Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nothing But 6's

OD&D isn't my platonic ideal for D&D; I started with the 1981 Red Box, and the Basic and Expert D&D books are still the first love.  But if there's one global rule I'd consider applying to BX or a retro clone, it'd be to get rid of variable hit dice and use nothing but 6 sided dice - the glorious d6.

I have bags and bags of d6's, tons of them from years playing Axis & Allies and similar games.  Consider the simplicity an all d6 game provides for encounters and combat.  10 orcs?  No problem, roll 10 D6's at the start of combat - there are your hit points.  The same 10 dice become your 10 HD monster - you track hit points by removing dice or adjust values as the creature takes damage.  Always rolling hit points at the table and tracking them right on the dice is immensely appealing; I'd never write down hit points again.

It seems easy enough to put some class variability into player HD using d6's; perhaps it's as easy as fighters get a +1, magic users get a -1.  The only thing holding me back for now is unwillingness to get rid of variable weapon damage.  The extreme example your hear about 'from the old days' is a group arming themselves with iron spikes and rocks (everything does a d6!) but there's also a concern with 2-handed weapons; I've seen house rules like exploding 6's for 2-handed weapons, or double dice for 2-handed weapons, or a simple +1 to damage for 2-handers.

I haven't talked to my players about this secret dream of an all d6 D&D game.   The allure of handfuls of square dice runs directly contra to the baroque mystique of using the funny sided polyhedrals.


  1. If you want to try some d6 mechanics without spending a dime Tunnels & Trolls, Platemail or Mini 6 might be good for rolling out your buckets of underused dice. As Stalin once said: "Sometimes quantity has a quality all its own." (I think he played an early playtest of Shadowrun.)

    1. Right... You may want to try Tunnels & Trolls -- an excellent, time proven system that only uses d6's.

  2. I hear ya, although in kind of the inverse. I prefer d6-only weapon damage, while maintaining the "funny sided polyhedrals" for hit points, saving throws, etc. That mystique of the funny dice is just too strongly connected in my mind with DnD. 35 years after first encountering them, they *still* manage to spark a bit of wonder in me.

  3. "But if there's one global rule I'd consider applying to BX or a retro clone, it'd be to get rid of variable hit dice and use nothing but 6 sided dice - the glorious d6."


    I concur. Not that it matters much, in the scheme of things what my opinion is. I would have 1d6 for the things you mention; HP, HD, and DMG, with the +/-1 you allude to, which is also very... symmetrical to me.

    HP: Fighter +1, Wizard -1
    ATT: Two-handed +1 DAM, Two-fisted +1 TH, Small +1 INIT

    Just now, as I look at that and think about how I haven't had my coffee, I realize I really like symmetry, but that isn't quite... right. I had never added the "Small" before, and it has me thinking... typing as I think, assuming 1d6 of course...

    Two-Handed: +2 DMG / -1 INIT / -1 AC (Lack of Shield)
    Two-Fisted: +1 TH / -1 AC (Lack of Shield)
    Small: +1 INIT / -1 DAM

    Hhmmm... Two Fisted Small: +1 TH / -1 AC / +1 INIT / -1 DAM would be wickedly powerful unless you stayed with a single d6 for damage no matter how many weapons you use... I like it.

    But I am loving the variety you can achieve with just d6s and a couple modifiers. More thought is required, of course, and COFFEE!

    Time to fire up the kettle!

  4. Dang, I hate to double post, but no way to edit:

    I would want to stress, for some unknown reason to me, that I was NOT shooting for "balanced". I actually abhorred "balance", but symmetrical is appealing, and in my mind they are not mutually exclusive.

    Hope that makes sense?


  5. I've been using the Swords & Wizardry rules which has d6 with modifiers for HD and it hasn't been an issue. Of course, even in a high death game where you're making new characters a lot, you don't spend much time messing with HD.

    Weapon damage is far more problematic with my neophyte players. I'm constantly having to remind them what damage die to use for various hirelings or secondary weapons.

    I've been on the cusp of changing to d6 weapon damage for a long time, but you lose so much flavor when sword/flail/mace are identical. I think I might come up with a system with a simple feat attached to each weapon (say maces will make an opponent unconscious on a crit) to differentiate them.

  6. Have you tried Swords & Wizardry: White Box? It uses D6's much more than other retro-clones.

  7. Have you considered Epées & Sorcellerie? Nothing but 2d6.

  8. You can do that with monster hitdice right now without screwing with the math. Just add one to the value on the roll die and you'll have the same average as a D8 (2-7 vs 1-8). That's half of your thing right there; give it a try and see how you like it! Just remember the value is always one higher than shown.

    For weapon damage you might consider something like the Warlock rules Zenopus Archives posted up a while back. Smaller weapons attack more often but larger weapons do multiples of d6 damage. It's a more drastic change but it could be fun.

  9. Spellcraft & Swordplay uses d6 only. That has a simple and easy to use weapons vs AC system to differentiate weapon types. Oh, and 2-handers do 2d6 keep the best damage.

  10. I really like those ideas of allowing 2-handers to roll 2d6 and just keep the higher die - very simple mechanic for making them worth giving up a shield!

  11. I'm using d6 for weapon damage but variable dies for hit points. Oh no!

    As for two handed weapons, I'm considering to allow wielders of two handed swords to attack all opponents in reach with a single die roll. I think this works best if I also stick to my rule on how many people can fight in a 10ft. corridor (4 with daggers, 3 with short swords, polearms and other stabbing weapons, 2 with longswords, axes and other weapons that need to be swung around, and just one if using a two handed sword).

  12. Lg weapons: roll two dice take highest
    med weapons: one die
    small weapons: roll two dice take lowest