Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Of Ancient Dice, White Crayons, and Hoarding

My Moldvay rereading project has passed the halfway point and a post on combat is nearly complete.  While reaquainting myself with the rules of combat, I ran several practice encounters to make sure I was getting the process right.  In doing so, I felt it only appropriate to use the dice that came with the set.  They are old and in a pretty gnarly condition but it felt right rolling them during my character's practice encounters.  I only have four of the original dice left but as you will see below, I have plenty of extras available.

The last of my original Moldvay Basic Set dice.

After playing for a bit, I began to feel like something was missing.  Then it hit me.  In the 32 years since I first bought my Basic Set, the color on the dice had worn off.  I was suddenly assaulted with a wave of nostalgia as I remembered coloring in the numbers on those funny shaped dice so long ago.  I now had a mission.  Though the dice worked perfectly well without the numbers colored in, I had to stop my practice combat rounds until I could rectify the situation.

Easier said than done.  I had no crayons around the house.  None at all!  Though I now have a 14 month old little boy, it's a bit early for crayons and there was certainly no reason to keep them around before.  So off to the store I went in search of crayons.  Of course, one cannot buy just a white crayon so I am now the proud owner of a box of Crayolas.  Filling in the numbers was certainly easier than finding a white crayon.  I don't remember the process making such a mess the first time I did it though.  Then again, I'm sure I wasn't concerned with making a mess back then.  Mom would clean up after me.  I didn't want to try that with the current woman in my life so I wisely swept up the white residue before getting back to combat.

Breathing new life into the Moldvay dice.

Amongst the few things I kept during the great RPG purge of '88 were my dice.  Why I did so is beyond me.  Through the years I have obviously lost a few here and there but for the most part, I've still got a good sized collection of old dice.  As I mentioned earlier, the four shown above are from my original set in 1982.  The others would have been purchased during the next six years of playing.  They are "newer" but not by much.  I'm glad I kept them.  I plan to color the rest in as well.

I can't help but wonder though...considering the condition of these old dice, do they still roll true?  Is there a method to determine if a die is truly random?

Twenty-five dice older than a twenty-five year old player.

As the photo below may suggest, I think I have a problem.  Even though I haven't played D&D in over twenty years, I started buying dice occasionally in anticipation of returning to the game.  I still haven't played a game but I have plenty of dice for whenever I do.  The current count is 259 roleplaying dice.  That number does not include the multitude of six sided dice I use for wargaming.  Yes, I have a problem!

The good news is that I plan on returning to DMing in the not so distant future.  I'll have more than enough dice to provide to the new players I hope to create on my little island where I live.

Let's close this post with a few questions:
*  Do you still have your original dice?
*  Any special stories associated with that first dice set?
*  Would a modern day DM allow me to bring such old ratty dice to the table?
*  How many dice do you have?
*  Can a player have too many dice?
*  Are DMs expected to provide new players with dice?

I look forward to your comments and stories.  As always, thanks for reading!


  1. -I wish I still had my old dice. I had he same type of Blue Moldvay Dice that you have above. The d20 was so rounded it was like rolling a ball. Sadly through all my moving the dice are lost. I'm still convinced they are holed up in my old roommate/friend's crawlspace, but he insists he doesn't have them. Maybe he is secretly playing rpgs without me.
    -No stories, but do to the wear and tear on them I felt they had a specialness to them.
    -Why wouldn't a modern day DM let you use those dice? They still roll right?
    -Currently I only have one set of rpg dice with an additional few. So, 2d20, 2d12, 3d10, 5d6 and 2d4
    -I've never seen a dice hoarder so I don't know what is too much, though your collection might just be.
    -A good DM will have a few extra dice for new players or forgetful players. However, if the new player becomes a regular they should invest in their own dice. In this day and age a dice-rolling app is just a few button pushes away on a smart phone or tablet. (Though it's a poor substitute for a good solid roll.)

    1. I'm thinking you have come up with a great adventure: penetrate the dark world of your roommate's crawlspace to retrieve your long lost treasure. I like it!

      As far as using old dice, I thought that maybe a DM might be concerned that such a rough looking specimen as my d20 might not roll truly random. Of course, if I kept rolling low scores to hit then it probably wouldn't matter.

      Dice apps: I forgot to ask about these. Are they generally allowed or are real dice preferred/required?

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Alas I no longer have my first set of dice. As far as stories go, I remember the first time I put a 4 sider in my pocket and moved the wrong way. Ouch to say the least. I think the funnies thing I ever saw was when Tom Carpenter was having a bad day of die rolling. He finally got so pissed off he threw his 20 sider out the door, where it caromed off three walls and rolled into the living room. It came up a natural 20, of course! As far as stockpiling dice, don't worry! I do it as well. I play lots of miniatures games and scads of d6s, d10s, and d20s just seem to add up quickly.

    1. I can imagine the piercing damage a d4 would cause. I'll keep that in mind. I'm slightly fearful of that evil little triangle now. Ha!

      I'm glad to hear you have too many dice. I was starting to worry about my little secret.

      Thanks for you comments!

  3. I play in a game at work where one of the guys uses a dice rolling app on his phone. None of us see the problem with that, even though we all know about how a computer can only simulate randomness...

    The guy that uses the dice app, bought the Chessix Pound of Dice. :)

    I don't have my original horde of dice, nor my second horde of dice. I am currently on my third horde of dice...

    The only nifty story about dice I have is as follows: This one time, in the Navy, I took a d4 to my rating exam, to answer the multiple guess questions that I had no clue about. One of the test proctors took it away from me. I did get it back after the exam, but I still wonder if I would have scored better with the aid of that d4.... :)

  4. Dice!? Oh, man, don't get me started on dice!

    I still have my first set: White d20 (0-9 twice), blue d12, green d8, red d6, yellow d4. Note no d10. They were almost unheard of back then. The old boxes didn't actually come with dice but they did include an order form to get them from TSR. The only other option was to look for a game, hobby or book store that might have them. By the way, I always used either a black felt tip pen or white-out to "ink" my numbers.

    No really incredible tales other than my Mom vacuuming up the d6 not long after I got them. I was distraught until she pointed out that all I had to do was tear open the bag and sift through the contents. That d6 still bears the scars to this day. Looking at the third picture, I had to do a double take! My second set of dice were translucent gems including a clear d20, a green d12, a red d6 and a yellow d4! I thought you had somehow stolen my dice.

    A DM should allow any age dice! Who doesn't have favorites or ones they think roll better? They usually do roll un-true, by the way, that's why they are favorites. Most dice that have been tumbled, i.e. have rounded corners, are biased. That's what Gamescience dice are for. Without going into a statistical analysis, you can simply tally the number of times each number is rolled on a given die over 100 or more rolls. It's not ideal, but it's fairly easy to spot any anomalies.

    I must really be sick: a rough count shows I have at least 389! Perhaps 50 of those are just d6s, but I'm actually expecting some more dice soon so I guess I'm headed for 400+. The word you have to use is collector, not hoarder. I don't think you can have too many dice. I wouldn't be happy unless I picked up new dice occasionally. You should really look into some dice bags or wooden boxes for storage although plastic is pretty neat and orderly.

    I think experienced players and DM's alike should let newbies use some extra dice, just as you would allow them to use the rulebooks and maybe even mini's, until they decided if they wanted to continue. A few years back, my group had a lot of first timers and one timers (not always RPGs) so I bought a fish bowl and filled it with several Chessex Pound-o-Dice. People were allowed to pull out any dice to use and then either put them back at the end of the night or buy them cheaply if they wanted to keep them.

    One final thing, I swear. I don't like the feel of electronic devices of any sort when playing a MEDIEVAL FANTASY game (or historical, for that matter). If the game is sci-fi, futuristic, or high-tech, then I don't have any problem. I think any randomness issues are relatively minor.

    1. Hi Jim. Great responses!

      First: I have heard of the old box sets without dice but you are the first person I have spoken to that had such a set. It's so normal these days that I simply can't fathom not getting dice. By the way, did your set have the cardboard chits instead?

      Second: I wonder if it's the same set of dice that we both have. My memory is fuzzy, but I seem to recall buying them in a blister package and not picking them out individually. I'll have to do some searching on the internet to see if perhaps that was indeed the case.

      Third: I have read about the Game Science dice and watched a great video about dice production. I had no idea that the accuracy/randomness of dice was such a big thing until I started reading about it. If the Game Science dice come back into production I'll have to buy a set.

      Fourth: I am so very glad you are more of a hoarder than me. I'm feeling much better about myself. Ha!

      Finally: I love the idea about the extra dice and the fish bowl. What a great idea! I hope you don't mind if I steal it from you when I start DMing again.

      Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading!

    2. Thanks for putting up with my verbosity!

      My Holmes rules came with the chits. I had to cut them out, too, as I recall. Not exactly ideal and I was really glad to get real dice because I had already lost some chits.

      My second set I know were selected at the local hobby shop out of a multi-compartment plastic box (not unlike yours) with all the types & colors separated. I was specifically trying to duplicate my first set but the funny part was that I was doing it from memory and I mixed up the d12 and d8. I eventually got full sets of each color, so I guess it all worked out. That's where I got my first d10, too.

      I think I stole the fish bowl idea, so feel free to plunder!

  5. Yup, I still have em all. The six that came with my Moldvay Basic weren't uniform blue, but came in a variety of hard-to-read colors including a brown d20 that basically looks like a rabbit dropping. What's weird is that I can still sit down with my entire pile and immediately sort them into which set they came with:

    those two d10s? Advanced Marvel Superheroes
    those two d10s? Star Frontiers
    that six-dice set? Gamma World
    Those fancy translucent d20s? Mike left them at my house 25 years ago (been meaning to return them...)

    Ever notice how d4s are the great slayers of old boxed sets?
    I wonder how many Mentzer Basic dragons have been perforated by a little plastic caltrop?

    I'm running a summer program for novice middle school gamers (that I'll be blogging about in July) and this week I got to place a Chessex order for two 50-packs of d20s! Most of them won't have ever seen "the funky dice" before and I aim to have each kid finish the camp with at least a pretty d20 to take home.

    1. I envy your memory Jarrett. I wish I could place my old dice as easily!

      I agree with your comment about d4s. Those things were dangerous.

      I look forward to reading about your new DM project. I think it's great that you're introducing an entirely new generation to D&D.

  6. I still have my first set of poly dice and my first set of percentile dice. I was the only one with dice at first (as the GM) and nobody knew what the different die types were. Luckily all my original dice were different colors so I'd tell the players "roll the blue die" for a d8: instant color-coding. Later I took to buying all my dice in those same colors because it still makes it easier to find the dice I need out of the hoard pile. I do also have some dice in random colors from boxed sets, etc. but I don't use them as much.

    1. Hi Edward. Thanks for sharing. Color coding dice for new players is a GREAT idea!