Dice Pooling

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How Not to use Dice Pooling

The first thing to do about dice pooling is to learn how to NOT use it.

When NOT using a dice pool:

  • all attacks and all defenses get two (2) dice
  • anything that uses up dice (hiding, taking aim, getting up, etc.) uses up one turn's action - meaning that the being can't do anything else

That's it. It's that easy.

It's also kind of predictable.

To allow for more flexibility, you can concentrate more attention on one aspect (attacking or ducking) - this is dice pooling.


The basic idea is that there is a relationship between what your character is doing in one instant, and what they are about to do in the next instant. If your character only cares about making a certain action, then they should be able to focus all their attention on that action - at the expense of their actions in the next instant. Alternatively, if the NEXT instant is really important to them, then they can dedicate all the effort from THIS instant into the next.

For the purposes of dice pooling, an instant is one turn in combat - either attacking or ducking. The NEXT instant is always the opposite - meaning that combat is a succession of attack - duck - attack - duck - (or rather: action - reaction - action - reaction).

The effect of dice pooling is that a character can "borrow" up to 2 dice from their next instant, or can "donate" up to 2 dice. No one instant can have more than 4 dice in this manner, and as soon as the number of dice varies from 2 - the next instant is set. This means that it is impossible to continually borrow from the next instant. If you borrow 2 dice from the next instant, that next instant will have NO (0, zip, zero, nada) dice.

The number of dice a character is using in one instant is usually pretty obvious - but CAN be concealed by good actors, or missed by dimwits.


Each instant has 2 dice associated with it. For this reason, the referee will be assuming that each instant uses those two dice unless you specifically state otherwise. If you decide to use two dice, you're next instant is still completely free to do with as you wish (be it either an attack or duck - doesn't matter). If you vary the current instant from 2 dice, then your next instant is set.

It is very common for players to think that because they decided to use 2 dice for one instant (an attack, say), then their next instant is automatically set to two as well (for the duck). Nope! If you can choose to use two dice (meaning that the current instant is not already set by a previous one), then your next instant will be open to alter the dice pool as normal.


Whenever there is an initiative check, everything is reset. This means that all dice pools are assumed to be normal - free to choose how many dice to use for the instant after the initiative check.

If dice pooling is being used, it is best to allow action to proceed with alternating attacks between the opposing sides. For this reason, it is not possible to check initiative every turn AND use dice pooling. This means that initiative should only be checked at the beginning of combat, and if there is an action-stopping disturbance (like a large explosion, witty comments, or tea).


There are times when you can and can't do things.

Borrowing dice from future instants is usually pretty easy to keep track of. Donating dice to future instants is where most glitches occur.

You CAN donate dice to your next instant by stating so to the ref in advance. During an action, you can make it so that your following duck gets 4 dice by using none in the current instant (and probably miss with whatever attack you are attempting - if you even bother).

You CANNOT decide to borrow dice from past instants. The most common mistake is to assume that since your character didn't have to duck (because nobody attacked them) in the last instant, that the character gets to use those dice in their present attack. Well, since dice pooling is usually obvious, if your character REALLY didn't use any dice to duck with - their opponents would have been MUCH more likely to attack them, because they would have been easy to hit! If you don't want to use up dice during a duck, you must state it BEFORE your opponents attack.

Keep in mind that a referee should automatically assume that all characters are using 2 dice for every attack and duck - unless the players specify otherwise. It does not work to "surprise" the referee by saying, "AHA! But I didn't use any dice to duck!" The referee can then smile their most evil smile, and remind the unfortunate player that the referee is the dictum of game reality. If the referee doesn't know about it, it doesn't exist.


There are also things besides attacking and ducking that can affect the dice pool.

Any action that takes place during combat can use up dice (on the referee's discretion). Those that are labeled as "direct" mean that the dice used up by the action are actually rolled to perform that function.

Movementas many dice as you want to dump into it (0-4) - direct
Stealth(includes hide, sneak, locate, pilfer) up to 2 dice - direct
Discourse(this is allotted for attempts at persuasion) up to 2 dice - direct
Getting up1 die
Picking up something1 die
Pulling out something(out of concealment/pocket/holster/butt) 1 die
Using a med-patch1 die (assuming it's been already pulled out)
Tamper2 dice
Quick Tamper1 die - Tamper total divided in half (round up)
Mentally Based Abilities1 die (unless using a permanent ability - then no dice)


There are a number of things you can do to capitalise on dice pooling, as well as things to avoid.

Survival Instinct

This isn't a trick, but rather just points out the obvious. If your character is suddenly faced with the distinct possibility of being killed in one turn - dump all dice into duck. It may be cavalier to press on with the attack, and accept death as part of duty, but it takes a really special (stupid or dedicated) character to do it.

Running can be better than Dancing

Once again, if survival is the most pressing concern, good cover is usually better than jumping around desperately avoiding lethal blasts. It is often worthwhile to note if there is good cover (meaning that the attacker's weapon cannot penetrate it and cannot see you) within sprinting distance. Instead of using 4 dice turn after turn just for ducking (and hoping that the attacker gets tired and goes away) it may be better to shunt 4 dice into movement and scamper to safety (temporarily - until the attacker wanders over...). Keep in mind, though: if the dice flub and roll 4 "ones" (4 meters plus speed, distance-wise), you might not make it AND be left out in the open with no dice to duck.

Surprise Attack

If combat is not yet initiated, or if your character is well-hidden, it can be good to tell the referee that you are spending NO DICE to duck. This way you can attack with 4 dice (very aggressive) AND still have dice to duck with afterwards - this is very useful for assassins. Problems occur if your character isn't as well-hidden as you think, or if you are not hidden at all. If you're not hidden at all, and combat is not yet initiated, then your decision not to spend any dice to duck WILL be noticed by observant combatants - and they are likely to attack. If this happens, then initiative must be checked as normal - and any dice you use will be reflected in the NEXT instant.


When in combat and you think that you can finish the fight off with one really good hit, then it can work well to do a very aggressive 4-dice attack (by borrowing from the next defense). This way you are much more likely to finish off your opponent, especially if you beat them by 10 and get to pick a vital-shot. If successful, then you don't have to worry about having no dice left to duck with because there's nobody left to attack you.

Flubbed Aggression

One of the most lethal things to do is to misunderstand what's going on. Sometimes the opposing side rolls double-sixes (automatic duck). If your partner missed with a fairly good attack, think carefully before you pour more dice in to make an attack - you might do better to attack someone who isn't so lucky. Even worse is forgetting that your opponent has plenty of friends, and finishing him off with a coup-de-grace only to be left with no dice for defense when his buddies try to get even.

Spot the Assassin

In the middle of a raging gun battle there is an opponent who's just standing there, glaring at you. This is often a really good sign that they are an assassin trying to acquire an attempt on you. When an assassin does attack you, you will want to be able to use 4 dice for ducking (instant-death sucks, if it happens to you). Keep this in mind, because a few dice can make a big difference, and the assassin might be waiting for an opportunity when you have no dice left.

Donating One Die

In some situations, it may seem sensible to donate one die from your attack round to your next defense round. However, this locks your defensive round into using three dice and in some situations that could be bad. Consider the following:

Two combatants are fighting and one sees that the other isn’t ducking so well. He’s sure that he could hit him by only using one die. He does so and locks his next defensive round as three dice. However, he didn’t know that his target had a sniper friend hiding nearby who picks that moment to attempt an assassination. He has to duck with three dice, and if he hadn’t donated the single die to his duck, he would have been able to borrow two dice from his subsequent attack to duck with all four dice. This tactical error causes him to be beat by ten and he dies.

And well, if you can attack someone with two dice, why not? There’s always the chance you could beat them by ten and get placement. It is a good idea to always leave your duck options open. In the above example, the attacker could have decided first to duck with three dice, locking his next attack at one die. That way, each round he gets to choose how many dice to duck with.

Obviously, if you want to donate two dice to your duck round and attack with no dice, that isn’t an issue because your duck would then be at maximum anyway. That may give you a tactical advantage in some situations because there will be a moment where you will be able duck with all four dice, and then if you choose, attack with all four dice because you’ll be able to choose dice.


For characters who are not involved in movement or ducking, they don't get a normal dice pool.

For a turret that is stationary, you get two dice to act with, invariably. Defense for stationary turrets is handled by a combination of A) hoping the structure is mostly capable of deflecting or absorbing the attacks, and B) a threshold level of attack difficulty in order to sneak shots through the gaps in the turret defenses.

For turrets that are on mobile entities (such as ships, walkers, and steeds), the pilot can donate dice to the turret(s) from their pool. Additionally, if a turret operator is at least second stage in any given occupation, they may apply the bonuses and abilities from that occupation with an additional die. This means that ships/walkers/steeds with turret s/riders of sufficient skill in an occupation can effectively have 5 dice to use. However, the maximum for either attack or defense is still 4 dice.