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Jon Chambers
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Dragon's bounty is a game for 2+ players. The winner is the first to kill the dragon or the last to be dead.

The game is half an hour long, but your first game will probably take an hour. You must print 62 cards and supply 4d6 (four six sided dice).

Play tests so far have been very positive, but this is my first time getting testers to learn from the rules rather than from me teaching. So these rules may or may not have a game breaking typo. (I hope not. I've looked through them very carefully.)

If you don't have time to play, please, just download the file and give me some first impressions. All artwork is placeholder, and all formatting is functional only. I'd love to see this game with thousands of dollars worth of art in it one day though.

https://1drv.ms/f/s!Ap4vkK0n_GJBkFfviS9-ktNPScLr (last updated 2-10-2016)

Please, ask me any questions. I have a niggling feeling I've left critical information out on this post, while boring everyone with irrelevant information.
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michael brown
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I have read the rules. I personally prefer text to flow charts, so I am happy that you included that version. (I have never seen such a large flow chart in a rules doc before).

I would print your game up and give it a shot. I will post here when done (it might take a few days to get all the stuff cut out).

If you would like to repay the favor, my game is here.

<Edit>I just went to print it up and asked myself "Where are the card image files?"</Edit>
 
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Jon Chambers
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The link takes you to two files. The card files are the second one.

I checked out your game. Since having my daughter, attending my game groups have been more trouble than they're worth, and even if I did attend, I suspect this game isn't quite to the genre they'd enjoy. So I hope you accept my detailed edits as substitute.

One thing I will say as someone who's just read the rules, is that the game sends a very good strong environmental message. However, a game with a good strong environmental message is much like a house shaped like a giant dog. Yes, it's awesome, but what sort of design sacrifices were made to achieve it? Are the bedrooms, kitchen and toilets all in the ideal place at the ideal size?

I have the same hesitation with this. When designing, did you put the game first, or the message first?

Very few games have a strong ethical moral and play well. Two exceptions come to mind. Corporate America was a brilliant game, that sadly was printed almost at a loss after an underwhelming Kickstarter. Even once players have the message of how corrupt politics can be, it's still lots of fun to role play out being corrupt politicians. Even once the role play wears thin, the game underneath has legs.

The other exception is Landlords. Landlords itself wasn't successful, but it inspired Monopoly, the second best selling game of all time. Landlords presented itself as the bleak grim reality of fighting to pay rent, though Monopoly jazzed it up and changed the message to "who wants to be rich and own houses!?"

This game may have legs under the environmental message, and it may not. I propose the following test to find out:

Find a person who is very skilled at board games in general but has never played your game before. Have a few practise rounds, and restart the game once they're confident they understand the rules and the best strategy.

Play the game through three times. If you beat him all three times, the game has legs. If not, your game lacks depth to be a Euro Game, and you should consider either a major design overhaul or scrapping the game entirely.
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Jon Chambers
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My rules, after the flowchart, feel badly worded. I did the best I can, but I still hate them. So many nested clauses.

Most notable is: If you choose to adventure, and if you face a monster, and if you defeat that monster, and if you choose to keep adventuring after defeating it, then you should...

The resulting gibberish is a document with sections, subsections, sub-subsections, sub-sub-subsections, sub-sub-sub-subsections, and sub-sub-sub-sub-subsections. With all that mess, you can understand why I just drew out the flow chat instead.
 
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michael brown
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Thanks - I haven't used one drive before, so I just couldn't find the other file.

Also, thanks for the feedback about my game's theme. Your exact complaint is something that I have talked to people about a lot.

Honestly my goal in making the game has nothing to do with protecting the environment. It was initially surprising to me that people assumed that, however I have gotten used to that by now. The only way of winning my game is to destroy the environment, just like the only way to win Dragon's Bounty is to kill people and steal treasure. Neither game really says anything about weather the actions of the players are good or not.

I am wondering right now if I need to rip out the theme entirely and make it about some fantasy world so that I can prevent people from getting hung up on the environment so much.

My actual goal in making this game was to make a worker placement game that fixed the flaws that I saw in other worker placement games (the limited nature of placement slots encouraged players to spite-place, and the fact that you get so few workers). The theme is definitely ingrained into the game, however it was chosen because I like Easter Island and find the history of the Rapa Nui civilization fascinating.

They actually did destroy their environment to move these statues to the shore, and that is amazing to me.

If anything I have had a hard time keeping the history out of the game, not an environmental message. I have tried hard not to add a statue toppling period into the game - I can't find a way to do it without adding in take-that mechanics, and I don't want those in this game.

That said, your question about the depth of strategy in the game is valid. One of my regular playtester's calls this game the "Mike wins" game because I tend to win most of the games that we play at work (because I play against my wife at home as well, and understand how the game works better than he does). There are other players that have figured out the strategies that work, and when to employ them, and we do have close games, however.

I have play tested it with multiple other groups (at conventions, with random strangers I met on BGG, and with dedicated board game groups that meet in the evenings), and no-one who has played the game has questioned the depth of strategy - the most common complaint among those groups was that it has too much math (something that I have removed a lot of, but I can't entirely remove because the game becomes boring to me, and I can't make a game that I don't want to play).

I can't make you play the game, and I do appreciate your rules edits, however I doubt that you would worry about the depth of strategy of this game if you did play it. Do you have Tabletop Simulator? I could get a new copy of the game up on TTS in a few days if you would be willing to play remotely.
 
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Jon Chambers
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I believe you regarding depth. I just had to check.

The theme is good, and the environmental message is good. Yes, there is bad stigma around games with environmental messages, but if the game is good, people will get over that. Back to my house that looks like a dog example, making it look less like a dog for its own sake achieves nothing.

Historical accuracy is what sells Euros, so keep it in. Just remember that it's easier to twist the history to fit a good game than it is to twist a good game to fit the history.

My study load is quite heavy for the next four and a half weeks, so no TTS until then, but after that, I'd consider it.

The next level of depth that only truly brilliant games achieve, is when you can spend a long time trying to teach your opponent tips about how to win more often, and even once you've run out of things to say, you can still beat them. Few games achieve this, (chess is definitely one,) so don't kick yourself too hard if you don't, but if you do, I expect a publisher may take this on.

Keep working on it, but once your done, this is the sort of thing I can imagine Tasty Minstrel Games publishing. It reminds me of Ground Floor, which I recommend you buy if this game is to your taste. Ground Floor may give you a few ideas for extra mechanisms you could add to this game. (It's also a good solid Euro I enjoy, though many players have complained that it lasts too long for what it is.)
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michael brown
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So, I printed up the cards - I'll probably have them cut out by tomorrow and try it out this weekend.

I modified the art a bit to make it less of an ink expenditure, but I figure that won't ruin the game

I'll post here with my thoughts once I get it to the table.
 
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Jon Chambers
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I recommend card sleeves. Shuffling printed paper cut by hand can be a pain.
 
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Ok, I played two 2 player games tonight.

Both games ended with my wife dying from a monster and a really bad roll. (In the second I had +15 from equipment, so I pretended to attack the dragon and would have successfully killed it the next if she hadn't died).

Here are my thoughts:

Vampires are both tough to kill and not very dangerous (an interesting juxtaposition). If a player dies from a vampire they are doing it wrong, If a player defeats a vampire they are powerful or lucky. It took us three times meeting the vampire to kill it. (We would get down to 1 hp and then run).

A player that was crazy could try the 1/1296 chance and kill the dragon on the first turn. No-one reasonable would, however they could, and that sort of annoys me. I think that the dragon should require 25 or higher to kill.

The push your luck element was fun. A damaged adventurer that has gathered bad equipment can just keep adventuring until he runs out of luck, gets something good, or dies.

By the way - we had one turn where (through a bunch of smoke bombs and low level monster luck encounters) the entire deck was in the discard pile. The rules don't state what should happen if you can't draw. We just ended the turn.

Running away is completely guaranteed to work. Given how many dice rolls are in this game, I find this surprising. I personally don't like chance dictating what happens to me in a game, so I like that, however it seems sort of out of place.

The mechanic where you draw the top N cards and keep the lowest level one is excellent! I don't know if you took it from somewhere, or came up with it on your own, but it is a definite keeper. It makes the deck slowly get harder and harder. The more times you shuffle it, the more likely that you are to get difficult encounters. Also, there is that slight chance that you will have shuffled the deck enough times before the end that the level 1 monster is still in it even though you are much higher level.

The flash grenade is a weird item. I got one early second game through luck when I happened to draw only things higher than it, and then got the +9 armor (also completely luck) after using it. It is terrifying to use, but also could be way overpowered. Either you die or you get something sweet. I don't really like it (though it does fit into the game perfectly well.)

With +10 to your rolls, you have a %50 chance of beating the dragon. +15 makes it %95 likely - the bell curve of rolling 4 dice makes every little bit count there.

In the second game I got nearly all the good equipment (though I didn't need it, since I had the best equipment already) I think that it would have been very unlikely for me to lose - it snowballed so fast. When one player has +10, and the other has only +1, the first player can kill many of the easy monsters in one turn (going through most of the deck by repeatedly fighting). This makes the other player fall further behind every turn. There should be some catch up mechanic - Like players only being able to keep their highest 2 pieces of armor and weapons. They must give the other ones to the player with the lowest bonus.

More random thoughts:
The artwork was pretty ink heavy. You should make a B&W version.

The game felt like a dungeon crawler. That is great, because I love them.

I liked it more than I usually like games that have dice in them (I try to mitigate as much randomness in my games as I can).

Final thoughts:
Keep the drawing/deck mechanic. It is really good.
If you want me to like it more, reduce the dependence on dice. You can ignore this if your target audience is people that love rolling a lot of dice.
 
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Jon Chambers
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The vampire is a bit awkward, but there is only one of him. I thought it was thematic, because vampires can't really do much, but they're damn near impossible to kill. With very little variation between monsters, I try to create as many different experiences as possible.

Being able to kill the dragon on the first turn is the oldest surviving feature of the game. I know I'd definitely fight the dragon on my first turn if I got a phone call saying my daughter was in hospital. How epic would it be if I also won that game?

Glad you liked the push your luck element

The rules do, specify what happens when the deck runs out. They explicitly say shuffle the discard pile and start again. However, it will be made more clear in the next edition of the rules.

The guaranteed run away was an important feature to me, because I wanted every dead player to say, "Yeah, I deserved that".

The mechanic you described is entirely my own, though in the previous version the lowest card carried over to the next hand. I tried a lot of different ideas until I came up with that solution.

+9 with a flash grenade!? Awesome! That's exactly how I wanted it to be used! But yes, it's scary as hell to use. I love it. (I put them high numbers so you are unlikely to get them early.) Your dislike is noted though.

It's actually slightly higher than 50%, because 14 is a common roll. I like the bell shaped curve too, because "waiting until you're certain to win" means waiting till +20, but why wait till +20 if you can have a 99.9% chance of winning on +19? Also "only fighting if you can't possibly die" means running away if a monster would kill you on a 4. Is that really wise? If 4 isn't the right number, what is?

The catch up mechanic, is that if any two players have a combined bonus higher than +19, one of them should optimally fight the dragon right now. The player behind can catch up by winning, and the person ahead can let the player behind catch up by dying.

I don't think I will reduce dependence on the dice, but if you can describe the issue more clearly or propose a good alternative, I'll consider it.

Thanks for the very detailed feedback.

Final question: Now that you have met your obligation to play the game for me, will you play it again out of pleasure?
 
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Jon Chambers
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Your idea about giving away weaker weapons, I already did that in a previous version, though instead of giving them, they were just dropped back into the deck. Trouble was, everyone would keep seeing the good tree branch over and over.

This is the exact reason why the best weapon and armour goes back into the deck every time someone dies.

I know it can feel impossible to catch up when way behind, but it happens a lot more often than you think. Experienced players know that hope is NEVER lost.

One catch up mechanism you may not notice, is that if your weapons are weaker, it's a lot easier to find a stronger weapon. If you've got a pair of +9s, you've got almost no chance of finding better equipment.
 
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Jon Chambers
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Check the link again. I made the first page of rules a lot more clear, and drastically reduced the amount of toner required.

Also, uploaded a promo card idea. I'd love to just print off a deck of those promo cards and hand them out at conventions if this game ever goes retail.
 
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michael brown
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Sorry, I have been working on a game for the micro game design contest, so I haven't looked at this thread in a while.

To answer your final question - I probably wouldn't. it had some innovative parts, but heavy dependence on randomness is not something I like. Winning by sheer luck (for the guy that attacks the Dragon and rolls all sixes even though he has no good equipment) is not in my mind epic - I also don't like killer bunnies for much the same reason.
 
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Jon Chambers
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Fair call.

It is a push your luck at its core, so by definition, it must be heavily dependent on luck.

I will respectfully disagree with the epicness of winning by sheer luck. If I'm playing against you, and our bonuses total 20 or more, I will fight the dragon. If that means you're on 19, and I'm on 1, so be it. If I roll a 23 while fighting the dragon on a 1, that is a tale that will be retold throughout the generations.

Anyone who rolls before his bonus with his opponent totals 20 is playing badly, and if they win, let them have it. They won't have many.
 
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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First of all, I would like to state that I'm generally not a friend of luck-driven games. Hence, a game like Dragon's Bounty is not likely to become a favorite game.

That said, this game does a very good job to implement the push your luck mechanism at several decision levels, giving the players a sense of control of their destiny.

In games like Pass the Pigs, your decision is close to nothing. Simply decide whether to increase your points this turn or stop and cash in what you gained so far.

What Dragon's Bounty does is to make this decision more complex. Are you looking for a better weapon or a better shield? How much does the current adventuring stash contain? Do you have enough hearts to risk another adventure? Which dangerous monsters/good items are still available? How is your position in relation to the other players?

All those decisions add to the game immersion and there is little sense of downtime as all players closely watch the progress of their opponents. Our games typically last only 20 minutes, although I can see AP-prone players taking twice as long for their game. One player usually manages to get ahead in the "equipment race", forcing the other players to risk an early fight with the dragon and either win or give away the victory to the leader.

We agreed with Michael's statement that the keep the lowest card mechanism worked well, as it progressively increases the difficulty level. However, we did miss the distinction between discard pile and trash pile first and kept getting annoyed by the rat (card 1) coming back all the time until we realized that killed monsters are removed from the game.

One question arose about the dragon. Do you really lose three hearts when attacking it and if so, doesn't it remove some of the tension if you must have at least four hearts to fight it and win?

Personally, I would like to see some kind of card summary that helps me assess the content of the deck without having to memorize every card. ("Weapon", "Armour", "Monster" etc. would be enough.) I don't mean that I want to calculate what's left but at least have an idea whether I have the best weapon still available or if I should continue searching. As for the different cards we need to play more to assess whether any is too weak or too strong but none felt imbalanced.

So on to the final question whether we would like to play again. I would say that it works as a light filler and I would not turn down an offer to play a game or two. I would definitely prefer it to other luck-driven Dice games like King of Tokyo. I am sure the right audience will appreciate Dragon's Bounty.
 
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Jon Chambers
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What a nice response to come back to. Sorry it took me so long to see it. I've been busy lately.

To answer your question, the three hearts is moot, because you start each round with four, and you cannot fight the dragon and go adventuring on the same turn. So I could answer that question either way and it wouldn't impact how the game is played. If it would, you are probably playing the game wrong.

I'll think about card summary.

Pros:
-It allows new players to feel like they're on a level playing ground with advanced players.
-It allows people to truly study the game like the opening moves of chess

Cons:
-It's extra ink and paper for the publisher
-It can make players feel like they MUST learn the deck distribution before they can enjoy the game
-Players can already gain all these benefits by laying the cards face up on the table and sorting them in order

Overall, I think the cons outweigh the pros, but if I have missed any pros, I'd be happy to hear them.

Based on your description, I really see that the feel of your play sessions is a match for the way I designed the game. I have a hobbyist designer friend that believes down time should be reduced at almost all costs by making turns as short as possible. My philosophy is that downtime isn't down time if there's the chance that the person playing will be DEAD!!! I have just as much fun watching someone else's turn as I do having my own, and I think potential fans of my game will agree.

Now imagine this game is fully fleshed out with beautiful artwork on every card, and comes in a card box that shows a dragon coiled around a castle tower with a small rule booklet and large fold out flow chart. How much would you pay for it? Do you think I could ever make that dream a reality? Do you have any contacts that could help?
 
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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Interesting, we did indeed play the game wrong. We brought injuries from one adventure to the next, making the game much harder, but the rules do state that you reset your hearts when you go adventuring. I guess we just read that you should reset your hearts at the start of the game, not at the start of every adventure. It's up to you (and other testers) to decide if further clarifications are necessary.

I believe you covered the main pros and cons about a card summary, although I personally think the cons are more important. That said, most push your luck games come without a summary, after which fans create their own. (Ra is one game that comes to mind.)

I think there is a market for the game, since it's rather unique. Also, I don't think the target group will be attracted to symbolic card images (like in Glory to Rome) so beautiful artwork is necessary. It increases the costs but also the perceived the value of the game. Perhaps $20-$25 is a reasonable price? Unfortunately I don't have any publisher contacts.

 
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Jon Chambers
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Even the best read rules can be misread if read too quickly. Adding too many clarifications will only have readers read more quickly, compounding the problem.

If you can think of a way of wording it more clearly without making it longer, let me know, but otherwise I'll just rule it off as an inevitable consequence of reading the rules too fast.

Thanks for your detailed feedback. You have more than earned your copy of the game. If I had a spare high quality finished version on me, I'd definitely be mailing it to you now, but sadly your copy is as high quality as copies come. soblue
 
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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All games must start somewhere so good luck with Dragon's Bounty!

As for the rules, the best way to make rules easy to misread is to add more rules. Setup and Go Adventuring are clearly separated so unless other testers make the same mistake as we did this shouldn't be an issue.
 
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Didn't play the game but I had a comment on this line:
"Dragon's bounty is a game for 2+ players. The winner is the first to kill the dragon or the last to be dead."

I know you weren't showing this as your marketing line but this would be pretty snappy:

Dragon's Bounty: be the first to kill the dragon...or be dead last.
 
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Matt, that line genuinely made me smile. It's a brilliant pun. I'll run it past a few people, to see if it provides enough clarity.

I'll even shorten it further to "Kill the dragon first or be dead last"
 
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A quick update for everyone: Playtest feedback has came back saying that calculating 4d6 is too taxing for the market this game is ideal for.

A quick fix approach to this is blanking the 6 face and reducing all the roll targets by 4. This will produce exactly the same game, but there will be 4 fewer pips to count for every single roll.

The down side is I have just increased the price of the game, as a 0-5 distribution counts as custom dice, while 1-6 counts as regular dice, and custom dice are more expensive.

Is 4 pips less really worth the expense? Not sure.

Is there another way, using custom dice, that can give a similarly large range of outcomes that does not require so much addition? I don't think so, but if anyone has any ideas, let me know.



Another common complaint by every play test ever, is that the game requires too much shuffling. The nature of the game, is that it should be extremely well shuffled at the start of the game, and then a little mixed up between each turn.

Yes, I know the discard pile has higher level cards than the draw pile, but even if you knew which of the two piles you were drawing from, the fact that higher level monsters come with higher level loot cancels the two out, so there is no advantage of disadvantage. If they are riffled into each other and then cut the deck, that's well and truly random enough to confuse even the most dedicated card counter.

That said, many players refuse to ever give only a quick shuffle, even if directly instructed to. So the game can slow down with slow-but-dedicated shufflers. Including an essay on why long shuffling times are not required in the box is probably not the ideal solution.
 
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Custom dice are expensive. As an old RPG player, I have no problem calculating 4D6 but could 3D6 or perhaps using D4 be a better option?

Another idea would be to use only 2D6 and read the result on a card (e.g. double sixes corresponds to 24 and so on) but I'm not sure this will be perceived as easier than adding 4D6.

The shuffling issue is more difficult. I can understand that some players will want to shuffle too long while not shuffling at all makes the deck less dynamic. How would the game be affected if you only shuffle when the draw pile is exhausted?
 
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Jon Chambers
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Dice:

The dice as they are now are good because:
-With no items, probability of killing the dragon is less than 0.01% but still possible
-With a +10 weapon and a +10 armour, victory is guaranteed, but not for +10 with +9
-Between impossible and definite, there are 19 probabilities possible, improving gameplay variety
-The almost definite and almost impossible tails of the bell curve provide epic stories whenever they're rolled.

As for shuffling only when depleted, two problems:
1. The previous dealer will remember what's in the deck
2. Every shuffle will mean a huge leap in card level rather than the small step it is now
 
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Jon Chambers
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Update:

There is now a custom dice edition, so if you want to blank out the 6s on your dice to make the math easier, you may.

Also, minor formatting improvements to the flow chat. (I managed to get rid of the diagonal arrow.)
 
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