Cee-lo dice mechanic

So I’m always terrified to post about mechanics, as it’s not something I mess around with very much. But I’ve lately been super interested in Cee-lo, which is a very simple 3d6 gambling game. It was the first dice game I learned how to play, and I have really fond memories of rolling dice behind my middle school for loose change, dollar bills, and candy.

I think the mechanics of cee-lo would lend themselves really well to an RPG system. It’s quick, exciting, fun, and really simple to learn. I wanted to get some folks’ thoughts on the issue, especially if you’re a probability nerd!

There is a pretty basic probability table in the Wikipedia article I linked above:

With three six-sided dice there are 6 x 6 × 6 or 216 possible permutations.

  • 4-5-6: 6/216 = 2.777777778% (Automatic Win)
  • Trips: 6/216 = 2.777777778%
  • Point: 90/216 = 41.66666667%
  • 1-2-3: 6/216 = 2.777777778% (Automatic Loss)
  • Meaningless permutations: 108/216 = 50%

How could you make this more interesting? Add adv or dis? Set specific target numbers to make it more difficult? How could you link it to stat in a satisfying way?

Anyway, just sharing some thoughts.

On a side note, we’ve always used cee-lo as our gambling mechanic, and it works so well.


It sort of reminds me of Whitehack’s wager system for resolutions, which I know some people absolutely love.
This looks a bit too complex for my tastes, but I am interested to see if you make anything out of it!

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I’m obsessed with Yahtzee mechanics, so I sympathize. LOVE the approach Dice Throne took with different abilities keying off different combos (short straight, long straight, 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, 5 of a kind, etc.). Every time I look at it, though, the re-roll probabilities explode my gourd. This sounds more manageable by FAR!

The key is what you want results to DO. Like if 456 and 123 are so rare, they should be GREAT, right? How do you make the different results interesting? Dice Throne has it so different rolls let you key different abilities, and the re-rolls allow you to “save” results to gamble on less likely - but sometimes more tactically rewarding - results. It’s a combat game, though, so that approach is weird in a more open style of game (what happens if you’re rolling to trigger in a social situation, and only get “climb anything?”).

Not sure if that helps, but it’s a cool question!

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Oh, what a fun game! IMO, the nature of the rules leads to opposed checks. There is a definite advantage to going first, so initiative would be important. First thought that comes to mind is spend a point of effort to lock individual die results in a sequence. Effort points could be tied to a stat. Points used reduce the stat until refresh. Re-rolls also cost effort. Running out of points in a stat triggers a condition. Since meaningless rolls must be re-rolled, then half the time a player will be required to spend effort. I think this would add a small layer of tactics in manipulating odds.

Roll 2,3,6 keep the 6 by spending a point. Then spend another point for re-roll and gamble with 2d6 at 16% chance for a match, 11% chance for a straight win or a 1 point loss. Otherwise, spend a single point alone for a complete re-roll.

Hopefully this made sense and my math is right. Thanks for sharing the game. I love rolling 3d6 for any reason.


That is such a cool idea! I just rolled my 3d6 for about 5 minutes to check what that holding mechanic felt like, and it feels really fun.

I’m gonna play around with it a bit, and see if I can come up with something cool to run by you all!


Thanks! I haven’t played Dice Throne. I’ll check it out!

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Ooh I LIKE that! I’d go one further, and make your “stats” also your “stamina” - like hit zero, and you’re out, so the spend mechanic has a real intensity to the choice. Maybe if all of them hit zero you’re out? Depends on how many stats you go for - LOVE including a hold mechanic on the 3d6 with a SPEND. You’re already getting the possibilities, too - so cool!

And you’re welcome, @bordercholly! I love playing it with my son - very fun card + dice game with a lot of tactics. Surprisingly elegant for all its complexity!

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I’ve always been into the idea of gambling games as a resolution mechanic- something like this, or also poker, blackjack, baccarat, etc. It changes the aesthetics and depending on the particulars of the game it can provide interesting outcome distributions as well as potential alternative kinds of resolution, without sacrificing clarity of the probabilities as is often the case with other more complex resolution mechanics.


Oh man, gambling mechanics! I’ve been low-key obsessed with figuring out how to do a Liar’s Cup mechanic (hidden roll) where you gamble with Stress or Stamina and WIN exp - in effect, you can Bluff opposition to win OR win with a legit roll, but you risk losing power every time. Never figured it out, tho.

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I don’t know about using it as a mechanic, but in my campaigns I always hide a game of “goblin checkers” (nine mens morris) and “goblin dice” (cee lo).

To date, I have never successfully gotten my players to play either of them.

But one day it will happen, and it will be glorious.

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I would highly recommend the original “dogs in the vineyard” text for gambling as a game mechanic. It does a nice job of weaving narrative in with the act of placing bets and would be good research material.

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Wanted to let you know you inspired me to goof around with cee-lo this weekend

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