Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Zombie Dice: Rerolled

There are a lot of games out there with their own customised dice, which is fine for the game they are designed for, but what about using them in other ways? 'Rerolled' is all about re-purposing custom dice to get more game play out of them, focusing on dice included with board or card games rather than those designed for promotional purposes or for use with a specific role-playing game.

This will be the first game tackled by Rerolled where the dice have no numbers on them at all; the players in Zombie Dice take on the role of zombies who are chasing after living humans in search of tasty brains to eat. You get a set of 13 dice with the game, which appear in three colours and there are only three different symbols that appear on these dice:
  • Brain: You get to eat a victim's brains!
  • Footsteps: Your victim gets away.
  • Bang: Your victim shoots you!
The three colours of dice denote three levels of danger: green dice have more Brains than Bangs; everything is equal on yellow dice; and red dice have more Bangs than Brains. To make another game around these dice, we want to exploit these features (the red/yellow/green colouring and the special symbols in place of numbers) but also we have a pool of dice to play with, so we can make use of that too.

Shooting the Dice

Hard times make hard people, everyone knows that, but do hard people make hard times? If we're all out to grab what we can, because there isn't enough to go around, maybe we're the reason there isn't enough; maybe we're all just getting exactly what we deserve.

Shooting the Dice is a noir storytelling game about bitter pragmatists doing what they must in a city that doesn't care about them one way or the other: succeed, fail; get rich, go broke; live, die; it's all the same in the end... but while you live, maybe you'll get a chance to change the way things are.

This is a game for four players without a GM, but there are optional rules for adding a GM to the game further on; in addition to the dice, you'll also need a standard deck of playing cards, some tokens and the play-sheets provided on this link.


Every game of Shooting the Dice requires four characters who are each derived from one of the four
play-sheets: the Club, the Diamond, the Heart and the Spade. Everyone has to use a different playbook, so you can't have two Clubs in the game, but you can create a different character each time you use a playbook: the Spade you play this time is a private detective but next time they might be a corrupt cop or a concerned family member. When you take your play-sheet, choose one of the options for the type of character you are, name them and give them a short, punchy description.

For example, the player of the Heart chooses to make them 'a naive dilletante', naming them Peter Forsythe, the heir to his family's fortune who would rather be an artist in Paris.

At the start of the game, you use the suggestions on the play-sheets to create an interlocking narrative for the four characters: this can be a single story that unites all their lives via a common thread; it can be four pairs of stories that go around in a circle; it can be a story where one character is central to the lives of the other three; or it can be two entirely separate pairs of stories that intersect at a common point.

For example, the Spade's story is 'overcoming my bad reputation', while the Diamond's is 'finding out who's out to get me.' The two players agree that the Diamond has hired the Spade to find his blackmailer, knowing the the Spade is the kind of detective who will work outside the law to get things done; the Spade isn't happy about the arrangement, but the Diamond offers him a lot of money to take on the job.

After discussing the starting point for the characters' stories, deal out one suit of cards face down to each player: the Spade gets all the spades from the deck, the Heart gets all the hearts and so on; keep your cards face down in a single deck beside your play-sheet. You also take three tokens and place one on each of the 'Green' squares on your play-sheet, but you may choose to slide any one token down to the 'Yellow' square and draw the top card of your deck, turning it over and putting it face up on the opposite side of your character sheet to your deck. This will start you off with a slight advantage when it comes to resolving portions of the story, but you will be closer to getting into very deep trouble too.

Hard Times

To play the game, you each take a turn to frame a scene for your character: state where you are and why you are there, asking if any of the other characters are also in the scene with you. Generally, the more characters in a scene, the more choices you have when resolving it, but sometimes you want a scene with some minor characters so that you face less opposition to what you do. Every other player either plays their own character or a minor character in your scene, though they can also simply observe and make suggestions instead of taking a direct hand in the action. When you play a minor character in another player's scene, you should still portray them using the theme of your play-sheet, e.g. Power for the Club, Money for the Diamond and so on.

For example, the Club frames a scene in an illegal gambling den, where they have come to confront a rival who has muscled in on their action; they can ask for any other characters to be there or they can say they only want minor characters in this scene. In the latter case, the Diamond chooses to play the rival, the Spade plays the croupier who is dealing the cards, but the Heart sits this scene out, though they may still contribute to the colour of the scene and suggest how background characters might react to the action.

Every scene needs at least one action in it, something that you do on your turn to push towards the outcome you want: this is where the Tough, Fast and Discreet tracks on your play-sheet come in. Each track is a measure of your character's ability and can be used in many types of action:
  • Tough: your physical & mental resilience; can you keep going and stay cool?
  • Fast: your physical & mental agility; are you quick enough to stay ahead of trouble?
  • Discreet: your physical & mental caution: can you slip through someone's guard?
An action can be triggered by you or another player: sometimes you will want something and the way to get it is to take action, but other times another character in the scene will threaten you and you will have to take action to deal with that. It is always you who takes action in your scene, not any other player, but the player who triggers the action decides whether you need to be Tough, Fast or Discreet to get what you want.

For example, the Club is building to making a demand of the Diamond, intending to be Tough on their action, but the Diamond beats them to it by saying that they flip up the card table and make a run for the exit; if the Club really wants that confrontation, their going to have to be Fast!

When you act, you roll: pick up a die of the correct colour (corresponding to where your token is on the track for that type of action) and roll it:
  • Wise: if you roll a brain, you get what you wanted; you succeed at this action and you may choose to draw one card from your deck or that of the character you were acting against. Also, all face down cards you have are turned face up.
  • Legwork: this will take a little more effort; your action only partially succeeds but it leaves the door open for more action later. You may draw a card from your deck or that of the character you were acting against, but you put it face down by your play-sheet instead of face up; turn your face down cards face up the next time you get a Wise result.
  • Trouble: you failed at this totally and suffer a little as a result; you don't draw a card, but you do move your token one square down on this track, from 'Green' to 'Yellow', from 'Yellow' to 'Red' or remove it entirely if you are already on 'Red.' Once a token is removed, you can't regain it and you automatically fail at any action of the corresponding type.
For example, the Club rolls a Fast action to catch up with the Diamond: their Fast token is currently on 'Yellow', so they are equally likely to get any result.
  • On Wise, they catch the Diamond and get them to agree to back off out of their territory; they may also draw one club or one diamond card and place it face up beside their play-sheet.
  • On Legwork, the Diamond gets away in a taxi, but the Club overhears where they are going and can pay a visit later; they may take a club or diamond card and place it face down by their play-sheet.
  • On Trouble, the Diamond leads the Club into an ambush, where the Diamond's minions rough up the Club; they have to move their Fast token down one square to 'Red.'
Some scenes might require more than one action to resolve them satisfactorily, but no player should ever trigger more than one action per scene, e.g. you can't extend your own scene indefinitely by triggering action after action.

Dealer's Choice

As you play, you will collect a set of face up cards in front of you which can be used to add various twists & turns to the story: every play-sheet contains a list of plot twists that any player can spend cards to activate. You can use the plot twist abilities on any play-sheet, not just your own, as long as you have the required cards to spend; when you spend cards, they go back face down in the deck for that play-sheet, e.g. all heart cards go back into the Heart's deck once spent, all club cards go back into the Club's deck and so on.

While you can achieve most of the same results as these plot twists by taking actions in scenes, spending cards for a plot twist simply makes it happen, at any time: you can activate a plot twist during any player's scene, not just your own. Also, a plot twist trumps an action, so if you spend 2 spade cards to reveal that the butler was blackmailing another character, then that overturns anything already established in the fiction about who may have done it and it can only be overturned by spending 3 spades: you can't change that fact by making it the target of an action. Once anything becomes locked though (by spending 4 cards of the appropriate suit on it) it cannot be changed by any means, neither actions nor further plot twists.

For example. the Spade is in a scene where they are attempting to track down a hoodlum who has threatened their client, hoping to find out who paid them off; the Heart, who has 3 heart cards, interrupts by spending 2 of them to establish that the hoodlum is actually the Spade's old partner, who has fallen on hard  times. Later, the Heart spends 3 more heart cards to change this and states that the Spade's old partner actually has a grudge against them for a perceived wrong and has been working behind the scenes against them all this time.

You can also gain cards directly, without taking actions, by making a deal with another player: you make a deal in order to push one of your tokens up the track, from 'Red' to 'Yellow' or from 'Yellow' to 'Green.' When it is your turn, frame the scene with the character you want to make the deal with: you can come to some arrangement with them in addition to taking actions in your scene, but the deal must be struck first. The deal consists of a formal arrangement between the two characters, where they negotiate how one will assist the other: when you strike a deal, you move one of your tokens up one square on it's track and the character you struck the deal with draws one card from your deck and one card from their own, putting both cards face down in front of them.

For example, the Heart has fallen on hard times and has their Discreet on 'Red', while both Tough & Fast are on 'Yellow', so they seek a deal with the Diamond: they frame a scene of going to the bank the Diamond works in to ask for a loan on favourable terms. The Diamond replies that they might consider this, if the Heart renounces their interest in someone that the Diamond is attracted to... reluctantly, the Heart agrees, so they push their Discreet token back up to 'Yellow', while the Diamond draws one heart and one diamond card, putting them both face down by their play-sheet.

The Joker

You can make room for a GM-like role in this game if that's your preference, which also allows a fifth player to take part: the Joker gets no play-sheet, no deck and doesn't get a turn of their own, but they can influence the game in a number of ways:
  • The Joker plays all minor characters in the game and controls the colour of each scene: other players may make suggestions or requests, but they only play their own characters throughout the game, no others.
  • The Joker gets to trigger one action on every other player's turn, whether they are taking an active part in that scene or not: they can establish obstacles or challenges as needed to trigger an action.
  • When you roll Trouble on any action, the Joker draws a card from your deck and puts it face up in front of them; the Joker may spend these cards just like any other player.
  • You can only make a deal with the Joker, in their role as a minor character: you cannot make deals with other main characters. When you make a deal with the Joker, they draw two cards from your deck and put them face up in front of them.
The Joker is quite powerful, but they depend on the main character's stories, they don't have one of their own: they reflect the mood of the city and the consequences of what the main characters do, but they can't drive anything to happen by themselves.

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