Saturday, March 14, 2009

the hardest working die in showbusiness

My Purple Thirty Sider holds the distinction of being the only die in my collection responsible for the founding of a worldwide fraternal organization, but it is not the die I roll the most when running games. That distinction goes to Big Red:

This die has been in my collection for so long that I can't quite remember where I got it. It's made for a casino, the Golden Nugget in particular, so I suspect my parents bought me a pair of casino sixers on their one trip to Vegas in the 80's.

Outside of to-hits and saves, nearly every roll I make when running Labyrinth Lord/OD&D/etc. is with this single six-sider. Searching for secret doors, listening or opening doors, and checking for wandering monsters are well known uses of 1d6 rolls. I also tend to roll number of monsters appearing, and damage with 1d6 even when the particular edition I'm running uses other dice for those tasks. Like Vegas, what happens behind the screen stays behind the screen, so the players never know that I've used the wrong dice. They probably wouldn't object anyway, since a lot of monsters that do d8 or more damage end up being slightly weaker.

More importantly, during standard dungeon operations I tend to envision nearly all situations that might need random input in terms of an X in 6 chance. Do the orcs in room 24 hear the fight in room 22? Are the 10' poles going to snap when the players use them to lever the big boulder out of place? Will the ogre fall for the PC's bullcrap story about needing to deliver a pizza to the evil overlord in 3 turns or less? Sometimes I make a snap judgment on these sorts of questions, but a lot of the time I envision them as a chance on a six sider and throw Big Red.

I didn't really start using Big Red until the last couple of years, and it's kinda weird why. Back when I had a pair of these dice they were just an oversized set of 2d6. They didn't fit comfortably in my hand, so they never got much play even when I ran 2d6-based systems like Traveller. Only by losing one member of the pair did I finally figure out what to do with the lone survivor. Now I have this big shiny candy-like die that I can find with no difficulty. When Big Red was half of a pair of dice I didn't even take them out of the bag.


  1. Anonymous12:34 PM

    Dice stories make me smile.


  2. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Of course, I meant "Thanks," but, Thansk sounds like a great OD&D character name, don't it?

    For that matter, so does the word verification for this one: angsoa.

    Thansk Angsoa... Hmmm...

  3. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Nothing like reading a story about a man and the love he has for a die to brighten my day. It brings a tear to my eye because it reminds me of a special d20 I had back in the day. It was a multi colored/tie-dyed thing of beauty, and the only thing I ever used from the Torg box set I got it from. It served me faithfully for years and years, until my DM's new girlfriend's nephew came over and stole all our damn dice.

    I'll always love you, Torg d20. Always.

  4. DM's new girlfriend's nephew: man they just keep inventing new humanoid monsters.

    I definitely am of the roll-a-die-and-wing-it camp. A D6 is a good single die to roll, especially at the speeds a DM needs to go. Though I think a D10 is a little better ;)

  5. Anonymous4:47 PM

    I like d10's.
    It's a damn shame how Wizard's neutered the d10.
    I miss the percentage roll.

  6. Anonymous7:39 PM

    I had a little d6 that I believe came from a magnetic chess/checkers/backgammon set. It was green with white pips and served as my initiative die (1E) for years.

    People HATED it. I swear it had to be unbalanced. I always won initiative.

    But every time we'd roll it 100 times to check its randomness because my brother insisted that it was loaded, everything came up normal.

    Once we'd start to play again? Win win win.

    One day it was gone. Just GONE.

    My brother swore he had nothing to do with it.

  7. The moment I saw that picture I knew it was a casino die. Garish has a pair his dad picked up for him while in Vegas way back in the 70s.

    My favourite is the d12..though it rarely sees the light of day since I stopped playing 3e and 3.5. I just like the geometry of it. When I was much younger, I had a novelty twelve-sider that had witty slogans on each face..including the infamous word of inspiration "THIMK".

    These days it's all about my Chessex translucent fuchsia d6s with the predisposition toward boxcars. I love them, and they love me back.

  8. Anonymous9:42 PM

    I agree on the d12. It is sadly under-utilized and always has been.

    I used to make all of my home-brewed random encounter tables d12-based just so I could use it more often.

  9. Anonymous3:26 AM

    Nice use of Arms Law & Claw Law...

  10. I like to use the casino craps d6s too. I have a few pair of them. One is generic (from some old local billiards/gaming shop), the other two are from Vegas/Reno casinos (Harrah's and ??? - drawing a blank).

    I tried to get some this past weekend's local casino excursion...

    ...but the only ones they were selling had a hole drilled straight thru the 3. I presume it's to avoid people buying them and somehow cheating with them on the casino floor....weird.

    Still, I almost snagged some for my kids to mess with. They luuuuuuv my dice collection.

    Anyway, yeah they are fun to break out at the RPG table, and they sure do make a ruckus rolling them...."ker-plunk!"

    Anyway, nice story and history lesson on some of your goodies, Jeff.

  11. Wow..we must live in parallel universes or something. I have nearly an identical story about my green casino d6.

    I roll it a LOT when playing Labyrinth Lord w/ the family...The kids hate it of course. They see the size as an intimidating factor and think that due to that, and the mystical Dad-the-DM powers, they'll never beat it. They have of course. But still, it's a sure sign of coming carnage when I rattle that thing loose.