Friday, January 29, 2016

When Dice Attack part 4: My Dice Hate Me

Is there any relationship more beautiful and pure than a gamer and his dice?
Crown Royal, purveyor of fine velvet dice bags since 1974

Time was when all a gamer needed was a character sheet, a pencil, and a Crown Royal Bag holding 5 pounds of polyhedrons cast in space age polymers.
Miniatures?  Meh, if you really want them.
Hex paper?  Don't need it.
Visual aids?  A scribbled note on the back of a piece of paper will suffice.
The dice, those are the tools of the trade.  Imagination, rule books, the various paraphernalia of the game all pale next to the dice.
Gamers have more lore and more superstitions about dice than any other item associated with the game.  You'll loan a pencil, a book, a miniature, give away character sheets by the score, but don't touch my dice.  Most gamers I know have at least 3 sets of dice.  One set is their private set, the ones nobody is to touch under any circumstances lest they curse them.  Then there are the workhorse dice, the ones you do the normal rolling with, and they are less sacred. Then there are the "loaner" dice.  Meaning, of course, that other people may use them if they do not have dice of their own.  Loaner dice are never pretty.  They are mismatched, often with blunted corners and have a general aura of the village bicycle, if you get my drift and I think that you do.

Dice come in many shapes and sizes, the classic cube of the D6, the diamondesque D10, the burly D8, the odd D12 that never seems to get much love, the saucy icosahedron that is the D20, and of course the sneaky caltrop that is the D4, so easily lost in the game but found later in the dark when you are in your bare feet.  Gamers know these dice and know them well, for it is the dice that determine the fate of the players' characters and sadly the self-worth of the players themselves.

Which is why there is no worse pain to the heart of a gamer than when the dice turn on you.  And they will.  Much like a craps game in Vegas, when the dice are hot, they are rolling well.  When you are rolling hot you take risks.  You feel like any plan, no matter how foolish or hopeless can succeed.
But dice can go cold, and when they do nothing can save you.  It breaks your spirit.  You can work out probabilities all day and know the odds are all in your favor and those plastic bastards go cold and you will look for any opportunity you can manufacture to avoid rolling them.

Trust me, I've a long history of being an unlucky dice roller.

Now the worst thing about bad rolling is that it affects you on two levels.

Level 1: The universe hates you and wants you to die in shame and embarrassment.  Remember when I said to not let the dice determine your self worth?  Yeah, well tell that to a gamer that has been missing rolls for several sessions.  You will begin to hate the dice.  You will buy new dice.  You will start to hate your character.  The very act of picking up the bones will be a Heraclean task, the weight of them seeming to increase as your hand rises further from the tabletop.  You will be loath to release them lest you be forced to see your own inadequacy shown to all and sundry because the universe hates you, your character, and any offspring you might produce unto the 7th generation, you sad, pathetic bastard.  And everyone else will know it when they see your roll.  Fecking dice.

Level 2:  Nothing is more annoying to a person rolling poorly than another person rolling well, even if that person is, nominally speaking, on your side.  Much like winning a lottery or getting some good news when you did not expect it, a good roll shows on a gamer's countenance.  They smile, they beam, they sometimes cheer.  In the most extreme cases they assume that a good roll is a validation from the universe itself.  "Good boy, Johnny, have a natural 20."  That shit can really upset your mood.  Even the most calm, friendly and non-self centered person will become a snide, snippy, mean spirited bastard when they are rolling crap and some other player can't seem to lose.  Friendships have been dissolved over a bad night of dice rolling at the gaming table.  Blood feuds have been declared after several such nights.  It is not just that the other guy is so damned gleeful at his good fortune, oh no.  It is that everyone can see his value right there on the table and see your vileness in the dice.  What is more, it seems that nobody has sympathy for the pariah rolling crap.  Not that you'd accept it, you self indulgent prick.  The last thing you want is any condescending sympathy from Mr. High Roller over there.

In practical terms bad rolls make the game less of a joy to play.  We are all going to fail from time to time.  That's just the reality of a randomizer such as a die.  Sometimes we take it too personally.  You really needed for that roll to succeed and even though the odds were in your favor it did not and you are pissed about it.  Understood, but that's life.  It really becomes a problem when it seems you can't succeed no matter what you do.  You avoid the dice like they came from a cesspool.  If you add to that the success of the other guys, especially if you are the only one failing, you will start to get a bit depressed.  They might start to see you as a problem as well.

Damn you, dice!  You won't destroy me!  I'll roll another character and use my "special" dice.  The ones I reserve only for making characters.  I got your D6s right here, muthaf...

You get the picture, and you are admiring the frame.

Now I said above that I have a history as an unlucky roller.  It's true.  I've seen brilliant plans come to naught simply because they hinged on a simple roll of the dice.  It's frustrating and it makes you start to suspect the screen monkey is lying about his own rolls.  At least Mr. Lucky is rolling in the open.  When some other player says that they always seem to roll poorly I instantly believe them.  Probability be damned, I've seen it too many times to doubt them.  I've lived it.

We could discuss probability all day.  I could lay it out for you mathematically and you'd say it is all just random chance, but none of us want that.  The simple truth is that your dice hate you and they want you to die.  Every real gamer knows this.  More than a few dice have found themselves launched at such speeds that they were embedded into drywall, or bounced into hard asphalt streets to be run over by automobiles, crushed as punishment for their willful failures.
Because dice hate you.  Show them no mercy, they aren't going to show you any.


  1. I feel your pain. That is why i recently bought new dices, I didn't like my old ones.