Scott Free Goes Diceless


I never thought it would happen, but I've given up on dice. Despite it's awful format and very poorly written rules, I've stumbled upon the Marvel Universe RPG and love it's cinematic feel. I intend to use it for all my campaigns from now on...even fantasy.

Does anyone else have any experience with the murky waters that are the poorly written rules for this system? I think I have a handle on how it all works now, and I love it. But damn it was a pain in the ass to sift through the crap way that they wrote the thing.

Wow...these boards are dead lately....I can hear my breathing echoing.

Must be Summer, I guess.

Is that what that sound is?

Well damn, I'll just be louder then.

I dont see how a diceless system can actually work, then again ive never seen one written down. I have heard of such systems, here and there, but assumed them to be hoaky and simple, removing the true nature of a "game" away from the action and random-chance of it all. I guess you could use a coin to flip, or a card-deck to pull from to determin a out come of randomness, but what would NO dice be without a subsitute for dice like cards, coins, etc etc be?

can you make me swoon with this system? can you give me insight as to why a hard core gamer and DM would find interesting, usful or just "cool" about diceless systems?

I must admit Scotty, when I saw you write this I thought somthing like

"yup...hes nuts"

But perhaps Im wrong, perhaps Im a jerk...ok ok, I AM a jerk...but what makes this system good for you? You admit that at first it was clumbsy looking, baddly written or some jazz...but then you found a working back bone to the whole, please, on behalf of me and the other three dudes who actually read things here (kidding.,...comon, theres like 12 at lest...during high season) tell us some cool things "above" dice matrix systems that diceless systems have to offer...


Hey all,

Looks like at least some of us are still around for the summer!

Sif, you are 100% correct in that this diceless sytem removes the randomness (which is something I'd been wanting to do for awhile). Essentially, you have point maximums (called Action Numbers) associated with your attributes or abilities, and an energy reserve. You allocate "stones" (their words, not mine) from the energy reserve into the actions you want to cannot allocate more stones than your "Action Number" for that ability/skill/power/whatever. Also, you don't regenerate those stones very quickly, so a character with a low energy reserve (or without some kind of regenerative quality) will tire faster than one that has more stones. If the difficulty of an action is higher than you could ever spend to succeed, then you "don't have the stones" to pull it off.

As an example, let's say I have Acrobatics 4. Acrobatics is one example of an Action that you combine with an Ability (either Strength or Agility). Let's assume I chose Agility as my Ability bonus when I made the character, and that my Agility score is 3. I want to run down the alley, leap off the cart that is parked behind the stable, and grab the edge of the roof to pull my self up. The GM might determine that the Difficulty of this Action is relatively low...say, 3. I can put up to 7 stones from my energy reserve into this action (3 from Agility, and 4 from Acrobatics). I can place far more stones than the Difficulty into the Action, so if I try hard enough I succeed. Assuming that it should be easy, I place 4 stones into the action, and away I go.

The GM may have set the Resistance (which is different than Difficulty) at 5 however...the roof is wet, and the cart is covered in oil from a broken barrel. My 4 stones would be enough under normal circumstances to pull this off with ease...but given the circumstances I was unaware of, it is harder than I expected and I fail. I fall to the alley and whoever I was running from likely catches me.

Basically, with this rules system, it is based on resource allocation rather than probability. There is still the chance of failure with every action you take...but the harder you decide to try the more likely you are to succeed. It was made that way, because when trying to lift a car, it's unlikely that the Hulk would roll a one and fail. The entire point of the system is to remove randomness from the equation.

If randomness is something that you like, then this system isn't for you. If you like to do pretty much what you set out to do, and then realize that (like in real life) you just plain didn't try hard enough...then these are the rules you want.

However, as I said...the book was written by a bunch of drunk grade 3 students or something. Inconsistencies and such make the rules hard to understnd at first. There was also the fact that as I read it, I kept looking for the rest of the rules thinking that there had to me more to it than I could see. Eventually I realized that it really was that simple, and I wasn't gonna find a chapter full of numbers and modifiers and charts.

In short, I really like it. It makes character creation more a matter of choice (though point based RPGs didn't have that issue anyways...just D&D and co.), and does the same for action resolution during game play. People still fail as much as in a probability based rules system...but it's not the result of a bad roll, it's because they underestimated how hard it was or just plain "didn't have the stones" to do it well.

Infatuation's a funny thing, eh?

The resource allocation thing is a nice way to model one aspect of reality, that perhaps other RPG's fail to capture. And the diceless nature of the game is a plot-steering referee's dream. But if that's the only trick this game has to offer, I have a suspicion that you may tire of it after a while, when the novelty wears off.

Personally I happen to like an element of randomness in character creation. Sometimes this leads to quirky, interesting characters rather than stereotypes - eg my favourite character is a mage with a 13 int score who struggles to learn new spells.

And don't forget, the Hulk can 'take 10' in D&D 3e - and there are point-based character creation options in that as well. Not that I'm a starry-eyed D&D fanboy, mind...

SF, have you tries Amber Diceless?
that's the only diceless system I've heard of before this one you just presenterd.

I don't know if I'm exactly "infatuated" with the rules system per wasn't written well enough for that. As I said though, the flaws in the writing are more along the lines of poor editing and layout. But it is nice to get out of the D&D ghetto for awhile ;). It's been refreshing to say the least. I don't think the novelty will wear off all that fast either. One of the things I like the most about the system is that it doesn't really have any tricks. You have what you can do written down, and then you just tell the GM how hard you wanna try and do it. It's been nice having players say "can I try and do this and this with this ability" and for me to just look at them and say, "it's not up to hard do you try?"

You make a good point though about random elements sometimes making interesting characters that you didn't see coming. I guess I've just had enough of that for now, and want to try something different. The fantasy campaign I'm planning is coming along nicely, cause I don't have to look around and find things that fit what I want to do, I don't have to design stuff when I can't find a suitable race/Prestige Class/whatever. I just throw some Actons together and assign them numbers betweeen 1 and 10 and away I go.

The main attraction for me was once I looked past the implied setting (Marvel, of course...and I've never really been a big comics fan), I found a very small rules set that wouldn't get in the way of me and my players telling a good story. I've seen the whole "story vs. it's-a-game" arguement on this board dozens of times, so we don't have to rehash it here. Suffice to say, as me and my players get older, we're more interested in telling a really cool, cinematic story together...and less interested in modifiers and dice and super-balanced rules. We're a close knit group that's played together for years, and we don't care about the rules as much as we used to. It's not even really my decision; I was the one in the group with the most interest in the rules, whereas my players just wanted to have a good time, tell a good story, and pick up their dice as little as possible.

Zipdrive my man...nope, I've never played Amber. From what I heard, too much emphasis is placed on the setting from the novels that it's based on. Of course...Marvel isn't much better for obvious reasons. I have read however that there is some kind of prestige or "class" standing that each player has, and that the rules tend to pit the players against each other competitively within the group. That's not really my cup of tea, but it does enhance the flavour of the books (again, from what I've heard...I've never read Zelazney).

Go home and read some Amber books, pronto!


Are they really that good? I've heard good things about them...but I actually despise reading fantasy novels, despite being a fantasy GM. I'm more of a Bertrand Russell/Stephen Hawking kinda guy in my reading habits. Though I will admit a weakness for anything Moorcock.

Sturgeon's Law applies to fantasy books too.
Zelazney's definately one of the more interesting and unusual fantasy writers out there. If you generally despise fantasy novels, that shouldn't affect your enjoyment of his stuff.
Also, Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Nothing like Zelazney, but if you haven't read it yet then you should.

Do yourself a favor and read at least the first Amber book (I think it's "nine princes of amber"), It's definitely not typical fantasy, and it's pretty short to boot, so it won't take too much of your time.

Tell me what you thought, afterwards.

For what's it worth...the novelty didn't wear off, but my cat seems to like the poker chips you use in this system more than he likes dice. It got annoying, so we switched back to d20.

That...and rolling for damage is fun. ;)

How goes the reading of those Amber books?

HA! Haven't even started them (makes a shamed face). I got into Wheel of Time as I tried running a brief campaign using the Wheel of Time setting and figured I hould have some background. Believe it or not, really good stuff (both the books and the setting amterial).