Cthulhu Dice   2 comments


(Oops! I have to edit this to see if I can get it included in an upcoming book about dice. I’m not changing anything except to ask you to take a look at this dice blog over here: http://gameplaywright.net/?page_id=1474)

One of the two marvelous things that came to me last weekend at Phoenix Comicon was a Cthulhu die from Steve Jackson Games. I and my teenage attendants (Corencio and Harley) were headed for the door of the gaming room when Jesse, the Steve Jackson gamemaster for Phoenix, stopped me and handed me a brand new Cthulhu die still in the package. I didn’t ask for the die. He just said something like “Cthulhu just told me I have to give you this.” I said, “Wow! Thanks!”

How did this happen? A group of us came into the game room looking for a place to sit down and play some Shadowfist and found Jesse guarding an empty table. He was saving it for a game demo later in the afternoon. Well, I’m persuasive, and Jesse is a nice guy, and he let us use his table for a Shadowfist game which Harley won. He said the price was that we had to let him demo Steve Jackson’s Zombie Dice game, and we agreed. When Shadowfist was over we quickly played a couple of games of Zombie Dice (cardio, cardio, cardio!) Harley proved to be a champion zombie. Brains!

When Zombie Dice was finished I asked Jesse if he could demo Cthulhu dice for us–we still had some time before his scheduled board game. He agreed, and quickly passed out 3 sanity stones to each of us. There were 6 players which is about the perfect size for a game of Cthulhu dice, and in a minute or two we were all rolling tentacles and elder signs and losing our minds.  Fun! Not deep. Requires very little thought! But fun!

We played three games. I won the second one. Coincidentally, that was the only game I actually won all weekend.

The Cthulhu die is a 12-sider that comes in several colors–mine is a lovely green with sickly yellow symbols on it. The sides are blazoned with four tentacles, five yellow signs, one elder sign, one eye, and one Cthulhu symbol. The game consists of attack and response rolls on the Cthulhu die. Each player in turn chooses another player to attack, and that player may then roll the die in response.  I am not going to explain the whole game here. If you want to know how to play it, go here and let Steve Jackson explain it all to you:


If you are one of the people who thinks that dice are inherently cool, then you want this die. It costs $5 which is a lot for a single die, but not much for a complete game. Imho, it is worth it. At the risk of sounding like a cultist, the symbols are perfect and will resonate within your subconscious.  The die has a good heft to it, and it is just a pure sensual pleasure to roll it. If you never play the game at all, you still want one of these dice. It’s that cool.

As I was mentally composing this blog this morning, I got to thinking about what other games could be played with Cthulhu dice, and the one I thought of first was Cthulhu Poker. (Steve Jackson and Company are going to love this idea.) Each player needs 5 or 7 Cthulhu dice depending on whether you want to play a 5 dice or 7 dice variant of the game. The symbols are ranked from least powerful to most powerful: yellow sign, tentacle, elder sign, Cthulhu, Eye. The Eye is wild and can be used as a substitute for any of the other four symbols. Anyone who understands how Poker is played will immediately see where I am going with this.

I will only give rules for the five-card draw (or five dice-roll) variant of the game. First, each player antes–either sanity or money–it doesn’t really matter. (if you lose all your money, you tend to lose your mind anyway.)  Players should buy in with at least 10 units of whatever they’re betting, and more would be better.  Each player takes their five dice and rolls them on the table in front of them to see what five symbols will come up. The dice are arranged in front of each player, and the player with the high hand bets. Other players may call the bet, drop out, or raise the bet. Since everything is out in the open, you would only raise if you think you have a good chance to beat the initial roll on your second try. Once the betting is finished, players pick up any dice they wish to reroll and throw them down again. The dice results are compared and the person with the high score takes the pot.

Poker hands are called hands because the players hold the cards in their hands before laying them on the table. Hands doesn’t feel like the right terminology for a poker variant played with dice, although you can hold the dice in your hands. Five or more Cthulhu dice almost require a cup or a tube to roll them out of. Instead of hands, let’s use the word casts for our Cthulhu dice gambling.

Since there are at least five dice and only four symbols and a wild card, it is not possible to roll less than 2 pair. Possible casts are:

1. Two pair

2. Three of a kind

3. A straight (one of each symbol plus a kicker–the high kicker wins among straights.)

4. A full house. (3 of one symbol, 2 of another)

5. Four of a kind.

6. Five of a kind.

7. A Totality (exactly one of each of the five symbols, yellow sign, tentacle, elder sigh, Cthulhu, Eye) This corresponds to a straight flush in Poker.

Extra rules could be used in order to get in more betting. For example, after the second die roll, each player could be allowed to pick up one die for a third die roll after the betting is done.

Or you could play 5 dice and roll your own hands. This variant has each player roll one die at a time. Whatever you roll, you keep, but you bet after each round of rolling and build up the final Cast by making five rounds of die rolls.

I think I”d enjoy some Cthulhu Poker if I could find a few madmen or women willing to test their luck with me. Are you game?

(a winning cast–Cthulhus over tentacles)


Posted June 4, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Cthulhu Dice

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  1. Great to hear they are twelve siders. That kind of die need some love.

  2. I’ll play Ken. And I have enough Cthulhu Dice in tow now that it wouldn’t be too hard to do.

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