This is a version of an article that first appeared in the March 2012 issue of Game Developer magazine.


The simple die roll is one of the single most vexing tools in the designer’s repertoire.  Rolling dice is fun.  Landing double-sixes is a lot of fun.  Seeing big critical hit numbers pop across big bad boss monster’s head is deeply satisfying.  And yet, the experienced designer knows that, much of the time, the dice are his enemy. Which is tragic, of course.  Most game designers, at the core, love absurd amounts of dice rolling.

There are few ways to get a room full of RPGers excited than to bring back the fond memories of the Rolemaster Critical Hit Tables, where simple acts like trying to climb a ladder might result in accidentally dropping your sword and dismembering your own arm.  The sheer magic and hilarity of events like this is transcendental – it’s a story that will be described to other gamers for years after the fact.  What is often is only fun in retrospect is passing that point and actually playing further as a one-armed Paladin. Continue reading