DreadBall Design Notes – Dice

So now you know what stats and roles do and how armour fits in. Now we get to the meat of the game: the core dice mechanic.

At the heart of the way actions are resolved is a single mechanic that covers the vast bulk of dice usage in DB. There are a couple of other things that dice are used for: launching the ball, scattering the ball, doing Ref checks and so on, but these are less common and are simple cases of form following function.

Core Dice Notation

The core mechanic is used for most action tests, and that means most of the game. A test is written in a standard format. This means that I can, should I ever need to, introduce other tests and they will slip neatly into the core of the game without a ripple. This notation is as follows:

3 dice Skill test (1)

This notation is made up of three parts.

3 dice Skill test (1)

The first part tells you how many dice you get to start with for your roll. This is usually 3, but can vary. Also, it can be modified by your player role and the situation. It is very important to understand that modifiers always apply to the number of dice you roll and never to the the number you are rolling against.

3 dice Skill test (1)

The second part is the stat you are rolling against. This can be Strength, Speed, Skill or Armour. They are all defined as X+, so 3+, 4+ and so on. This number never changes during a game. Each dice that rolls this number or better is called a success.

3 dice Skill test (1)

The final bit is the target number. This is the number of successes you need to roll in order for the action to succeed.Β There are 3 possible types of target number.

  • (1) A simple number.
  • (X) An opposed roll – you and your opponent roll and the one with more successes wins.
  • (123) An increasingly difficult target – each time you try that roll within the same action the target number gets one higher.

So, the example above (which is for picking up a loose ball, by the way) means that you roll 3 dice, and each one needs to be equal or better to your Skill stat in order to be a success. If you roll at least one success then you pick up the ball.


Most of the rolls have a small number of possible modifiers. A fair number of these are +1 for being a specific role. This helps make each role better at what it is supposed to be good at. The rest of the modifiers are situational and include things like standing in opposing player’s threat hexes. In general there are only a couple of these for each test and they are memorised fairly rapidly.

Rolling Up

So you roll a handful of dice, compare each to the appropriate stat and that’s your number of successes. Well, yes, but there’s more. Each dice that rolls a 6 counts as one success and you get another dice to roll. Leave the first one where it was as a reminder and roll another dice. If you get another 6, do it again, and so on. If you roll several 6s then roll each of them up. In this way a lucky player can beat someone with far better stats. It’s always fun to be able to turn the tables once in a while.


Many (but not all) rolls have an enhanced effect which kicks in if you double the target number. For example, if your roll to pick up the ball gets double the target number of successes, ie 2 or more, then you not only pick up the ball, but get a free action to either Run or Throw as well.


So, by combining the simple stats, roles and armour together with a pretty straightforward dice mechanic you have something altogether more subtle. The difference in stats is compounded by both the way the dice mechanic works, plus the role bonuses to makes apparently similar players from different teams work very differently on the pitch. Let’s look at an example.

I can never decide whether I prefer Orx or Veer-myn Guards. They are both Guards so they have the same armour and same bonuses for different actions. Their other stats (Strength, Speed, Skill) are:

Orx Guard: 3+, 4+, 5+

Veer-myn: 4+, 3+, 5+

Not a big difference, right? Wrong.

Start by ignoring the Skill. Guards can’t pick up the ball so it’s never used.

Strength is mostly used for Slam actions, which is the signature theme of the Guard. You run up to someone and thump them.

Speed for a Guard is mostly used for Dodge responses to opposing Slams. You see, when someone Slams you then you can choose to either Slamback or Dodge, ie you fight it out or you get out of the way. However, if you are looking the wrong way and they Slam you from behind then you don’t get to pick – you can only Dodge.

A Guard making a Slam will typically roll 5 dice (3 basic, +1 for being a Guard, +1 for taking a run up). Rolling against a 3+ gives an Orx Guard an average of 3.9 successes (including a likely roll up). A Veer-myn in the same position will have an average of 2.9.

Dodging looks rather different. If the Orx is Slammed from behind and needs to Dodge they will probably be rolling 3 dice and will get an average of 1.75 successes. The Veer-myn has an average Dodge of 2.3.

Slams and dodges are opposed rolls so your number of successes is compared to your opponent. On the pitch these numbers translate to the Veer-myn generally surviving better than Orx, especially against Strength 4 Guards (humans and other Veer-myn) who can’t knock them over easily when they sneak up behind. Orx against Strength 4 Guards are not enormously vulnerable, but it’s a world away from the lethality of attacking them from the front (3.1 Slamback vs 1.75 Dodge). And people you hit from behind don’t hit back if you lose.

The differences in these average numbers are not large, but the cumulative effect of all these slight variations, plus other considerations such as Veer-myn moving faster, plus the differing numbers of each role available to each team all mount up.Β It is this interaction that gives the character to the sides, and a point of stat here or there adds up to a noticeable difference.

Coaching Dice

Still not quite finished with the wrinkles.

Each team gets a number of Coaching Dice at the start of a game. These are usually blue so that they stand out from the white dice for the home team and the red ones for the visitors. The reason they need to stand out is that they are one-use per game dice that can be added to any of the above type of rolls at the Coach’s discretion.

As well as starting with some Coaching Dice, you can also earn more during a game by impressing the crowd. Your cool Strikes and brutal tackles get them going, and their cheers in turn inspire your team to greater efforts.

When you choose to use these dice is up to you, but you must decide before you roll any dice for that test. In the test they work just like any other dice, so an Orx will be more likely to get a success if he adds a Coaching Dice to a Strength roll than a Speed test, but he’d not need the help as much there either. It’s a balancing act.

What is particularly interesting is that Coaching Dice can be used to attempt something that would otherwise be modified to zero dice and therefore be impossible. So do you save it for then?

Either way, when they’re gone, they’re gone. You could always use more than you have.

This entry was posted in DreadBall - The Futuristic Sports Game, Game Design Theory. Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to DreadBall Design Notes – Dice

  1. Minitrol says:

    Alright now you’ve done it. I love these mechanics. You evil evil man.

    On the plus side God of Battle is bound to be awful right? Right??!

    (to be fair Ronnie et al can share the blame cos damn if it don’t look sexy)

  2. Blair says:

    Sounds great! Just weird question. Are there equal amounts of blue/red/white dice in the game? Just cause I’d probably use blue and red as the team dice since it goes with the strike goal areas on the pitch. Minor quibble.

    • Monkey's Blood says:

      I totally agree, I’d have blue/red for the teams and white for the cosch dice too

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You’ll find that the pitch markings, turn tracks, scoring tracks, action counters and fan cards are all themed with white for home and red for visitors. Hence the colours of the dice. The fancy acrylic pitch is a bit different, but that’s fancy for you πŸ˜‰

      Of course, I fully expect people to use their own favourite weird dice because that’s what gamers do, and that’s why there is a market for marbled swirly metallic sparkly translucent luminous dice. I’m just talking about the vanilla version here.

  3. Monkey's Blood says:

    Hooray for metallic sparkly translucent luminous dice, that’s what I say

  4. Monkey's Blood says:

    Interesting that you say it would be easy to add new mechanics… are there any plans to do this with things like skills or off-the-wall teams?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Over on BGG (I think it was) someone asked how many teams was the right number. I think 4 is a good number to start with – obvious really as I could have easily put more or less in if I’d thought otherwise. In the long run though, league players will want more, and I agree. As these aren’t all written yet, it’s entirely possible that one or more of them will need a new rule, and MVPs are very likely to need something. It therefore seemed sensible to construct the mechanics in such as way as to allow for possible expansions. Doesn’t mean we have to – there’s nothing missing – but it does mean that they should dovetail nicely with the core work if we do.

  5. Monkey's Blood says:

    Actually, it was me on here asking about the teams… of course maybe someone on BBG asked as well! But well done for planning ahead. I look forward to the forthcoming team of genetically modified gorillas in space helmets. And a whole team of ‘John Doe’ Aliens. A man can dream, can’t he?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Was it? Sorry, I’m losing track about what I’ve said where. This is why I prefer people to come to quirkworthy and ask here. Less confusing for me ;P

      I think the gorillas have been done (AT-43) and are a bit old hat now, but JD may find some friends. Who knows? Maybe I’ll think of something even cooler!

  6. Monkey's Blood says:

    AT-43 has sci-fi gorillias? Damn, that’s another game for me to look up,,,

  7. Blair says:

    Sharkmen. That is all. One can dream.

    Anywho, yeah the kickstarter just made it seem very Red vs Blue, not Red vs White. But whichever, it’s not a dealbreaker since I plan on converting the MDF plain pitch I’m buying into a shanty outdoor pitch that’s decaying. Maybe something along the lines of a Veer-myn home pitch or a slum planet’s pitch as part of some Galactic Tour to kind of fit in with the story a bit. I have idears.

    Bipedal Sharks? Or a Moose & Beaver team since I’m Canadian and have to give a shout out to Canada.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      If you have a moose & beaver team, then I have to have bulldog team for the Brits and golden eagles for the Yanks. I think I’ll leave them for fan based stuff πŸ˜‰

      • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

        I would love to see space foxes, maybe with a slight traditional japanese theme attached to it. Hope you are also reading these comments πŸ˜‰

      • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

        Since I can’t reply to the one down low, I reply here.

        Yes space Kitsunes with three tails and a habit to rob the ball last minute to create some chaos on the field. To add to their armor, they can feature small touches of a samurai armor. Not too much to expose them as japanese copycats, but a nod here and there πŸ˜€

        Also since I might have confused you now in the comment section my work as a mischievious Kitsune (or maybe a racoon) is done!

      • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

        … and since you are fairly interested, here is my full take on that, than just throw in an animal and adding space to it

        Here is more fleshed out concept of my fox team

        Ke-Zune* 8**

        The Ke-Zune 8 are a team of the Kelians***. On a quick look they might resemble the foxes we know from earth, but being somewhat humanoid and having three tails. Like foxes they seem to be very curious, which led them to the technology they are sporting. Sicne they are quite mischievious and tend to play a bit, they like sports all kind. However their starture doesn’t lend them to be good guards, however with them being fast on the pitch, there might be no need, because they can evade the enemy quite easily and run fluidly into the stike-zone. You really need a whole party to catch a fox, just like the a fox hunting (hey is that even allowed!?). So with that they are a team mostly out of Jacks and Strikers and their credo is, “If you can’t outsmart the enemy, you have to outrun him.”

        *Ke-Zune as Kitsune
        **8 is a the lucky number in Japan, they need all the luck they can get on the pitch
        ***Ke is the japenese word for fur, if I can trust this online translator

        Hope you like it enough. Well that’s it for me on this subject, the rest is up to you. Thanks for listening though!

      • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

        .. and here I was thinking it would be interesting enough to get canon… oh well 😦

        • Quirkworthy says:

          My resistance to doing that would be that it is more fantasy than science fiction, and I have a continual battle to remove fantasy elements. It’s interesting fantasy (I do like medieval mythological Japanese settings), but it’s still fantasy.

      • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

        I didn’t thought you are going to explain that, but wow. Well, then let me dream on, how these foxen might get a home in other Mantic franchises ^-^;

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’d talk to Alessio. He is a big fan of Japanese culture, so convincing him that they needed to be in Kings of War might not be all that hard πŸ™‚

      • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

        If they do turn up. Do you want your cash in cheque or small notes, packed in nice black suitcase, laying under a bench in a crowded park?

    • Monkey's Blood says:

      Did someone say sharkmen? Yes please.

      • Lee says:

        Of course Sharkmen are suitably sci-fi! I mean, sharks here on earth come in all crazy varieties, from super fast to hulking to glowing mouths! And don’t forget their ability to detect magnetic fields, I mean, if earth sharks can do all that, what would sharks in spaaaaace look like!?!

        • Monkey's Blood says:

          I think it’s time to start spamming mantic with sharkmen request. And the team should have a lobster man keeper too. just saying.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Sharkmen are whatever we say they are as they’re hardly a mainstream fantasy archetype. I’m thinking a bit beyond plain old boring sharkmen though. The artwork for John Doe was so like I had in my head (but with a nice twist to make it even better) that I’ve been thinking about a team to go with him, and that has a distinctly fishy theme at present. It’s still in flux at present, but I do like the way it’s going πŸ™‚

        • Lee says:

          Yes! Some Sharky type jacks would look real good with John Doe Guards…..

    • Kristian says:

      Yep, I’d play that.
      (Or Moose and Skvirrel? Maybe not.)

  8. Very nice breakdown, and yes it answers my previous question perfectly. Adding an extra dice to the guards not only give them an additional “half” success, it also increases their chance of doubling a roll. Very clever.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thank you Leif. And it starts to illustrate why doing a cut down “quick start” version just doesn’t work: you lose too much interaction and it’s not the same game.

  9. Pingback: DreadBall Design Notes – Managing Your Actions |

  10. Monkey's Blood says:

    Actually, thinking about it new teams would probably (though hopefully not entirely) be driven by new races for Warpath. So if memory serves (and it often doesn’t) we might expect mutant zombie things, hive mind bugs and grey alien influenced space elves..

    • Blair says:

      They need to add sharkmen from an aquatic world to Warpath then. Lol

    • Lee says:

      I think that is the general expectation, however, it has been mentioned somewheres that Warpath focuses on those races that have more of a military presence in the universe, where is Mantic would be free to explore societies that lack such formidable military power in a game like DreadBall.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        I think that the major races in the Warpath universe are the obvious places to start, but I’d emphasise the word start. We’re already discussing a number of possible teams that are not based on Warpath armies.

    • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

      A little bit off-topic, but I think it sits in here quite good, who are those other races, on the mantic site, I just see and can buy four races, however there are some mentions of Rebs, Plague and Asterians (if nothing escaped me).

  11. Monkey's Blood says:

    Oh I certainly hope Dreadball includes a whole slew of cool aliens as teams or MVPs… but I do expect some of the Warpath races to show up. It might be that the Plague Zombie chaps and the bugs are all together to hostile to be included, though… I would have thought any race to be included would need to have some level of friendly contact with the Corporation.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      If you think of the spectacle of a DreadBall game as something akin to a WWF bout on a saturday night. There is a lot of showmanship and glamour there which is not related to reality. The teams are part sportsmen, part actors and part marketing reps for their sponsors. What’s “real” in the showbiz world of a DreadBall arena may not be “real” in the rest of the Warpath universe – even though they do exist in the same fictional reality. If you follow me.

      And who is to say whether the Veer-myn that play on the pitch are the asme ones that the army fights against, robots, clones, people in suits, or some other, unrelated but physically similar race? As long as they roll onto the pitch in their black hats and play the Bad Guys for the audiences at home…

      • Minitrol says:

        That’s a very good point and actually one I was musing as I walked to work today. In keeping with the secrecy and hysteria of the 8th race are they in act real or are these Verr-myn grown in vats or spliced with gorillas.

        Decided to wait a few more days before pleading, er, pledging then I can say look how much more stuff I will get than that poxy Warhammer 40,000 box it MUST be value for money!

  12. Monkey's Blood says:

    And yes – you are correct. Mantic should have a race of bipedal sharkmen for Warpath. Definately.

  13. Jason says:

    I love that momentum has basically been added into the game the way you generate coaching dice, nice little attention to detail!

  14. Calipso says:

    Why the Guards have a value in Skill Stat if they not used this?
    Sorry for my english

    • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

      I guess you can add something later on, that uses this stat, without invalidating or overhauling complete teams. I guess it’s a better safe than sorry approach.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Good question!

        There are 2 reasons.

        1) I like things to be tidy.
        2) there is actually a fourth player role called Keeper. This is a subset of Guard, and they can do a limited number of things with the ball so they actually need this stat.

        And your English is fine Calipso.

        • Monkey's Blood says:

          Out of interest is the limitations for guards and strikers a ‘in game’ rule or just an abstraction? IE is it in the Dreadball rules laid down by the DGB that guards can’t handle the ball and strikers can’t slam, or is it an game mechanic abstraction? It does see, odd to me that if someone was clear to score and only a striker could reach them, then even though they weren’t suited to it they’d try and take them out.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          In-game rules. Guards aren’t equipped with the gloves to pick up the balls either, which is a bit of a giveaway πŸ˜‰

  15. Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

    I really like the coaching dice. They add some additional tactics to the game. Do I use them early on to get ahead in my game, or later on to give me the additional edge, or do I some crazy stuff the enemy isn’t prepared and succeed to further the confusion and thus forcing him to bring out his coach dice to counter it!

  16. tornquistd says:

    I just posted on the kickstarter an idea for a team. Energy beings could lead to an interesting change up in the rules and if the plastic/resin was available in translucent or clear it could be a team that required very little effort to paint. A whirling ball of energy with hard bits on the surface to interact with the other players and the ball that you where you could get by painting just the hard bits team colors is the way I visualize it . After all new teams are more interesting if they are easier to paint and offer interesting changes in the rules (like running through an other player). It seems I am not that effective in getting a lot of figures painted to a standard I can accept without spending a lot of time on it so anything that would be fun to play and not require a lot of painting seems exciting.

    • tornquistd says:

      When I have an idea I like it seems to make my thoughts flow.. I was thinking about the team rules for the “sparks”? and it seems interesting. I think of them as energy supporting a DreadBall glove (jacks and strikers) while (guards and jacks) would have a shield type hardware used to push the other players around. Guards would have larger shields than jacks so you could pick out the roles at a glance. From DHK I am aware or how much thought you put into balance and tactics (read it carefully is it really a compliment? :D) . I think the basic rule change could be the run through an other player option with a test for success based on getting the hard bits past the other player. A run through with the ball seems like it could trash the balance although I have not seen the rules yet. In any case my guess is a run through with the ball would need very hard to pass success test or deemed impossible to do with the ball (after all the other player would be focused on getting the ball). Playing with a team that has a run through option or against that type of team seems like it would call for an interesting change up in tactics.

      • tornquistd says:

        Perhaps the run through would be more contained from balance standpoint and add to tactics if it was restricted to your own players..

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Being able to move through other players would indeed be a bit tricky to balance, but not impossible. Energy beings would rally be a different team. Worth pondering how it could fit in.

          And like you say, translucent models would look cool and be easy to paint

          I’ll have a think.

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