# Rolling Dice When We Have No Dice

As a family full of teachers and students we spend quite a bit of time in the summer road-tripping, sitting around campfires, or otherwise being in situations where rolling physical dice is not convenient. On top of that, ever since my oldest was seven, we’ve been playing various D&D-style, theatre-of-the-mind verbal campaigns run by various members of the family. While many of these games have been completely verbal, shared stories, sometimes we’ve wanted to roll dice for a random element. I often do have a set of gaming polyhedrons with me, but many times we don’t, or there’s no proper surface for rolling, and sometimes, like camping, using our tech-devices for die-rolling is not the best use of power (When I have my phone I use Mach Dice by MachWerx).

So, what’s the alternative? We’ve developed a system that allows us to generate any random number with no dice or tech, just our minds. If we need to roll a 20-sided die to generate a number from 1-20 for instance, the Dungeon Master (DM) first picks a target number for success, then picks a number from 1-20 and keeps it to himself. Then the player picks a number from 1-20 and says out loud what it is. The DM adds the numbers together, wrapping back around to 1 when the number exceeds 20. For example, if the player picks 17 and the DM picks 8, the result is 5. This can be done for any size dice you desire. For an 8-sided die, both just pick a number from 1 to 8 for instance.

Interestingly this introduces an element of psychology to our rolling. Does the DM always pick high numbers, or does he always pick a number based off of my prior pick? It’s up to us to determine if there’s a pattern.

In any case it solves our need to role dice when dice are not available.

How do you game on-the-go? Let us know in the comments.

Note: Image of the dice in the header taken by James Bowe and found on Flickr. Licensed under creative commons. The image was cropped.

## 6 thoughts on “Rolling Dice When We Have No Dice”

1. “OK Google, roll a die”. Or any other kind of online/mobile app based solution.

2. Ryan Hiller says:

Yep, there are many good online solutions, and I like MachDice as an app (I haven’t looked for new ones since this app), but the solution in the post is for when you don’t have your phone or want to conserve its power. There are other solutions of course, like cutting out paper, or labeling rocks to use as tokens.

I just like this solution my kids and I came up with as it requires nothing, and introduces the dice rolling mind-sub game.

I often hear about people road tripping to GenCon and the like, and gaming as they go. As long as everyone could power their phones, “Ok Google”, or an App like MachDice would def be the way to go.

3. William E Gamble says:

When we played on our 15 hr drive to Milwaukee we would use a guess the number between 1-20 system gm writes a number asks you for a number if u guess his number that is a 20 so he writes 5 you say 3 that is an 18. if you would have said 6 that is a 1. Damage was …averages I think more so if you guessed a 20 equivalent number or close to it. This was B.G. Before google.

1. Ryan Hiller says:

Nice, that works too. I pretty much just had in my head “this monster is going to take three hits” and such, keeping it simple.

Google is an excellent solution when available. I like the kids having to do the math though (I tell them my number and let them figure it out much of the time.) I was actually in the situation of having to use no tech today. I was on a hike and turned around before the rest of the party (never split the party!) with my 7 year old nephew, and he wanted to play some D&D. I ran him through a pretty extensive scenario with quite a few rolls (I had him roll attacks and defense rolls) and since I was walking a trail I didn’t want to be staring at my phone. Was a more pleasant experience without the tech.

Thanks for your solution as well!

4. Kenny Smith says:

When you say, “the Dungeon Master (DM) first picks a target number for success”, what does that mean? Is this an additional number besides the one from the DM and the other from the other player. A bit confused by this part.

1. Ryan says:

There’s a certain target number that you’re trying to roll… the armor class of the target, the difficulty rating of jumping a pit. That’s the first number the DM needs to know. It can be a number you look up, like the armor class of the monster as found in the monster manual… or the DM could make a judgement call and say, this is a difficult jump, they need a 15 to make it.

In a normal game with dice, the player would now roll to see if they get a 15 or whatever. in this diceless method, the DM and the player now pick to random numbers and calculate the result in lieu of the roll.

Thanks for clarifying!