Dice, Under Pressure
by Theresa Bane
A while back I did an article called “Dice, Dice, Baby” where I break down all the different types of dice, what they are called, their actual scientific nomenclature, and what I like about each one, specifically. I feel that “dice” as a subject matter is such a rich topic that one blog simply cannot cover the diversity and complexity of those little bits of colored and numbered plastic thingies. Ergo, a follow-up.
Many and many a year ago I collected dice. Fortunately, being a die-hard* gamer this was a good thing. Each time I rolled up a new character it called for a trip to the local gaming shop. A new character means new dice purchased specifically for that character. It was a sacrosanct tradition, a rule that could not be broken, or OCD, call it what you will.
As I drove to the game shop I contemplated the character, worked out the details of its personality, and finalized the role it would play in the group dynamic. First, I had to decide if the dice were going to have pips or Romanized numbers. This is more important than you may think-pips meant I would have to count up the dots and then add ’em up before doing my game mechanic math and announcing my result to the GM. I know this takes a second or two but in the heat of combat moments count! On the other hand, numeric text removed a layer of thinking I had to do, an initial plus but only if I felt that numeric labeling was better suited the concept of the character.
After the pip vs. Romanized number decision was made, I had to consider what colors I wanted for the dice. In truth I only had to narrow down color combinations, as the final decision could not truly be made until I saw what colors were available at the store. Back then, I would never buy dice over the internet, I needed to feel them in my hand, get their vibe, see and hear them roll.
I know this sounds crazy but let’s face it, if you are still reading, you have gone through this exact same process. Stop smiling, you know it’s true.
Now here is where it gets weird, even for me.
At the store I would finalize my decision based on what dice was available. Let’s say for the sake of good story telling I selected black dice with red numeric labeling. It was not enough for me to select a brick of such dice. I had to buy three or five bricks because buying an odd number of sets ensured that I would have a good chance of testing them all out before I gamed and put together an awesome set. It was always three or five bricks of dice; one was not sufficient and seven was ridiculously too many. Once the sale was made, I raced home for the next critical step – testing.
At my massive teak-wood desk I would sit with a note pad and pen. All the sets of dice were then carefully opened over the character sheet and rolled en masse. Then, each of the various types was pulled into little piles, all the d4s in one place, the d6s in another, and so on. Next, beginning with the d4s, I would roll each one and make a note of its result. I did this 100 times for each die and then made an average of the rolls. The winner of each type was put in the new dice bag.
Interestingly, I never cared one way or the other about my dice bag, so long as it was large enough to hold my custom made set and was able to be tightly closed. Even a zip-lock bag was okay. Hmm, I had never considered how odd that is. Dice bags are important. This will call for later reflection and a possible follow-up blog.
But I digress.
After a few hours of dice rolling and number crunching the final result was a perfectly made custom set of dice for a character that I would hopefully get to play one day. Yes, that’s right, sadly after all this trouble sometimes I would never even get to roll a single die in actual game play. But as bad as that was, there was even a more horrible consequence to this OCD of mine – hundreds and hundreds and HUNDREDS of unused dice collecting in a tall kitchen trash pail that I actually filled up even though I did not want or use the dice.
The plus side to being married to a game designer is the constant opportunity to game and Scaldcrow Games’ newest game mechanic calls for only 2d6. To celebrate the release of Bare Bones Multiverse I purchased two purple steel d6s that I love to death. They are slightly smaller than your regularly sized d6s but are heavy and literally leave little divots in the wooden table we game on.
I love these steel dice so much I was finally ready to let all my other dice go. My husband purchased a rather sizable gumball machine and we filled it up with as many of the dice as it would hold. We took it to cons and for fifty cents folks are able to spin the knob and see what they get; typical yield is 1d4 worth of dice but every once in a while it releases six to eight of them. It’s a pretty awesome bit of nerd porn to have at the table and we have refilled it twice already without ever having to purchase additional dice.
These days I am, for good or ill, over my dice obsession, those two steel purple d6s broke me of the habit. I admit I did hold back three sets of dice from my old collection; they live in my desk drawer and belong to three different characters that I love and play on and off to this day. As for the gumball machine full of dice, well, that is sitting on a table near my desk where I can look at it, see my old dice friends, and pop in a couple of quarters any time I want.
* Get it? Die-hard gamer? As in both the movie and the word “die” is the singular form of “dice.”