Dollar Store DM: Ice Stones

Dollar Store DM is an ongoing series dedicated to getting fun out of cheap stuff from the dollar store. We do this because RPGs can be an expensive hobby, when the cost of a player’s book is $50, and a DM can easily spend hundreds of dollars to get started, and then regular spending on miniatures and more.

Having come across these ice stones recently, I got thinking about custom dice using blanks of some sort. They’re intended to be popped in the freezer and make a literal whisky on the rocks. I saw dice. Also, the idea of drinking whisky at the table and then plucking one of these out to roll amuses me.

Before I get into the ideas I’ve come up for using these, I will state you can actually use all of these ideas with a normal D6 and a custom table. Rolling a D6 and cross-referencing with a table is a little less exciting perhaps, but it’s also a stock part of many RPGs, so it would be just fine.

In fact, the first potential use of these is just to number them up like a standard D6 and use them some heavy and beastly dice. Then if you use them for a specific NPC or encounter where they match thematically (cue stone golem), it adds a little bit of theatre to your dice-rolling.

Give the dice to the players

Next up is a couple of ways to put these in the hands of your players with some special mechanisms. First off, these can be a way of giving players a weapon that isn’t quite as good as +1. Simply mark up one side of an ice stone with a +1, and when they roll attack or damage, they also roll the ice stone and potentially roll their bonus +1, or not. Obviously this can be modified to suit whatever you want.

More interestingly, this could be used to give them a weapon with a variety of powers. Let’s say you dish out a blade of elemental damage, and add +1s in different colours for different types of damage. You can potentially also add a ‘no elemental damage’ or ‘one of everything’ option too. Making this random adds a little bit more drama to its use by not allowing the PCs to control its ability, but giving it a potentially powerful ability.

If you want to take a story-minded approach to this same idea, give the PC an ice stone with a +1 on just one side. Each time they level up, the weapon grows in power. This would be a great way to integrate an intelligent weapon that grows in power as it builds a bond with its owner / remembers its past / devours souls. Storied equipment can really help a character and campaign seem more real.

Use the dice as a DM

Lots of RPG systems have a mechanism for getting poisoned, catching a disease, or suffering some other effect at the hands of an enemy attack. A simple way to implement this on top of or instead of whatever your game system uses is to make a ‘risk die’. Ink up on side with a poison symbol or whatever you need and roll it alongside damage. Whenever the symbols appears. This can be applied to lots of classic monsters like werewolves and vampires to trigger infection, but can also be used to add some real threat to otherwise weak opponents. Add rabies to wild dogs, add the possibility of malaria to swarms of mosquitoes, or the possibility of an allergic reaction to a swarm of bees.

If these can add an element of risk to an NPC, they can also add it to a situation as a simple mechanic. Fighting on a hilltop during a storm, each round roll a die with a lightning symbol. When the players cross a frozen lake, they roll to see if the ice splits. When they climb an old tree, they to to see if the branch breaks.

An interesting way of spicing up encounters can be to create a simple AI for the enemies that the players fight. This is especially appropriate if they’re fighting some sort of mechanical or animated enemy that has essentially zero intelligence. Ink up the die with an action on each side and roll it to see what the enemy does each round. At worst, an unpredictable enemy can be amusing, and at best can be deadly.

As a prop at the table.

Dice, and the results of their rolls typically have an effect in game, but the dice themself do not appear in the world of the PCs, only the players see them. Draw some mystic symbols or runes on your die and give them to an NPC. You can be as inscrutable as to make the NPC roll the dice before every interaction with the PCs, or the NPC can use them for some form of divination ritual.

Even more so, put them on the table, and have them represent huge stones, almost as tall as man, with giant runes chiselled into the sides of them generations ago by a lost civilisation. This can be some sort of puzzle. The logic puzzle can be as simple as turning them to the correct sides to achieve a desired effect. Making it difficult can be making the players figure out a way of manipulating something so heavy.


Buying ice stones or blank dice

Ice Stones

Damn! These things turn out to not be so cheap on Amazon, even though I found four for a dollar at my local dollar store. They do however, have some lovely options at not shocking prices.

9 Soapstone cubes with velvet bag @ $8 – these are the most similar to mine, simple stone.

8 Stainless steel ice stones @ $15 – There’s even another shape in here, they’re not quite a icosahedrons, but might roll. Let me know if anyone buys these.

9 Pink crystal ice stones @ $12 – These also come in green. If you want to aim for a specific theme with what you intend for these, one of these might tick the box.

Blank Dice

25 x 16mm blank white dice @ $8 – Nothing wrong with these, and cheap too.

12 blank dice in four different colours @ $6 – If you want a bit more variety or theme.

6 large blank dice @ $11 – Nice if you want a bit more impact, these also come with stickers.

4 huge erasable foam dice @ $11 –  These are 3 inches (75mm) dice from what I can see on the packaging and have dry erase sides. Impractically huge, or impressively huge? You decide.

We do hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and that some blank dice or ice stones will be appearing on your table soon. If you’ve got more ideas or a story about how you’ve done this, please share it with us Twitter or Facebook. Also, considering checking out our products on DriveThruRPG.

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