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The dice chain is a concept or method used in table top RPG to alter rolls. In the old standby of Dungeons & Dragons when a resolution is in doubt a die or dice are rolled and that roll is compared to a target number. Rolls usually have modifiers applied to them in the form of some number which is added to the number on the die. In common dice notation this looks something like 2d10+3; where the two represents the number of dice rolled, ten represents the number of sides the dice have, and the three is the amount added to the dice. Imagine we roll the dice and get a six and a nine which sum to fifteen, then add three to get eighteen and you have your result. Most games operate with in this paradigm. Rolls are modified by specific numbers like +1, +4, -2, etcetera. This has the advantage that it's fairly straight forward to understand and has no ceiling. It has the disadvantages that bigger numbers make the math progressively harder and that it involves addition at all.

Enter the Dice Chain! Instead of adding numbers to die rolls to modify them simply use a larger or smaller die. In the standard polyhedral dice set this would go d4 - d6 - d8 - d10 - d12 - d20 in that order. Black Hack uses the dice chain in its resource tracking. A roll of one or two results in a drop down the dice chain and when rolled on a d4 you've run out of that item. Dungeon Crawl Classic uses a dice chain with an expanded dice set, d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, d30. The notation for a movement up or down he dice chain is ±nd, where n is the size of the shift. It also is a d20 system systems so ±1s are all over but the dice chain is more than a different way of implementing bonus and penalties. Dice chains expand and contract the range of possible rolls available rather than simply shifting that range up or down the line. The only real weakness of the dice chain is that it's limited by the number of dice that one has access to. This (and probably just the impulse for novelty) has actually resulted in a massive increase in kinds of dice. At the moment there are dice for every integer from one to twenty and every even number from twenty to thirty.

The weirdest part of this is that it only showed up in the last ten years. The entire hobby exists as a consequence of Dungeons and Dragons but it's astounding in hindsight how long it took for new paradigms to show up in the game design space.


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