Sunday, 9 April 2017

Different dice

I have a lot of dice. Mostly they're pretty normal. I have buckets of d6s - most numbered 1-6, a few with other sets of numbers (generally something like 1-1-1-2-2-3) and a few are Warhammer direction dice. I have a fair number of d4, d8, d12 and d20s. Even more d10s (some of them are numbered 10-20-30-40-50-60-70-80-90-00, some are d20s with duplicated numbers), as I have a bunch of games that use d%.

I also have some dice from games I don't even own any more. One I think came from a game I had when I was a kid called 'Slam'. It's a d6 with colours on it:

Another is a d6 with letters (I don't know what the game is, it may have turned up in a random dice assortment off ebay):
Schematics of the dice

I've often wondered about what sort of random tables I could concoct to use these dice. When it comes down to it they are just d6s so I could use them for anything that normally uses a d6 but change the numbers for colours or letters... but that's a bit unsatisfying I think. A normal number-die after all has both its discrete numbering, and a linear progression - not only does it count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 separately, it also counts 1, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4-5, and 1-2-3-4-5-6. That's how numbers work. We know that 6 is more than the other numbers, we know that 1 + 2 = 3 and 2 + 3 = 5.

These dice don't do that as there's no logical progression to say that green is 'more' by a given quantity than white, or that E + S = U. They can, but only by giving the letters or colours arithmetical values, in which case, I may as well use two d6s. So, they will be better at determining one of six discrete entities, rather than anything that has a linear progression.
Linear progression of number dice: they have what I'll call 'discretion' (you can read the top line for 6 different entities) but also 'progression' (each entity can be read as the culmination of the others under it). The colour and letter dice only have discretion (they only have a top line). As a result the order of letters/colours is arbitrary (I use BESTU* because it's alphabetical, which is in itself arbitrary).

Five of the faces on the coloured die are the same as the classic Cluedo characters - if black is read as standing for Prof. Plum then it could represent all the characters. But as there are cards for the Cluedo characters anyway, it's difficult to see the necessity for a die. If I needed a random Cluedo character I could shuffle the pack and pick a Character card.

It might be a Dragon Generator - in Basic D&D there are six kinds of dragons, White, Black, Green, Blue, Red and Gold. The stats for dragons have a lot of linearity in them: there are progressions from easier to harder to hit in AC; from weaker to stronger in HD, and in Dam; in Saves; in Morale (this one is stepped but still progressive) and (in somewhat skewed fashion) in chances of talking or being asleep, or how many spells the dragon knows. However, there are some non-linear qualities. Dragons have particular habitats and breath weapons (Gold Dragons have two of these), so if it's a Dragon generator, it's also a terrain generator and a breath-weapon generator. The terrain types are Cold region, Swamp/marsh, Jungle/forest, Desert/plain, Mountain/hill, Anywhere (which I guess can mean either 'ubiquitous' or 'DM's choice', depending on context). The breath weapons each have two components, one for shape and one for type: they are Cone of Cold, Line of Acid, Cloud of Gas, Line of Lightning, Cone of Fire, Cone of Fire/Cloud of Gas (so the die could generate a result of 'cone, line, cloud, line, cone, cone/cloud', or 'cold, acid, gas, lightning, fire, fire/gas'). Effectively, the results table looks like this:

White - Cold region - Cone - Cold
Black - Swamp/marsh - Line - Acid
Green - Jungle/forest - Cloud - Gas
Blue - Desert/plain - Line - Lightning
Red - Mountain/hill - Cone - Fire
Gold - Anywhere - Cone/Cloud - Fire/Gas

These don't have to be limited to dragons, there's no reason the terrain types and breath weapons can't be separated from dragon-kind and used for something else. A terrain or region generator has wide applicability, for generating maps for instance. The breath-weapons could be spell or trap effects rather than the breath of something, or the attack modes of some other monster, an extra-planar entity or automatic defence system (perhaps for some D&D/pulp sci-fi mash up... Dungeons & Daleks maybe).

Not so sure if there's anything that could be usefully generated that has 6 states that equate to B-E-S-T-U-*. Bored, Excited, Stressed, Tired, Unhappy, DM's choice - an emotional state generator (somewhat weighted towards generally negative stuff). Bridge, Engineering, Sickbay, Transporter-Room, ??. ??? - a Starship Enterprise location generator (don't know what U would stand for, nor * for that matter - unless that's GM's choice too).

The combinations look like this, or some variant of these, but I'm not sure whether arranging them like this is really any help in understanding what they might mean.

Not sure at the moment how feasible it is to take this further but I'll keep thinking about it.

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