Dice

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 24, 2009

dice-01aIf you’re like me, you have a variety of dice in all shapes, sizes and colours. Many people, myself included, are very particular about their dice and have many superstitions about them. Let’s look at a few.

New Character, New Dice

This option works best if you generally play long-term campaigns and use the same character a lot. Each and every character you roll up gets his own set of dice. When you’re playing the Fighter you always use the green dice. And when you’re playing the Wizard you always use the blue dice. This can get expensive if you have the habit of getting killed. (If this is the case, check out Avoiding Death: Part 1 and Avoiding Death: Part 2.) However, if you’re willing to have one set of dice for each living character then this is a reasonable dice ritual.

Show Me a 1

There are two variations on this theme. The first take on this ideology (the one that I follow): Any die I plan to use during this gaming session must be left with the 1 facing up when I’m not rolling. My belief is that if it already shows a 1 when I pick it up I’m less likely to roll a 1 again. I don’t know if there’s any merit to this superstition, but I’ve been doing it for 20 years.

The second take on this ideology (which I’ve never done): Roll all your dice until each one actually comes up 1 and then stop rolling until you need that die. After you’re done rolling your attack, damage, save or whatever, you roll those active dice again and again until they come up 1 and then you stop.

Mouth Love

This one isn’t limited to gamers. If you’ve ever been to a casino and walked past the craps table then you’ve see this one: people kissing or blowing on their dice for good luck. I’ll admit I’ve done this on rare occasions, but I’ve never had any noticeable successes. Plus, my dice are probably pretty dirty since I’ve never, ever cleaned them. So the last thing I want to do is put them anywhere near my mouth.

Never Touch Another Man’s Dice

My dice are mine and mine alone. If you need to roll 3d8 and you only have two you cannot use one of mine. Re-roll one of yours and add them up. If anyone but me touches my dice they may curse the dice and wreck my good dice mojo. I may sound crazy, but I know I’m not alone here. Most of the gamers I know are very protective and territorial about their dice. They’re mine, hands off!

The DM’s Dice

I have player dice and DM dice. I swear that when I use my blue dice as a DM I roll more 19s than is statistically probable (much to the dismay of the players). But if I use that same set of dice as a player I never see this same kind of trending. Of course you could argue that as the DM I roll more often and I’m bound to see more of any given number. You call it statistical probability and I call it “The DM’s Lucky Dice.”

Punishing Bad Dice

I may have superstitions about my dice but I don’t believe in punishing them. However, many gamers punish bad dice. If the dice don’t roll what you need as often as you like, they often become the victims of irate gamers. I’ve seen people yell at bad dice, explode dice in the microwave, smash them with a hammer, throw them in the lake or simply toss them in the trash. Gamers can become unforgiving and ridiculous when it comes to the need to punish bad dice. I can’t justify doing any of these things listed above because I’m too cheap (after all, I paid for that die, as crappy as it is).

New Dice

One great thing about dice is that a set of 6 or 7 polyhedron dice generally cost between $5-10. This means that I get dice as gifts all the time. Over the years all those dice start to pile up. I can’t throw them out, that would just be wrong. So what do I do?

This Christmas I had a brainstorm (which I’m particularly proud of). My core gaming group has six regular players. We all have giant bags or boxes of dice. Many of these dice sit in the bottom of the dice bag and aren’t used any more. So we decided to hold our 1st annual dice exchange. Why should we all fork out $10 when we can just trade with other gamers? The results were fantastic. I got rid of a few old sets I never use, I got a few new sets which I’m using all the time, and it didn’t cost me anything.

This is also a great opportunity to unload bad dice. Just because your dice hate you doesn’t mean they have any ill-will towards the other players at your table.

Tell us about your dice rituals or superstitions? Do you punish bad dice, and if so, tell us what crazy things you’ve done?

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 john March 25, 2009 at 11:12 am

First thing I have to do is use a dice tower. My tower seems to “normalize” my rolls. If I am using dice I think are not fair, I will start a roll log to see what numbers are coming up percentage wise. I have a set of six siders that came with Duel of Ages that I swear roll better than other set that was included. I just haven’t recorded the rolls yet to prove it. Setting the dice “1” side up is just wrong. The last thing you want is the die being used to sitting on the opposite side of the “1”…. It thinks that position is normal and desired….

2 Ameron March 25, 2009 at 1:23 pm

@John
Thanks for sharing your dice rituals. The dice tower was popular with a guy I used to play with in high school. I’ve also seen a few players over the years record their rolls and determine which dice are rolling best. In the end, do whatever works for you.

I’ll try setting the 1s face down, rather than face up and see if that makes a difference. I’ve been rolling so poorly the last few weeks I’ll try anything. I’m even planning on buying new dice if my luck doesn’t change.

3 Rook March 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm

In regards to “Never Touch Another Man’s Dice”, I’m kinda like that. If someone needs to borrow more dice from me, I’ll let them (reluctantly), but then I’m very anxious about getting all of them back asap. Is that some kind of a disorder?
We had a player, Terril, who had a bright orange d20 that rolled VERY well for her, but she quit playing and the legend of the Terril Mojo was born. Since then, everyone in the group is constantly trying to steal that d20 from whoever currently has it. It’s crazy!

4 Ameron March 26, 2009 at 7:47 am

@Rook
I’m just like you when I have to lend dice. At the start of the game if someone needs dice I’ll gladly dig out a set from the bottom of my dice bag. But once play begins, my dice are mine. In those situations where I buckle and lend a die or two I must get them back immediately. In fact, when I’m next in the initiative order I often pick up my d20 and hold it. That way the die clearly realizes that it’s going to be called upon soon.

5 Sterling March 27, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I don’t have a lot of dice rituals myself, however I’d like to add another dice quirk Ameron has.

Ameron hates pips on d6’s.

They are generally banned from his table. I guess he figures all the other dice have numbers, so having pips on d6’s throws off the flow.

6 Ameron April 2, 2009 at 7:34 am

@Sterling
When you’re playing D&D all the dice should have numbers, not pips and that includes the d6. Pips on a d6 are only acceptable when you’re playing Monopoly, Risk, Clue, Yahtzee or a traditional board game. The only times I’d allow a d6 with pips at my table are a) you need to roll 20d6 damage (yes, it happens), or b) you’re playing D&D and no one at the table has any d6s and you have to dig one out of the aforementioned board games. Otherwise, leave those d6s with pips in the dice bag.

7 Spike the Ubiquitous April 12, 2009 at 12:23 am

Awww no wait a minute! Don’t have so much hate for the pipped d6. Not so long ago I picked up one of those bag-o-Dice deals from Chessex for our game club and picked for myself three bright fuchsia translucent “sixers” with white pips. You see I have this particular fondness for dice that are too sissy-girly for any self-respecting male member of the group to be tempted to permanently borrow.

So I decided to try them out for the first time during character generation. Bear in mind I play old-school, a style that really makes it hard to survive first level, and there’s no “dump the lowest of four” option in our game. Lemme tell ya’! I hit the boxcar jackpot. I now have a half-orc thief with bonuses in every trait..no min-maxing, no points-buy..just sheer pink-dice power.

Suddenly I”ve got guys..self-proclaimed totally butch macho tough-guys saying “Gimme the pinks.” whenever a d6 is called for.

Heck, I think I’ll start charging rent by the roll. :D

8 Ameron April 13, 2009 at 7:20 am

@Spike the Ubiquitous
Sounds like you’ve got some pretty lucky dice in your collection. My dislike of dice with pips can certainly be overlooked if you’ve got a personal attachment or affinity for a specific set… And I think in this circumstance pink dice are non-traditional enough that I’d be willing to overlook my prejudice. If you ever play at my table, I’ll allow you to keep rolling the pink dice. Thanks for your comment.

9 Roger (aka Squirrely) April 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm

So, then, my smaller, older bag would be used to hold my currently used dice and my newer, larger dice bag would hold the spare dice? I have to say, though, that all but one of my complete sets are already in the old dice bag. Maybe I could merge this time and then take your suggestion next time I face this problem. I’m not sure I’m ready for the “leave some of your dice at home” step in my maturing process…

10 Ameron April 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm

@Roger (aka Squirrely)
Baby steps, Roger. Baby steps.

Roger’s comments are in response to my suggestioin that he stop buying new dice and just exchange the sets he already has as mentioined above. See his post on Merging Dice Bags.

11 Sanael May 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Hee. Another fun post.

I’ve got a set of five sixers, red with white pips (though most of the paint in the pips is gone now). I’ve had them forever, I don’t remember where they came from. I use them for chargen, and ONLY for chargen, and they’ve served me pretty well. I roll all five, get rid of the lowest, then roll my 4d6-drop-lowest ability scores.

I also do have a set of dice for each of my characters, but I run more than I play so it’s pretty cost-effective.

I actually have the inverse of the “DM’s Dice” concept: I bought out a comic book store’s dice once, and now have hundreds of dice to choose from. Those are my DM’s dice and loaners; just about as inspecific as you can get.

I also know a DM who has specific dice sets for certain, very important NPCs.

And punishing dice? I don’t, but I know that if you do punish a die, you have to sprinkle the remains in the bag with the survivors as an example. Make sure the rest don’t misbehave!

12 Ameron May 7, 2009 at 9:25 am

@Sanael
I totally forgot to mention that you need to sprinkle the remains of “dead” dice in the bag to scare the other dice. Good addition. Thanks.

13 Hart Thorn May 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Once had a d20 known as the Orange Die of Doom. Was DMing and had the group doing an encounter with the Big Bad (An early preview) who happened to be a Scythe wielding Weapon Master (in 3.5). His Scythe also happened to have a magical 10 ft reach. So he gets in position so he can nail every single player with a Whirlwind strike, and wouldn’t you know it, he scores a Nat 20. So he did a x4 hit on everyone. 1 shot TPK. Had to back track and pull a Dynasty. It was all an elaborate illusion he had planned to try and scare off the party. They were PISSED. From that day forward, whenever I would DM, the players feared that die.

14 Ameron May 26, 2009 at 10:56 am

@Hart Thorn
Let me know if you’re ever interested in selling or trading your orange dice of doom. It sounds like it has good DM mojo (i.e., it kills PCs).

I too have had to do some serious back-tracking after killing PCs. Now my guys accept character death because it gives them a great opportunity to roll up a new character. I have yet to deliver a TPK as the DM. But if I get the orange dice of doom…

15 Timeshadows July 18, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Show Me a 1 is still my mode, although Breath of Life is a fall-back, as is rubbing the dice on my SO or other person who is rolling better than me. lol.

16 ducttapebandit September 2, 2009 at 12:52 am

One of the guys in my D&D group DMs another group that plays a Nintendo-themed game. When ever that group gets unruly/annoying, he rolls “the Justice Die”: a solid metal D20 painted gold that’s pretty good sized. It’s heavy enough to leave dents in wooden tables. The number on the Justice Die determines which Nintendo villain suddenly shows up to fight them. I’ve seen people get nervous at the D&D group when he removes it from his dice bag to get to his other dice.

17 Ameron September 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm

@Timeshadows
I saw a lot of “Show me a 1″ at GenCon. I’d be willing to bet that this is one of the more popular dice superstitions. I have seen cases of players rubbing dice on whoever is rolling hot that game. Whatever works.

@ducttapebandit
Hilarious! I’ve seen PCs cringe when a DM uses his “lucky dice” but seeing PC deflate at a die because it’s going to be used to generate random encounters is great.

18 Tallyn September 30, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Well I always have to stick the d4s on my fourhead. Just press and they hang on. Just dont forget they’re there. One time I was looking all over the table for my d4 with all my friends laughing up a storm.

19 Tobias Pelzester November 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm

I don’t have any particular dice superstitions, although I do like to talk about ‘rolling out the ones’ and the like purely because it gets the scientists at the table really mad to hear me ruining probability like that ;).

What I did hear though, in contrast to the ‘Show me a 1′ rule, was that instead of leaving it 1 face up, you should leave it 20 face up – that way, the dice will come to be comfortable in that position and want to roll so it lands that way.

20 Ameron November 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

@Tallyn
Ah, the wacky things gamers do with their dice. I’ll admit, I’ve never heard of this one before, but I can imagine the humour of the situation.

@Tobias Pelzester
We have a “math & science” guy at our table who like to insert his take on reality and probability to all of our dice rituals. We ignore him, keep doing what we’re doing and drive him bananas.

I too have heard of the “Show me a 20″ variant, but it’s been a rare happening in my experience. Do whatever works best for you.

21 Gevaudan February 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I actually do the opposite of “Show Me a 1″ by always keeping my dice sitting with the highest number showing. The logic is that over time (I have had this set, the only set I use, for almost 17 years), the dice will slowly become heavier on their lower side due to the “settling” of the plastic. Thus, with the lower side heavier, the dice will more often turn up on the highest number. I have never done a statistical study, however, to see if this is actually the case.

22 Ameron February 2, 2010 at 11:34 am

@Gevaudan
I can’t argue with that logic, especially if it works. As crazy as some dice rituals are, I’ve found that if something works for you then keep doing it. Don’t worry about statistic, probably or physics. If you can manipulate the karma of your dice, go for it!

23 Gevaudan February 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

One of the other players thought he could suck the power from other people’s dice and transfer it to his own. To combat this, I had a dice box that I would say when closed it would transport the dice to the Demiplane of Dice and they would recharge. What can I say, we are nerds. ;)

24 Tyler December 1, 2010 at 12:36 am

I’m not joking but my dice hate all players. For the first week after i bought them they worked pretty well. and ever since then they rolled horribly. and my party tried rolling my dice also and they all got under the 10 mark. and lucks got nothing to do with it because when i just learned how to play texas hold em by my friend i beat him 5 times in a row and we shuffled many times and i still beat him with perfect hands, so lucks got nothing to do with it. so what should i do because i have no money to buy new dice?

I noticed that orange dice, even at my table, roll the best. this question is a long shot, but do you know why?

25 Some guy February 8, 2011 at 2:11 am

I don’t exactly have any weird superstitions, though I tend to have really weird luck. For instance, I have this bad habit of rolling my dice when my character isn’t acting, and all my 20’s show up when I don’t need them, and I get 1’s when the rolls actually count. I can almost guarantee that I will fail spot checks (no matter which dice I use, no matter my skill bonues),but when it comes to rolls that determine whether or not my character will die, I almost always crit, (I’ve been playing for about 5 years now and I’ve only lost one character, and that was when they were an npc. My PC was trying to protect them too…) When I’m a player, my group has forbidden me from rolling for enemy attacks, because I will almost always crit. (especially with my transparent red die). My own character though, almost never hits, (in those five years, I’ve maybe dispatched 2 enemies…). Come to think of it, the dice that usually give me low rolls often get really high rolls for other players. Perhaps it’s time for a new set of dice…

26 X July 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I rotate between the “show me a 1″ and “20” bits, but I have found that my normal and oversized dice both like a little bounce on their rolls.

27 Arias Severian November 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I once had a set of mini dice that were for DMs so that players didn’t know when the DM was rolling. These were ultimately stolen and, since they were a gift from a friend, I don’t know their origin and haven’t been able to replace them. Any ideas?

28 Mersadeon March 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Arias: I googled around a bit, and there are a few sites that have miniature dice. http://www.vesivus.com/Dice_Mini.aspx
Don’t know if you meant those.

On topic: I have yet to have my first D&D session (really takes time to find a spot of free time in everyones schedule), but I already know my dice rituals (I kinda have that… itch in my head). The 1 has to face up. They have to be in a tight group, preferebly so that every die touches at least one other die.
I also kinda HAVE to be territorial – I am the DM, and if I have to ask for every die, they know what kind of thing I have to roll. On the other hand, I have two sets of dice (one from the 3E Starter Set, the other was a gift), so I can just lend them the other ones.

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