Zed Lopez

Three Dice to Rule Them All

While I can appreciate the elegance of having dice in the shapes of all five regular polyhedra, the sad truth is that tetrahedral d4’s don’t roll worth a damn, making them terrible as dice. The only d4’s I carry are these dodecahedra labelled 1-4 three times (in Roman numerals, which avoids the problem cited here plus I don’t have any other dice in those speckled colors.)

This Doublesix Dice kickstarter proposes to give d6’s the dodecahedral treatment. Cubes with rounded corners aren’t bad at rolling, but obviously the more sides a regular polyhedron has, the closer it is to a sphere and the better it’ll roll.

There’s a wonderfully ludicrous die out there called the d-Total. It’s a 24-sider, a deltoidal icositetrahedron, with each face bearing 6 to 8 labels (clearly, they needed more space than a tetrakis hexahedron’s faces offered.) It boasts that it’s 17 dice in one, but it’s no better a d2 than any other die with an even number of faces, and for all of the claimed functions beside d3, d4, d6, d12, d24, you might have to reroll. Still, five dice in one is kind of neat.

A notion I’ve had, and would kickstart if I had an urge for adding big complicated projects to my life, is: Three Dice to Rule Them All. With appropriately labelled and colored octohedra, dodecahedra, and icosahedra, you could satisfy all your dice needs save for any that are really trying to be weird.

Obviously, octohedra could be labelled to be: d2, d4, or d8; dodecahedra: d2, d3, d4, d6, d12; icosahedra: d2, d4, d5, d10, d20. Another popular die in this modern world is the Fudge die or dF, with two blank sides, two sides labelled ‘-’ and one side labelled ‘+’.

So let’s say the dodecahedron’s faces gets five labels, one in each corner of the pentagon, permitting reading it as a d3, d4, d6, d12, or dF. (I mentioned this in a comment on the DoubleSix kickstarter; the creator mentioned in an update the possibility of pursuing it, but I’d consider that a long shot.) A dF can be considered d3-2 so in one sense having labels for both d3 and dF is redundant, but we want to make life easy (we wouldn’t want to over-complicate things). If I could only have one of them, I’d keep the dF and let you add 2 if you really want a d3.

If the dodecahedron is already providing the d4, all that would be left for the octahedron is d2 and d8, so let’s make them ubiquity dice: three versions in three colors double-labelled 1-8 and, respectively: 0,0,0,0,1,1,1,1; 0,0,1,1,1,1,2,2; 0,1,1,1,2,2,2,3. Ubiquity dice make systems like Lady Blackbird or (no surprise) Ubiquity in which you roll a bunch of dice and count evens to determine your result easier. The first kind counts as throwing one die, the second as two, and the third as three, and then instead of counting evens you just add the results (which is easier with large dicepools.) Of course, this scheme is patented and would require a license.

Every gamer of a certain age (i.e., adolescence predating the widespread availability of pentagonal trapehezohedral d10’s) knows how to read a d20 as a d10, and maybe has even used different colored crayons to hand-color the numbers. You can probably still find d20’s with faces labelled 0 to 9, and +0 to +9 to indicate reading the latter as 20 and 11-19. And every gamer knows how to read 2 d10’s as a d100, e.g., by throwing separate colors and counting one as the tens digit and the other as the ones. But there’s a reason everyone’s switched to 2 different 10-sided dice labelled 00-90 and 0-9: it’s easier. So here things break down a little: either rely on the two-color scheme, or have two different kinds of icosahedra, one of which is dual-labelled to be read as 1-20 or 0-9 and the other of which is double-labelled to be 1-20 or 00-90.

And if we already have three different kinds of octohedra, we’re actually now up to six dice to rule them all. Might as well just dispense with the double-labelling of the 1-20/00-90 and just make it 00-90.

Alert readers whose eyes haven’t glazed over by this point may have noticed that this scheme has actually left us with no d2, but rolling any die and counting odd as 1 and even as 2 is as easy as it ever was.

So, having, say, 3 of each octohedron, 12 of each dodecahedron, 1 icosahedron labelled 00-90, and 10 of the other leaves you prepared for:

  • rolling count-evens dicepools of up to 18
  • rolling up to 9d8
  • rolling up to 12d3, 12d4, 12d6, or 12d12
  • having three standard sets of fudge dice, i.e., 4dF
  • rolling up to 10d10 (for those one-roll engine games) or 10d20
  • rolling d100

Of course, it’s common enough to want d6’s in two colors for, say, Fiasco or three for, say, Don’t Rest Your Head or Technoir, so better make that a dozen each of white, red, and black. So now we’re up to just 56 dice that’ll make you ready for everything, a plan that is sheer elegance in its simplicity!

And speaking of potential dice kickstarters, besides the five regular polyhedra, there are many candidates for fair dice that have never been manufactured as dice. And Sicherman dice and two other variants (that allow zero) to produce pairs of dice with different values on the faces but still produce a proper 2d6 result. I see a great need. (There are some Sicherman dice available, but they’re not that pretty.)