Concept: Atypical damage dice
Tested in: Delve Night
What it is: The defunct miniatures game Dreamblade used six-sided dice for damage, but not the sort of dice from every other game. Normal dice have the sides 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6. Dreamblade dice have 1 / 2 / 3 / a hollow diamond / a filled-in diamond / the dreamblade. Our FLGS had a bunch of these dice available, so we used them in a Dreamblade-themed Delve Night session. Instead of any damage dice, players could (and the DM must) instead roll a Dreamblade die.
Numbers worked as expected. Rolling the the hollow diamond was equivalent to rolling a 0, and the filled-in diamond was maximum damage for the dice the player sacrificed. The dreamblade was twice the maximum. So if a player decided to rolled a Dreamblade die instead of a d8, the sides of that dice effectively were 1 / 2 / 3 / 0 / 8 / 16.
What we wanted: A combat where the damage was as chaotic as the theme. Sometimes players would use big attacks and do almost nothing, and sometimes they would use at-will attacks and nearly kill someone. Players had to carefully balance the risk involved.
How it went: Everybody loved the dice, including me. There wasn’t a lot of carefully balancing risk because almost everybody wanted to use the fancy dice almost all of the time. Players quickly forgot about their low rolls because the emotional impact of the high rolls was too great to ignore.
What we learned: Players are willing to put up with a high chance of low numbers for the low chance of unreasonably high numbers. This shouldn’t have been a surprise—lotteries work the same way—but it still caught us off guard how much fun everybody had even when they failed.
After the session, the players all agreed that the Dreamblade dice were significantly better than standard dice, especially when they traded in bigger dice for them. It seemed obvious that trading in a d4, where the dreamblade was only worth 8 damage, was not as good as trading in a d12, where that same side meant 24 damage. So I looked into it, and as it turns out, the Dreamblade dice are better. But they’re only better by .5 damage, regardless of the original die, because the static sides drag the average down no matter how high the variable sides get. Here’s some math:
The average damage of a die is the sum of its values divided by its number of faces. That is, if you add up all the sides of a d6, you get 21, and 21 / 6 = 3.5. The sum of the values can be represented as this:
And the average is taking that sum divided by the number of sides, so:
The sum of a Dreamblade die’s value is this:
And its average is this:
Which, it turns out, is only .5 higher than the average for the normal die. A Dreamblade die, on average, rolls .5 higher than the die it replaces, even if you use a d4 or a d100 or a d17.
I would like to experiment further with atypical dice, especially now that Super Mario Party is inspiring me with dice like 5 / 5 / 7 / 7 / Lose 2 coins / Lose 2 coins. But with one campaign on break and another campaign that can’t support this level of wackiness, it will be a while.