Roll The Bones: Gamers And Their Dice Habits

I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets, Facebook and LJ posts about The Bones: Us and Our Dice, an anthology recently released by Gameplaywright Press. It’s a collection of essays and anecdotes about, well, dice, and everything from their use in game play and their randomness, to the superstitions and emotions gamers attach to them. Big names like John Kovalic and Wil Wheaton were involved, and I’m eager to read it.

In the mean time, the book’s premise got me thinking about my own dice-related idiosyncrasies, as well as those of my buddies at the game table. Everyone has their own tics when it comes to their dice, after all. Maybe this exercise will give me a little insight to the book before I even get my hands on a copy!

Me And My Dice

I am a dice whore. A trip to the game store means standing in front of the dice display and drooling over the myriad colors and sparkles. More often than not, I end up caving in and buying some. Currently I own eleven sets of polyhedral dice, a set of ten d10s, a large assortment of d6s, and a few random other dice that I’ve picked up along the way (and that’s just me – let’s not talk about how many my husband owns). You can see some of my collection in the picture accompanying this post (plus a dice bag I made). Most of my dice are Chessex brand (that’s what my FLGS carries), but I have a few by Crystal Caste as well, including a set of hematite Dwarven Stones and a set of their way-cool crystal-shaped dice. Really, I don’t care who makes ‘em, so long as they look good and call to me.

With so many dice, it must be hard to choose which ones to use on game night, right? Oh my, no. Here I reveal one of my dice superstitions: each character has a dedicated set of dice, from which I do not waver. If the dice are rolling poorly, where many gamers would put that set away and use another, I stick to it – my character is just having a bad day.

My only exceptions to this rule are White Wolf games (I use that same set of ten d10s for every character) and Star Wars D6 rules (that’s where the assortment of d6s get to shine). I don’t idly roll my dice while sitting at the table, because it would pain me too much to roll a 20 and not have a use for it. I will sometimes use a rolling tray, but more often than not I just roll them on the table.

I’m also a stickler for using a matched set of dice. Star Wars D6 is again my exception, but I am thinking of getting a dedicated set for the upcoming game I’ll be in. I don’t like to recycle dice for a new character, either, until the character those dice used to belong to is on indefinite hiatus, and even then it sometimes bothers me. For example, I had a set that were for my gladiator in a wild anime-inspired Pathfinder game that is now on hiatus (it’s become the game we’ll whip out and play when between other games, or on nights when a number of people can’t come to the club). When we started our latest Mutants & Masterminds campaign, I realized that I hadn’t packed my lone d20 (M&M uses a d20 only), so I had no choice but to use the d20 from the only set in my bag not being used for an active character, and that was Pansy the Powerful’s d20. It’s still bothering me a bit to be using that one for Adanya, but I’ve been using it long enough now that I’m afraid to switch it out for her!

Speaking of dice bags, all my “traveling” dice – the ones that go with me to the game club and to cons – live in a purple bag I crocheted. My “home” dice – for my games at home – just kinda hang out on the table. They really want their own cozy warm bag to live in, so I’ll be making one soon.

My Friends And Their Dice

Looking around my gaming table, I see lots of differences in dice treatment and superstitions. My hubby Robert has a lot of the same dice quirks that I do, though he’s big on using a rolling tray (and even a dice tower at home!). We also each have a big d20 that we use as a counter. C (another C, not me!) has a huge storage container with all his dice in their original boxes – he’ll pick one set out to use, and if it’s not rolling well, he puts the whole set away and selects another one. D has his eclectic collection of dice in a big bag I made, and tends to keep them in there until he needs them, and puts them back in after he’s rolled them. He doesn’t seem to have a particular affinity to any of them – they’re just dice. P also has cool mis-mash of dice, and she likes to take them out the bag and set them on the table highest number up. CJ has three sets of dice – red, white, and green – in a Crown Royal bag. (As an aside, does anyone know how the Crown Royal bag became the standard? I’d love to know how that started!) He also likes to have them all sitting highest number up, and always rolls them in a tray. He uses different colors at different times, but I haven’t quite figured out his system for when to use which dice.

M has another varied collection, which he dumps out on the table at the beginning of the night. He fusses with his dice a lot, and usually drops a fair number of them on the floor as the game progresses. A brings one matched set to the table – still in the Chessex box – and sticks with that set all night. B has his own dice, but rarely brings them, and uses dice out of the game club’s jug o’ dice. If a die is rolling crappy, he throws it back in the jar and gets out another one. S has a couple sets of the heavy metal dice and uses them both throughout the game, and has been known to put a poor performer back in the bag for “time out”, which usually straightens it out. K has a couple of sets of ten-siders for White Wolf games, and a handful of d20s for M&M (I’ve yet to play Pathfinder or D&D with him), and he yells at them when they betray him.

Considering the wide variance in dice habits in our relatively small gaming group, I’m not at all surprised that there were enough different stories to make up a 250-page book!

Why Are Dice So Important, Anyway?

Unless you’re playing the Amber RPG, dice are a necessary part of the gaming experience. Obviously, they help you determine success and failure for your character, and make things more realistic and objective. Let’s face it – if it was up to us, our characters would never miss a shot with their bow, or inadvertently say the wrong thing to the ship’s captain. A bad die roll is just as important as a good one.

I’ve always felt that dice are more than just a tool for the game, though. They’re an extension of your character, and take on part of the character’s personality. It’s no coincidence that I use a set of fiery orange dice for my cleric of the fire god, or that my half-drow ranger has dice that match the silvery-white of her hair. Dice hold and trigger memories of the game, both good and bad (“Remember when I rolled two 20s in a row to hit the dragon, then on the next roll fumbled my reflex save to get away from its fire breath?”). And there’s just something so soothing about the sound of dice rolling against the table. No matter how bad a day I’ve had, the first time the dice fall from my hand at the table, I’m instantly in the zone, and spirited away to that fantasy world, where no one wants me to fit them for shoes or let them in a fitting room.

Dice have some powerful mojo, and our emotions toward them are valid. Treat your dice well, and they’ll pay it back to you in kind.

What are your dice superstitions? How many dice do you own?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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