EpicTable Dice Cup Designer

Posted in EpicTable Development, Screenshots on October 13, 2008 at 2:14 am

One of my goals for EpicTable is to support many different roleplaying games. In a previous post, I discussed my efforts to implement dice rolls found in a wide variety of RPGs. In this post, I examine dice rolls from a slightly different angle—that of composing complicated dice rolls—and I’ll give you a preview of EpicTable’s “Dice Cup Designer“.

The dice cup is EpicTable’s metaphor for a set of dice that you’re going to roll at the same time, along with any modifiers and special handling that you need to apply to it, such as dropping high or low values, handling open-ended or “exploding” dice rolls, etc.

The dice cup designer won’t be the only way to create a dice roll in EpicTable. If you need a quick d20 or 3d6, there’s no need for the designer. But when you have to put together something really interesting, you can pop this open and build up a dice cup that does just what you need.

Dice Cup Designer In Action

The first screenshot shows the designer with a dice cup for the game, Don’t Rest Your Head (which I’m completely enthralled with—but that’s a topic for another post). As you can see in the screenshot, there are some things still under development. Here’s an annotated version of that same dice cup designer screenshot (click either for their full-size version).

As you click on a die in the lower pane of the designer, a corresponding die is added to the dice cup panel at the top. Hopefully, it’s clear that the dice in the top panel of the designer are to-be-rolled dice. That is, we’re building up a set of dice to roll, not actually rolling them yet. There are dice for all the well-known polyhedral dice, plus a Fudge die.

Dice Color Schemes

You can choose the color of the die to be added, as well as the color of the numbers. This can be totally aesthetic—choosing a color scheme that suits the game or your character. However, you can also use this capability to build dice cups for game mechanics that differentiate dice by color. In this example, I’ve build a dice cup for Don’t Rest Your Head with 3 white dice for discipline, 2 black exhaustion dice, and a single red madness die.

How many choices? I haven’t done the math. There are dozens of pre-defined, named colors that I think may originate from the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) specification. In addition, you can define your own by RGB value.

Special Evaluation Examples

Here are another couple examples. Note that the “Special Evaluation / Finishing” pane is used in both of these to accomplish the special handling needed for the roll.

This one shows a roll for My Life with Master, where the player has invoked the desperation die (the orange d6).

Rolling stats for a d20 character: 4d6, drop the lowest die.

User Experience Questions

Special Handling for Just Some Dice

There are some things that are making me scratch my head a bit from a user experience perspective. Take another look at that My Life with Master dice cup with the orange d6. The special handling clause “drop 4s” only applies to the d4s. My current notion for how to signal that is to let users select multiple dice in the dice cup and apply the “Special Handling” section to just the selected dice. That’s not horrifying, but it’s not apparent in the user interface once you’ve moved on to something else. Another notion would be to turn that textual representation into something more structured—basically, click a clause, and see the corresponding dice light up and the “special handling” selection updated accordingly. That’s a lot of work for something that’s maybe still not that intuitive. If you have suggestions, please let me know.

Evaluation vs. Resolution

Another issue I wonder about is how clear the line is between dice roll evaluation and resolution. The way I think about this, evaluation is anything I can do on the dice in isolation—in other words, doing helpful things like summing or counting or sorting dice. Resolution involves comparing the roll to other characters’ rolls, or to difficulties or targets set by the GM. I don’t want to get into the latter, because it’s very game system specific and situation specific. I don’t want the tool to ever get in the way of the GM, and I think this might be a case where trying to get the tool to do exactly what you want in every situation is more painful than helpful to the GM. Also, I have no interest in actually replacing the need for the rule books. EpicTable is an environment, not a game unto itself.

The Slippery Slope of Success (Counting Successes)

The grey area for me is a roll that where you count successes. For instance, if you’re rolling 12d6 and a success is a 1, 2, or 3 on each die, it’s pretty helpful for EpicTable to count those for you. I really want to do that, but different games have different success targets…and sometimes they change, so I’d need to also allow you to tweak the success target occasionally. There’s the first bit of grey.

The next bit is introduced by games like Don’t Rest Your Head, which evaluates individual dice pools in addition to the dice roll in its entirety. In the example I gave above, the dice cup had 3 discipline dice, 2 exhaustion dice, and 1 madness die. Well, in DRYH, successes are 1, 2, or 3, but it also matters which of those pools has the highest single die result.

For example, if I roll 1, 4, 5 white, 2 and 3 black, and 6 red, I have 3 successes, and the red pool (madness) is dominant, since it had the high roll. I don’t think I want to go that far. Enough games use successes that I really would like to implement something in terms of success counting. Game-specific stuff like dice pool dominance is a step too far, I think, even though it still stops short of resolution (because it hasn’t been compared to the opponent’s roll yet).

Beyond the Dice Cup Designer

So, beyond just building up an ad-hoc dice cup in the designer, what are your options in EpicTable? You may or may not have noticed the little dice cup icons at the top of the EpicTable window in previous EpicTable screenshots. Those represent dice cups that you’ve built and want to keep handy. In addition, EpicTable character sheets will support dice cups that incorporate character attributes. That’s a topic that warrants its own discussion. I’ll talk about how you can create dice cups for EpicTable character sheets in a later post.

Closing Thoughts

As always, I appreciate any questions and feedback that you have. Please chime in on the forum via the comments link below.

Credits: Die images by Brennen Reece.

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