Real dice have always captured my attention.
Even before I started gaming and retrieved my first multi-coloured collection of polyhedrals from the Dragonlance Campaign Setting box set, I was fascinated with Balut, a simple dice game conceived by an American soldier in the Philippines during World War 2. My Balut set came complete with a black leather, red velvet interior cup to vigorously roll the dice in, an extravagance, I realise, that none of my RPG dice have ever enjoyed.
Real dice, with their flaws and imperfections, create the illusion of “gamer luck.”
In high school and throughout college, I enjoyed above average luck with my polyhedrals. I had a blue dice dedicated to longsword damage that always rolled 7-8 when it mattered and a loyal green d20 linked to the many elven bladesingers I adored playing. Those dice are still in Canada because I came here with the notion that I’d not find much in the way of TRPGs in the Philippines and that I’d return soon to Ontario anyway. Obviously, however, I’m still here. Instead, I found quality D&D again, and now, with dice purchased here, I’ve discovered that my luck has absolutely evaporated — anything double digit on a d20 is a miracle now! I don’t own Chessex Dice; these are Cursex.
Real dice evolve and change with us.
When I was playing Warhammer Fantasy (as Skaven) and the dice quantities needed were high, I enjoyed having little d6s that, when rolled, didn’t take much real estate on the table. Later, when I took Houses of the Blooded and the dice pools were rarely above 5, I backed the Artisan Dice kickstarter to get a set of beautiful McDermitt Petrified Wood dice. Unfortunately, Charlie’s garage tech wasn’t up to the task of tackling stone dice yet, but after several botched attempts he did me a real solid and sent me the blank McDermitt cubes anyway as well as several compensatory sets (I also won some prototypes made from Australian wood in one of his contests!). Now, since Dungeon World has become my easy pick-up game, my games tuperware has a table’s worth of plastic black and red d6s — from tiny to fancy to strictly utilitarian.
Real dice can be cumbersome… but fun.
The most dice I’ve ever rolled at once was 47, Exalted 1e, Sidereal Martial Arts. Incidentally, that was also when my cover was blown. Those 47 dice opened up an arc in which my character had to earn back the trust of his eclectic circle. Rolling them was also very, very satisfying.
Real dice, for all my bellyaching about probability and curses, are how I “roll.”