In Part 1 of this series we presented:

The Traditional Role of Traitional (cubic, d6) Dice

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Did you know that those DnD guys all started out at Berkeley? Well, they did. Or they may as well have. They really knew their math!

So, when Gary Gygax and his buddies decided to start role playing, they were already one move ahead. Because they were lovers of numbers. True mathophiles. And this helped them tremendously when they developed Dungeons and Dragons. A game filled with numbers. And supported by math. And played with special dice.

Like these:

This set of 7 special dice (see above photo) are known as RPG or Role Playing Game dice. And they are also known as polyhedral dice.

The shape at the far left in the above photo is a d10 (a 10 sided die or dice). And it bears the numbers 00, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 – all of which are multiples of 10. Except for the 00 which stands for 0 (or, under special circumstances, for 100).

This die is used in conjunction with the shape at position 5 in the above photo. Which is also a d10 die. And this d10 is numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0 – which are all multiples of 1. (Duh!) Except of course for the zero (0) which stands, in this case, for zero (0).

When these two dice are rolled together (as percentile dies) they generate a number using the place-holder system that we all learned in school. The die with double digits provides a number for “the tens’ place” and the die with single digits provides a number for “the ones’ place”. Pretty basic stuff. With this exception: when a 00 and a 0 are rolled at the same time, the result indicates 100, not just zero (0).

The other dies in the photo (from left to right, starting after the first d10) are an 8-sided die known as a d8 (this is partially hidden behind some other dies), a 4-sided die known as a d4, and a 6-sided die known as a d6. These are followed by the second d10 which was described earlier. Then we have a 20-sided die known as a d20 and a 12-sided die known as a d12.

These dies each have their own well-defined purpose when someone plays Dungeons and Dragons or other Role Playing Games.

Each of these dice shapes (except for the d10, which, in a way, really has an even longer history) have been known to mathematicians for well over 2000 years. In fact, they were studied and commented on way back in Grecian empire days. By Plato. The man who, in about 400 BC or so, did such an in-depth study of them.

And, because of this study, these shapes are also known as Platonic solids – in Plato’s honor. So, here you go. Here’s a picture of Plato, the guy who inspired the DnD guys to include polyhedral dice in Dungeons and Dragons in the first place.

You might ask, “Wouldn’t it have been possible to play DnD without these dice?” And the answer is, “Yes”.

Back in the very earliest days of the game, polyhedral dice were not included. Then one of the guys found a set of these newfangled dice, showed them to Gary, and the rest is history. It’s as if Plato had defined these dice especially for the game.

Thank you, Plato!

You’ve opened up a whole new world of adventures to anyone that cares to play.

But it doesn’t end there. Polyhedral dice – based on the Platonic solids (the only shapes that rigidly conform to the standards that Plato and his cohorts set out) – can be used in bunches of other games besides. All you have to have is a need. A need for a random event. Or a need for a certain probability to be presented. Or, more fundamentally, a need for a random number.

Just like any other dice. And just like any other game from Craps to Monopoly.

But, because the polyhedral dice were not formerly very well known to the public, and because they presented such an iconic image when they appeared in the game, these dice are now, to most people, an indispensable component of Dungeons and Dragons and of other Role Playing Games as well.

Would you like to know more? The best way to learn is to visit any game store in your area (or a store online) and ask for a set of polyhedral or RPG dice. They start at below $10 for a set of 7 dice. And they come in all sorts of styles and in all the colors of the rainbow.

And when you get those dice, believe you me, the games you’ll play with your new dice just aren’t what games used to be. Today, they’re a whole lot more fun. Even though, deep down, they’re still based on a little math. 🙂

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In Part 3 of this series we will present :

All These Stats Give Me a Headache – A Simplified View of Dice Mechanics

Here we’ll explore the basic notions of how dice work and why you shouldn’t worry if you just don’t get the math. In short, it’s okay. The math is built in. So, you don’t have to worry about it.

But, if you just want to know. If you want to peek under the hood and see what it’s all about. We’ll be explaining how game mechanics – especially dice mechanics – function as any game’s “game engine”. Right here. In our next post.