Dice Techniques

Dice.

These little polyhedrons of plastic, more than anything else, more than books, more than genre, more than even character sheets, define gamers. And we love them… and freaking hate them.

Everyone who’s gamed for more than one session has experienced the highs and lows of these true Masters of the Game. Anyone who’s run a game has seen a plot exploded almost irrevocably due to the fickle nature of the dice gods. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your dice, another player’s dice, the GM’s dice, or just the host’s cat knocking over the carefully built dice tower you’ve constructed, these little bastards rule your life.

Thus, like our earliest ancestors, we’ve developed superstitions about how to appease these capricious plastic deities. Here are some of the ways our community has chosen to react to these fussy masters:

Appeasement
Many of our brethren attempt nothing so much as to placate their dice, to mitigate the damage and avert bad rolls, or even to cheerfully encourage good rolls. From carefully rubbing the dice across a famous signature (Knights of the Dinner Table [High Rolls-Left to Right, Low Rolls-Right to Left]) to letting “tired” dice rest so they don’t get worn out, people have tried almost everything.

The process of appeasing dice can take many forms, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Give your dice a nice home. Find a softer bag or separate them out from one another. Perhaps your d20s are prejudiced and don’t like being around those unhip squares the d6s. Maybe the decimal minded d10s find the new agey pyramid hatted d4s weird. One friend of mine had an entire fishing tackle box devoted to dice with some sets held together by color, but other compartments entirely devoted to one type of die. However, if you don’t want to invest in hundreds of dice (and if not, why are you even gaming you Philistine!) or, more reasonably, don’t want to purchase a huge box, then try getting a good, soft bag with plenty of padding.
  • Teach them. Remember, new dice need a gentle hand to learn their proper place. For dice that you want to roll high, set them with their highest number facing upwards. Reverse this for your low rollers. However, by all that is holy, don’t mix them up. Both sides are touchy in their pride, and you don’t want to confuse them.
  • Buy them friends. Dice get lonely, particularly if, even though you have multiple dice, they’re all of a single set. Yes, those black-and-gold marbled dice are lovely (really, they look great), but imagine if all you could EVER do was hang out with family. Consider getting that red-and-smoke combo or even the wild radiation-green-and-purple set and letting them make friends.

Punishment
And then there are those times when nothing works but to confront those multi-faceted masters of fate. Punishment also can run a gamut, whether damaging, destroying or simply threatening these powerful, yet powerless, tools.

  • Threaten. This is the process where you attempt to convince the evil spirits of the dice that you mean business. Place the dice near other dice that you’ve abandoned, make them feel ashamed of the failures they’ve caused. However, be careful with this, as you never know when they will learn bad habits from more experienced criminal elements. Alternately, put the offending dice in the freezer for a few minutes, just to show them how bad life could get. Also, one great idea is to buy a new set of dice, to make those naughty little guys jealous and show them that they aren’t the only game in town.
  • Harm. Here you really get in on the action. Prove to the dice that their only real power lies within the game and outside of it you are the master. Thus, tricks like throwing dice, attempting to drown them or even beating them with your role playing books all demonstrate the lengths of your rage. The dice may well obey you if they know you are serious. Also, you can combine threatening and destruction or harm to demonstrate your resolve. Buy a set of dice, as close to the misbehaving set as possible strikes me as best, seal them within your regular dice bag and beat them to within an inch of their life within sight of your already extant set. Either you’ll have a set that has learned its lesson, or you’ll have a new set that won’t dare misbehave… for a while.
  • Destruction. The final step. There is nothing beyond this except more destruction. There are numerous ways to destroy the offending dice: Fire, beatings, hammers, swords, axes, grinders, blenders, wood chippers, firecrackers, small thermonuclear devices or whatever comes to hand. The best part is that once destroyed, you have a good reason to buy new dice. And let’s be honest, those new dice have to behave better… right?

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