March 31st, 2011

My Widdle Bwain

Excising The 1 Rolls

I'm reposting this from the comments on this Darths & Droids strip, because the concept just cracks me up too much. I didn't come up with this, I'm not that kind of brilliant/crazy. (I just, well, game, so I do understand it.)

One possible superstition about dice, subscribed to by many gamers, is that if a die rolls badly (for some definition of "badly"), then it is obviously "tainted" and cannot be trusted when the chips are really down. There's also the idea that some dice are "hot" or "lucky" and will have a better chance than others of giving you the results you want. If you are lucky enough to possess such a hot die, you must be careful that nobody else ever uses or even touches it, as that will "rub the luck off". Gamers can have many quirks about how they treat their dice.

As pointed out so clearly in this essay on dice superstition, if dice are random, then it doesn't matter if you're superstitious about them. But if they're not... well, you better make sure you do the right thing and treat them properly. No use taking risks now, is there?

Pete, being the highly logical, calculating person he is, rejects all of that as superstitious nonsense. He instead applies the scientific approach. Over the years, he's collected somewhere around a thousand twenty-sided dice. Every so often, he gathers them all together. He sits down at a table and carefully and individually rolls each of the thousand dice, once. Of course, roughly a twentieth of them will roll a one. He takes those fifty-odd dice and rolls them a second time. After about an hour of concentrated dice rolling, he'll end up with around two or three dice that have rolled two ones in a row. He takes those primed dice and places them in special custom-made padded containers where they can't roll around, and carries them to all the games he plays.

Then, when in the most dire circumstances, where a roll of one would be absolutely disastrous, he pulls out the prepared dice. He now has in his hand a die that has rolled two ones in a row. Pete knows the odds of a d20 rolling three ones in a row is a puny one in 8,000. He has effectively pre-rolled the ones out of the die, and can make his crucial roll with confidence. Furthermore, being scientific about it means he knows that it doesn't matter who rolls the die for the third time, so he has no qualms about sharing his primed dice with other players, if that's what it takes to avoid disaster.