Quick Look: Roll For Your Life
Designer: DAKOTA SANDOVAL-GAY
Artist: Conor Nolan
Year Published: 2024 (Currently on Kickstarter, link at the bottom of this review!)
Roll For Your Life is an activity book that helps you weave your imagination through random outcomes to create characters, creatures, objects, and locations. The goal: tear apart and rebuild the biggest tropes of page and screen to discover new stories of your own.
Roll For Your Life is for everyone who tells stories and dreams of imaginary worlds: tabletop roleplayers, writers, artists, gamers, movie buffs, and kids. Every chapter features full color art by Conor Nolan, explanations or examples for every outcome, and food-for-thought interjections–all meant to get your creativity flowing. Use it as a companion for any storytelling project, or roll your way through a chapter as a standalone activity, by yourself or with friends.
I wasn’t exactly too sure what I would be getting when I signed up to take a look at Roll For Your Life. I had assumed it was at least a game of some sort, judging by the use of the word “roll” in its title, and its designation for use within the world of TTRPGs had me doubly assured that this was a a possibility. Yet, some elements of the description boggled me, and left me uncertain as to what the final aim of the product was to be, delving heavily into detailing features such as character backstories and appearances and such.
It wasn’t until a PDF of the “rule set” of Roll for Your Life hit my email box that I realized that this “game” is actually a character generation tool for your favorite RPGs (like DnD, and a few others).
I never really thought about the “need” for such a tool in the past. After all, character generation is pretty straightforward, right? Just simply follow the directions of whatever Player’s Handbook you are using, and you are set, right?
Well…In theory, yes, everything you need to be able to make a “fun” character is likely prescribed within the rules of whatever RPG you are using.
But then I slowly realized that while the end result of using my finalized character may indeed be fun, the process of making that particular….*gasp*… is actually seldom fun for me.
Now that is not to say that there aren’t elements of character generation that I enjoy. For example, I love rolling up my stats, selecting my feats and specializations and classes and every variable permutation of abilities that my selections may grant me. I know that meta-gaming can often be frowned upon at the table with RPG’s, but given the infrequency with which I can actually be a PC instead a DM, I always want to make sure my character is the very best they can possibly be. So, guilty as charged, I am one of those notorious min/maxers.
But aside from this, other than creating a powerhouse of a character…I really don’t care about fabricating my creation’s backstories, appearance, interests, and quirks. This is the facet that I typically find to be a chore.
Roll for Your Life takes the burden out of this process for me.
For the purposes of this review , I was supplied with a few character options (a Wizard and an Alien) to try out for “rolling” or creating. It of course lets you handle the normal character ability generation methods for whatever RPG system you are using, but then lets you finish fully fleshing out your creation through randomized dice rolls.
For the Wizard, a number of tables were utilized to make this happen. Simply roll a d6 for a series of 14 traits (for this particular class) to determine your final appearance and qualities. Everything from the type of hat you wear to the color of your outfit was handled via this method, and we were able to even get a few personality traits thrown in for good measure (we ended up rolling a “mad” wizard). We came up with their favorite pastime and discovered they have a small, animated statue that serves as their assistant in their Tower home within the busy metropolis.
What if you don’t end up liking a particular result you rolled? Thankfully, you are given a small number of rerolls to eliminate a few bothersome details that you end up disliking.
You end up writing your results down on a pre-generated character class sheet that can be carried over to whatever TTRPG you are playing. It also includes a square where you can draw the portrait of your character if so desired.
The creation of the alien handled similarly, and also with hilarious results. Though I lack a space themed game to try this on, it does make me want to try.
Another strong feature of this particular character creation method is that it is extremely family friendly , and can be done exclusively for the sake of fun. My daughter really enjoyed the process of making her own character (though not always the results of her rolls!), and in the end felt compelled to do this again.
Overall, this process was extremely simple, yet engaging and fun. My overall impressions are very positive. The art is colorful and splendid and really lends itself to the creative process.
I do have one particular observation that I think may be helpful in the long run.
Namely, I think that while it is good that Roll for Your Life alludes to the most common tropes of the RPG genre (such as Gandalf being a wizard), the over-reliance on such tropes can lend to a bit of restrictions in character development. My daughter of course wanted to make a female wizard, but then it came time to roll for the wizard’s beard length….ouch! Let’s just skip that one, shall we?
So hopefully we will see another table for our girl wizards out there some day. Although maybe there is already something within the book that has this…I know that there is a “Witch” option, and while this isn’t exactly the same thing, it certainly makes it seem possible that this is already extant…
All in all, Roll for Your Life surprised me by practically eliminating what I personally find to be the most tedious aspect of character generation. Anyone who finds themselves in the same disposition (or anyone who has kids who like making up stories!) should really check this out!
Find out more HERE.
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Jazz Paladin- Reviewer
Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.