Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/10/21/tabletop-review-dice-and-glory/
A psychic storm erupts from your, until recently conscious, friend’s head ,throwing fireballs and lightning bolts all around the area. Thankfully, your ju-jitsu training starts to pay off when you start dodging the hellfire falling from the sky. Too bad it’s not helping you very well against the darkiron robot you pissed off when you stole its spaceskiff from the docking yards by the mage tower. That was, of course, before you crashed it into the next planet over. How were you supposed to know these things didn’t drive like your Charger? With imminent death staring at you in the face with a pulse rifle you pick up your great ax, make a quick prayer to your new god, shoot your laser eyes, and take a swing against all hope. Roll the Dice and claim your Glory!
Okay, this may not be a normal situation in Dice and Glory but it IS a possible scenario. Dice and Glory represents just about any game or role playing setting that one could think of such as: fantasy, modern warfare, or even counter intelligence espionage in space with superpowers. The game doesn’t fit any specific genre of tabletop gaming because it is built to be playable in all genres. More to the point, it is built to BE all genres. It’s really up to you on what you want to do, because if you can think of it, the rules for it probably exist somewhere in this book!
Overall, the book looks and reads like a textbook. Yes, there are drawings and pictures here and there to liven things up, but the book is so full of information, rules, and charts that if they put more pictures in the book would well extend past its current 208 page layout. The extreme detail in Dice and Glory is both a strength and a weakness of the game. With the detail of customization that the book brings, the players and gamemaster can imagine anything they want to do or create and have it work well together even if they would seem contradictory or ridiculous. The players in a game could be a vampire, a cyborg, a Victorian steampunk landlady, and a space alien in a world created by a GM made entirely out of pudding. Ruleswise everything would be kosher. (Can pudding be kosher?) The problem is that with this amount of detail comes an absurd amount of complexity. The book runs 208 pages deep and no page is wasted. Each and every single page is bursting with descriptions, rule sets, and charts on how to make anything from a suit of armor to a martial arts system. This wouldn’t be a huge problem except that the book is not edited very well, so finding things can be a bit of a problem. The book will sometimes refer to things that are much later in the book even if those things are very important to the section you are reading about. An example of this is “HR” (Hardness Rating). This stat is referenced many times in the book but is never actually named or described until Chapter 10 – halfway through the book. Other things appear to be out of order or in the wrong area or chapter. There is a section of the book that describes areas in the world that have a drastic effect on magic and those who wield it. Is this in the magic section? Nope! It’s in another chapter BEFORE the chapter on magic, so when you read the book the first time you have no idea what it’s talking about in regards to the magic rules. So if you’re reading Dice and Glory for the first time be prepared to be flipping back and forth quite a bit. Don’t let the rule complexity scare you away though. You only need to read the rules of the book that apply to the setting you are creating. So if you are making a world without magic, or a character who’s not psychic you can skip a good portion of the book.
Once you get through the book and its contents, the act of character creation is a fun process. Character stats are rolled with a d10 system (the game itself is played with a d20 system) where each stat is rolled on a d10 and subtracts 4 from that number. This is kind of confusing until you realize that your stat is also your bonus at the same time. So rolling a 6 gives you a 2 stat that you apply to all appropriate rolls. There are a whopping ten stats to roll, with three optional! Along with the standard six stats (Str, Con, Int, etc.) are Beauty, Aura, Mental, Endurance, and Perception. Beauty (BEA) is exactly what it sounds like; how good your character looks on a physical level. Aura (AUR) represents your character’s life energy which is used for psychic situations. Mental Endurance (ME) is your mind’s mental strength, and Perception (PER) how well your character is aware the immediate surroundings. The special three optional stats are Chi (CHI), Faith (FTH), and Luck (LUK) which are only allowable under the GM’s consent (and are also another example of misplacement in the book). Chi is a stat that is almost exclusively for players rolling up a certain type of spiritual player. Faith is your characters faith in his or her religion. Luck is how lucky you character is. These stats can be used in situations to help you character deal more damage, take less damage, or make certain checks lower. Personally, I wouldn’t use them expect for CHI and only for a certain character. They seem a bit over powered for a normal session, but could definitely spice up a campaign for experienced role players to play around with some new mechanics.
Once all the stats are rolled, character creation moves onto class selection, alignment, and inborn traits. Character classes define simply how your character fights and engages the world. Unlike RPG’s such as Dungeons & Dragons, your class is not a set road with a few optional tweaks here and there. You class only relegates how much HP you have , the increases to saving throws that you gain when you level up of this class and certain bonuses to your character. Thus classes mainly define what a characters role is rather than what they are in their lives. The alignment system differs from other RPGs as well in that there are not two but three alignments to select from! The first two are the standard evil, good, lawful, evil variety, while the third is your character personal alignment. This is less of an alignment and more of your character personality. This is a good option to put in because it helps a player know how their character would most likely go about their life and engage with people. The inborn traits are an interesting part of the process. You roll against a chart to see what kind of natural ability your character gets. These can range from having better eyesight, doing more damage, or even being extremely sexy. It’s a neat addition to character creation that gives even more uniqueness to characters.
Experience and leveling up is again dealt with in a detailed and complicated way. Experience is treated more like a currency than an idea of inner growth. Everything that enhances your character has to be bought with experience for a price. On the lower end of things combat bonuses and saving throw increases start at a scant 1,000 exp per buy and class levels start at 1,500 but increase in price by a multiple of the next level. Attribute bonuses are the most expensive at 8,000 per point. EXP spending can only be performed at the end of a session after experience has been doled out, and only one advancement may be purchased per session. This protects against a player saving up and buying multiple feats at once, which is good for game balance. The XP purchasing system is great for players, because after a short time each player’s character will look drastically different from every other character at the table. The bad side of this is that since each character is not uniform in any way, it’s up to the player to keep track of exactly what is going on with their characters as there isn’t any sort of base line to go back to. It also calls for some trust from the GM because they will have a hard time making sure every player is conducting their characters correctly without going into a thirty minute discussion of how they are able to do what they do.
On a good note, most of the info used for character creation can be ignored. Not that anything in the book is useless, but it simply may not be needed. If your character is not a wizard, psychic, or priest then you can ignore a good chunk of the chapters. So in reality, although character creation can be a big processs, it is thankfully not as arduous as one would think when looking through the book. Overall, I wouldn’t let a first time player loose in this system by himself (unless I hated him). An experienced player will probably have a field day, however, with all the available options
Dice and Glory is either going to be a GM’s worst nightmare or their creative heaven. The Dice and Glory manual contains all player, GM, magic, and monster information. How is this possible you ask? Well, there is no monster manual – only the rules with which to make monsters. There is no world layout, only rules to make worlds. There are no spells anywhere in the manual, only the tools with which to make up spells. Rules….Rules…RULES! If you are a GM who likes to have most of the things in the world already pre-made with quick references, descriptions, and battle tactics of each monster then I would warn you to steer clear of Dice and Glory. Conversely, if you be a GM who likes to forge his own world of creation from his own being and make the rules fit his campaign rather than have his campaign conform to rules, then Dice and Glory is your game! With the absence of pre-made monsters, spells, and the like the game can literally be anything you want it to be. You don’t even have to have monsters. You could just have mobsters, or track runners, or grandmas. Really it’s up to you. There are rule sets for just about anything you want to do, but be aware that this wide range of rules is also available to your players. So a tight rein on what your players are allowed access to, or a masterful knowledge of the game rules are going to be paramount so you don’t have players breaking your game or creating characters that die in three seconds. Overall Dice and Glory can be a near limitless toolbox for certain GM’s but is not for the less experienced.
Again, this game is both very detailed and very complicated. Encounter play out like most RPGs with initiatives, live of sight, attack rolls, and movement/action restriction per turn. This is about where most of the similarities end. Depending on how your character is built, you could be making a few rolls to many rolls per turn. When fighting you not only get attack rolls, but your opponent may also get defensive rolls to counter your attack or deflect the damage. There are battle skills that could trigger certain effects if specific situations present themselves such as a parry, grapple, bites, rends, and many more battle oriented actions. While this won’t come up much early in the game, all of these battle triggered skills are buyable/trainable skills that will start to show up later in games, so be prepared for some you roll/they roll/you roll situations. This is not just for melee fights, but psychic and possibly magic as well.
The strangest thing I noticed about gameplay mechanics is the use of magic. There are WAY too many rules of magic in this game to go over right now but one thing is especially weird. As a player casting magic, you do not roll to hit. Spells always hit apparently. What one does when casting magic is roll a skill check instead to see if the spell was performed properly. On a fail nothing happens, and a success you hit. Seems simple, but many things can cause the DC of a spell to increase, and a clever GM could throw them at a mage at will.
When it comes to Dice and Glory, players and GMs alike are going to have to know their characters intimately. With the extreme amount of character control the player has over building and growing a character, remembering exactly everything that character can do can be daunting. It would almost be helpful to have a small quick reference chart to have in addition to the character sheet to remember small things you can do in very specific situations.
Dice and Glory is a great game to have in the hand of some experienced tabletop RPG players. With only bare bone rules for nearly everything that could be possible in a game, a player can make a very specific kind of character to the point of micromanaging, and a GM has full range to create whatever world or campaign he or she could possibly want to make. However, with due to some poor editing, complicated rules, and a long reading requirement, Dice and Glory may not be the best game for a first time player or a more leisurely GM to get into. As it says on the cover of the manual, Dice