Plastic, metal, wood, bone, semi-precious stone, million-year-old fossils…
What do these all have in common? That’s easy; They’ve all been used to craft various types of dice over the years. Ah, dice… Those wonderful bits of number-randomising goodness that can make or break your end-all, be-all negotiation with that nigh-unstoppable Lich looking to lynch the entire planet…
Dammit, Carl, I said anything BUT a 1!!!
I’ve been around this scene long enough to realise that dice are some of the most prized possessions a role-player has. Character Sheets you can generate in heaps, you know your character’s stats anyway. Yeah… of course he had three 18s rolled to start with, I wouldn’t lie, would I?
Remember that one die that got you a proper crit at just the right time all those years ago? That one’s locked up in a vault that rivals Gringotts on security, including rollercoaster entryways, dragon guards, and menacing goblins making sure nobody else touches that beauty until it’s sorely needed again – according to The Prophecy™.
Here are a few noteworthy dice-related habits that either I or others I’ve played with have exhibited over the years. Brace yourselves, weird geek things are coming!
1 – Don’t touch them or I swear by Nuffle…
So let’s start off with a ‘lighter’ one, shall we?
I’ve been guilty of this one. I currently own a select group of dice that nobody but myself has laid a greedy paw on. Except for the guys at the factory, and the guys at the store, like when they emptied the factory bags and spread them out in the display case, and other people who’ve looked them over without buying…
I think I just made myself sad.
OK, nobody else has touched them after I bought them. That’ll have to do.
Be it for reasons of luck-stealing or extra-care for those plastic lovelies, some people won’t let others even look at their dice funny, (keeping them secret, keeping them safe). As The Producers’ own Leopold Bloom put it, it’s just a minor compulsion, I can deal with it if I want to. Now keep your hands and other body parts a minimum of 30cm from my inner polyhedron sanctum and bear in mind those are military-grade lasers and not just pretty lights, thank you!
2 – Plastic piggies in a row
Quite possibly one of the most common themes I’ve come across is the gamer’s desire to keep everything organised.
While this may extend to character sheets, pencils, erasers, pocket knives, chairs, tables, and even the bloody house itself, relative to standard wind direction in the Northern hemisphere, it’s dice that people use to exemplify this bit of obsession the most. From the D4 to the d20, and everything in between, the dice are set in a neat, ascending row, lined up with the edge of whatever straight line object lies handy. These habits range from just a fun thing to do in your down time to army-level rigor and retaliation.
Find someone with the latter focus and switch their 10s for 16s when they’re not looking. Just make sure the table is bolted down, otherwise, you’ll be spending the next few weeks scanning for d4-caltrops all over the living room.
3 – No, this IS how physics works! Really!
This one has been used by one of my friends for a while now, and somehow some people ended up actually believing. We were playing a d6-based system; then he’d line up his dice 6-side up so that the ‘weight would drop to the bottom and increase his chances of a crit.’
Let that one sink in for a bit.
Talk about a weight-watcher… I know, I know, I stooped too low for that one.
In all fairness, bad puns aside, and taking into account other weird superstitions people have on a daily basis - black cats and Friday 13th anyone? - This one isn’t half as bad and definitely worth a chuckle.
It’s the ones that take it seriously you need to keep an eye on.
4 – Nobody move, breathe or even blink too hard…
Treading some pretty unique ground here, and again courtesy of one of my players, this one combines the piggy-row effect with Jenga for some pretty wild, passionate effects. This superstition entails is creating a pillar out of a regular 7-piece dice set at the start of the session.
So far so good… It’s the continuation that had us watching ourselves for the first part of our game.
Should the pillar fall within the first hour of the session, its owner would all but break down and cry, living in fear of their character dying for the rest of the evening. And all of this while we were all actively trying not to bump the table or even shot the doors too hard, knowing what a crumbling dice tower would entail for our poor friend.
On the other hand, once we beat that 60-minute mark, the dice pillar was fair game for knocking stuff down, beating people up and even TPKs.
So the GM (yours truly) acted accordingly.
5 – No, I already rolled the ones out of it!
There are those that take dice odds and pseudo-science way too far.
They say that dice have memory, or something to that extent.
So these kooky individuals like to prep, prime, program, and perfect their chances before a roll by enacting various dice-rolling procedures that are supposed to mitigate any results of 1 during the following in-game roll.
Right up there with the weight-at-the-bottom trick, this is either good fun or simply annoying, as these people will actively roll their dice dozens of times until they’re 101% sure there is no chance of getting a critical fail the next time their character needs to pass a test.
Of course, by that time most people are probably done with the game, have moved on to the next item on their to-do list and have also kicked the memory roller out of the group… I kid, of course, but I have seen some wild examples of this behavior, with one player rolling more dice in one hour than anyone else in the group combined over the stretch of the entire session. There’s only so much of that sweet tumbling noise I can take before I turn into one of the Snickers commercial people.
6 – One die to rule them all… At the exact precise time!
This is another one yours truly is guilty of, this belief has – at least in my case – gone beyond superstition and tongue-in-cheek-ness and well into the realm of fact-based information.
There’s a set of red dice in the Pathfinder Beginner box of which I’m very fond simply because they are a little different in size and shape to the usual Chessex pieces on the market.
The 20-sided one in that set is something else. It has now successfully pulled 5 of my characters away from the brink of death multiple times, sometimes even giving them a boost while doing so. Any other dice I’ve used have ended up in the bin after killing off my lovely background-laden elves, cyberpunk hackers, and war heroes.
That red little beauty though… It only gets used in those precise circumstances: a near-death situation when I need to know I can bank on an all-or-nothing roll. It never comes out for anything else, never gets rolled, never even sees the light of day unless the need is dire.
It is mine, my own precious! The dice itself probably cost less than $1 to make, but you can’t put a price on plastic loyalty!
All in all, habits range as wide as player types and I’m sure there are many more examples to share here but these are some of the ones that have stood out to me.
I’m always on the lookout for revamping this list. Maybe my precious will stab me in the back at some point in the future and maybe we’ll finally see the weight bit work to create a 5-die roll of only 6s.
But plastic piggies might fly before that happens, if you ask me…
Writer, gamer, and - provided he's got the time for it - loving husband, Costin does not rule out sacrifices to the Great Old Ones in order to get into the gaming industry. He's been roleplaying for the better part of 6 years, but has been a joker, gamer and storyteller for as long as he can remember.
His greatest pride is once improvising a 4-way argument between a grave digger, a dyslexic man, an adopted child and a sheep, all by himself. That moment is also the closest he's ever come to giving himself a roleplaying aneurysm... thus far.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.