam etc. D100 can be easily done with 2 d10 rolls. Therefor nothing above d20 is needed. These dice were needed for DnD type gaming. However most modern games work strictly off of percentage chance and would only require a d10. The d20 was mainly used for THACO rolls to determine hits, critical hits and critical misses. To hit armor class zero. If you play games using DnD rules like Baldur's Gate you will immediately see the necessity and use of the d20 die rolls.

​PnP requires a lot of imagination and good bonds to reach fullest enjoyment and avoid fights. The most important position is DM or coordinator as the DM's primary goal is to keep it enjoyable for all players. Most people make bad DM's as they take things personally and/or compete against the players. Me vs. them. All players have to do is respond to given stimuli.  The  DM supplies that stimuli and shapes it as it progresses in a fair enjoyable environment. DM'ing requires a lot of preparation and work and level headedness. Leave your ego at the door alpha personality. I believe 9 out of 10 people are incapable of good DM'ing  no matter how much they want to do it. Remember, as DM you are responsible for keeping it enjoyable for all players. Not just yourself.

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Most games I've noticed use a d20 instead of a d6 is mainly bc for most rolls u will only use 1 d20 while d6 usually is alot of dice with 1-5-6 being miss/hits. The amount of d6 can get to crazy amounts.

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• 4 weeks later...

D6 is much more popular than you'd believe.  Fate, FUDGE, Traveller, Burning Wheel/Mouse Guard and a host of other systems use D6's exclusively. They usually overcome the statistical limitations of D6 by introducing some other concept to expand the number of possible results.

Percentile systems naturally use the D100 combo, some use pools of D10's (WoD), some use exclusively D20. A small group of games use custom dice (usually D6 though) and a few are entirely diceless.

It's only DnD that pushes the entire set, and even that is a remnant of the past (there are many ways of solving damage, and practically anything else without dedicated dice and the added complexity). However, since the game is huge relative to all other RPG systems, it paints the whole hobby in its image - as is the case here.

И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска,
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
Све је свето и честито било
И миломе Богу приступачно.

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