Saturday, July 16, 2016

My God How I Love Dice

Platonic solids. How they look, how they roll and how they bounce in place like a machine gun bullet is pure rapture.  Of all the polyhedra, the Icosahedron is the sexiest.  The d20 is gaming.  Not those white spotted pieces of crap in a Monopoly set.  Or Yahtzee. Or Backgammon.  Or any other game made for children or old people. D20’s are power incarnate Baby.

During one of my game sessions I asked a player to roll a percent. These days there’s always some confusion as to what die is which. I point.  That one.  Simple.  They roll and get a 10.  Okay.  10. Like the digits one and zero.  What the frak?  I look at the all the d20’s piled on the table and notice they're all marked 1 - 20. Has the real world gone mad?  I felt my chin and found no long beard and I didn’t recall falling asleep under a tree for 20 years. I steady myself on the table.  So here we are.  10.  One-zero. This is so confusing, it’s like when talking about Star Wars, always correcting myself.  No the first one, no, not Attack of the Clones, but the first one made, (counts on fingers and has to think)... Episode IV.  I can’t even remember the friggin number the player was supposed to roll under because that stupid ugly 10 is sitting there on top of the die.  Okay, my brain still kinda works. Redrum. Think man.  If you roll a 10 on a d20/1-20, but what you want is a number from 1 - 100, that means (if you are a gaming dinosaur) you have in fact rolled a 0, which means we don’t know if it’s zero something (01-09%) or zero-zero (100%).  Nobody appreciates the irony of making a percentage roll with a d20/0-9x2 and getting a zero first.  You have to make another roll to find out if what you just attempted is either a colossal success or an epic fail.  It’s so geekily twisted it’s cool. BTW, I think rolling two d10’s is a total buzzkill, ten siders aren’t even perfect solids.  It’s like using Khrushchev’s shoe to hammer a nail.  But now I’m looking at this freaking puss filled ten, this abomination, this Greedo fires first piece of crap… and through all the steam in my eyeballs I just can’t see that this 10 is really a zero.  What focus group inspired mo-ron wrecked the singularly most perfect tool in the RPG universe?  WHO IS THIS PERSON?   Even E.Garry was smart enough to not mess with this sacred thing. 

When I vent to people about this they think I'm crazy.  Actually, I’m not sure what they're really thinking, but they take that half step back, like my skin is rotting off.  Careful, he might still think he’s playing Killer and hiding a loaded banana.  I focus on the twin reflections of me in their eyes.  The perfunctory head nodding only reinforces that they are only waiting for my pointless ranting to end so they can babble on about some lame sports event or I don't even know what, because I have no intention of paying attention.  Whatever. It’s dawning on me that I’m alone on this one. I look online to buy a bunch of d20/0-9x2.  I am definitely NOT thinking that I will break into their homes to swap out the offending die with my own so the game can be played as it was meant to be played.

It turns out I am in fact a dinosaur.  Nobody makes d20/0-9x2’s anymore.  Please remind me while I’m walking to look up from my copy of Grit long enough to avoid the hot bubbling tar pit by my garage. JFC.

More digging online hooks me up with a collector who’s willing to swap solids with me.  I go through my collection and grab the ugliest, nastiest, chipped, cracked, flaked, weeping, misshapen, misregistered, illegible, skankiest looking dice I can find.  Turns out these are the earliest manufactured and thus the most collectible.  Cha-ching!  We exchange emails, I put mine in a box and send them off.  A few days later what I want arrives. Coincidentally, on the same day I also got the new Moto X Pure Edition Smartphone (with real inlaid bamboo).  I took both boxes downstairs and which do you think I opened first?  It drove my wife crazy, too.

Oh my God.  OH MY GOD.  So many beautiful old dice. Some with hard crisp edges that have never been played with (for shame!).  Others worn down from saving throws, bend bars/lift portcullis attempts or random Harlot encounter type generation.  When I first started playing back in the 70’s I had to make my own dice out of paper. Paper doesn’t just “grow on trees”...I had to walk 7 the snow...holding anvils between my toes…to get to the paper store. My mom’s divorce lawyer bought me my first set of plastic polyhedra for Christmas when I was about 15.  (Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me either).  A lime green D4, a purple 8 sider, a Ferrari red D12, and a light blue D20.  My little tickets out of my hometown of junked cars filled with cracked mud…. to the land of floating island hexes lorded over by the powerful Roc Hard, who’s coolest trick was to simply raise the taxes on his subjects so he could go up another level.  Rygax who psionically enlarged his arrows in flight to the size of telephone poles.  Xenenon who cut off my best friend's arms and legs in an arena duel broadcast on closed circuit crystal ball (Yes, it was a ticketed event - another XP laundering scheme).  Fansil, the first girl I ever played D&D with.  My dice did all that shit.  As I grew up and moved from place to place practically all the artifacts of my childhood were lost.  Only a few random things survived.  One of my mom's kitchen knives that I held over the stove burner to cut plastic models did.  My original D&D books did not.  They were stolen by some schweinhund during college.  (I mail-ordered the DMG in 1979 and still have vivid memories waiting by my bedroom window like a dog for the mailman to come day after day, week after week, until it finally arrived).  I managed to save all four of my original dice...until  the 8 sider turned up missing one day. Deep down inside this bothered me a lot.  It was proof that the universe DOES NOT CARE about you and when you step in front of the proverbial Mack truck, the only thing people will care about is the gold fillings in your teeth.  But, with this trade I also got a purple d8, an old one, identical to my first.  Things change, maybe the universe cares...  

I am enforcing a new rule at the game table, NO MORE of those lazy ass d20/1-20’s allowed.  Time to make those damn kids suck it up for a change.  Or they can go find another Crypt Lord or hug trees or follow their phones around or whatever.

My apologies, you will learn nothing from reading this.

My God how I love dice.


  1. Oh...there are my lovelies. I feel very comfortable with them being in this new home, particularly after reading this blog. As a dice collector I pack most of my collection away. Which seems somehow keeping a classic Triumph 6 under a cover in a dark garage. Not these babies...they will be killing dragons and players for the rest of there life. Have fun Ro.

  2. I rolled the paper D20. It was a metaphor for life, or at least for the life of a kid who wanted to play a game so bad he would scrounge raw materials and MAKE it. It was not portable and it allowed ambient air currents to affect game play, but if D20's become extinct they will get us through the Dark Ages.

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  4. I was reading through this and it sparked my interest. I did a little digging myself, and managed to find a single d20 0-9x2 that can be bought. Figured you might want to know. Here's the link.
    PS. That comment that got removed was me, had the settings mixed up and it was bothering me.

  5. Hi, it's me again. Inspired by your post, and partially out of curiosity, I decided I'd order one of the die I previously mentioned. I just have one question. The coloring of the numbers. Is there an order? It's obviously only one of each number, but is there a certain way it should be done?

    1. The main thing is to use two distinct colors and to make sure you get one set of 0-9 in one and the other 0-9 in the other color. The older dice vary in the exact arrangement of the numbers, which ones you pick as single or double digits is up to you. I prefer the older Gamescience dice, the numbers are arranged so that they are opposite each other. For fun, I would mark the double digit/teens zero in red, so when you rolled a natural 20 it was a high vis. I have a few Gamescience dice that you can pry from my cold dead fingers...