In a nice bit of synergy, I composed this piece before Matt’s excellent article on Alan DeSmet’s GameScience Dice Analysis, so it continues the die theme nicely. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t have nearly the comprehensive analysis (or fancy charts) that Matt’s did. Soldier on, I say!
The question — and potential solutions — posed today revolve around the sharing of dice: Friendly gesture to the unprepared or sacred taboo to never be discussed?
It’s Only Weird if it Doesn’t Work
Gamers are a superstitious lot, I’ve found. Which is counter-intuitive, considering all the mathematics, reading, and general science-friendly aspects we take part in. But our dice? There’s something to be said about a gamer’s dice. It’s like their girlfriend or miniature: you ask before you touch.
Now this superstition goes so far as to buying specific types of dice, dice to celebrate occasions (a new set for each new game), or holding onto memorable dice and that vaunted d20 that always seems to result in a crit. We even placate our dice by purchasing custom die trays, hand carved, and padded for their pleasure. Conversely, we’ve thrown them, burnt them, and yes…one of us even buried them.
So it only stands to reason since we are so attached to our dice that we’d be hesitant to share them in the event another player forgot theirs — or in the truly unimaginable — doesn’t own any. (Seriously?)
The Dice of Shame
In one of my previous groups we had a My Little Pony pencil case. In that case were the “dice of shame.” This mostly pink and hideously colored set was your reward in the event you forgot your dice. Coincidentally, the pencil case also had the “pencil of shame,” similarly embarrassing. People tended to come to those games prepared.
Now this is a policy that you can certainly bring forth at your table: the communal or spare die pool. Perhaps bought with group funds, this set of dice is free for all to use in case of such an emergency. It can also be the standard operating procedure at the table, with every player (sans the GM) using the pool.
Now fellow GMs are an exception. Typically shielded by a reference screen of some kind, it really behoves a GM to have their own set. Besides, every GM also has that special “don’t fail me now” die that has more player kill marks than Starbuck’s viper.
In recent years — sans Fudge dice — we’ve seen a few games (mostly by Fantasy Flight Games, go figure) that use speciality dice. This introduces two new problems to the equation: utility and availability.
The first, utility, is very specific: your specialty dice have little use beyond the game they were designed for. Thus, many players may not even bother investing in said dice, knowing that once the game or campaign is complete, they’ll sit alone, unused.
Availability is its own problem entirely. No game line lasts forever and if you’ve recently tried to get your hands on any die packs for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, you’ve felt first hand the results of dice going “out of stock.” Hence, in a five person group, you’ll probably have to share dice, by virtue of the fact that your players can’t find an outlet to even get their own sets.
Then there are the games that use really weird fucking dice, like the d3, the d7, the d30, the d100 (die with one hundred faces), et al. These annoy me on an entirely new level. It’s like the designer was either screwing with us or has financial stake in a die manufacturing company!
Health & Safety
I’d be remiss not to mention that passing dice around could have its own health issues. If one player at the table is sick, hasn’t washed their hands, and starts handling — and sharing — their dice, well, they’re sharing more than just their dice with you!
Washing your hands before you play is just good common sense, as is using hand sanitizer if you intend to share dice at the table.
Something that I’ve never considered is actually cleaning the dice themselves. I’ll admit, I have some dice in my bag that are over 25 years old. In fact the bag itself is probably a microcosm of intrigue with potential bacteria. I should get a new one.
It stands to reason when discussing objects of such a sentimental nature that you exercise correct protocol when needing to share dice. Unless express permission has been given, don’t just reach over and grab another person’s die! The exception is doing your fellow gamer a solid by helping recover an over-enthusiastic roll that found its way onto the floor.
Don’t throw, bounce, maim, put in your mouth, or otherwise become overly familiar with the other gamer’s loaned die. Conversely, if you do so, you might get to keep the die, so there is that.
Also, dice make great presents for gamers, NOT. Most gamers, like selecting a fine wine or a comfy baseball glove, prefer to do so themselves. Besides, any gamer that gives me free reign and puts on their birthday/Christmas list “dice” is going to get an assortment of d4s and d12s in various hideous colors. That’s like a golfer asking for his buddy to hand him “any old club” out of his bag to make a shot; take some pride in your gaming heritage and show it with dice! (“This was the die that I cleaved Vecna’s skull in half with the vorpal blade. Never shall it roll again.”)
So, what dice protocol or methodology do you use at your gaming table? Tell us below!