Dice: A Footnote to "Dungeons & Dragons Just Turned 40"

As I was writing “Dungeons & Dragons Just Turned 40,” I got off on a bit of a tangent about dice. I didn’t want to leave such a narrative-diverting spiel in the middle of what I had intended to be a short piece, but, at the same time, I kinda liked my little reminiscing session about these old friends. 


—–

Oh, the dice. 


When I saw them, I knew I wanted to play. 


The ubiquitous twenty-sider: Nearly round and used for nearly everything — attacks, saving throws, and non-combat actions. The d20 is probably the iconic die of D&D, closely associated with it to the point of becoming the namesake of a D&D successor game system.

The utilitarian ten-sider: Longsword damage and warrior hit points. Always carry a pair, because sometimes you need to role a percentage.

The dutiful eight-sider: Friend to the cleric for hit points and mace damage. Oddly balanced, despite basically being a pair of conjoined pyramids.

The lonely d12: Hardly ever used in typical play, unless you dare wield a greataxe (or, in later versions, dream to be a barbarian).

The basic six-siders: What most non-rpg gamers think of when someone says “dice.” In D&D, they are the tools of character creation, the very first dice you’ll use on your adventuring journey, though they pop up here and there throughout the game, as well. Carry a bunch, if you like to fling fireballs.

The friendly four-sider: Maybe the most distinctive of the bunch, certainly the one I remember puzzling over upon first sight — how do you roll those? — and later learning to love, as the determiner of dagger damage, last resort of a spell-exhausted wizard or the weapon of choice for a back-stabbing thief.


It wasn’t long before I acquired my first set, which, yes, I still own and treasure fondly.

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