Dice Substitutions

For Pencils and Paper Role-Playing Games
Copyright ©2013 J.D. Neal All Rights Reserved. A "die roll" is a call for a random number. How the number is generated is generally not important as long as it provides the intended result. Substitutes for dice can be quieter and (under some conditions) even easier to use. Some children might be brought into gaming by the use of certain "fun" substitutes like spinners. Some people can affect the picking of cards, paper slips and such through careful observation and practice, so pay attention to anyone who is exceptionally bigoted towards using one system of random number generation. The key to physical selection systems is to use or mark as many items as you need for dice. For a foursided die (1d4), use 4 items or make 4 markings from 1 to 4. For 1d10 (a ten-sided) use 10 items or 10 markings from 1 to 10, etc. Coins (or similar items): Put the required number of coins in a cup, shake them up and spill them out, counting heads as 1 (one) and tails as 0 (zero). Add them up. Since all coins could wind up 0 (zero), use one less coin than the number needed and add one to the total, for a result of 1 to the maximum. Poker chips, bingo counters, etc. marked with a 1 on one side and 0 on the other might also work. This can be noisy, and big numbers are clumsy, but it works okay. Computers. Computers (and similar electronic devices) can be handy, but can also be programmed to spit out any number the programmer wants. Novices are warned that some people may want to bring their computers to the table and use them for die rolls because they rigged them to cheat. Computers are not inherently designed to create random numbers; programmers often use a trick involving taking a number from the internal timer and hashing it with previous numbers and a seed via a math formula to create a quasi-random number. Hence, a series of random numbers generated on a fast computer might be almost the same simply because the timer varied so little between each iteration of the random call. A slower computer might create more faithful random numbers because the timer might change more between each call of the random routine. Flip Book: Use blank notebooks (small memo books, notebook paper neatly cut up and glued or stapled together, etc.). Mark the pages with the number ranges needed. When a number is needed, randomly flip it open to a page. Note: people who read a lot might be able to flip the book open to the same page a lot. Make Your Own Dice. A talented person might make their own dice by copying how the various types are designed. Certain quality (and cheap) modeling clays are tough and durable. Some materials like wood can be carved easily enough. Another way is to use quality stickers to remark other die. With a printer and paper you can print out new numbers and markings. The author finds that some cheap, non-toxic kitchen and bathroom caulking compounds work well on plastic dice (you may have to look around; dice and compounds differ.) If need be, use quality colored markers and color code some die sides. Index Cards or Playing Cards: Use index cards (or playing cards) and mark one side as needed. Shuffle them, place them face down, draw one, note the result, put it back and shuffle again. Paper Slips: Mark some pieces of paper with the number ranges needed, put them in a hat or box or bowl and shake them up. Blindly pull one out, note what it is, put it back, shake or stir them up. Pre-determined Number Series. A series of numbers rolled by computer or hand or some other means can be printed out. The user simply goes along the list, using each number and marking it out. This is handy for people who want to play a quiet game or "dice-less" game. Random Number Grids: Make a grid with boxes: use a 4 x 4 grid for 1d4, a 6 x 6 grid for 1d6, etc. Randomly fill them with numbers.

When done: pick a number by closing your eyes, circling a pencil (eraser down) over the grid and dropping it down. Open your eyes to see what you get. The following are examples (they may not print "square", but they do illustrate the idea). 1d6 Grid

3

2

5

2

6

4

5

2

4

6

1

1

3

4

5

3

4

3

5

1

6

3

1

5

6

1

4

3

2

4

1

5

6

2

2

6

1d10 Grid 3 7 1 8 10 3 2 7 1 4 6 5 4 5 6 2 3 5 5 2 4 10 4 5 1 9 6 9 2 9 10 1 4 9 7 1 6 5 2 5 7 3 8 1 8 10 2 1 6 10 4 9 8 9 3 7 5 5 5 1 2 7 8 3 4 6 3 8 8 3 10 8 1 9 10 2 7 9 1 7 4 4 6 10 9 6 10 8 6 7 3 2 2 9 10 8 6 3 4 7

Spinners. Draw a circle or box on a piece of paper and divide it into equal parts according to the number

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range needed: 1d4 = 4 parts, 1d10 = 10 etc. Number the sections. Make a "needle" from cardboard and thumb-tack it to the paper. Flick it and see where the needle points to when it stops. (If clever, you can combine several dice on one spinner). For those who need help: a circle is divided into 360 degrees. So a 6 segment circle would be divided every 60 degrees, a 12 segment circle every 30 degrees, and (if desired) a 10 segment circle every 36 degrees. A box with equal sides is easily divided into 2 parts, 4 parts, 8 parts, etc.

Wooden Dowels For Dice Some people mark hexagonal wooden No. 2 pencils (the kind you sharpen to use) with the numbers from 1 to 6, and roll them as dice. And some companies make "barrel dice" - round cylinders that are rolled. Consider the idea of using wooden dowels for dice: larger dowels would wear with use and would be noisy, but just muse on the idea.

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Making wooden dowels and printing them with different numbers is pretty easy: divide a circle into segments from the center by using 8, 12, or 20 carefully measured radii. Carefully plane the dowel from point to point where the lines end on the outside, mark each flat side and the result is something that can be rolled to make a number range. A "d6" dowel is no different than a six-sided die except it could be conveniently marked with 1 to 3 repeated twice. A twelve-sided dowel would be more efficient and could be marked 1 to 12 on one end; 1 to 6 (twice) further down; then 1 to 4 (repeating 3 times); then 1 to 3 (repeating 4 times); then 1 to 2 (repeated 6 times). One such "dowel die" would have give the players a d12, d6, d4, d3, and d2. A ten-sided dowel could be marked 1 to 10 and 1 to 5 (repeated twice). Better yet, a twenty-sided dowel could be marked 1 to 20; 1 to 10; and 1 to 5. An interesting aspect of this is that modern games tend to skip from a d12 to d20 and use even numbers; a game using wooden dowels could feature d3s, d5s, d7s, d9s, d14, d16, and d18s as a standard feature, because they might have been easy to produce. After all, a d18 could be marked for use as a d9, d6, etc. while a d14 as a d7. Following is a table with some of the interesting combinations that might have occurred. Dowel d6 Markings 1-6 1-3 twice 1-2 x 3 times 1-8 1-4 twice 1-10 1-5 twice 1-12 1-6 x twice 1-4 x 3 times 1-3 x 4 times 1-2 x 6 times d18 Dowel d14 d16 d8 d10 d12 Markings 1-14 1-7 x twice 1-16 1-8 twice 1-4 x 4 times 1-18 1-9 x twice 1-6 x 3 times 1-3 x 6 times 1-20 1-10 twice 1-5 x 4 times 1-4 x 5 times 1-24 1-12 twice 1-6 x 4 times 1-3 x 8 times

d20

d24

4