Monday, December 31, 2012

Why are the dice my tiny, plastic masters?

People... I have a problem. I love dice. I really, really love them. I love them to the extent that I have more sets than I conceivably can use. I love them so much that I'm thinking about buying even more of them. I love the way they look, the way they feel, the different ways that they can be stored (Bags! Tubes! Tins! Miniature treasure chests!). I have strong preferences for dice that are flashy. That's why I love the Chessex products, especially the ones with the really neat names like Borealis and Gemini. But part of me remembers the pitch Lou Zocchi makes for Game Science precision dice. I got a bunch of them as well. I even have several sets of the "funky dice" used in DCC, though I can't for the life of me believe that the d5 actually is usable. Eventually I'll get the d10 with 1-5 marked twice. They were out of stock the last time I checked. Two days ago. Did I mention that I have a problem?

Lots of tabletop RPG gamers have rituals related to dice. Some have "lucky" dice. Some have sets they use only for certain games or actions. Sometimes, when the dice are "bad," they get sacrificed. John, one of the players in my face-to-face game, has been known to walk out my back door and hurl dice downslope toward the pond. It's too far away to hit, so I don't think he's making a wish. I have a ritual as well. Well, really there are two: Selection and Designation. They occur at the same time, so I suppose it's really just two parts of the same ritual.

"Selection" means that, before any session begins, I find in my collection the dice (or dice sets) that are speaking to me that day. The colors must be attractive. They must match the mood of the game. I got to be feelin' 'em. That's the primary set. I Designate that set for all of the general rolls (e.g., skill checks, ability checks, saving throws, etc.). They may be of any color but red. Then I select a second set. These are the designated reserve set. I have these available because I sometimes act on intuitions regarding my chances. If I feel like a roll must be made with that set, it gets used. When the primary set is not acting properly, then the secondary set may get elevated to primary. It's all very arbitrary, and I am a fickle master. I'm surprised my dice aren't neurotic, frankly.

Now, I mentioned the red dice. These I refer to as "Blood Dice." They are the ones I use for combat. Usually I don't have a whole set of them at the table, just the ones used for the combat to-hit rolls. A red d20 or a red d% set. I'm not sure why I do this... perhaps it's an effort to appease the Khorne of the Dice Gods (Blood! Blood for the Dice Gods!). In any case, I have several reds to choose from. Lately I've been leaning pretty heavily on my Chessex d20, but occasionally it's the Game Science d20.

Short aside: By the way, has anyone noticed that the Game Science "red" d6 are actually sort of orange? They don't match the other red dice. It drives me freakin' bonkers. I even ordered additional red d6, thinking that they'd sent me the wrong color by mistake. Nope. Same ugly-ass orange-red color. Feh! So disappointing.

I've always wanted to have a set of really special dice (stone or metal), but shy away from the cost. Hell, regular plastic dice are already stupidly expensive. I mean seriously... a set of the Game Science funky dice is about a nickle's worth of plastic and they cost anywhere from $18 to $20-something. What the hell? Do I, then, not buy them? No, of course not. I buy THREE SETS! What can I say? They were "On Sale."

There is one thing, though, that I just don't get: Dice Towers. I mean I understand them as fetish objects, sure. They're usually very fantasy-RPG-themed, literal towers. I get that part. I understand the function of them. This helps to "randomize" the results (though how much that additional randomness ever factors in is debatable, I think). More to the point, dice towers take up too much room on the table. They add yet another step to slow things down. They, in my mind, interrupt the really important part of playing with dice. The part where I get to rattle them around in my hand and roll them. I get to watch them bounce around the table a bit before revealing their intent for me. Dice towers are like sex with a condom. Yes, they serve a purpose, and certainly have points in their favor, but they provide just a bit too much insulation from the object of the whole exercise. They are second best. Others may see this differently, certainly, but I'm not a fan.

So, when I use a die roller in G+ games, it's only with a heavy heart that I do so. I don't trust them. They're not charismatic. They are not my special friends. Next time I run a game, I'm giving people the option to roll their own, so to speak. Because... well... Dice!

So, yes, I have a dice problem, but I suppose there are worse problems to have.

Oh, and the oldest die I own? An orange d6 from my original D&D Basic Set (Holmes Basic, probably 4th printing), purchased in (I believe) 1979. I'm not sure where the others from that set ended up, though they really were of terrible quality. And that little yellow d4 was not something you wanted to step on. Seriously, they might just as well have set out to produce caltrops as dice. I may still have a scar to prove it.