All the fun without dice: can you still play D&D without a d20?

Diceless Dungeons and Dragons

Dice seems to inseparable from roleplaying games that the
mere thought if playing D&D without them may seem weird. I was pondering the idea of what a diceless roleplaying system might look like for a while now though, which admittedly also means that I am weird.


*puts on professor glasses* <professor glasses>

Dice in D&D basically fulfill two functions. One is the obvious, they create random results. Well.. semi-random actually, if you take into account that Larry (actual name hidden as to not be a douchebag) always brings his “favourite” red die that is more unbalanced than a one-legged elephant and seems to roll a suspiciously staggering number of critical hits. But I digress..

*shifts professor glasses further up the nose*

So number one was to generate random numbers and then number two (oh boy.. lots of ‘number’ mentions here..) would be to create excitement and the only element that doesn’t consist of nuclear particles. The element of surprise! (Hey, Professor glasses mean professor humor).

</professor glasses>

Any system we would like to substitute therefore, should still allow us to create unexpected outcomes to keep things exciting.

I guess a question you could ask here is: why?! Good questions. I guess my answer would honestly just be “because you can!”. But you could find reasons for not wanting to go with actual dice on your table. Here are a few:

1 – No space on your table.
2 – You need to be quiet because your roommate that works the night shift will otherwise horribly murder you.
3 – Remember Larry and his red d20? That.

But then again, it’s just fun to try something new now and then, right? Anyway, once you found a sufficient reason to spring these rules on your fellow gamers, here’s how it works:

Diceless D&D houserules:

  1. Every player writes the numbers 1 to 20 onto a sheet of paper in front of them
  2. Whenever a player is supposed to make a dice roll s/he chooses a number from that list instead and crosses it out. This number is then the number that was “rolled”.
  3. Once all numbers have been crossed out, players begin again at step 1.

Now this would work by itself but could become a bit prone to players surprisingly always making “exactly the right” roll to succeed in a contest, skill check or attack roll. To counteract this, here are rules for how the Dungeon Master acts:

4. The Dungeon Master never reveals the target number of a skill check or the AC of a monster to the players. Players have to pick numbers they think will be sufficient for their attack rolls or skill checks. If they are particularly paranoid or afraid of DM “cheating” (we have a few very effective solutions for that problem in our GM course btw.) the DM can write down the target number on a piece of paper before asking players to choose their dice rolls. Once the situation is over the actual number can be revealed.

5. Inspiration can be used to regenerate a given number previously removed (so that number can be picked again) or to strike a number without having to pick it (for instance, a critical miss).

And that’s already all you need. It’s very simple really and can lead to some dramatic situations down the line in case everyone tends to pick their best numbers first and then realizes they are running into problems later in the game!

Overall, I would recommend that the DM encourages players to truly roleplay their successes and failures and to generously hand out Inspiration points for those actions.

Hope you have fun with this one and if you try it out or have any feedback, please let me know below!

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