Lowlife Dice

A New Years Resolution Mechanic

Dan Phipps

1/3/20243 min read

This post is brought to you by Prismatic Wasteland's New Year's Resolution Challenge, and serves as a distillation of loose design ideas collected over the past year.


Inspired by how accurate and inaccurate weapons work in Lancer and how Tunnel Goons was a pleasure to write an adventure for. Also the Black Hack and DCC and Macchiato Monsters for their contribution to The Dice Chain.


Easy adventure writing and GM improv, players drive their approach, weird mechanical interactions, open up what “gets” mechanical impact, getting better improves consistency as well as results.


Everything that matters has a dice associated with it based on how impactful it is. Even your name. If it doesn’t have a dice it has a d0.

We’re using the “typical” dice chain of d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12. You can use your weird d7 if you want to. Bigger dice, bigger impact.


Whenever a PC does something interesting, they roll a d20 for luck and whatever die on their character sheet best represents their approach.

The GM or adventure will provides a flat number to hit. 10 is easy, 15 is challenging, 20 is difficult, 21+ is impossible without training or proper gear.

Roll dice and add the results together.

Aaron is a baron with a pet attack heron. He’s not particularly well known, but his barony is pretty good and his heron is even better, so Aaron (d4) the Baron (d6) with a Heron (d8) sics his bird on the bandit lord Karen.

The GM has nothing prepared for Karen, and the adventure didn’t say anything about her except that she’s tough. The GM says the first number that comes to mind, which is 15. This will make sense retroactively.

Aaron’s player will roll a d20 for luck and a d8 for the heron, add them together, and compare them to 15.

Interpreting the Roll

If your total is less than the roll you fail, and the difference between your roll and the target is the consequences you take. If you’re doing something dangerous, the consequence is probably damage.

If you meet or exceed the number you succeed. The difference between your roll and the target is consequences but, like, the good kind. If you were trying to do harm then that number is the damage you deal.

If someone rolls really high or really low and it isn’t obvious why that matters then the GM should start a clock and be cryptic about what that means.

Aaron the Baron rolled a 12 for his luck and a 1 for his Heron. That’s 2 too few, which means the Heron missed Karen. The GM could give Aaron a point of damage, but instead decides to start a clock labeled “Heron Despairin’” to track how long until the warbird decides to just fly off and find a duke or something to hang out with. The clock is at 2.


Take a point of exp if either die was a 0 or a 1. If you only rolled a d20 then you technically rolled a d0 and get an exp for trying something new. The more you fuck around the more you find out.

Aaron is worried about the Despairin’ Heron but at least he learned something today. He gets 1 exp. In Herons, I guess?

Appendix: Other notes

If you were casting a spell and rolled a 1 with either die, reroll it and use that number on the magical mishaps table that presumably exists.


The player might have a positive or negative modifier to their roll if they’ve been blessed, cursed, or have magic items.

Risk Dice and Decay

Risk Dice can be used to track depleting resources and other things that break down. If having more of a thing determines how good it is, use the risk dice in the roll. If the amount doesn’t matter, roll it separately.