Category: Games

I write about games! I write a LOT about games! Everything I do about games is here, in this tab, in some way.

Term: Dice Pool

A dice pool refers to a resolution mechanic where rather than rolling a dice or a number of dice and summing the results, the number of dice themselves is some part of the mechanics. The simplest version of a dicepool is one where you roll a large group of dice, and then select which results apply to which part of the resolution.

A single dice (or number of dice plus a modifier) is a resolution mechanic that follows a very simple experience: You roll the dice, you do the math, and then you have your result. This makes a dice roll, singular, as a very simple ‘switch’ experience, comparable to pushing a button in a videogame. You press a button, the system responds to the math, you get a result. That’s a really good, robust mechanic I like using for any game where you want some variance in a reliable, regular action – like in D&D, for example.

A dicepool, by comparison, is more of a system for making resolution itself a game. This isn’t all it’s used for! But it’s a simple way to use dice that isn’t just adding or subtracting on top of them.


So one of the most basic things you can do with dicepool systems is you can make players make decisions. Let’s say you have a system where players are setting up a car for a race. You roll a fistful of dice at the start of the game, and select, of those dice, some to be the engine, some to be the tires, and some to be the seating. Then, as you play the game, you prioritise how you drive your car based on those earlier decisions.

One way that Exalted uses a dice pool is that you roll your d10s, and all dice that are 7s or higher are ‘successes,’ and you need a certain number of successes to win. This is a weird bit of terminology that maybe a designer who cared about language might fix but whatever, like in Blades in the Dark the point is that you can use a dicepool to handle a resolution in a system where you want players to succeed, on average, but don’t want the degrees of success to be as varied as the numbers on each dice face.

A dice pool doesn’t even need to be rolled: You can use a dicepool system to have a number of counters that are kept at a particular number, or incremented as appropriate, based on the players’ choices. And even then you can use that these counters are dice as part of the play: Make it so it’s calibrating a computer, and sometimes a virus rolls some of the dice randomly!


Dice pool systems can get pretty weird when you make them success-or-fail. It’s also got a mechanical limit – rolling 1d20+30 is not the same physical question as asking someone to roll 30d6 and count the successes.

Another thing with dicepool systems is that when you add components per player, they get out of hand fast – so if you want a game where each player needs to roll 5 dice, then one player needs 5, and 2 needs 10 but if you wanted 4 players you need 20, and you need to store those dice.

One final thing with dice pool systems is that while rolling big fistfuls of dice is exciting, doing fiddly book-keeping or rules changing or changes to each dice in the pool multiplies irritation. So it doesn’t always work with every type of dice mechanic.


Exalted, Scion, and the other of White Wolf’s other various roleplaying games.

Blades in the Dark.

MTG: Pet Cards II: Mirrodin Block

Boy this era of Magic sucked.

The problem of Onslaught era magic was to look back upon a set full of forgettable okay cards that I learned to love, little roleplayers, niche friends – I can’t believe I forgot Wirewood Savage, for example! – but nothing that was so powerful it shook the world between Odyssey Block and Mirrodin Block. Oh sure, Goblins came from Onslaught but I didn’t really feel love for those little blighters the way I did for the cards I consider my pets.

On the other hand, Mirrodin Block is so tediously powerful. Every other card is basically an archetype, or gave rise to an archetype, or blatantly holds itself up as a design mistake. Going back and looking over Mirrodin block, I was genuinely worried that I might not be able to find a pet card from each set on the way to the good stuff in Kamigawa and later Ravnica.

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Notes: TTC – Rivals of Ixalan Nicknames

Here’s a thing I like!

The nicknames podcasts from TTC, a casual magic podcast that seems mostly to not actually be about casual magic so much but is still a good bit of Magic Content that rarely (Iconic Masters aside) spends its time making people feel bad. This episode – and the other ones like it are really cool to me because the Nickname podcasts are sort of an unintentional deep-dive into the details of what cards are doing in their art and mechanics to construct the nicknames. Sometimes it’s making references that don’t connect – like the Metal Gear Solid jokes? But often it’s otherwise examining the art in depth, or examining mechanics in the greater context of MTG history.

This is cool stuff and I like it.

MTG: Pet Cards I: Onslaught Block

Everyone deserves a pet card. It’s one of the things I like about high-variance older formats, like budget Modern or 1v1 Commander – the formats are different and odd enough you get a chance to see some card you really like shine. Plus, Magic The Gathering is a game made up of lists – deck lists and tier lists and card set lists – so I thought it’d be fun to go back and check out some older sets, and pick whichever single card from each set was, to me, my pet card, the one I want to show you and share with you. And rather than start at the start – because that’s boring – we’re going back to my beginning: Onslaught Block.

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Games Journalist’s Bin Box

An idea I’ve been brewing on more and more these going weeks is just how nice it’d be to have for each esteemed games journalist, a list not of their favourite games, but games that were offered to them to review, and they either bailed on early or chose not to review for other reasons.

I think one of the things I want as context for creatives is the kind of things they don’t care about, because I think that’s a useful and meaningful metric for when you’re dealing with what a person can bring to the table for journalistic context.

Of course, we can’t have this, because Gamers are Scum.

Game Pile: Gex

Videogames exist in a sort of weird plateau in the modern era. Speaking broadly, games these days aren’t that different from games five years ago, and it’s mostly just an evolution of user interface and following different trends. Sure, if you’re really into them you can appreciate the differences between Assassins Creeds 3 and 4, but a casual observer can be forgiven for thinking they’re basically the same game. It’s even easier to look at games in terms of their attempts to cash in on styles of games – the military shooters, the racers, the sporters, etcetera – rather than on their actual gaps in time.

Let’s look back then to a period when a style of game was a thing. We’re not going to look at the leader of a trend, we’re going to look at one of the most blatant followers.

Let’s talk about Gex.
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Print and Play: Adventure Town, Pt 3

For this latest update on Adventure Town, let’s talk about the actual things you’re trying to roll. Unicode is nice and includes a set of die faces (⚀ ⚁ ⚂ ⚃ ⚄ ⚅) so we can use an ordinary text editor to sort out an example of our play boards.

You’re rolling dice to make your businesses and investments in the town do things which will give you money, which will in turn let you buy things to upgrade the town. Ownership of things in town gives way to complex rules, so the personal tableau should be as simple as I can make it.

Any given die roll in a d6 set is as likely as any other, so while we can construct a number of die roll setups, no matter how outlandish they look, they’re as probablistically likely as one another provided they want the same number of dice. Plus, it’s a drafting game – you roll 6 dice, you pick the ones you want, you use them.

Here’s an example, based on what I have in mind.

Let’s do a quick mechanical rundown of the ideas represented here:


This is where the player draws a symbol or signs a letter or makes a drawing that represents ‘their property.’ When they advance on the town board, they get to sign this symbol onto the properties they built, which also shows which buildings trigger at particular events.

I like this being something the player draws, it gives you some feeling of ownership on the space. We’ll have to decide what kind of space we want it drawn in later – like its shape and dimension.


These are simple cash ins: You can trade two dice of the sets type, and get a payout. Every time you get that payout, you put a cross in the box next to it, and that means some of them can run out. This feelsl ike things where the player is only so able to make money off things a certain time before the demand dries up.


Plans let you spend one (or more, depending on how many) dice you drafted to cross off die in the Plan list. Plans are more restrictive, in that:

  • You can only work on one Plan at a time
  • Every time you advance a plan, you have to do it with the exact numbers you need to advance it.

This means that a player might roll a 3, decide they want to start on the third plan, and then can’t advance any more plans until they cash in a 4, then a 3 again to finish that plan. Plans make your other payouts better, though – both payouts for opportunities and triggered things from businesses. Consider these a way to earn XP when you want to do something with a die roll other than throw it away to the Old Crank in town (who will buy any die for 1 coin).

You can advance plans with as many or as few die at a time as you want, but it’s your whole turn; so if you draft a 5 and a 6, and only the 5 is useful to your active plan, you don’t get to cash in the 6 for money.


These are different, because quests are big cash payments. They might not even be cash – it might be that they give you another currency, like Quest Points, you can use to cash in for some specific buildings (like, say, a Wizards’ Tower or a Cathedral). Quests, like Plans can only be advanced one at a time, and need the exact next roll to advance.

Also, some adventurers will finish quests for people, based on what they’ve got.

Other Features

I know one feature I want on this is a corruption row – a line of tickboxes that just give you 2 coins every time you hit them. You can use this to make money when you don’t like your die rolls, but excessive corruption can lead to bad effects, and some player boards might secretly punish you (or reward you) for excess corruption.