Friday, December 3, 2010

Do-It-Yourself Polyhedral Dice

I remember awhile back reading how Christian was having a tough time getting gaming materials to prison inmates. The subject of dice replacements came up. Someone suggested chits, which I remember actually using long ago, digging them out of Dixie cups with those terrible jokes on the side. Before we could afford D&D, my cousin and I made up our own clone (or as best as kids could) using the six sided dice from a boardgame.

Tonight, I wondered whether it would be possible to make polyhedral dice from paper. If so, it seems like it would be a neat thing to include with a game - a page you could rip out or photocopy and use to make your own cut-out polyhedral dice. Lost that d8? Download it. Or customize your dice and email them to a friend. Sure, if you have a computer you could just use a dice rolling program. Where's the fun in that though? No players with bated breath waiting for the outcome... Paper dice might not be ideal, but they still might have a place in the universe. But would they even roll? I looked on the web to see if any freaks out there might have already tried to find out. Shockingly, I didn’t find anything.

I did find an interesting page on a Australian university server though, where Paul Bourke posted some images of polyhedra for model creation. So having a touch of the flu with nothing better to do, I decided to see what was possible. I grabbed the octahedron and resized it to be close to the size of my d8 by Gamescience. I added some small flaps to the model for gluing the folds together on the inside (rather than using tape, to minimize imbalancing the construction and reducing random results) and printed this out on an index card (of course). Here’s a picture of my paper d8 alongside the Gamescience one. The three black rectangles on the 2 and 3 faces are the same size as the flaps in the same location but glued on the inside - I made them black so I could easily see which sides of the die would be the most weighted. It was only necessary for three flaps to keep the whole thing together.

Ah! But would it roll? Surprisingly, it more or less did, albeit without the characteristic and satisfying clattering sound of your typical high-impact plastic dice. But how random would its results be, given the custom cuts and folds, and the additional weight of the interior flaps holding it together?

I rolled it a hundred times (I told you, I had nothing else to do tonight) and recorded the results. I was very satisfied with them. Then I decided to roll my Gamescience d8 a hundred times as well, for purposes of comparison. The results are below:

(Click to stop squinting)

As you can see, based on this short experiment, my DIY d8 is superior to the mass produced Gamescience d8. I assure you that I used the same technique in rolling the dice with both dice and with each roll: cupping two hands together, shaking for several seconds, then sort of flip tossing/rolling with one hand.

Now before you all clamor and begin asking when you can order my hand made paper dice, I’ll need to run a few more experiments. There is no question that my die’s longevity will be much shorter than a high-impact plastic die. But isn’t it better to have confidence in your dice’s ability to give you a random result than to let your laziness (or miserliness!) get in the way of your game? I mean, how many of you have actually tested your dice, hmm? Know for sure that your players aren’t getting killed through no fault of their own, or of you, their DM? Fortunately, Christmas is coming up.


Zanazaz said...

Wow, that's cool. However, I don't think it would be easy to make a d20, or even a d10 for that matter. All the others would be easy, d4, d6.

Dennis Laffey said...

d10s are hard, but some of my students routinely make dodecahedrons, icosohedrons, and whatever you call the three-sided pyramids that are the d4. Typically they use poster board for them.

Never seen any of them slap on numbers and use them as dice, though. It's just something they do in math class.

scottsz said...

Very cool post.

I find it deplorable that those incarcerated do not have access to the totems of chance. If the purpose of incarceration is to learn consequences, then RPG's really should be required.

Anonymous said...

The mean/average for the DIY is 4.54, for the Gamescience is 4.29.

Just saying!

Clovis Cithog said...

That is one impressive dice you made ; - )
but how does one remove the orange Cheetoz stains ?

christian said...

Man, that is a really neat die. I love that you took the time to make a chart showing the spread of numbers. Very well done!

ze bulette said...

Thank you everyone for the comments.

@Zanazaz: A 12-sided is very doable. I'm not sure about a 20. The d10 seems the most problematic.

@Gratuitous Saxon Violence: The mean for a d8 should be 4.5, right? 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36/8=4.5 ...since the DIY is closer to this figure (based on the small sample of 100 rolls) the data here indicates that it's more accurate. Maybe that's what you were just saying though - not sure, I thought you might be saying the figure of 4.29 is better somehow because it's closer to 4.

@Clovis: It was easy to make, I'm just surprised at the results here. To answer your question, Cheetos are just one of the many ways to decorate your paper dice.

Paul´s Bods said...

I don´t know anything much about dice averages and the rest but I do know that your blog looks fun...I like the bit about the "human troglodytes" :-)

Loquacious said...

I almost want to point out that a bunch of ladies scrapbooking could probably help you out.

ze bulette said...

@Paul's Bods: Thanks for stopping by, your miniatures work is amazing!

@Loquacious: What, help me out with mass production of 'em? lol ;)

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