I’m fascinated by other systems for games than using rolling. Rolling is great but other ways of determining the element of chance are also interesting. Cards are a popular one, I think I’ve seen dominoes done, coin-tosses and rock-paper scissors (Mind’s Eye Theatre) was great for impromptu play when you didn’t have your other materials with you. There are also resource management systems too with beads and limited resources to be spent.

I’ve tinkered with bits and pieces of different things around this, sometimes keeping the dice but getting rid of the numerics, sometimes losing the dice. Irrepressible! uses what I – humbly – think is a great system where you draw beads from a bag until your luck runs out. The Description System uses words instead of numerical statistics, even though it does use dice.

I love The Description System because it works really well for modelling narrative importance. The bigger and stronger the description, the bigger and stronger whatever it is in the story. It directly reflects narrative significance in a way that reflects fiction (unless it’s Game of Thrones).

I got thinking, after The Description System and after another – currently aborted project using poker – about other ways to do it. What I like about The Description System is that rather than maths/probability skills being primary it was English skills. I’ve been thinking, purely on a theoretical basis, about other ways to set game rules that work on non-mathematical skills, specifically English. Games can also be great educational tools and again, this has largely been in the mathematics arena. How great to ‘gamify’ vocabulary?

So, what’s a good option?


How could you define a character?

A few defining words that – if used – could count as bonus letters.

Difficulty determined by score or word-length (I don’t think I’d use the board though).

Synergistic words could give extra bonuses. A fire mage using the word ‘hot’ as their play for an action would get extra score or letters. A swordsman using ‘strike’ or ‘hit’ would get the same.

Of course, making easy plays would leave you with difficult letters still in your rack, which makes ‘exhaustion’ and other issues build over time.

Best of all it would be very, very difficult to min-max or game the system and it would include a measure of player skill.

Of course… that might put some people off.