Archive for D20

Tabletop Thursday – The Superstitions of Dice

Posted in Tabletop Thursday with tags , , , , on February 26, 2009 by hergeek

If a statistician hands you a die insisting that “any given roll has the same odds of rolling a one or a twenty”, it means he’s handing you a depleted die in the hopes of taking advantage of you. Don’t fall for it! – Shamus Young, Twenty Sided Tales

Gamers are a superstitious, cowardly lot.  And nowhere does this hold true more than with their dice, their precious, precious dice.  You know that die.  It’s the one that you bought that had the pretty metallic colors on it.  And the first time you picked it up and rolled it, it rolled a 20.  Once you find a die that you like, you horde it, you care for it, you caress it and call it “My precious”.  You keep it in a special bag, away from the other dice, and only break it out when you really need to roll high.

And the reverse holds true as well.  remember the time that you absolutely, positively had to roll high to make you saving throw vs. dragon breath, and you rolled a 1, of course?  That die was instantly banished, called unlucky, and would never be rolled again.

And what about the DM that constantly seems to be rolling very high numbers?  Is he cheating behind his screen, or are his dice VERY lucky?  I mean, he can’t get that many criticals in a single encounter, can he?

The statistican in us will say that it is all poppycock.  Rolling a D20 should always result in a 1 in 20 chance of a given number coming up every time.  Blowing on it, pre-rolling the 1’s out of it, always making sure that it is sitting with the 20 facing up…none of these should make a difference. 

But maybe…just maybe…some dice ARE luckier than others.

In the attached video clip, Col. Lou Zocchi of Gamesciencegives an explanation about how dice are made.  He explains how many manufacturers of dice take the dice and dip them in buckets of paint to fill in the numbers, and then put them in rock tumblers to get the paint off the surface of the dice.  The process of the is tumbling leaves you with a very pretty, shiny , but ultimately imperfectly shaped die, as the tumbling also rounds the corners and takes some of the surface off of the dice.  When the shape of the die is changed, it will have a predilection to settle on the longer surface, and thus not give you an evenly distributed set of numbers.

Now,  he is in the business of selling his “precision dice”, so of course his are going to be better.  And he’s pretty long winded in the clip.  But I found it an interesting theory as to why some dice will roll higher results than others.

(But I’m keeping my dice.  Cause they’re purdy.)


Tabletop Thursday – Critical Thinking

Posted in Tabletop Thursday with tags , , , , on February 19, 2009 by hergeek

Our game session got off to a late start Monday night, because the party had all gained enough XP to level up.  So we had to go through the requisite period of everyone looking over all of the new options that they could choose from, update their characters, printing out the new characters, and cutting out their new power cards.  So I knew by the time we got through all of that, we were only going to have time for a single encounter.

The party set out to explore the graveyard where it was reported that the undead had started to rise.  Looking at the fact that the characters were newly upgraded 3rd level characters, I decided to juice up the encounter a bit, and add in three more skeleton minions and an additional 2 gravehound zombies.  That should give them a bit more challenge.

Entering the graveyard cautiously, the party was not surpised when the skeletal minions started rising from the ground.  They started dealing with the minions when the four gravehounds came streaking out from a crypt at the back of the cemetery, bone-chilling howls filling the air.

Who's a good little undead doggie???  YOU ARE!!!

Who's a good little undead doggie??? YOU ARE!!!

My daughter, the wizard, looks at the gravehounds, with the two running for the ranged characters, and the other two heading for the fighter and cleric.  She looks at her cards, and pulls out Force Orb and casts it at the hounds heading towards her and the rogue and warlock.  She pulls out her 20 sided die, and rolls it across the table.  “20!” she shouts.

“20 with your modifiers?”

“No, I rolled a 20!  With modifiers that gives me a 25!  And isn’t a natural 20 a critical?”


“Yes, yes it…” I pause, my eyes scan down my sheet, and see the notation:

Zombie Weakness

Any critical hit to the zombie reduces it to 0 hit points instantly.

Well, crap.  I reach over onto the map, and tip the gravehound over on its side, and say “Your force orb flies right down the throat of the zombie canine and explodes within it, instantly showering the area with undead dog.  OK, because you hit, you can make an attack against the gravehound next to it.  Roll to hit.”

She picks up her die, and rolls it across the table, and I am instantly hit with a squeal of joy. “Another 20!!!”


Son of a… “The force of the explosion of the first shot was so great the it instantly pulverizes the one next to it,” and I tip over the second dog figure.

There was great rejoicing on the part of the party, but I still had about 12 minion skeletons advancing on the party, as well as the other two dogs.  I’ll show them!

The skeletons continue their advance, peppering the party with arrows but doing minimal damage (as minion skeletons should.)  The rogue moves over behind some cover, and pulls out a shuriken and flips it at one of the gravehounds.  I wasn’t too worried, because she blew her stealth roll and couldn’t get combat advantage and do a lot of damage.  She grabbed her die, and rolled…a 20.


Mother f…

Cheers erupted around the table as the 3rd zombie dog was decapitated by a shrunken.  3 gravehounds down, with none of them doing a single point of damage to the party.  Well, the last one wasn’t going to go down THAT easily!  He charged into the fighter, I picked up my die, and rolled…a 1.

More mental curse words flew through my head.  The warlock cursed and targeted the gravehound with an Eldritch Blast.  He rolled the die…




And yes.  Another 20 was rolled.  I removed the last gravehound with as much dignity as I could muster, as the players celebrated their obscene streak of luck.  We finished the encounter with the players taking nary a scratch.

Needless to say, the session ended a bit early that night.  As we were cleaning stuff up, my daughter looked at me and with a smile said “So…was that supposed to be hard?”

Just you wait child.  Just you wait!  Luck is a fickle mistress.

Tabletop Thursday – Roll Playing in the Snow

Posted in Tabletop Thursday with tags , , on February 11, 2009 by hergeek

You know that whole stereotype about gamers never getting outside of their basements?  Some of us DO get some fresh air!

(Geekness shows up at about the 2:40 mark.  I’m assuming that there is someone inside of that monstrosity.  Sorry about the horrible music…)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Roll Playing in the Snow“, posted with vodpod