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Dice Nerdery: How I speed up the game with better dice rolling

by Imaginary Daemo on June 06, 2017

There comes a time every gaming session when you have to throw down and combat begins - ROLL INITIATIVE!

The thing is though... combat can take FOREVER. One of the biggest speed-bumps that I have seen time and time again is when dice are rolled and the results need to be determined.

Below are the main dice-rolling tips that I have employed over the years to help speed up gameplay.

A few notes to keep in mind:

  • This is fairly basic stuff. If you're a seasoned gamer, you're probably going to roll your eyes at a lot of what I'm about to write - but it could be great for new gamers.
  • Overall this advice has been gained while playing D&D and Pathfinder, but will most likely help with other systems too.
  • Most of the below will be aimed at martial characters - fighters, paladins etc - characters with iterative attacks and multiple dice. Wizards probably won't gain much from this, but there are articles to come to help speed them up too :)

1. Do your maths first

When I first started playing, I thought that playing 'simple' classes like fighters and barbarians would mean less rules and more action! Lolz. The amount of maths (yes, I'm Australian and we say 'maths' instead of 'math') that needs to go into figuring out an attack routine is quite surprising.

The thing to try to get to is to make the process of adding up your attacks as easy as possible - which means doing all the work beforehand.

I've tried various things over the years, but what I have ended up settling on is something like the below - I list out every possible attack routine I'm going to use, so all I need to do is add the right numbers. It helps if you use a spreadsheet, but even if you have a traditional character sheet you can list out the main two or three attacks you normally make - it really helps speed things up.

The attack routines for my Level 15 Paladin

2. Roll any miss chances first

Blur, displacement, incorporeal and any other effect that can cause miss-chances should be rolled before rolling any attacks or spells. The last thing you want is to spend long minutes adding up numbers to then find out that the attack misses anyway.

3. Roll all of your dice at once

It's tempting to roll your dice as needed - attack first, then damage, then bonus damage. This can slow things down a lot, however. Instead aim to roll all of your dice in one go - attack dice and damage dice. Even throw in your miss chances as well if you can.

Once rolled, its easy to go through and add up everything, If an attack misses? Move all of those dice aside.

This part is greatly helped with the next tip...

4. Colour code your attacks

This comes into play when you have multiple attacks. It's MUCH easier to add up things when you can easily see your first, second third and other attack dice to see which ones to either add up or move aside.

Being a web designer from way back, I of course went with Red, Green and Blue for the order of my dice (With bonus Orange if someone has caste Haste!)

5. Rolling heaps of damage dice? Add up to 10's

This one works more for wizards and casters who can chuck around lots of d6's, but works equally well for paladins, clerics and the like.

When you roll a bunch of the same dice, a quick way of adding up the result is to quickly sort them into groups of numbers that add up to 10 - usually 2 dice in a group, but sometimes 3. It's fairly rudimentary but this has helped me a lot in the past when adding up disintegrates. 

And that's it! Not rocket science, but some tips that have helped me a lot over the year and that get used at my gaming table every gaming session.

Reply in the comments below with your own dice tips and tricks!