Another game I have come up with is a simple dice game called shambles. In shambles, two players try to best one another’s rolls for points.
On each play, both players roll 1d6. The player with the higher roll gets a point. If the rolls are equal, both get a point.
When one of the players has four points, rolling matching values ends the round. If the players’ point totals are equal, roll again until one player has has more.
This matching feature makes for drama, because you are in a position to win but need the matching roll to clinch it; and you can lose a round or two just when you thought you had it made.
If playing for fun, you can play three out of five. Or you can record the score and play again, and the first to 20 points wins the match.
In tabletop role-playing games, this can be used to decide the outcome of a wrestling match, non-lethal duel, wizard dual, footrace, gambling, or other contest. Just give one character a +1 to represent having some advantage, such as wrestling or athletics skill or one duelist being higher level. Since such bonuses are strong on a d6, avoid any advantage more than +1.
For wizard duels in D&D (if you want to get rid of Counterspell), spellcasters can try to counter each others’ spells with any of their own, as long as both spells target the opponent or an area of effect around the opponent.
So if Rahm casts a 5th-level spell targeting Salda’s area, and Salda counters with a 2nd-level spell (she didn’t know what level Rahm’s spell was), Rahm gets a +1 to his shambles rolls.
Then the magical energies collide, swirling and crackling as the duel is fought. Other characters must stop their fighting and shade their eyes.
First Rahm gains ground, then Salda—back and forth in a magical shoving match until one wins out.
The loser’s spell fails—diverted into a minor wild magic effect that affects the loser… or even both characters. (More on my wild magic effects tables before long.)
You might be tempted to raise the dice to d10s or d12s and give more bonuses for spell level and/or intelligence. But the power of the spells themselves should be more important than technique. Don’t go nuts, it’s meant to be simple!
You can even use this to replace disease, poisoning, and even death saving throws. A character reduced to 0 hit points is brought to limbo by the Lord of the Underworld and invited to “dice with death”. The character is at -1 against death unless getting aid and comfort from companions.
The two battle it out with the dice while everything around them pauses. If the hero wins, he or she is left barely alive and semi-conscious. If the hero loses, the Lord of the Underworld takes the character down…