Writing about my past tendencies to slaughter the occasional character back in the day and thinking about my desire to take OtherSpace truly back to basics got me wondering: maybe we should just abandon the premise of a stats/skills system. Eliminate dice. No rolls. Just see where the narrative rolls and let the players and referees manage the outcomes, even if they sometimes lead to character deaths.

If it seems reasonable for a character to try something, regardless of whether they have X level of Y skill on their sheet, let them go for it and consider whether it makes sense the way they present the narrative. If it makes sense and helps the story flow, it works. If it doesn’t seem plausible (or if the story might benefit from extra tension by throwing in a complication), the referee can decide it doesn’t work – or it works, but with unintended consequences.

Consider “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” as an example. From a narrative standpoint, Indiana Jones cleverly switches a bag of carefully measured sand for the idol on the altar in the Peruvian temple. So, he succeeds in grabbing the idol. The unintended consequence, of course, is that he misjudged the sand just enough that it triggers the trap that starts the big stone ball rolling.

We did this sort of thing a lot in the early days of OtherSpace, before we introduced a skill system and taskrolls. It does come with the potential for unintended behind-the-scenes consequences, such as rages against the ref. But it certainly would streamline the process of running a scene – especially those roll-intensive combat activities that we now seem to avoid like the plague because they can take hours to run.

By Brody

4 thoughts on “No dice?”
  1. I have… a lot of opinions about diceless narrative, (no, really, Al has opinions again? I thought we sprayed), I will try and be merciful in my verbosity.


    Not everyone will do this, of course… but the problem is, the people who won’t do it, won’t, and the people who will do it… absolutely will, and the parade is rained upon.

    The refs can still say when a roll is or isn’t needed, if we’re feeling spontaneous or something needs to be done that isn’t in the skill system… just like any tabletop RP.

    I think the current die system is ok; it’s enough to keep us honest and not so much that we don’t feel like we can do anything.


    1. It’s a fair concern. But, keep in mind, we had a diceless narrative in 1998. It does not have to be BEST AT EVERYTHING RAAAR. And, with dice, you’re still going to get players who RP smug super-awesomeness and then fall flat on their faces if the ref hits them with a nasty negative modifier. Ultimately, it’s up to the refs and the players to work in collaboration.

      In our third story arc, in 1999, I recall that we had the invasion of Sivad with a handful of player characters. We talked about it beforehand and came to a consensus that I wouldn’t kill any PCs – although I might wound them, or let them choose their own wounding – but the PCs would @emit NPC cannon fodder to die during the fight and help fuel the drama of the scene.

      It *can* be done.

  2. More thoughts on this: If we took an approach similar to Amber Diceless, we could head off the “BEST AT EVERYTHING RAAAAR!” dilemma by letting players bid to be the best at X skill using SP before the scene begins. We could also limit players to being the best at just one skill during that scene. So, everybody could be the best at SOMETHING RAAAR! – just not everything.

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