Tabletop Highlight: On the Importance of Dice

I am a firm believer in the importance of dice in tabletop RPGs. To be entirely fair, that’s not exactly an uncommon opinion, even if more people are moving toward digital dice rollers instead of actual rice. Sure, telling a computer to roll twenty six-sided dice makes it a lot cleaner and it does the math for you which makes it take less time, but there’s no feeling compared to being a twentieth level sorcerer casting disintegrate just so you can roll forty six-sided dice all at once. At one point, I literally had bought enough d6’s so I could roll damage all at once for my caster. It was an amazing feeling, making it rain dice like that. It was also incredibly difficult since I could barely hold that many at once and rolling them involved a lot of me saying “did anyone see where the beige one went?” and my friends replying “no, but I did find the purple one from last week under this radiator.” Good times.

All that aside, what I’m really talking about is the importance of specific dice, which is also a bit misleading since I’m not thinking of one specific die in all of creation. What I’m talking about is the importance of having specific dice for you to use. By our very nature, as creatures reliant on ephemeral chance to dictate the course of our gaming session, we tabletop gamers are a rather superstitious bunch. For instance, I not only have a favorite set of dice, but I pick the dice I use on any given night by how aesthetically pleasing I find them as I get ready for the game. I firmly believe that prettier dice roll better and no amount of bad luck on my more gorgeous dice can shake that belief. The inverse is also true. When my players are having a string of bad rolls, I swap to using my ugliest, most generic and awful dice so the enemies the party is facing roll worse. My absolute favorite set, the set that has rolled more triple-twenties than all of my other twenty-sided dice put together, is a beautiful set of clear plastic dice with bits of black paint or plastic swirled inside them. Unlike every other set of partially clear dice I’ve ever seen, the color is only on the inside of the dice. It doesn’t touch the outside layers at all, so you can spin the dice as you hold it up to the light and watch the smoky black color swirl at your fingertips. I don’t even let other people touch those dice. I keep them in a plastic container inside my dice bag so I’ve always got them ready to go in case I need to roll well on something important.

If you take a survey of all tabletop players, you’ll find a range of traditions and superstitions. There are players who believe in punishing their dice when they roll poorly and even destroying the dice if they keep rolling poorly after being punished. This punishment can range from something as mild as leaving the offending die on its own for a while to the incredibly gross tradition of putting one of your misbehaving dice inside your mouth for a while. I’ve even seen someone go so far as to file through a die they were punishing so it could never roll again, which just seems completely over the top to me. There are also people who believe that you need to roll all of your dice at once, regardless of how many that might be. I’ve got a friend who uses a specific die for every type of action his character might be taking in any game he’s playing, so he has to buy new dice every time he plays a game with an additional action type. I prefer to buy new dice for characters who are about to make their debut, so the character and the dice start off fresh. I generally only get new dice for characters who are supposed to be a part of a campaign for a long time and I do it to avoid any kind of mental influence on how I see the dice.

Despite the range of beliefs and the things people do with their dice, most people remain a bit more rational and logic-oriented than their superstitions suggest. I bet if you followed up your first survey with a second survey asking people if they though there really was something to their little traditions, almost everyone who answered the first one would say “no.” And yet we’d still turn around and immediately go back to our superstitions as soon as the situation called for it. The way I’ve always viewed it is that there’s no harm in being cautious or believing in something that’s probably not there. If it isn’t there, then you’ve just spent a bit of time marking a tradition. If it turns out that there was actually something to it, then you’ve got your bases covered already. It’s why I don’t really believe in ghosts, but I won’t denigrate anyone who believes in them. Additionally, and probably more importantly, it helps the players feel like they’re in control of what is pretty much just random luck. If you believe punishing your dice will make them roll higher next them, then you’re in control of your own outcomes because you can “encourage” your dice to get with the program. You more order you can impose on what seems like chaos around you, the better you feel.

The same is true of having specific dice for specific things. I probably haven’t rolled more triple twenties with my favorite set of dice than with any of my other sets, but the belief that I do roll more twenties makes me remember when I do. It’s simple confirmation bias. The same is probably true of punishing dice or whatever inane thing we all do that makes us feel more comfortable with the fact that the world isn’t as cut-and-dried as we’d like to think it is. Random things happen outside our control or comprehension and we get a glimpse of that when we play games with dice because the difference between success and failure is pure chance. For the vast majority of us, there’s no skill involved, no talent, just dumb luck. Even the most skilled of us, who should be able to succeed no matter what is thrown at us, can sometime fail because of chance. So roll the dice and hope you get more passes than failure.

Tabletop Highlight: All Praise to RNGesus, Who Metes Out the Rolls We Deserve

All praise to our lord and savior, RNGesus, he who delivers unto us, his miserable, blasphemous supplicants, the rolls we deserve. He who ignores our unworthy pleas for mercy or luck and instead grants us the true Numbers of our heart that only he can see. He who delivers unto us the incredible moments of power when we prove ourselves worthy of his light and love. He who strikes us down with moments of pure failure and pain when we shirk our duties as his servants, bathing us in his wrath in order to cleanse us of our sins so we may once again live in the polygon of his love.

These past few months, I have walked amongst you. I divested myself of my ministerial robes, set aside my clerical headdress, and removed my comfy loafers so that I might know the troubles you face. It had been long since the last time I had tasted the bitter tang of defeat and struggled with acknowledging my failings before RNGesus and my fellow tabletop companions, but I had not forgotten you. As I moved through you, I directed my attention toward the sore spots within the community, both those you bring before our altars and those you prefer to hide away from the light and healing of our open forums. I have learned a great many things, my faithful, and I am saddened to report that the faithful are not quite as devout as I had once believed!

Is it not one of the core tenets laid down for us by RNGesus, when he himself walked amongst us and rolled bones as a Human, to begin each day with a roll of your most favored dice as a sacrifice to RNGesus? I see you all nodding in agreement, but when I walked as one of you, hidden by the lack of my ostentatious garments, I heard you ascribe more to this roll than the precepts allow! This is not some sign from on high as to the contents of your day! These rolls are meant to be a sign to our lord and marshal that you hold him in your heart and dice bags at all times! You cannot sacrifice a roll to RNGesus if you use it for something. If you have intent behind your roll, then those numbers are consumed by you! They stay on this mortal plane and do not ascend to the Greatest Game Master to be doled out amongst the lesser dice gods. You are starving the origins of all luck and happenstance of the one thing they need to survive!

And it is clear in your games that they are displeased with us! A plague of critical failures has settled on all of our games. Even the electronic gamers with their programmed random number generators that are but a mockery of true chance are feeling it! Has a one of us caught a single shiny Pokemon in the past six months? Aside from you, Jeremy, most blessed of all followers amongst RNGesus, for you are a true statistical anomaly. Even the games where chance plays little part are feeling it! The entirety of the Destiny 2 community has been cursed with a lack of new Exotic weapons and though some seek to place the blame on the shoulders of the developers, I have seen the truth!

Not only are your morning dice rolls trapped here on the mortal plane for selfish reasons, but players no longer roll all their dice before a game begins! They take out their favored set and simply set it aside to wait on the moment their game requires a roll! Gone are the days of idle rolls sacrificed to the dice gods, RNGesus foremost among them. Gone are the days when a bored or frustrated player would dedicate several rolls at once to please RNGesus, our Greatest Game Master, simply for the sake of slaking his hunger for unburdened and unassigned chance. Gone are the great spills of dice from dice bag, done to herald the beginning of a game and to find the dice most loved by RNGesus, that show his sign of the natural maximum upon their first glimpse of light all day, for we are a fallen flock. An abandoned flock, soon, if we do not change our ways and give RNGesus his due!

Fear not, my faithful followers, for there is yet hope at redemption. All of you, take out your dice bags! Take them out and in the trays provided roll them! Let the hall be filled with the musical clatter of dice as we show our thanks to RNGesus! Show him that we are a changed people who will not forsake his teachings again! Though the path will be long, trap filled, and likely to result in pain and suffering no matter our modifiers, we are brave enough to walk it because we know RNGesus waits for us on the other side! Show him the faith I know lives in your deepest heart! Show him the trust and love I know you all feel for him! Let not the worries of failure or success impeded you, just place the dice in RNGesus’ hands and blow on them for good luck! He, the hand on the scale of fate, will show you your true Number and then we can begin the healing and repentance!

Thank you, my brethren. Now, find the most common number in your pool of dice and go to the matching stations. I will make my way through the groups, visiting each in turn so we may figure out what RNGesus requires of us so that we may roll in his light once more. What penance we must pay in order to deserve the forgiveness he has already granted us in his infinite mercy and love! No price is too great for the grace of our lord RNGesus, so come, let us pay it all together.

Praise him, my faithful followers! Praise him and may you all soon walk together in the realm of critical luck!

Tabletop Highlight: How to Please the Dice Gods and Other Useful Rituals

As one of the many humble priests of the dice gods, I often field questions from supplicants, believers and non-believers alike, about how best to get on their good side. The first lesson you must learn is that the gods are fickle and the only way to truly get what you desire is to avoid their influence entirely. However, your companions who rely on the whims of the dice gods and any pastimes that depend on their influence may decry you for such heresy. Eventually, the gods will have their due and any heretical successes will only contribute to the eventual retribution against you when you finally re-enter the realm of the dice gods.

First, you must always take proper care of your icons and totems. Do not lose them, or else the gods may be angered by the lack of care you show their representatives. Keep them clean using proper sanitation techniques and do not lend them to individuals who practice poor personal cleanliness. If you lose part of a matched set, be aware that you can replace individual pieces without needing to replace the entire set. However, you must monitor the set to ensure that they properly bond as it is possible for the remnants of a matched set to reject all new pieces. You can increase the adoption rate by ensuring the new pieces are a visual match for the set.

Second, regularly handle and use all of your icons and totems. If a set goes a long time without use, the dice gods may come to look upon it with disfavor. A good practice is to include a single use as a part of icon and totem selection for each ritual or service. If the gods decide to bless a certain set, they will make their good will known through this initial usage. Such signs should be trusted without question and not second-guessed if find yourself not getting favorable results from the dice gods. They are merely testing your faith and perseverance will be rewarded eventually.

Thirdly, do not dispose of any icons or totems until they no longer represent the gods. Any disfiguring action, such as melting, shattering, or defacing with the intent to retire will be respected by the gods and you will incur no penalties or disfavor for tossing aside one of their representatives in the mortal world. Carelessly tossing aside an icon or totem can incur the gods’ wrath and all will come to recognize you as one so rejected and cursed by the gods for their disfavor will be written clearly upon any other icons of totems you use.

If you do not use physical icons or totems, instead relying on the electronic ones provided behind the scenes of your computerized rituals or services, you need not fear the gods’ wrath for carelessness relating to the icons and totems. The care for these totems and icons rests upon the shoulders of whoever generated the computerized rituals and services. Bear in mind that their care and maintenance can still impact the outcomes provided to you by the gods. Therefore, it is in your best interest to let the creators of computerized rituals and services know if you find a way to remove them from the realm of the dice gods. Their curses fall upon your head as well.

If you are currently under a curse by the gods or RNGesus refuses to hear your supplication, there are a number of rituals or penances you can perform in order to find your way back into their good graces. The easiest is to simply obtain a new set of icons or totems. It is possible that, seeing your purse support their church, the gods will grant you clemency. You may also speak with whoever leads your rituals or services in order to take a penance upon yourself, further worsening the results of the gods’ will so that you can show your contrite spirit. If all else fails, the wailing and gnashing of teeth accompanied by continued supplication of the gods during participation in their rituals and services will eventually bring you back to rest in their benevolence.

While I hope this guide was instructive, know that there is no one correct way to worship the dice gods. Consult with your local priests and ritual leaders to find what works best for you and in your particular case. Do not forget that the results of rituals and services, while not directly related to day-to-day life, are a good indication of what you can expect from the dice gods and their pantheon-mates in more ordinary situations. May the dice gods bless you and may you o in peace, all the rest of your days.