A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

30 April 2011

Z is for Zero Dice Roleplaying


I collect dice. I don't have a huge collection, but I have more than my wife can believe.

I'll be honest: I love dice. All kinds of dice. All shapes, sizes, colors, and numbers of sides.

I love rolling them, stacking them, and spinning them like makeshift tops.

I love playing games with them, allowing them to decide the fate of my characters and of my players' characters.

But are they necessary to a good game? To an evening of fun?

As much as I love dice, I think the answer to those questions is "No." Dice aren't necessary for roleplaying. They ARE necessary for rollplaying, but not roleplaying.

What? "Blasphemy!" I hear you say. Yes, at one time I would have shouted the same thing, proclaimed heresy to the world from the mountaintops.

A year or so ago, however, I had an interesting experience. I had a DM that sat us down for a one-shot adventure. He gave us pre-generated characters, but not generic characters. He had rolled these up based upon what he knew about us, and what he knew we typically liked to play. This way we were able to immediately identify with our characters and closely associate with them.

Then he took his enormous gallon-size zipper-close freezer bag full of random RPG dice, stood, and locked it in the top drawer of his file cabinet. He literally locked it.

Then he grinned at us.

For the next five hours he took us on a journey of imagination. There were no miniatures to move around (another heresy to a miniature collector) and no dice to roll. all we had in front of us were our sodas, pizza, and character sheets.

It was a freaking blast.

There were no incessant trips to the books for rulings, no references to attacks of opportunity or feats. Instead, we assisted the DM in crafting an elegant story. ... OK, maybe "elegant" is an overstatement. But it was a lot of fun. Yeah. Zero dice was fun.

Looking back now, I can see where it could have gone horribly wrong. We had a good DM and a DM that we trusted. We've gamed as a group for many years and we knew his style. This trust and familiarity helped us, as I said, craft a story. We built upon each others' thoughts and actions. The plot grew with each round.

What if it had been someone else, though? What if it had been a DM with an "me-versus-them" mentality? You know the type, the type that gets upset when his pet monsters get massacred? The kind that preach "balance," insisting upon making sure the characters are balanced, but whose baddies are way out of whack with the players? The kind that believes it's the DMs job to "win" the game?

Without trust, without some familiarity, I don't know that it could work. Maybe it would, if you were lucky. This isn't a matter of meeting a new group at your FLGS and taking a stab at a one-shot. There, you still have the chance that the roll of the dice will even the playing field between hapless characters and a bloodthirsty DM. If you take away the balancing factor of the dice, it could be costly--both in terms of characters' lives and in terms of players' desires to continue to game.

I don't know when or if I'll try it again. It was an incredibly exhausting experience, almost to an emotional level. In fact, it was something akin to a birth--the act of creation is exhausting.

I'm interested if any of my readers out there have ever had a similar gaming experience and, if so, what are your thoughts and feelings on this style of gaming? Let me know, would you?

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