Should Dungeons & Dragons be played without dice? One new Dungeon Master is pondering this question, as one of his players seems adamant that dice rolls should be abandoned to focus on "roleplaying".
Dungeons & Dragons is virtually synonymous to tabletop roleplaying. The most popular roleplaying game system in the world was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, along with input from their wargaming friends and community. Since TSR, Inc. published it in 1974, D&D has become a global phenomenon. It is now a billion-dollar multimedia franchise under Wizards of the Coast and parent company Hasbro, appearing not just in tabletop roleplaying games and supplements, but also books, comics, merchandise, television, video games, and a big budget live-action film.
Despite the recent Open Gaming License (OGL) controversy, Dungeons & Dragons is as popular as ever. But is the dice-rolling aspect of the game something that can be removed and still enjoy D&D? At least one player seems to think so.
The Reddit user "Nightmarer26" posted on the sub-Reddit r/DnD his situation. As a new Dungeon Master establishing his gaming table, one of their players voiced out that he heavily prefers "roleplay" over "roll play":
Let me elaborate on this: he solely, and exclusively it seems, wants to roleplay. This is not to say he doesn't want combat to happen, rather he just doesn't to roll any kind of dice ever. This effectively means no checks, saving throws or anything that requires dice which is basically every single thing as its the core of the system. He is adamant on everything being accomplished by roleplay, no dice involved. I can understand his sentiment but I cannot and will not turn the campaign into a glorified storytelling, I want to play a game as well.
The newbie Dungeon Master later added:
So... TLDR?: Player has some problems with how other players choose to roleplay, also has problems with the naturally slow pace of a dungeon (partly caused by my inexperience in doing so) and just wants to get things going with few dice rolls as possible, preferably none at all.
The thread has had hundreds of responses, ranging from suggestions to make the dice roll parts more appealing to mentioning other RPG systems that might be more to the player’s liking.
This situation is not uncommon in Dungeons & Dragons, or any TTRPG, for that matter. Players in any roleplaying game will have different tendencies and approaches in contributing to their gaming table, whether in the U.S. or in other countries such as in Japanese D&D.
Some players can be power gamers, who find satisfaction in "winning" (even though technically there is no actual contest in RPGs, other than defeating enemies and monsters) and getting the best loot, as well as maximizing their characters’ abilities.
Then there are strategists. These players are happiest when they can come up with intelligent and novel ways of finding solutions, not just in battle but by matching wits with the NPCs the Game Master essays. Coming up with clever uses of the rules and abilities of their characters gives strategists the most satisfaction.
And then there are the thespians. These players are more invested in the story and acting out their characters, as if the game session is a form of theater or method acting. These are usually the players who scoff at the dice rolling aspect, as the randomness can be unpredictable and sometimes wind up with undesirable results for what direction they wanted their characters’ to go.
Oftentimes, player groups in D&D or any other TTRPG will have these traits, or combinations of these. And the Dungeon Master has the difficult task of trying to keep everyone happy. However, completely removing the dice rolling from a D&D game seems an unsatisfactory option. After all, Dungeons & Dragons has its roots in miniature wargames.
Before D&D, Gary Gygax created Chainmail (with Jeff Perren) which was a wargame for medieval-themed miniatures. Originally published under Guidon Games in 1971, Chainmail focused heavily in mass battles, with additional rules for man-to-man combat, jousting, and later, spellcasting. But it was the input of Gygax’s contemporary in the Castle & Crusade Society, Dave Arneson, and his Blackmoor campaign that helped flesh out what would become Dungeons & Dragons.
While there are TTRPG systems that use fewer dice, replaces them with other randomizers (such as cards), or even completely removes them, dice-rolling is an inherent part of the complete Dungeons & Dragons package. In fact, the production of dice has become a cottage industry within the larger TTRPG industry. Even Arby’s has sold limited edition roleplaying game dice sets that have become highly sought after in the secondary market.
Moreover, the randomizing element using dice is a staple in the Dungeons & Dragons experience. Even video games such as the Gold Box D&D games, the Baldur’s Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, or MMOs like Dungeons & Dragons Online use the dice roll mechanics for resolution coded into them. Perhaps the best approach to this is discussing with the entire table of players and finding an equitable solution that makes everyone happy.
Interested in starting out your first Dungeons & Dragons game? Wizards of the Coast has free downloadable material, including educational resources for learning institutions, available at the D&D Beyond website and app.