Temptation Dice

COMPATIBILITY: This plug-in assumes that your game uses dice (in smallish numbers - typically one to three at a shot) to resolve tasks or conflicts, and that failed rolls are a distinct possibility. If you’re ever seen someone miss their roll a couple of times in a row during a session with the system, and this wasn’t a great shock, but was something of an irritation, this may be a good plug-in for you.

Imagine if, when you were making your regular roll in a game, you rolled an extra die or two of the same type, and that these dice didn’t count, right off the bat, but they could. If you just paid a little something extra. So, it looks like you missed the orc with that roll, yep - oh, but your temptation die would be good enough to make the grade, if you switched to it. Is it worth paying a point of your health, strain a little harder, and do that? And that’s what Temptation dice are. They aren’t (necessarily) there to tempt the character. They’re there to tempt the player, and give them an extra option where the ‘fail rate’ is a irksome factor, but can’t be written out.

To add temptation dice to a game, there are a number of decisions you’ll need to make about how they will appear and be used.
  • Which rolls: Depending on the game and the use you want, it may be best to use temptation dice only on combat rolls - or only on skill rolls, or every roll, or something else entirely. Decide what kind of rolls they’d help on.
  • How Many: A game that uses a pool of dice and counts successes will usually only be benefit strongly from temptation dice if a few are used; a game that only uses a single d20 can do quite well with just a single such die.
  • What Color: It may sound obvious, but it’s rather important that temptation dice be a different color from ‘regular’ ones, to avoid confusion.
  • Added in or as replacements: When someone ‘gives in to temptation’, do they add in the dice, or swap out other ones? In single-die systems, the best answer is usually ‘swap them’, but this can vary. In die pool games, the best answer is often to add them in, but again, this can vary.
  • Cost and representation: You’ll need to decide what it costs to ‘activate’ these dice and use them. This might be a normal spendable resource (points of some kind) or it might be something that’s usually not spent in such a way, such as health. Or getting the dice might mean accepting a condition that you can later shake off (panic dice, for accepting fear conditions, is fun). Whatever the case, it must avoid creating “Wait, what?” - that is, if characters can make a grunting physical effort, burning health to get the die, being able to do so while picking a lock is a “Wait, what?” moment.

Some games already use bonus dice of various kinds, notably including “stunting dice” that are granted to a player for good description. In games that already do this, it’s possible to simply state that those dice are temptation dice - you get to roll them in the normal way, but they only count if you pay the temptation cost. Note that this is possible, but not necessarily recommended; the usefulness and fun factor of this kind of application varies wildly by rules system.

If temptation dice are used only on very specific rolls, or there’s an outrageously creative GM running the table, it’s also possible to leave off the cost of activating the dice altogether. If this is done, anytime the player wants those dice, the GM can tell them what will happen if they take them. So, if temptation dice were only used for mystical affairs, they might be ‘side effect’ dice; if you want them, you’ll need to accept some strangeness.

Of course, it’s also possible to cast temptation dice as something meant to tempt the character as well as the player. In a game filled with laser swords (ahem), temptation dice might represent the darker side of things. This can be combined with temptation on demand; in a game where every character has voices in their head, or a horrible monstrosity lurking within them waiting to make them large and green, those voices might actually be offering real help. Of course, the price can be steep.

If temptation on demand is available to the characters on a really regular basis, it’s often best to spread it out among the players. In this case, each player might act as “the tempter” to one other. Or you might roll a white temptation die and a black one with each roll, with the player to your right offering you noble self-sacrificing costs (and the white die), while the player on your left offers you depraved and awful side effects (and the black die). Reciprocal temptation concepts can be structured many different ways, but all of them require a group of players that will gleefully make offers that elicit a wince and a thoughtful pause. In addition, if temptation is going to be reciprocal and player-managed in this way, it’s often a good idea to have a list of common, recommended temptations on hand for inspiration and to act as guidelines for what is ‘about right’.