Gaming Tools: Rock-Paper-Scissors Dice
I love unique dice. I've got so many sets of dice that when I go to cons and go dice shopping, I need some sort of novelty. I've got a trap die, a loot die, a hit location die, a challenge die, an alignment die, a weather die, and the RPS set.
I don't just hoard them, either, I use them as frequently as possible. If there's not a reason to use them via house rules, I look for reasons when I'm writing my adventures and doing prep. Last night, during a game of W20 (Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition), I got an opportunity to use a set of dice I've had around for a while and have been meaning to use: Rock-Paper-Scissors dice.
I got these dice from Loot Crate in a crate I got longer ago than I remember. It was to go with a board game printed on the box. You unfold the box and voila, a game! I didn't much care for the game, but I loved the dice, and thought they could help me with a couple of house rules I frequently use with D6s.
House Rule #1: Is there a ________ around here? (Or any yes/no question)
I'm the type of GM who will say 'no' if the player asks for something silly and overblown, but if the request is something reasonable and makes sense in the scene, I'll either say 'sure' or roll for it. Prior to having these dice, I used the 'choose high or low' method. I ask the player to pick one - high or low - then roll a D6. 1-3 are low, 4-6 are high. If the player correctly guesses what I've rolled, what they were looking for is there. If they don't, it's not.
I've also done this using playing cards with a wider gauge of success or failure, but it takes more time and I'll cover that in a post about using playing cards for mechanics. For now, all I need is a 'yes' or 'no' answer to the question the person asked.
I roll a die, then tell the player who asked to pick one: Rock, Paper, or Scissors. If the player wins, the item is there. If the player loses, the item isn't there. It's essentially just a coin flip, but one that has a bit more interaction. We tied on the first two rolls, then Miles won with scissors over rolled paper.
Conceivably, you could also just play rock, paper, scissors, but doing so over a game in a video feed is fraught with issues that mostly come from lag. Plus, I'd rather the player not be playing against me the GM, but instead against randomness.
This method can apply to really any yes or no question you might have in game but would find more dramatically interesting to randomize.
House Rule #2: Two NPCs Fighting Each Other
One of the first Precious Dark adventures I wrote was a random crawl through a Wal-Mart that was ravaged by the apocalypse. The group had to navigate through nuclear-waste-created zombies and giant mutant zombie-eating squirrels to explore the place and find out what the mysterious scribblings on an old receipt were all about.
At one point in the adventure, the group found themselves sandwiched between a giant mutant squirrel on one side of the aisle and a bunch of zombies on the other. So, they devised a plan to climb up onto the top shelves nearest them and watch the squirrel and the zombies go at it. Now, I could've just decided what side would win and told the story like that, but I wanted to use dice, so I devised a pretty quick method using 2 different colored d6.
I assigned a d6 to each side, then rolled. Whichever side got the highest number won that phase of the fight and got to do damage to the other side. In Precious Dark, this was just one point of damage because the game has a health mechanic closer to that of WoD than D&D. In D&D-like games, the damage would be a rolled die.
It worked great. Instead of just saying 'you guys witness the squirrel take out the zombies' or vice versa, I described the fight to the watching PCs blow-by-blow. In this case, the squirrel handily destroyed the zombies while the group watched, and they snuck by once the threat was mostly gone (the squirrels weren't interested in attacking the living unless as defense).
The next time I do this, I intend to use the RPS dice. Since there's only three options, I expect there to be more ties and, thus, more back-and-forth before one side finally wins. To make this work effectively and keep it fun and not tedious, it's important that the fight not last *too* long, but I found the d6 fights tend to be a bit too fast. Playing around with the amount of damage done per successful 'hit' and keeping an eye on your players engagement can help you find the right balance.
This can also work for any social combat two NPCs might end up in while the PCs watch. At it's most basic, the house rule is a way I can engage a mechanic with two NPCs without feeling the need to add the whole weight of all the rules behind them. Set dressing in a way.
Why Use These Instead of a D6?
Added because I'm sure someone will say 'Why not just flip a coin or use a D6?'. The answer is: Because. Because I enjoy the mechanic, because I enjoy the dice, because I like using different ways to come up with 'yes' or 'no' or degrees of 'yes' or 'no'. That's really the only reason anyone needs for a game mechanic or house rule of any sort.
Want Some RPS Dice of Your Own?
As cute as these dice are, they're kinda cheaply made. They're stickers on blank dice. Luckily, Amazon's got a number of RPS dice listed, and there's also the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock set, which adds even more dimension to your rolls!