A Gnome's Ponderings

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Roll and Write games with just one die?

Lowell Kempf
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Microbadge: Icehouse fanMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Golden ReviewerMicrobadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: PnP / DIY fan
Good grief but I have played a lot of Roll and Writes this year.

There are a lot of solitaire options within the Roll and Write world. There are tons of print and play options and they are just about the easiest Print and Play game to make. Roll and Write games have the potential to have a high complexity to component ratio (sometimes depth as well but really not as often) And, related to that last bit, it can be more emotionally and mentally satisfying to spend fifteen minutes on a Roll and Write than a solitaire card game. I feel like I’m doing more.

But, at the moment, between time and space, I am more often playing Roll and Write games with a clipboard and a dice rolling app on my phone. Basically, games you can play on a crowded bus

That does limit me from games that use cards or color-based dice pools or a lot of dice manipulation. And it has me explore some games I might otherwise skip over.

I am currently examining Spellcraft Academy, which the crowded bus requirements and lets me get back to trying out the Legends of Dsyx, a series of games that I started looking at earlier this year. What is particularly striking about the game, which I will properly review at some point, is that you just use one six-sided die.

A Roll and Write (or really any game) that uses just a single die is a choice that honestly rings alarm bells for me. (Which is hysterical because I have played Dungeons and Dragons for decades. That said, I have often said your goal is to get enough modifiers that the actual die roll is the least important part) A single die both limits your choices and your ability to bank on the odds. Two dice create a bell-shaped curve. One die, if it’s fair, gives every number the same chance. Random chance takes over choices and control.

So every Roll and Write that I have seen that just uses one die struggles to give the player real choices. And, honestly, they often don’t very well. Not Another One and Blankout are two that fall short for me. I play them periodically because they work as crowded bus games (I just came up with that term but I am falling in love with it)

Really, the one game that I’ve found that works with one die is 13 Sheep, largely because you have far more space than your potential fencing can handle. That and the ability to rotate fence pieces creates bough choices that the game works as a game and not just a curiosity. It’s one that recommend, particularly for folks who don’t have a lot of PnP supplies or experience.

But it’s the exception that proves the rule. Dice pools and dice manipulation and the ability to work with the odds are where Roll and Write games find their meat.
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