Ode to Dice
I remember the first time I bought a D20. I started playing Magic the Gathering when I was about 7, and I needed a more efficient way to keep track of my health. After a while writing it down on scraps of paper gets to be a huge chore. It was an over-sized, white, 20-sider. It's funny actually, in the 20 years since I bought that first die, I've bought and lost countless dice sets, but I never lost that D20. I still have it, knocking around in my dice bag.
One day the art team told me that they were working on a shirt design that needed some reference material, and at the time I was still the J!NX photographer, so I grabbed my favorite D20 and headed out to the studio. The shirt was discontinued a while back, but for anyone out there who owns one of These, you've got a shirt modeled after my very first D20. After that, I started playing D&D with my friends in elementary school, and we got tired of having to share the single set that someone had. Luckily the friendly local game store had plenty to choose from. These days, with the advent of 3D printed dice, the options are insane and staggering.
What is it about dice that adds so much to a game? It may be that in the case of roleplaying games, you're mostly employing your imagination, and the dice serve as some rudimentary totem of the fickle nature of chance. For wargames, one of the more satisfying aspects I remember from my days playing 40K (For the Emperor!) was the glee of rolling an unreasonable pile of six-sided dice when attacking. Some players (not me, I swear.) get very superstitious about their dice. I've had friends that have a specific set that they've never let anyone else handle since their purchase. I once played with someone that wouldn't start playing until each of their dice had rolled a critical success, and they could be arrayed before them in order.
This was on page 2 of the original DM guide, because Gygax knew you were there for the rolling.
Whether you have your own rituals, or superstitious about your dice, it's hard to argue against the infinitely collectible nature of our favorite (mostly) platonic solids. Before Gygax and Arneson co-opted the polyhedron dice for RPG use, they were an obscure math teaching aid. The history of the original dice themselves is a pretty cool geek-out session in it's own right. Early in the game, it was so difficult to source the dice needed to play that the games came packaged with numbered cardboard chits to serve as randomizers. The first dice that came packaged with early D&D sets were all manufactured by the same company that was eventually known as GameScience. The owner of Gamescience, Lou Zocchi is an interesting character, who is worthy of his own blog post. Sadly, in November of last year Gamescience dice stopped being manufactured, and are harder to find these days. Never has there been a man more possessed by the idea that there is a "right" way to manufacture dice, it's a bummer to see his legacy fade.
Deep down I think I know that the truth of the matter is that I'm not just a fan of games, but I'm a fan of dice themselves. Even if I stopped playing RPGs (which isn't ever going to happen.) I'd probably still feel compelled to stop by the Dice company booths at every convention and spend a solid hour drooling at their wares.
Any other dice nerds out there? Share a story of our favorite randomness talismans.
PS: Just go to this site, it's glorious (you need a computer for the full effect): http://www.dicecollector.com/
Dice Master General,