I'm hacking on Dogs in the Vineyard, trying to replace all the dice with d6s. Since gaming dice are expensive in my country, I was wondering how feasible this adaptation would be and what effect it would have.

I know that countering would be much harder. That's all I've been able to conclude for now.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ is it possible we've got an XY problem here? Are you really committed to changing DitV to work on only d6, or is the real problem that you'd like to play DitV but only have d6? In the second case there's a possible (clunky) solution of using d6 to simulate other rolls; in the first an answer must dig into the engine of a finely-tuned game. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 15:35
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ For those of you who are missing the tags, this is not a D&D question, it is about indie game Dogs in the Vineyard. Please answer only if familiar with that system. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 11:35
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ As already said, only answer if you understand how dice are used in Dogs in the Vineyard. General RPG experience is not applicable if you don't know how to apply it to this specific game's unusual dice handling procedures. The moderation team would appreciate not having to delete any more posts that are well-meaning but off-topic. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 0:45
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @IlmariKaronen The short version is that the dice are rolled and then physically manipulated for tracking and responding to maneuvers in a conflict, or multiple linked conflicts. Enough detail to be able to answer without actually reading the game would require reproducing significant parts of the game here, which would be unreasonable. People just need to start believing that no, they really can't answer this question without knowing what they're talking about. The link to more detailed information is “read the game and play it at least once.” \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 1:29
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ @IlmariKaronen Going off my experience when I've tried doing that (including a brief synopsis of an non-traditional mechanic in the question), it means that folks start providing solutions without knowing anything else about the system, and get uppity when downvoted for making inaccurate assumptions about other parts of the given system. If you don't have context for the question, it's okay not to answer or vote. I'd rather help our users gain that self-control than try to accommodate their inclination to vote on stuff they don't know about. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 2:15

3 Answers 3


I will post below what happens if you use six-sided dice exclusively AS six-sided dice. But first, it's not too difficult to use six-sided dice to simulate the other die types. All you need are some extra six-sided dice you don't mind marking up.

  • d4: Block out the 5 and 6 on a d6. Re-roll when you see a blocked number.
  • d8: d4 as above, plus roll another d6: 1-3 = take the number rolled on the first die, 4-6 = add 4 to the first die.
  • d10: block out the 6 on a d6. re-roll when you see a blocked number, then roll another d6: 1-3 = take the number rolled on the first die, 4-6 = add 5 to the first die.

It's a little cumbersome, but entirely doable. It would also preserve all the flavor and intent behind the rules.

Six-Sided Dice used as Six-Sided Dice

Using six-sided dice exclusively AS six-sided dice will change many fundamental things about the game as written.

Backgrounds would become very unevenly skewed without some reconsideration. The current design uses an unevenly distributed number of the four die types to create the different backgrounds. You can't just leave them as-written while changing all die references to '6' without addressing that balance.

Conflicts would change in several ways: You lose the highs and lows of the system when you don't use all the die types. Direct results of this would be far fewer instances of "Turning the Blow" with a single die in a See (Since you could only do that to any Raise of 6 or less). It would also probably reduce the frequency of being forced to "Take the Blow." Depending on how you redeisgn fallout, it might also make the tactic of deliberately Taking the Blow early in a conflict a Bad Idea.

You'd have to redesign the fallout rules. The current rules have fallout become increasingly dangerous depending on the level of escalation, by adding different die types for more risky levels. With breakpoints at 8, 12, 16, and 20 (the highest total of two of each of the die types), fallout is divided into very minor, minor, serious, and very serious. With six-sided dice, you'd either have to compress the table into the 2-12 range, OR change the rules which determine how many dice you use for fallout. Either way alters the odds of certain outcomes. Certainly there are ways to do it, but the important point here is you would not be able at all to use the rules as written for fallout.

You would also reduce the odds of gaining experience from a fallout roll.

Summary: Dogs in the Vineyard is all about the risk vs. reward. Without a significant redesign of the rules, using only d6 would alter this dynamic considerably, and not for the better.


Here we are aiming for keeping it similar but also make it simple.

The alternative I propose is using dice in four different colour. Red for d4, white for d6, green for d8 and blue for d10 (just to exemplify).

When you roll, you substract 1 from red dices, add 1 from green and 2 from blue.

Means for each die stay the same.

Now, how this affect?

d4 ranging from 0 to 5

Main problem with that would be the 0's. You could still use them for Raising (effectively counting one die). For Fallouts it wouldn't be much of a problem since you are interested in the sum (and mean would be the same).

d8 and d10

Presumably you'd use this dice more than d4. They will now range 2-7 and 3-8. That will make your rolls less random. Two rolled stacks with the same dice will be now more similar than before. That makes it easier to predict who will win the case: The one with better dice.

All together

I don't see it changing a lot, specially since d6 is the most common die. Main thing would be less randomness. That would translate, also, in less Reversing the Blow.


Still though, if you really like Reversing the Blow and randomness, there's this variable (which requires a bit more of adding and substracting).

Use the same as before but with the following variation: 1 is always 1, max is always max. That means for d8, 1 is 1, 2 becomes 3... but 6 becomes 8. For d10, 1 is 1, 2 becomes 4... but 6 becomes 10.

The same can be applied to d4: 1 and 2 becomes 1, 3 becomes 2, 4 becomes 3, and 5 and 6 becomes 4.


Quick and Dirty:

Either it changes everything (x)or rolling dice becomes a torture, but the propabilites are like the original. If you hack dice and use some coins.

The more detailed answer(s):

Simulating Dice

After a crash course through the die system (I barely got all the details, but enough to get most basics), I had to observe, that it heavily relies on the different dice being used to achieve high sums. Trying to simulate any of the dice (d4, d6, d8 and d10) just with d6 and modifiers to that rolls is a mess:

  • a d4 can be easily simulated with d6: simply take 1d6 and reroll any 5 or 6 (or fill out the eyes with something so you got 2 blank sides). Simple enough, this even shows a perfect 1/4 for each number.

  • a d6 is a d6 is a d6. Nothing needed to change here. 1/6th probability.

Up to here: no problems. But now we get the troublesome two dice: d8 and d10:

  • a d10 can somewhat reliably be simulated with 2d6-2, however instead of a flat and even distribution now the result is a curved distribution, as you can see easily see on anydice - and there is a slight chance to create a result of 0 which is not useable at all.

  • the most problematic die is the d8. To simulate a d8, one might use the simulated d4 again (remember: 5&6=0), but again one gets a curved distribution. Using some calculation in the head, this is even an assymetric distribution: 16% of the cases are 00 and have to be rerolled, the other numbers show up as listed below (no guarantee though, I was unable to simulate it on anydice)

    • 5% for 1, 8% for 2 ; 11% for 3; 14% for 4 ; 12% for 5; 9% for 6; 6% for 7; 3% for 8

Hacking Dice part 1: the d4/d6 combo die

So, we might instead of simulating dice start to manipulate a few dice to get better results. So, let's start make a few sets of special d6, best in different colors (like a red, black and white one), that can simulate d4, still be used as standard d6 and will make the checking of other rolls (see below) easier. I suggest to manipulate the d6 in the following way with a pen and some tip-ex/colored filler: - 1 = 1 - 2 = V (a Roman 5!) - 3 = 2 - 4 = 3 - 5 = X (read as a 6 when using it as D6) - 6 = 4

Now, the die has numbers 1-4 circling around it and the V and X on exactly opposite sides.

  • d4 now is a bit different, but even easier than simulated: either it shows the right number, or a 'striked' side. When it is a striked side, check the side closest to you for the result. No reroll needed.

We can use the hacked d4 to simulate the other dice, but that is not perfect, so I just skim over it: - d10 is a bit easier than the calculation above now. Roll 2 hacked d6: 1-4 is as given, V is 5, X is 0. it's the same curve as the 2d6-2, the calculation is just incorporated to the die now. Reroll any XX - d8 done with 2 hacked d4 - read the side numbers for a V, and assume 0 for X. The curve shifts somewhat, and I havn't yet done the math how, but it should be mostly in a stable way, avoiding several 00 results for all but the 11% XX - much better than the 33% before!

Hacking Dice part 2: adding coins

But there are even better variants to simulate the needed dice, by taking not dice but coins to add to the result. Most easily, one might come to the idea of just adding some coin tosses to a standard die, but that is not perfect, as the d8 example shows:

Hacking Dice part 3: perfect d8 and d10

Now, but we are onto something here... How about using the coin as an offset to decide if you rolled the "high" or the "low" end of the die.

With this the d8 can be easily simulated by taking an "offset" of 4:

  • 1d4 + 1 coin*4: read the die just as a d4, offsetting that by 4 when the coin flip is won. so 1-4 on the failed coin, and 5-8 on winning.

The same holds true for the d10, just now the offset is 5:

  • 1d5+ 1 coin*5: it's a d5, reading V as 5, X as reroll. And then offset the die by 5 if needed: fail the coin and it is 1-5, win for 6-10


The d8 and d10 'substitute pools' might make the scanning for the right numbers harder:

  • you'd have to take different colors of dice for the different substitute set.
  • You have to keep track which substitute die is a d8 or d10 in each roll.
  • When just simulating dice (you will get more centered results for that!) does flat out the probabilites quite a lot and give much more "centralised" results for the larger dice - the median numbers of those d8 and d10 getting substitutes come up much more often than the extremes (save for the 00 on the d8 in variant 1).
    • This means, that once you get large dice you get extremely unlikely a very low number (which the system avoids in itself anyway), but you likewise have only a very slim chance of gaining an extremely high number. It is a mess.

However there are the ways to simulate the dice without messing up the probabilities, you just need a pack of coins and the hacked dice. To make the resolution faster, best paint one side of the coins in the same color to the die they belong to. Also, you might just roll each die one after another to keep better tabs on which die you just rolled, detting them aside on cards labeled with d4, d6, d8 and d10.

With those problems (unless you use the variants with coins), there is also a solution that was suggested by Reibello in the chat when we discussed the probabilities:

If you want to keep the system as it is, it might be a better solution to take playing card sets for each of the dice

To do so, you would just need to grab a poker set and choose one suit for each die, use ace for the 1 and then make stacks till 4, 6, 8 or 10, putting the other cards away. It does clearly save you the trouble of calculating with offsets, manipulating dice and furthermore, manipulating the results after the "die roll" is pretty easy, but mixing the cards and pulling one has a different feeling to it than rolling dice - and if there is a crafty cardplayer at the table, he might even use fake shuffling methods to manipulate the "rolls".

As a last way out, you could rewrite all those tables/wall of textes to only include results between 2 and 12 and deal with the bell curved distributions you will get, but... that the work you need to put into rewriting the system is much larger than just hacking some dice or using substitute pools.

Thanks & Gratitude

I kindly thank Reibello for helping me with understanding the dice system and discussing the math with me - and for pointing out that while the simulation does indeed kind of work, keeping track of those dice pools would make it a hellish task to roll anything save for d4 and d6 (where you still will have to use at least 2 colors to keep them apart).

Also, I want to thank nitsua60 for helping figuring out the d4/d8/d10 simulation methods with less rerolling and in the end giving me the input that was used to make the hacked dice parts possible.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .