Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dice Idiosyncrasies

My recent non-exposé of Lou Zocchi has gotten me thinking more about dice. Unlike many players I’ve known over the years, I’ve never been particularly superstitious about dice. I’ve never had a set or even a single die that I cherished because I thought it was luckier than other polyhedrals. I used to be a little smug about that, but thanks to Colonel Lou now I know that lots of hobby dice really do get skewed results. I do have lots of other little psychological quirks when it comes to dice, though. Here are a few of them.

1) Mixing dice with numerals and dice with pips in a single roll is anathema to me. If I have to roll a bunch of sixers for a fireball or something, I always try to roll one kind of d6 or the other. I get tripped up adding all the dice if the numbers are represented in two different formats.

2) I like percentile dice for sci-fi games and Call of Cthulhu, and that’s about it. I much prefer d6-based resolution or mixed handfuls of polyhedrons for other genres. I think my mind perceives percentile dice and base ten math as more scientific. This delusion is probably related to how I prefer metric measurements in sci-fi and imperial measurements in fantasy.

3) When I set up for a game that uses lotsa different dice, I begin each session by sorting the die types into the groups. All the d20’s go in one spot, all the d6’s in another, etc. Ostensibly I do this to make finding the right dice easier during play, but the real reason is an obsessive need to sort the dice.

4) I generally prefer rolling one or two dice for standard actions. Three dice for resolution isn’t a deal-breaker, but the rest of the system has to be good. Personally, GURPS doesn’t quite make the cut. HERO System used to, but the constant need to roll ten or twenty dice for damage drug it down. Four dice for resolving a standard dice-needing action requires a truly superb game, like Risus. Pretty much any game that actually has the phrase “dice pool” in it just isn’t going to light my jets.

4a) Counting “successes” sucks donkey balls. Please quit mangling the word “success” while simultaneously calling on the players to count/add something besides the numbers on the dice! There. I said it. And I’m not taking it back.

5) I like the occasional, spectacular giant fistful o’ dice as a way to punctuate that something awesome is happening. I.e. a bucket of dice for an occasional fireball is just dandy in my book. Or rolling 30d10 to determine exactly how many orcs are ruining your wilderness expedition.

6) You know all those dice that have something cool on them besides numbers? Like skulls for the sixes or a die that rolls what kind of trap you encounter or something like that? The dice companies need to either make sure that stuff doesn’t rub off the die or quit making the damn things. I’m still burned about my ghost die mysteriously mutating into a cubical d5.

7) Speckled dice? Translucent gem dice? You know what kind of dice I like best? The kind you can frickin’ read under the less-than-ideal lighting conditions of a random con event or game store demo.

8) Occasionally I’ve heard people talk up those d10’s marked 00, 10, 20, etc because they discourage cheating on percentile throws. Personally I like them because in the split second between selecting a tens die and rolling the pair I often forget which die is which. Yes, I am that dumb.

9) I like dice that are purple. Green dice are cool, too.