Player Technology Part 3 – Dice Rollers

A decision needed to be made here, and I had a lot of trouble with it.  Comparing disparate dice rollers (a Fudge Dice roller for FATE core vs. a D20 set for Pathfinder) would have very little actual value for the community – but picking a single system to test dice for was nerve wracking.  So, at the end of the day I decided to pick the system less traveled – the one that’s newer (to us, at least) and seemed to be the most different;  FATE Core.

Looking around online, Fudge dice ranged pretty wildly in price.  Drip Dry was kind enough to buy a GM dice set and shares them with the team every week – and for most of the sets that I would want to purchase as an upgrade, the cost was around $10 for a set of 4.  But could a software dice roller really replace that?

I settled on three Fudge Dice Rollers;

Simple Fudge Dice – By Aviv Beeri
Fate Dice – By RPGAutomail
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FUDGE Dice – By ThereIsNoEnd.org

At first glance, they seemed to be pretty similar in function – but I really wanted to dive into them.  So I downloaded all three and tested them out!  I graded them on three criteria:

Usability – This was a measure of how easily I was able to pick up and use the software.  Were the features easy to understand?  Were the settings intuitive?  Was rolling easy?
Playability – Did it integrate into game well?  Was it a distraction?
Functionality – Did it have a good feature set?  Was it lacking functionality that would have made it easier to use?

So with those criteria in mind, I downloaded the dice rollers and got set to use them.  Because of all the recent scheduling issues, though, a few weeks went by without us playing Fate.  Then when we did play, my cell phone was dead.  Then a few more weeks with no FATE.  In the interest of getting the blog post underway, The Ginger and I threw caution to the wind did a mock game at the house to test out the rollers!

Simple Fudge Dice – 10 of 15 Points

Simple Fudge Dice – Image straight from the Google Play store.

I actually tested this one last, because I did not think I would like it much.  First impressions were misleading – it is actually a pretty solid application.  The UI is good, it was really easy to pick up (installed it, tapped the screen, and I’m rolling!) but it did lack some functionality that I’d like to have seen.  After my first pass through it actually was my favorite – but Fate Dice edged it out slightly in the end.

Usability – 4 Points

The name says it all.  This app is – for lack of a better phrase- stone cold simple to use.  After installation, you just tap the screen and the dice roll.  It did lose a point here for two reasons – 1. The tap sensitivity.  There were a few times when I’d inadvertently double-tap the screen in rapid succession and wind up with a double roll.  No big deal but I didn’t notice it with the other rollers and it was devastating on one “social” roll in our practice game when the first roll was high and the second very, very low.  It was like watching the WEG Star Wars Wild Die land on a 6 only to flop over to a 1.  Which brings me to point 2. History.  Maybe I missed it, but I can’t find any feature for History and there were times when dice rolls were disputed after the fact and it would have been dice to go back a few.

Obviously physical dice don’t have history either, but what’s the point of using the technology if they don’t offer something the dice don’t?  That being said, if you’re considering dice rollers and you wound up on this review, don’t let the lack of History stop you from using this roller – it’s solid and simple.

Playability – 4 Points

As I mentioned in my introduction, after my initial playing with the different rollers this was my favorite.  One of the key reasons for that was the display – it was big and easy to read.  You tap it, it tells you the result of each dice, the overall result and the ranking on the Fate Scale from Abysmal to Legendary.  It lost 1 point because it lacked the “Tactile” feedback I would have liked; sound.  A little audio clip giving a “dice on a table” clacking sound would have made this my favorite, despite the lack of History.

Functionality – 2 Points

There was only one setting to change on the application that I could find – and it was to invert the colors to white on black instead of black on white.  There was no history (as noted) no way to change the scale or adjust settings on the back end at all.  One could argue that was a feature of the “Simple” aspect – and I certainly didn’t miss the more outrageous adjustments that FUDGE dice offered here – but it would have been nice to have some function beyond just a screen tap.

 

Fate Dice – 12 of 15 Points

Fate Dice – Image from the Google Play Store

Overall, this was a really solid application.  I did experience one bug with the application during testing but I have not been able to reproduce it.  As long as it does not rear its head again, this will be the application that stays installed on my phone to use going forward for sure.  It lacked some features I would have liked to see, but did have the History feature that Simple Fate Dice was missing and the display was big and clear.

Usability – 5 Points

Very simply it is a dice roller.  You tap the screen and it rolls the dice – there’s even a nice little animation of the dice rolling and a sound(!) of dice on a table that gave it a nice tactile feel.  The screen is big and easy to read, and it shows you the result of all four dice after the roll.  The History screen was good if something comes up for dispute and (to be honest) the animation and sound helps keep cheaters honest – I was less likely to “accidentally” double-tap a bad roll away if I knew The Ginger would hear the sound and know I cheated.

Playability – 4 Points

Usability covered it all here – it was easy to use and integrated into the game.  The animation took a bit longer than I would have liked (though I did love that feature, there were times when I wanted it to just hurry up!) and the screen was tough to see in bright lighting because of the blue on black motif.  Overall, really playable.  It will be my new dice roller unless the sound bug rears its head again.

Functionality – 3 Points

Functionally, the application was pretty simple.  Tap the screen to roll the dice, tap the history button to see the history.  I would liked to have seen an Invert Colors option like one of the other sets had – because the blue on white motif was tough in bright lighting.  I would also have liked to see an option to mute the sound (though I liked it, any app with sound should have a mute option).  I tapped the screen three quick times in succession to test for the sensitivity issue that one of the other rollers had, and the “dice roll” sound wouldn’t stop playing.  This was really, really annoying and persisted even after I had killed the application.  It eventually required me to take the battery out of my phone to stop.  Points were lost for all of these, but it was not enough to make me not use the application!

FUDGE Dice – 10 of 15 Points

FUDGE Dice – Image from Google Play Store

When I first downloaded these three, I thought this would be my favorite.  The screen shots looked like it would have lots of features and functions I’d like, even if there were some display issues (what are those black blobs?) that would be distracting.  I did like that I could select my skill rank of +1 through +4 but in practice that was actually more cumbersome than just doing the math in my head.  As I got familiar with the roller, it was cumbersome and the many great options on the “Preferences” page just got in the way!  Though it is a solid roller with good features, it was just a bit too clunky to earn my vote.

Usability – 3 Points

Right out of the gate the main screen is pretty imposing.  There are buttons and drop-downs and no real instructions on how to use it.  After clicking on the various options I was able to make sense of it in just a few minutes – but there was a longer (several minute) learning curve than the others in the testing.  I still don’t know what the “throw 4dF-4dF” does and I don’t really see a point to adding a dF – when would you roll 5?  Or 3?  That being said, it was pretty straightforward to click the “throw 4dF” button when I wanted to roll a skill.

Playability – 2 Points

Dammit, I wanted this one to be great!  I subtracted a point right away because it doesn’t show the actual rolls for each dice – just the numeric value of their total.  Does this actually impact play?  Probably not that much – but I wanted to see that value as I felt it better emulated the dice experience.  There wasn’t any history that I could find, and clicking the tiny “throw” buttons was a lot more cumbersome than simply tapping the screen like the others – so that cost another point.  And the UI lacked a fit and finish that I’d like to see on such a simple concept in an app.  That being said, I did like that I could – if I wanted to – add bonuses to my roll at the touch of a button.  Being able to set the target number was a nice feature too.

Functionality – 4 Points

There were a lot of features on this product.  Some I really liked – like the ability to customize the names of the different levels in the scale, or to switch between FATE and FUDGE systems – while others just cluttered things up – like adding and removing additional fudge dice to the roll.  It had more features than the others, so I gave it 4 points – but they were cluttered, as reflected in the Playability.  There were also some features I would have liked to have seen – the ability to toggle the various cluttered features on and off, for example.

Surprisingly, none of the three that I tested had a feature I’d have most liked to see – the ability to shake the device to roll the dice.  It would have added a tactile feel that might have earned one of them enough points to put it over the top!  This is a feature on some other dice rollers I’ve played around with in the past, but none of the Fate rollers I could find had it.  Hear that dice roller app designers?  Shake to roll!

Questions?  Comments?  Opinions?  Other Dice Rollers you think are great?

Take it to the comments below!  And please, if you like this blog SUBSCRIBE!  Every time I get a new subscriber, I get motivated to make new content to make this site great!

– Bob Thirdwalling

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One thought on “Player Technology Part 3 – Dice Rollers

  1. Pingback: Player Tip Series #1 – Technology at the Game Table | Thirdwalling

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