Posted in Misc.

Minigame: Knifey-Dicey

In our Pathfinder game this week the PCs visited the tavern of a town they staying at. One of the PCs is a mercenary with a lot of gold to spare and likes to show how tough he is. So I had an NPC ask him if he’d like to gamble. He agreed, but I realised I hadn’t thought of the game they would play.

Image by topher76 – click for source

I wanted there to be dice to add a element of chance to the game, but I also wanted it to help the PC look tough. First thing that came to mind was that knife game where you splay your fingers on a table and quickly stab a knife between them.

Before I knew it I was saying in character as the NPC: “So, have you ever played… knifey-dicey?”

While not as simple as the Simpsons’ “knifey spoony”, it was more fun than cutlery comparison.

On the spot, we came up with some quick rules for this two player minigame, which are as follows:

  1. Decide the stakes (standard games are either 1 or 5 gold pieces).
  2. Decide who goes first (roll a d6 and call odds or evens, or flip a coin – loser goes first).
  3. The player whose turn it is throws the agreed stakes onto the table.
  4. The player rolls a d6 to see how many “circuits” or “laps” of their hand they have to do.
  5. The player makes a Dexterity check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of rounds played so far (0 in the first round) + the result of the d6 rolled in Step 4. Just remember DC = 10 + rounds + d6.
  6. If the player succeeds, it is now the other player’s turn. Repeat steps 3-6 until someone loses or quits (every second time you get to this step, it is a new round so the DC increases by 1).
  7. Winner takes the stakes. For 24 hours, the loser suffers a -2 penalty to rolls requiring two hands (unless they quit before stabbing themselves). DC 15 Healing check or any cure spell removes the penalty.

We played a game of knifey-dicey using these rules and it was a lot of fun. Due to the ever-increasing stakes, the PC ended up winning 30 gold pieces and the NPC walked away with a damaged hand.

I imagined and described the game as extremely fast paced. Decide stakes and who goes first, then begin! Throw gold on the table, roll the d6 and stab stab stab! Other player throws down gold, roll, stab stab stab! Repeat!

Because of the quick pace of the game, the DC increases by 1 each round, so someone is eventually going to lose – if they don’t quit before that, forfeiting the stakes.
Knifey-dicey has several things going for it:

  • Quick and simple to play
  • Elements of randomness
  • Elements of “skill” (the players’ Dexterity scores)
  • Easy to make variants

Speaking of variants, here’s a few I’ve made up just now for this post:


  • After their turn (that is, after Step 5), the player chugs a mug of ale or takes a shot of spirits.
  • The player then makes a Fortitude save (DC equal to 10 + the number of drinks consumed).
  • Failing the Fortitude save adds 1 to the DC of subsequent Dexterity checks in Step 5.


  • Dedicated couples play this game, where one partner stabs around the other’s hand.
  • Often played as “doubles”, where both partners stab at the same time (rolling Dexterity separately).
  • If one partner gets stabbed, the other can continue on. It’s like having two chances.
  • Winners take the stakes. Losers suffer regular penalties and whatever their partner dishes out.


  • The knives are soaked in deadly poison. Winner takes stakes. Loser dies.

(Compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game)

Savage Worlds Version

After writing this post I started thinking about how this would translate to Savage Worlds and have come up with the following quick and dirty conversion:

Change the DC to TN 3 + rounds so far + d6
Instead of Dexterity roll Agility or Gambling, whichever is highest

-2 penalty for losing still applies, and of course the Fortitude save in Knifey-Dicey-Drinky becomes a Vigor roll against TN 4 + number of drinks consumed.

It seems more brutal, but you’ve got the Wild Die and the dice can Ace as usual. I just played a few rounds with varying Agility scores. Playing with an Agility of d8 and on the round that the TN reached 8, I rolled an 8 on the Agility die and a 6 on the Wild Die. I even lasted a while with d4 Agility, thanks to aces. Die size matters, but it really still comes down to luck.

Knives & Hooks

Knifey-dicey is a quick and fun minigame that you can add to just about any roleplaying game to spice up the action next time your PCs wander into a tavern.

Knifey-dicey could also be used as a hook. “Sure, I’ll give you the information you’re after, if you and your buddy there beat me and my girl at knifey-dicey-wifey”. And I can just picture a showdown with a crime lord who challenges the PCs to a game of knifey-dicey-deadly instead of traditional combat. It would definitely be a memorable encounter.

Do you have any minigames like this in your roleplaying games? What sort of mechanics do you use? And if you try out knifey-dicey in your game, I’d love to hear how it goes. 

Image Source: / CC BY-ND 2.0



I live in Canberra, Australia. I love games and stories.

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