The Element Dice System is based on East-Asian philosophy and the idea of cosmic harmony between Yin & Yang. Within the system are two sets of six-sided dice (d6) to represent Yin & Yang: black dice to show Yin; white dice to show Yang. Any roll within the Element Dice System uses dice from both sides to represent the effects of Yin & Yang.
The Element Dice
The Element Dice are six-sided, the philosophy behind Yin & Yang, however, only knows five elements: wood 木, fire 火, earth 土, metal 金, and water 水. These five elements or powers are present on five sides of the Element Dice with the sixth side being qi 气, the omnipresent energy that creates Yin & Yang and all the elements.
Rolling dice – Creating Chaos
Any action results in chaos that disturbs the cosmic harmony. This is why Laozi suggested non-action, 无为. In the Element Dice System, the result of an action is represented in the chaos of the roll. Elements from Yin & Yang are present in this chaos and struggle to establish harmony.
Balancing Elements – Creating Harmony
To recreate the harmony lost through the roll, the elements look for balance:
- Equal elements in Yin and Yang will balance each other out and are removed from the chaos of the roll. This includes Qi.
- Elements can overcome or destroy other elements. This follows the idea that
- Wood parts the Earth with its roots.
- Fire melts Metal.
- Earth damms or muddens Water.
- Metal chops down Wood.
- Water dowses Fire.
- The Element Dice System looks first which Yang elements overcomes Yin elements, and then vice versa. The destroyed elements are also removed from the roll.
What is left in the roll represents the chaos that is left and shows the consequences of the action. The remaining Yin elements show negative effects, while the remaining Yang elements show the positive effects. The Yin and Yang elements left look for resolution and should be resolved right away showing the effects of the action. But some elements might not be resolved right away and will turn into long-term consequences.
Rolling Qi 气
Since Qi is not an element but the omnipresent energy in everything, rolling Qi comes with great consequences. However, Qi on both sides, Yin & Yang, can balance each other out.
Yang-气 represents positive consequences for the players and either
- represent a success of the action despite possible negative effects from remaining Yin-elements,
- balance out one Yin element, or
- creates the acting characters’ element.
Yin-气 represents a failure, even if Yang-elements point towards positive outcomes.
Rolling your Character’s Element
Rolling your character’s element will enhance the effect of this element. This means, the positive or negative consequences that come with the character’s element will be crucial for the scene.
Defining Success – Defining Failure
Success or failure depend on which side outweighs the other, Yin or Yang. Is the scales tipped towards Yin, the action was a failure, but remaining Yang-elements grant a positive effect. Is Yang weight heavier, the action was a success despite possible negative effect from remaining Yin-elements.
An outcome that keeps the scale in balance, either with no elements remaining or with an equal amount of Yin & Yang elements remaining, is considered a success. Here, the Element Dice System tips the scale towards the players. No elements remaining simple allows an action to succeed without any further effect. Having equal Yin & Yang elements remaining means, the action was successful, but there are positive and negative consequences that come with it.
The standard reading of the Element Dice System favors the player, but if you want to give your game and your story a darker touch, feel free to tip the scale toward Yin! This means, a success will need to have Yang outweigh Yin. A balanced scale with either no elements left or an equal amount of Yin and Yang elements remaining will lead to a failure.
Interpret Element Dice
To interpret the dice in your roll, head over to this blog post to see suggestions on how this works!
A neatly presented explanation
Here you can find a PPT that goes through creating a dice pool and the rules one by one, including pictures and a little video.