MINIGAME . set-dice

Image by Kunrong Yap

This is a minigame that I created roughly a year and a half ago. I buried it in the shelf and forgot about it. But lately, I was spurred on by revisiting an old solo board game prototype of mine which I had created it for. Reading Prismatic Wasteland’s blog post on hacking and lockpicking also inspired me to pull the minigame out and blow off the dust.


The rules are simple.

First Round: Take five dice. Roll them. Select the lowest die and place it in the first spot in the set.

Second Round: Pick up the four leftover dice. Roll them. Select the next die, which must be higher than the previously-placed die, and put it in the second spot in the set.

Repeat until there are four dice in the set and one die is left over (unused), or until you are unable to place the next die.

The objective is to create a completed set where the dice are arrayed in ascending order, no doubles. Hopefully you roll a 1 or a 2 on your first handful and are able to keep placing dice in ascending order until you have all four dice placed in the set.

If you cannot place a die in the next available spot, because you have rolled too low, or the previous roll was a “6,” then you “break” the set and the minigame ends in failure. What exactly that failure means is up to interpretation. If the minigame represented a pass/fail situation, that is simple, but if there were degrees of success or failure, you will have to gauge it with the help of the referee/gamemaster. There are many facets of Set-Dice that could be used to determine the consequences:

  • Were you only able to place two out of four dice in your set? Receive a -2 to the next appropriate skill check. Did you place three out of four dice? Receive only a -1.
  • You sprung a toxin trap. Take the dice currently in the set at the time of breaking and add them up. That’s how many hours you have until the poison sets in.
  • The terminal exploded in your face. Take the number of unrolled dice (the dice themselves, not their showing number). That’s how many times you have to roll on the bodily injuries table.
  • Select the lowest number showing in your set. That’s how many enemies come running up behind your party.


Here is an example of a round of set-dice.


First roll is made.
First die, a roll of “1,” is chosen and placed in the set.


Second roll is made.
Second die is chosen and placed.


Third roll is made.
Third die is chosen.


Fourth roll is made, a “4” and a “3.” Note that neither are higher than the last rolled die (5).


Fourth roll is made.
We have a “6,” which is higher than the previous roll (5). The set is complete!


After reading Prismatic Wasteland’s Hacking Lockpicking to Unlock Hacking, I thought I would riff off of the idea presented in the blog post. I sort of combined Prismatic’s roll check guide (which, in turn, are hacked from Errant’s lockpicking rules) with Set-Dice.

Goes like this. First thing that happens when a player comes to a trap, lock, robot, or terminal: they roll a skill check.

On a full success, place two dice in the set and select their appearing numbers.

On a partial success, place one die in the set and select the appearing number.

On a failure, reduce allowed attempts by one.

On a critical success, the lock opens/you gain access.

On a critical failure, the lock jams/the terminal locks you out.


The number of allowed attempts would depend on the difficulty of the lock/terminal in relation to the quality of the lockpicker’s/hacker’s tools and knowledge. I have no hard and fast rules for this, but the level of difficulty should reflect the importance of the contents which the lock/terminal is protecting.

  • An easy lock/terminal would allow for three or more attempts,
  • A normal lock/terminal would allow for two attempts,
  • A tough lock/terminal would allow for only one attempt (therefore, a failed skill check would lock the player out).


If you want to adjust the difficulty or have the minigame become a reoccurring mechanic, there are several “upgrades” that the player could attain or purchase to keep things interesting and dynamic.

  • Replace a d6 with a d4 (increased chance of lower rolls).
  • Replace a d6 with a d8 (increased chance of higher rolls).
  • Doubles can be placed next to each other.
  • Re-rolls.
  • Substitutions.
  • Placement relocation.
  • Psst… Look for a Vaarn-inspired list of set-dice modifications in the future.


I’ve designed a small amount of prototype games and minigames. Most of them haven’t worked out. But something “stuck” with Set-Dice. I’ve played multiple games of it so far by myself, with and without modifications, and it puts a bit of pep and tension into solo play.

Below is an example of the minigame utilized for my prototype solo print’n’play, Debtrunner. The set ascends clockwise around the array.

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