Using Mixed Dice for GURPS

Spurred by a recent online discussion, I realized that I’ve mentioned these tips in various places, but maybe not all together in one place. These are just a few ways to incorporate dice of different colors and/or sizes into your GURPS games, generally with an eye towards speeding up individual turns. (I’ve already written about how GMs can use different-colored dice to speed up large mobs of NPCs over here.)

  • The most common variant is to roll 3d6 of one color for an attack and Xd6 of a different color for damage at the same time. This is pretty much standard in my home group. So, if Bob Barbarian has an Axe skill of 15 and an axe that does 3d+1 points of damage, he rolls a total of 6d6: three green dice for the skill check against 15, and three red dice for the damage if it ends up being a successful hit. My eyes find some variant of red for the damage dice helpful, but as long as the players are consistent in which color is which, shouldn’t be any hiccups.
  • This wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we also experimented with adding a third 3d6 of yet another color to the above mix, as the target’s Active Defense roll. So Bob, above, would roll 9d6: the two sets of 3d6, plus another set in a third color for his target’s defense. Generating your attack roll, potential damage, and target’s defense success or failure in a single throw can really speed things up, and a lot of players love rolling handfuls — but some players will also find that many dice overkill. The nice thing is, each player in a group can make their own choice, and even switch from turn to turn, without causing problems.
  • In addition to colors, using a mix of standard-sized 16mm and the smaller 12mm can add even more variables. One player who often used Dual-Weapon Attacks to fire a pistol in each hand would roll 10d6 each turn: red 16mm 3d6 to attack and red 12mm 2d6 for damage (his right-hand attack), and purple 16mm 3d6 to attack and purple 12mm 2d6 for damage (his left-hand attack).

That was basically using the first option above twice, once for each hand… in theory, he could have used the second option instead and rolled 16d6 each turn: the above, plus two more 3d6 sets for his target’s defense (differentiated either by color or size). At that point, though, you might start needing to write down a ‘dice key’ so you don’t forget which color/size combo represents what!

Finally, can’t have a post about multi-colored sets of dice and not mention this Farkle set as a convenient way to grab six differently-colored sets of 6d6 (and they even come with coordinated rolling cups).

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