A discusson of dice

(written mid to late 1999... I think)

(Let me start this by saying that I'm very annoyed. I just spent 15 minutes looking for some pictures of dice on the web. I've come up with Jack Squat, and have determined that I'm going to try to get some good pictures of my dice. Maybe I'm the only person who will ever care, but I'll have them on my site just in case anyone else gets it in their head that they want a nice picture of a marbleized d8.)

Until my freshman year of high school, dice were little, plastic (except, wait, Enchanted Forest's were wooden) cubes, usually white (occasionally yellow), with dots on each side corresponding to the numbers 1-6. I used them for board games and occasionally to throw at my brother. When I started playing Magic, though, my eyes were opened to an entirely new experience: The D20. A small, 20-sided spheroid, it seemed to come in every imaginable color, plus glitter. I was lost in wonder.

The wonder was relatively short-lived, as I soon found that rotating a d20 to find the 9 could be an extended activity (it was invariably under my thumb). My fancy was caught by a new toy: The D10. Not only could two d10s be used to represent losing life, but all of a sudden I could Swords my blocking Djinn and be able to represent my 21st point of life easily. If you didn't understand my example, obviously you've found a much better thing to waste your money on in the last seven years than I have, and I commend you.

While d10s are still the centerpiece of my collection, being as they're the only dice type that my best-loved game Legend of the Five Rings makes use of, they're not my only possessions. Having explored the realms of Deadlands, AD&D, Magic, and plain old collector's greed, I've amassed a variety of dice, ranging from a dove-grey marble d4 to two flaming-orange marble d20s. I'm still a little ambivelent about my eight d12s. They're a tad too clunky to be truly pretty dice. And d100s are right out. I don't understand what possible attraction a huge thing that looks as if it could double for a golf ball can hold for any reasonable person.

You can't stack a d100 in a tower, that's for sure.

(I mentioned I was annoyed before. I've become even more so about the lack of web literature on dice superstitions (though I did find one good site, which even merited a link below). What's the point of the Internet if not for really pointless searches? Or perhaps it's bad dice mojo to publish what's bad dice mojo. And that, boys and girls, was an example of a truly inane sentence. Remember it.)

Tower building, or variants thereof, tend to be some of my most common Tangent Activities. While Mark and Joe discuss whether Boba Fett was a girl, I set goals for myself such as Stack All The D10s In One Tower, or the old classic See How Many D20s Will Balance On A D8. And never ever forget the d4 topping. On a more organizationally minded day, I'm often found ignoring Jason and Chris planning out next Wednesday in favor of one of my favorite games: Color Coordinate The D10s And Form Them Into A Lewd Mosaic. Now that I find myself in possession of some sixty dice, Build A Technically Feasible Castle has become a more attractive option than it used to be.

I can hear some people scoffing at the piddly sum of sixty-odd dice (actually, I just counted... it's 59, but I'm missing an orange marble d10). In my defense, I hold that it is a very respectable number for someone who has only been amassing them for about six years, and has never once bought a dice set. While the virtues of buying dice singly may be few (you truly become aware of how much your spending when it gets thrown in your face that you're spending 75 cents apiece for that pair of blood red marbleized d10s), a certain pickiness within has never let me settle for buying a packaged bunch. My brother has theorized that could I only open up the little plastic tube and run them out into my hand, I'd be happy to pay for them, but the hypothesis has yet to be tested.

I just noticed that I've been insisting on referring to my dice as marbleized explicitly. Upon examination of my dice, I've been reassured, that yes, none of them have lost their marbleizing, and thus it is unnecessary for me to pretend that I have any others. My marbleized dice set me aside from true gamers, whose treasured scarlet red plastic polyhedrons are slowly rubbing away to nubbins, but I see nothing wrong with having been somewhat late in beginning my collection. I have no ugly dice, nostalgia-imbued or not.

Well, okay, I have some ugly dice. The d12, bought in desperation, that bears a color and visual texture disturbingly similar to my cat's vomit, isn't something I let most other people see. The purple d12 with the oversized numbers and the too-uniform glossiness isn't the most attractive, either. Of course, those two dice blend in with the rest of the d12s, which are ugly just by virtue of being, well, d12s.

I only ever used d12s for playing Deadlands, so at least normally I don't have to even look at them directly. Most of the time I can simply let them blend in with the rest of their fellows, spread out in an inviting riot of color on Mark's couch. (My dice always end up usurping my seat on that couch, for some reason. I unfailingly end up on the floor.) Drory's dice nearby are more sedate and traditional, though a few of his black marbles could pass unnoticed into my set.

The first several sessions of AD&D I played, I used Drory's dice. Well, his spare set, that is. With classic gamer superstition, Drory does not allow others to touch his primary dice. Other players' fingers could reverse his juju, cursing his dice forever.

I'm one to talk, though. An astute observer will note that I habitually rest my dice high-side down, and will often pass up a die that has been rolling high in favor of one that has been rolling low. My theory is that a die should not be used to seeing its high-side up, or it will get bored with it. Similarly, a die that has been rolling high, I pessimistically am convinced, is the one most likely to roll low on that next important roll, having gotten bored with its current habit.My practices are in direct opposition to most peoples', but I suppose everyone has their quirks.

Aaron test-rolls his dice, a practice which sets my teeth on edge. He wastes so many good rolls! Yong spins his dice prior to rolling, choosing the one that ends its spin with the highest number face up to actually roll. Drory, Seth, and Christie swear that certain dice roll consistently high, and Drory even has designated "initiative dice" which, apparently, always roll low. Joe, Mark, and Franklin throw their chi and willpower in to every roll, something I'm not willing to do in the slightest.

I tend to believe that the harder I wish a certain die to roll high, the more likely it is to roll low. The secret, I've decided, to rolling high on an important roll is to lavish all my attention on one particular die, and then, suddenly and without warning, swipe an unsuspecting die from my pool and roll it very quickly. The idea being that the collective die consciousness will be so concentrated on forcing the first die to roll low that I will catch it by surprise and give it no chance to negatively affect the actually-rolled die's outcome. My strangest habit, however, has to be that I just noticed last week the following:

When stacking dice, if they fall over, I've been religiously avoiding those that fell, for die rolling purposes, for at least 5 important rolls. How's that for silly? Acknowledging the silliness, however, will not prevent me from continuing in my habit. If dice are random, then it doesn't hurt to be superstitious. If dice are not random, then treating them properly is vital.

Better safe than sorry.

Certain of my dice have never even been rolled for gaming purposes. I subscribe to the Ugly Dice Are Dangerous Dice school of thought. This is not to say that ugly dice will always roll badly (in fact, it's often the ugliest dice that roll the best), but that they may not be trusted until tested. It's a prejudice, I admit, and one that kept me from my now-favorites of Seth's dice for some time. I didn't like the orange marbles, and always avoided them until the day that I needed to roll some d8s for Deadlands, and those two orange ones and the purple marble of his were the only ones at hand. I bit the bullet and rolled. Two 8's, and a 6. The next time, two different 8's, and a 7. I was won over. The only trio of dice that I consider jinxed, Seth's dice now hold a special place in my heart.

I hunted until I found three similar dice, which actually roll remarkably well, but it's just not the same.

Moral of this story? Roll no ones' dice except your own and Seth's. Treat them however you feel best soothes the savage fickleness of glossy numbered hearts, and whatever you do, never ever buy a d100.


Once upon a time in 1999, I was frustrated by not being able to find any pictures of dice on the Internet. So I took a couple pictures of my own.

All - 1999
My collection: 1999

All - 2006
My collection: 2006 (for those counting at home, there's 384 dice in this picture.

In the past several years my collection has grown a little bit. Some of my favorite pictures of the plastic / amber / malachite / stainless steel / crystal / wood / agate horde are in the Dice Gallery.