Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Memorable Mechanics Part 3: Roll a Ton of Dice

Just a short one today about how to make the act of rolling damage a memorable one. Simply put: roll tons of dice. Players respond to seeing the DM pick up a massive pile of dice. This is not something you want to do with every damage roll because it makes the damage a bit swingier, but 4e PCs are pretty darn durable and it is an almost guaranteed eye opener when you go for the dice. This is just a minor way you can psychologically torment your players; maybe shake your head like you feel sorry for them as you put your fistful together. Ask to borrow dice from all of the players. Milk it.

One thing you can do is look at the damage expressions for your monsters (published or otherwise) and make small edits. If you see 3d8+10, try a 6d4+10. If you see 4d12+12, try 8d6+12. I realize this adds a couple of points of damage here and there, but big whoop they can take it. Its the visual of all those dice that is the key.

To really make this dramatic, take the whole expression, static damage and all, and convert to one massive damage roll with no static damage. So say the starting damage roll is 3d12+13. That's 32.5 damage on average. I might decide to just roll 10d6 or 7d10 by itself instead. Crits are brutal.

You can also look for moments to use unique damage rolls that do not correspond with recommended damage expressions. That trap that sprays acid and melts skin? Just grab a handful of dice and see what happens. Seriously.

I do not recommend this for every roll or even most rolls, but I encourage you to look for opportune moments in your games to use tons of dice. Such a simple little thing can make it more memorable for the whole table.

Ever done something along these lines? Leave a post!


  1. I am going to try this even out of D&D. I find that a single dice is just too likely to roll low when something awesome just happened, making it flat. I think I'll use this in Savage Worlds to milk things up and keep the lethality flowing.

  2. im glad you can see where im coming from!

  3. I always tend to use alot of dice when crafting monsters and traps. I like my damage swingier, and there is just something inherently satisfying about rolling a lot of dice. It's totally worth the extra bit of time it takes to roll.

  4. My post about using "Nightmare Damage" leads to some ridiculous dice numbers, especially with crits, and I can tell you that bit of swinginess leads to a lot of fun and excitement at the table.

    But you've got to watch out, chucking in more numbers of dice does take up a little more time to add everything up.

  5. the added time is a drawback, no doubt about it, but the added excitement of it along with only doing it on occasion hopefully balances that out

    thanks for the post! your nightmare damage is def worth a read. i try to accomplish the same thing with autodamage, increased accuracy, and number of attacks, but i am looking for places to use your nightmare damage as well

  6. I also like high dice damage expressions because they make critical hits relevant.