Monday, December 14, 2015

Let's Talk About These Dice

I posted this pic on Instagram and G+ yesterday in preparation for talking about it over here. Here it is:


Let's talk about these dice.

Clearly, they're color-coded. Red dice have an Elder Sign (the crappy new Elder Sign, not the real one, but seriously, I'll take what I can get) on the 6. The blue ones have an Elder Sign on 5 & 6. The green ones have the Elder Sign on the 4, 5 & 6.

Some background: I got these from a Kickstarter I supported a while back (this one); they're for a series of Cthulhu Mythos games that include Arkham Horror and Eldritch [I'll just assume Horror]. I've written about the other Mythos-themed dice I picked up from the Q-Workshop booth at GenCon a few years back here: http://www.kickassistan.net/2013/09/stupid-dice-tricks-ad-hoc-game-system.html . (That last bit is important and we'll be coming it again over the next few days.)

These dice aren't exceptionally nice. They're a normal size and don't appear to be the high-impact sort of plastic that I'm used to in my gaming dice. More of a standard-grade, "you use this plastic to make cheap stuff" sort of plastic. The numbers are filled okay, but with lots of irregularities; I've not seen a number I couldn't read, but I've seen a few that look not-so-great.

What's good about them is that they represent something I really dig: they work like normal dice (every facet is numbered, so they can do your standard 1-6 in a pinch), but they have very clearly-marked "success facets" coming in nice, round probability chunks. Red die: 16.67% Green die: 33.33% (1/3). Blue die: 50%.

If you're rolling one red die, it's because you have a 33%, 1-in-3 chance of success. A blue die is 50/50, either/or. A red die is because you have a slim-ish chance.

1-in-3 is the point where I think it makes sense to start rolling dice. 50/50 can be dramatic I guess, so having the blue dice aren't a complete loss. 1-in-6 is mathematically interesting, particularly when we start adding multiple dice together to form a pool, especially when the pool size should have a dramatic impact on the probability of "positive" results.

I have uses for all these things, and I'll try to show you over the next few days. It's my Christmas gift to you. Pssssh, no it isn't. It's my first draft and exploration of an idea I'm working on.

photo via boardgamegeek.com
The reason my brain went to this place at all and why I bought these dice: the probability break downs on each "positive" result type by color is the same as in HeroQuest (the board game, not the pretender) broken down by action. For those not in the know, HeroQuest used unique dice to govern most actions. These d6's had faces in the following denominations:

  • Skulls - three facets
  • Shields - two facets
  • Black Shield - one facet
As a player or the game's DM (the unfortunately-named "Zargon," here present without the requisite Jim Holloway drawing [just an obtuse reference]), whenever you rolled to attack, you counted skulls rolled as successes and individual points of damage dealt. Players would hope to roll shields to defend and thereby negate Zargon's successes, while Zargon could only defend on a black shield. Thus, we see an interesting probability break down. Hits are fairly likely to accrue (50/50 for each die, with die pools ranging from 1 to 4 at the outset), players are more likely to defend (33% for each die) and monsters more likely to die (16.7% chance to defend per die). This, as far as d6 dice can go, is pretty interesting but simple probability.

Here are some things I'm working on using These Dice:
  • A "Negotiated Skill System" using the Green Dice. 
  • A d6-based system of supernatural patronage and corruption for games other than DCC using the Red Dice. 
  • I'm going to try hard to come up with a way that uses 50/50 probability (and thus Blue Dice) in ways that haven't already been used for Prince Valiant (d2!) or Burning Wheel (I've gotten far enough in BW to know how its dice work!)
If you have any ideas for how to make 50/50 probability interesting from a gaming perspective, I'd love to hear them.