Dice in Games: Expanded Possibilities and Probabilities

One of the most crucial yet sometimes overlooked aspects to a game is the type of dice used. Though typically deemed only the chance element of a game, they really determine the odds of success and failure, which in turn determines the playability and enjoyment of any game.

Pre-1970s, the type of dice was predictable -- the D6. The only question was how many dice would come with a game. Dungeons and Dragons changed all of that. Needing more variables for weapons, spells, and other game mechanics, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson found dice with differing shapes and dimensions and worked them into their game. Each had its own number of sides and thus had differing odds based on what they were used for.

Further experimentation with these dice in varying combinations by the thousands of D&D players uncovered new ways to use the dice. The new types of dice became part of the entertainment as players explored their unique feels and methods of rolling: The geometric shapes and the way they hit the table, each with their own "sound," rolling behavior, and look and feel, provided an excitement never seen before. The design of the dice soon became an extension of the player’s personality, or a reflection of their characters, or an indication of which side they were playing.

Game companies took notice, and the dice have been utilized in many capacities to create a wide range of experiences. Now roleplaying games and tabletop board games still use six-sided dice but they might also use one or more polyhedral dice, and some great games even find a way to match the dice with the theme of the game, such as the game Kemet which uses the polyhedron shape of the d4 as pyramids, the level of which is determined by which number is pointed up.

So in addition to dice game rules and information, this blog will explore how dice have affected games over the years and how they are utilized in differing and creative ways to create the most appropriate odds for any gaming experience.

Jul 29th 2014

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