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November 26, 2008 6:00 PM   Subscribe

In a must-see interview for tabletop gamers everywhere, Colonel Louis Zocchi talks about modern mass produced plastic dice and why they utterly fail at being random: Part 1 - Part 2
posted by loquacious (84 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was awesome.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:17 PM on November 26, 2008


What? Who brags about their dice's randomness? This is madness. Also, I can't respect anyone who claims to "care about dice" when he sells D10s; non-platonic solids. Gygax knew this, and he had D20s cast that went 1-10 twice for D100 calls.
posted by boo_radley at 6:20 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


also "you've made the right choice, thank you for listening, that's 50 cents."
posted by boo_radley at 6:21 PM on November 26, 2008


Wow. I just watched an old man rant for 20 minutes on the superiority of the 20-sided dice that he makes, and I found it interesting.

Why can't they just carve dice out of plastic the way that you cut a diamond? Wouldn't that solve the problems he's talking about? He says that's how casino dice are made, so I'm assuming you could apply it to a 20-sided die. Maybe it's just the cost factor.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:22 PM on November 26, 2008


Very interesting, by the way has anyone played munchkin quest yet? I've been playing munchkin awhile now but they were packs owned by friends, but the board game looks pretty fun, I was hoping a mefite may have picked it up and could give me their opinion.
posted by Del Far at 6:25 PM on November 26, 2008


I love dice, even though I'm not a gamer. This guy is awesome. Although, it would probably behoove him to learn the singular of dice is die and those dots are not digits, they're pips.

Mr. Zocchi has a patent for a five-sided die. Are each of the five sides equally probable?
posted by king walnut at 6:26 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who brags about their dice's randomness?

What the hell other reason would I have to buy a random number generator? I can pick non-random numbers just fine without spending any money.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:27 PM on November 26, 2008 [9 favorites]


Terrific. If everyone were as passionate about what they love as this guy is about dice we'd be living in paradise.

Further, he intonates like Tom Nuttall.
posted by Manhasset at 6:30 PM on November 26, 2008


I don't know jack about gaming and roleplaying (I usually sat and played guitar through endless nights with friends playing D&D, GURPS, Warhammer 40K and so on*) but I love listening to people talking proudly about their craft, so thanks.

*well, I got to learn guitar.
posted by _dario at 6:32 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Fresh oats cost more than used oats,
even though the used oats have only
passed through the horse one time."
posted by king walnut at 6:36 PM on November 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


This explains one of the great mysteries of my childhood, my D20 that rolled a 20 8% of the time, off of a sample of 2000 roles. My 12-old mind thought it was all in my wrist.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:36 PM on November 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


What? Who brags about their dice's randomness?

He failed his intelligence save.
posted by Deflagro at 6:39 PM on November 26, 2008


I like how he doesn't care about selling them, he just wants people to know that they are superior!
posted by lee at 6:40 PM on November 26, 2008


And I have to say that growing up at flea-markets (like every weekend, all day, for years) - I used to see these kinds of guys everywhere - talking a blue streak of hucksterism. Everyone's stuff was always better, the other guy's stuff was always worse...and sometimes it actually was. Boy did I learn a lot about life there.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:40 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Same world. Different planets.

He does realize that people are going to use these to play a game right? It's like writers who get excited about their damn pens.

And yes, I am kidding. That was kinda neat. And not really sure how much it matters how random a 20d is. Might explain why some gamers have "lucky dice."
posted by cjorgensen at 6:41 PM on November 26, 2008


oh, really, don't mind me. I'm still angry about Egar Midtrim, paladin lord of the western ward. He died to poison, but it was really Chuck's sparkling green 20.
posted by boo_radley at 6:42 PM on November 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


I've gotten this schpiel in person at GenCon, and gotten a brochure with all of this explained at length. Zocchi rules. He's a fixture in the gaming industry, been there from back in the day.

I understand he's going to stop going to GenCon every year though -- this was his last year to man the Gamescience booth. Sad.
posted by edheil at 6:42 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


"lots of game masters prematurely kill off characters that deserve to live, but the game masters are using rounded edge dice that can not ROLL SAVING NUMBERS"

I love how this is the ultimate summary of the injustice of cheap dice. It is behoven to game masters everywhere to spend the extra cash to prevent the needless killing of junior level characters who need a higher roll total to survive earlier campaigns.

I love this level of passionate nerdism that comes with the dedication of someone to an actual craft, not just casual fanboyism.

The man has three patents on dice and dice related technology.

And so what if he sells D10s, most game systems built around them are play tested using those same dice, so that would have taken that into account if it dice rolls were shown to be statistically unfair. Also those games (white wolf published ones, off the top of my head) have a strong focus on roleplaying over dice rolls.

Also, you do know the reason the GM has that game board in the first place is so they can cheat the dice to help advance the story, right?
posted by mrzarquon at 6:42 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


RIGHTEOUS ANGER
posted by Flunkie at 6:48 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's like writers who get excited about their damn pens.

Or keyboards. As something of a writer and someone who does a lot of multimedia stuff, OH MY GOD I LOVE A GOOD KEYBOARD.

I actually have a small collection of inexpensive keyboards, one of which is kept out of daily use so it doesn't get all crufty. I pull that one out for software DJing or when I need to write a whole lot of text. For most things I prefer a mushy membrane switch keyboard with really fast response and spring returns like the basic keyboards issued with Dell computers. (I have four of those.) But for detail work where typos and errors count and time and speed is less of an issue (hobbyist coding, webdev, copyediting large amounts of data) I have one of those clicky-clacky buckle-spring IBM keyboards.
posted by loquacious at 6:49 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


BTW, Zocchi is also a role-playing game designer from back in the day. I got a copy of Gamescience's "Space Patrol" (later reissued in expanded form as "Star Patrol") back in the day, early 80s I think. Kids today with their "Warhammer 40K" and stuff, bah!
posted by edheil at 6:51 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I can't respect anyone who claims to "care about dice" when he sells D10s; non-platonic solids.
I don't get this.

Platonic solids are the low-hanging fruit of the dice world. They've been known for thousands of years.

Meanwhile, it took Lou Zocchi to show the world that fair dice are not limited to those five shapes. I fail to see how this is anything other than a great step forward, let alone something to be mocked.
posted by Flunkie at 6:53 PM on November 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


Same world. Different planets.

Jesus, I've seen this mangled line three times in the last week or so. FFS, you've got it backwards.
posted by ryanrs at 6:53 PM on November 26, 2008


Different planets. Same world.
posted by Manhasset at 7:00 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Same, different. Planets, world.

His fresh oats/used oats line is something that I hope to put to use soon.

And get off his 2D20 lawn. Anyone who really needs a random number should turn to a groovy lava lamp.
posted by peeedro at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2008


This really was about 20 minutes of sheer enjoyable huckstery dicey geeky goodness. I feel immediately transported back to some of the swap meets I used to go to with my father.
posted by redsparkler at 7:04 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great link, loquacious!

I must say though that I am shocked - shocked - at the lack of the nerdporn tag
posted by jtron at 7:04 PM on November 26, 2008


I haven't really gamed in years and years (and years). And I own far more dice than I ever did need, let alone that I do need.

But I'm going to buy some GameScience dice right now.
posted by Flunkie at 7:11 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the guy you do not want to sit next to on the subway. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the 20 minutes and I'm anxiously awaiting the explanation of how having an enormous bump on one of the numbers does NOT render them unrandom.
posted by DU at 7:16 PM on November 26, 2008


Oh man! I wish I'd known about this a week ago (or whatever the shipping time from GameScience is). We've got a couple of marathon sessions scheduled this weekend, and my brother's Warlord can't get a break with his crappy dice. Thanks Loquacious! Now I know what all my PCs are getting in their stockings.

As an aside, the future Ms. Gofargogo (halfling rogue) gave me a 'what-the hell are you watching?' look during the first minute or so. But had already got the order page ready by the time the first video was done.
posted by gofargogo at 7:26 PM on November 26, 2008


> This is the guy you do not want to sit next to on the subway. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the 20 minutes and I'm anxiously awaiting the explanation of how having an enormous bump on one of the numbers does NOT render them unrandom.

Spoiler: it's not a bump but a visual blemish really, and it is the rounded corners produced by the polishing that has a greater effect to 'unfair' the dice. It is the corners that act as pivot points as the dice tumbles: sharper, uniform corners means there would mean an equal amount of energy would be required to roll the dice over one edge than the other. The polished dice have non uniform rounded corners, meaning that for the dice to pivot on one corner it will take less energy than it would on another, therefore favoriting specific faces facing upwards.

And he showed that the 'bump' that he leaves behind in fact influences the overall difference in how the dice lay less than the polishing process.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Done. Still no explanation. He derides anyone who mocks his blemish. He (incorrectly) states that a short roll due to sharp edges means more randomness (it isn't the lack of a sharp edge that's a problem, it's the lack of uniformity). He shows that the blemish doesn't harm the (irrelevant) stacking height. But nothing about randomness.

But I'm definitely convinced that everyone else sucks.

(I was just thinking they should machine the dice when he said that's what casinos do. Heh.)
posted by DU at 7:32 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lou Zocchi also invented the best-known (somewhat) practical single-piece D100, the "Zocchihedron"!

I have one of those, along with a few other dice of limited utility.

Lou's been trying to make the D100 work right ever since first dreaming it up. Early versions were clearly non-random, and a strong argument can be made that the current version isn't quite right either.

On the one hand, the fact that he sold D100s when he must have known they weren't fair undermines his much-ballyhooed perfectionism. On the other hand, it's not as if he just ignored the complaints.
posted by dansdata at 7:33 PM on November 26, 2008


And he showed that the 'bump' that he leaves behind in fact influences the overall difference in how the dice lay less than the polishing process.

No he doesn't. He shows relative stop times, but that is again irrelevant to randomness.

I love to watch a guy who enjoys his craft really explain it but this guy is just a blowhard.
posted by DU at 7:34 PM on November 26, 2008


I never had this problem as a kid because I had the Dragonbone electronic dice wand, which being digital was TOTALLY RANDOM.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 7:38 PM on November 26, 2008


My 12-old mind thought it was all in my wrist.
Mine too, though it was regarding something altogether different.
posted by bunglin jones at 7:41 PM on November 26, 2008


Hey, Lou.

Louie!

Hey, can I interrupt for a minute?

Thanks.

I think the singular of dice is die.
posted by Adam_S at 7:46 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


the (irrelevant) stacking height

Why is the stacking height irrelevant? Stacking differently on different sides would seem to indicate a bias, unless the manufacturing process produces varying sizes while maintaining precise proportions, which doesn't seem likely.

On the other hand, this picture of a blemish on the edge of a Gamescience die (rather than the face) would seem to undermine his point.

On the third hand, I refuse to believe that anyone this obsessed would ever sell me bad dice.
posted by enn at 7:52 PM on November 26, 2008


I am (now) surprised that nobody appears to machine 4,8,12, and 20-sided dice.

I buy the line of reasoning about sharp edges, because a) it's easier to measure and approach edge uniformity this way; and b) it does mimic the approach taken by the casino industry, which, with an ass-load of money at stake, I believe has rigorously investigated the matter.

I don't buy that the blemishes are a non-factor. He doesn't actually claim that they are, he just brushes past this on the way to his valid criticisms of other approaches. Short of an empirical experiment I wouldn't know which imperfections lead to greater 'error'.

To pick nits it they are all still random, just not a normally-distributed random.

But yeah, with all the nerds (uhh, yeah, that's you guys) into this stuff who have plenty of money to drop on number-generation, I'm surprised, that nobody is selling the RPG equivalent of casino dice.
posted by Bokononist at 8:06 PM on November 26, 2008


Oh balls. Kindly substitute equally-distributed random. Sucks to pick one nit and just drop another one.
posted by Bokononist at 8:10 PM on November 26, 2008


He says near the beginning that the blemishes are only visible in translucent dice, though they still exist in opaque dice. I take this to mean that the blemishes are generally not, in any significant sense, 3D.

The picture that enn links to is almost certainly a pathological case, in any case.
posted by Flunkie at 8:18 PM on November 26, 2008




> No he doesn't. He shows relative stop times, but that is again irrelevant to randomness.

Well, the stop times are demonstrating the difference in how a rounded edge vs sharp edge die behave under the same force.

Since he had just shown how you cannot have uniform edges and face sizes with rounded edges (each rounded edge does not share the same identical curve) as easily as you can have with sharp edges, if you throw a dice and it rolls a long time it is because it probably has rounded edges.

While it may look neat, it does not provide a fair die. Now that is if you follow that logic that longer rolling is a result of rounded edges, and rounded edges equals unevenly shaped die as a result of cheap polishing, and unevently shaped die leads to favoring specific numbers over others, than yes, in fact showing the stop times does in fact demonstrate they are less random.

Now that could not be considered a universal truth, because I am sure you could machine an expensive die with rounded edges that is also random, but that would cost more than even his blemished but sharp edged die.

The stacking was the demonstrate that even if the blemish had an influence on the overall die, if you magnified that blemish by 10 times by stacking blemished side to blemished side, it still would not make much difference between his own non blemished side stack sample, and the variation between an unblemished stack and a blemish stack is less than the variation between the competitors dice.

Now he should have shown a third stack for each dice to illustrate the point: each dice is stacked on the number side that was rolled just prior to being put on the stack. On dice that are fair, it should not matter if you stack them all by one face, or randomly, they should still be the same height at the end of the day.

To clarify terms: fairness for dice, to me, is achieve as close as possible to equal probability for every side to land facing up. Randomness requires equal probability.

Lou's dice are more fair than his competitors. To quantify them as more random is a much more difficult task.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:23 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ha, he sells D3. They're like pebbles with numbers on 3 "sides".

The D7s are pretty cool too; they're like normal dice, but with one more square side, and two pentagonal ends. And the pips have to be across the edges, instead of across the face. I'm not sure they're fair, but I want one.
posted by smackfu at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2008



I've been table-top gaming since elementary school, but this guy's lack of knowledge about how to make singular words plural really irked me. I'm glad to hear what he has to say. I'm sure he knows more about making dice than I will ever want to know. Still, this is like listening to a researcher who regularly publishes in peer reviewed journals misuse the word 'data.' If this is his trade, could he bother to pick up a dictionary once?

Maybe that and maybe his down-home-American-learn-to-speak-English-good-ol'-boy thing just reminded me of everyone I have ever known who complains about people not being able to speak the language but mangles it beyond recognition in everyday speech. Maybe I'm bitter.

Also, it didn't seem like a big mystery why dice with rounded sides rolled around longer than dice with sharp sides. Isn't this obvious? Is there any scientific evidence that this is an indication of less randomness? Does average time-per-roll make dice any better or worse?

Also, you do know the reason the GM has that game board in the first place is so they can cheat the dice to help advance the story, right?

Amen, brother!
posted by Avelwood at 8:32 PM on November 26, 2008


I don't understand all this hating on the guy. Good for him that he's trying to improve something.

But I'm not impressed that he tried to invent a D5 or a D3.

D1 FTW.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:44 PM on November 26, 2008 [8 favorites]


Also, it didn't seem like a big mystery why dice with rounded sides rolled around longer than dice with sharp sides

The point is that on the die with the rounded edges, some of the edges are more round than others, i.e. the die is not uniform.

What I don't understand is why they don't just machine these dice out of metal. Then you could have rounded edges and vertices that were equally rounded over the entire surface (to protect wood tables, etc.) And they wouldn't wear out either.

I would buy a set if they made them out of depleted uranium.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:48 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


D1 FTW.
Gombocs are neat, but overkill for this. When something like a "d4+1" was required, my friends and I would (occasionally) roll a d4 and a marble.
posted by Flunkie at 8:59 PM on November 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


You can also buy the dice from the company direct, it seems, here.
posted by jeffkramer at 9:01 PM on November 26, 2008


steel dice.
posted by mecran01 at 9:21 PM on November 26, 2008


Related videos: Sigur Rós - Gobbledigook

Ha.
posted by mhum at 9:34 PM on November 26, 2008


I would buy a set if they made them out of depleted uranium.

Here you go.
posted by Snyder at 9:46 PM on November 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


And so what if he sells D10s, most game systems built around them are play tested using those same dice, so that would have taken that into account if it dice rolls were shown to be statistically unfair.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:42 PM on November 26 [1 favorite +] [!]


Really? You mean you actually believe that?

"Hey guys, I've been tabulating statistics from our game-test sessions, and it seems that out of the 16,347,234 dice rolls that I've recorded from watching videos of the game plays, the 7 has a 1.43% greater chance of occurrence than the 8."

"Holy cow! We better modify those Probability To Hit tables, right away!"
posted by IAmBroom at 9:48 PM on November 26, 2008


Terrific. If everyone were as passionate about what they love as this guy is about dice we'd be living in paradise.
In American society, I think we reward companies for making cheap crap far too often by buying it and then trying to find a place to stash it. His competitors know this and probably make more money than he does, which is a damn shame.
But I can wish for a world where Americans simply will not stand for it, a world where we all have a sense of shameless, unapologetic, blunt outrage with inferior junk.
A lot of people don't know that there's an auto plant in Silicon Valley. It's called the NUMMI plant. When I took BSM classes, we used the NUMMI plant for many case studies and I got to know some of the workers there. One day one of their materials engineers came in to talk about a composite door panel project he was working on.
One of the smartasses in the class pipes up, but your product is perfectly marketable already, you're going to pass crash testing just fine, isn't this a waste of capital?
I'll never forget the worker's response. He sighed heavily, paused a moment, and said "look, any fool can make money. 'Cheaper' is one way to do that. But in the long run, people only respect 'better', not 'cheaper', because somehow 'cheaper' is always in the repair shop making a fool out of your money."
And then he proceeded to geek out for 15 minutes about how plastics really can cause you to lose your saving throw, and how one of their parent companies accidently discovered one of their models has bulletproof doors.
If someone put him and the Colonel in the same room with a pile of cheap dice and their manufacturer, I wouldn't be surprised if they shamed the manufacturer to death. I really wouldn't.
posted by thalakan at 9:50 PM on November 26, 2008 [11 favorites]


Deeply compelling nerd hucksterism. Really, though, if you care that much about having entirely random results, just buy casino dice and play GURPS.
posted by Gnatcho at 9:54 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is why they don't just machine these dice out of metal. Then you could have rounded edges and vertices that were equally rounded over the entire surface (to protect wood tables, etc.) And they wouldn't wear out either.

I remember seeing an ad for dice made of meteorite. The prices were hideous.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:57 PM on November 26, 2008


I remember seeing an ad for dice made of meteorite. The prices were hideous.
Meteorite dice, as well as mammoth tusk dice, megalodon tooth dice, dinosaur fossil dice, and other wacky dice can be found for sale on this site that mecran01 linked to.

Or, at least, dice that are purported to be made out of such materials.
posted by Flunkie at 10:03 PM on November 26, 2008


Pope Guilty: do you mean these? Yes, I would like a d20 for $300!
posted by R343L at 10:04 PM on November 26, 2008


Crap! I didn't preview! Sorry Flunkie
posted by R343L at 10:04 PM on November 26, 2008


> "Holy cow! We better modify those Probability To Hit tables, right away!"

Those games are built around using 10D's, in fact, 10D's are the only dice in the game.

Any flaws related to the inherently 'bias' of the 10ds would have been worked out by simply playing them. As in:

"Hey, we wanted to make this weapon average difficulty to use right? but with it's difficulty at 5, my average character never seems to use it as often as I think it should, maybe we should drop that to 4 instead."

These aren't mathematicians (well, some are actually) designing the games, these are gamers designing the games, and they will adjust the levels of difficulty and characteristics to match the die style that they are using the play with.

Also, success hits in things like Vampire and World of Darkness are based on number of die that the character rolls that are higher than X difficulty. If you are good with firearms, you throw 5 dice, and you need 3 of them to be higher than 6 to headshot your enemy, etc. The system came about as a result of what the was balance between rolling and roleplaying.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:24 PM on November 26, 2008


So I'm thinking I shouldn't buy any Chinese dice made of melamine...
posted by Tube at 10:33 PM on November 26, 2008


Ah, good old Zocchi. Been on his website many times, never seen him, could have predicted him down to the last syllable.

Although I am a bit sad that I watched 20 minutes of that and not one mention of the peerless Zocchihedron, perhaps the pre-eminent randomness generator ever cast by the hand of man.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:38 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm interested in the game science dice if only because it sounds like they don't roll ridiculous distances like most round cornered D20s.

Please don't cite Vampire for game balance. Giving expert and beginner skill levels the exact same probability of completing the most difficult (difficulty 10) task indicates to me that play balance was not the main goal of their design.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:23 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have to say, I don't play these types of games and I've never been in the presence of a tetrahedral die, but I couldn't stop watching. This guy was... I don't know, I can't seem to find the right word. Interesting? Engaging?

Nice find, loquacious.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:34 PM on November 26, 2008


Throw dice on a table? Who can't get to an alley?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:36 PM on November 26, 2008


Hah, I just realized I bought a zoccihedron as a gag when I was in high school. I didn't know it was called that at the time, or that this fellow was behind it. My friends and I just thought it was funny to have a literal D100, so I bought it. We even used it a few times for campaigns.

I know I still have it here somewhere, too.
posted by thalakan at 12:56 AM on November 27, 2008


Does anyone know how you would go about getting sharp edged polyhedral dice custom milled?
I'm sure it would be expensive, but it couldn't be that expensive.
They'd be interesting gifts.
posted by Richard Daly at 1:26 AM on November 27, 2008


IANAPE, but I think it'd be hard to get most plastic shops interested in runs less than 10,000. Considering milled casino dice are 2.50 a pop new (retail) I think it'd be expensive enough.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:18 AM on November 27, 2008


Does anyone know how you would go about getting sharp edged polyhedral dice custom milled? I'm sure it would be expensive, but it couldn't be that expensive.
They'd be interesting gifts.


I am not a machinist, but the best way I can think of to mass produce these would be to drop-forge platonic solids in a proper multi-ton cold or hot drop forge, lathing or milling off the sprue marks very carefully - the way hand tools like box wrenches and socket sets are forged. It would take a metallurgist and a statistician to tell if they were less random from metal density distribution from non-uniform forging pressure. You could also likely sinter or cast them.

Barring that, for short runs use CAD/CAM/CNC 5 axis laser, water or cutting mills with tolerances of 5,000th to 10,000th of an inch. I haven't investigated prices lately for a one-off part like that, but it's likely less than the lower three digits USD for a single piece in a non-exotic metal, especially if you already have a CAD model available - and Platonic solids are Platonic solids for a reason - they're easy to work with because of those reasons.


But maybe someone should just invent a small pocket gadget that generates random numbers via hardware from known techniques like temperature, time and/or noise and on pressing the appropriate buttons and gives you qDx, where q = number of dice and x = sides on the die or percentile needed.

Sure it's not the same as your mother of pearl glow in the dark magical blessed unicorn fairy gem dice. Put some stickers on the gadget or something.
posted by loquacious at 3:22 AM on November 27, 2008


On pondering - scratch all of the above. You want the ultimate traditional dice?

If you can't build your platonic-solid metal dice out of perfectly ordered and balanced symmetrical crystals (metal or not) then you should have a set of dice cast from titanium amorphous metal.

Just don't complain to me about the roll times, especially on glass or metallic surfaces.
posted by loquacious at 3:50 AM on November 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


Don't tell my GM, but specific groups of biased dice are the secret to my inexplicable badassery.
posted by Jilder at 6:07 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I bought a Zocchihedron recently as I'm getting into role-playing with my group of experience RPers, and my partner always joked about having a 100 sided die, and the store just happened to have one. I had no idea it was actually unique or built by this guy until 10 minutes ago, so that made me smile a bit, Metafilter touching my life in neat ways. I'm going to go check it now to see if it's a 1st or 2nd generation model, the 1sts didn't have an even distribution of numbers thus were proved to roll the extremes rarely, it'd suck if mine was one of em.

I'm going to get a set of his dice for Christmas presents, for sure!
posted by Meagan at 7:15 AM on November 27, 2008


I believe has rigorously investigated the matter.

I don't think so -- as in, they probably haven't investigated how many different ways you can make a fair D6.

What they have done is brought one particular design -- the sharp edge, thin-pipped, transparent D6, to as close to perfection as possible.

Initial die inspection also weeds out errors -- with the sharp points and the right device to allow the die to spin freely, subtle bias is surprisingly easy to detect. Fun fact -- the density is slightly above water, so they sink -- slowly. You can test for weight imbalance by dropping into a glass of water, with different sides up, an unbalanced die will show a favored side.

This doesn't help against edge wear, which is why the dice are used only for a short time. The very sharp edges do impart more tumble, but are damaged easily, and will rapidly start to favor a number. By limiting use, that factor is limited.

The result? You end up with a very fair die. Casinos go through a lot of them, but they gladly pay the price to make sure the dice are very fair indeed.

Why? Because casinos don't need to cheat. The odds are set so that they'll make money regardless of play, given enough time. The casino's best interest to make sure you don't think they're cheating, because then you won't play.
posted by eriko at 8:06 AM on November 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Who brags about their dice's randomness?

What the hell other reason would I have to buy a random number generator? I can pick non-random numbers just fine without spending any money.


Brags being the operant word. Now I’m picturing you with a
"I always roll 20’s something different" t-shirt.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2008


Also: I have a hundred-sider that I think I picked up in grade 8. It's not a Zocchihedron. (but it is glow-in-the-dark!)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:58 AM on November 27, 2008


I find people bragging about a product that works as intented a lot less irritating than those bragging that they are making high margins on landfill fodder, but I do like the T-shirt idea.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:07 PM on November 27, 2008


I got a Zocchihedron from the Chessex booth at DragonCon this year, it was right across from the Roguelike Fiction guy. Gave it to a friend. It doesn't look very useful though, especially since some of the guys he plays with, as a joke, like to bump the table and change the number.
posted by JHarris at 3:11 PM on November 27, 2008


I know what everyone in my gaming group is getting for Festivus. One GameScience d10 -- just enough to start the addiction.
posted by subbes at 3:49 PM on November 27, 2008


Interesting and entertaining. I respect his skills, but I do consider the activity to which he's dedicated not to be worth that degree of dedication. The fact that it's a d20 adds more than enough randomness into games for my liking already (character ability and talent: +5; random chance: +1 to +20; which matters more?). If a d20 is slightly out in a way that I can't discern without hours of boring rolling and recording, then for my purposes, it's not out. Molded and tumbled dice will do me just fine for roleplaying games, thanks. If I had some scientific application, for which vastly superior random number generation techniques than die rolling were somehow unavailable, I might consider buying a set of these dice. Otherwise, $5 a bucket dice do me just fine. I'd rather spend the extra money on something more useful to me in the game, like a book.

Two things I'd like: (1) a Bluetooth-interfaced electronic die, cube-shaped is fine, that can be programmed to display random numbers according to a set profile when it detects rolling, that will recharge on an induction plate, and for which separate individual dice can be given separate identities (so, this one is a d20, this one is a d24, that one a d100, etc). Probably doesn't exist, but would be cool. (2) A fluffy d20, for a friend's kid - anyone know where they can be ordered from?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:19 PM on November 27, 2008


Oh my God his dice are SO EXPENSIVE! $1.29?? What am I, the Sultana of Araby over here?!?!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:19 PM on November 27, 2008


What the hell other reason would I have to buy a random number generator?

This plastic model of random number generator also makes for very cute dangly earrings, FYI.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:26 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I got out of that was a conviction that ever die I've ever rolled was crap.
posted by Jeremy Banks at 9:06 AM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


This thread is providing me with lots of fodder for coveting. I want a pair of amorphous metal gomboc earrings.

But I agree-- I would have been much more convinced if he just showed me stats on tests of randomness for his dice vs. those made by other manufacturers. I also would have been less annoyed if he spent less time complaining about how some competitors' dice were made in Taiwan.
posted by nat at 9:46 PM on November 29, 2008


Argh! Doesn't he know that the proper plural of dice is dices! Man that irritates me.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 1:00 PM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


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