RPGaDay: “Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to roll?”

I’m happy to use whatever tools are required by the game or the medium. That said, I think physical objects are important.

In part this is because I spend most of my days on some kind of computer, and so the last thing I usually want to do during my limited gaming hours is log more screen time.

But I’ve also done some reading lately about the importance of handwriting and physical affordances in product design. Learning to write — particularly cursive — has a profound impact on a child’s development, and data we process with our hands affects us differently than data manipulated on screen.

I think that all of the traditional objects we use at the game table are important: dice, cards, paper, pencils and pens, minis, maps, printed rulebooks, etc. To me, manipulating those objects as a part of play enhances the experience; it adds a tactile aspect to our relationship with the shared imagined space that I think is missed when screen-based tools are used.

This is one reason why I’m still not nuts about using laptops and tablets at the game table. Even leaving aside the issue of constant distraction, I think they may distance us from each other, making it that much harder to join in the social acts of creation that happen when we play RPGs. But holding dice, turning pages, moving figures on a map — these physical actions get more of our neurons firing.

Not to mention the power of wonderful rituals like: handing a helping die to another player (Burning Wheel), reaching for token inside a bowl or bag (The Clay That Woke), or accepting a bead or chip offered by the GM (Fate). These have a meaning beyond their in-game function; they connect us to other people at the table.

So, yeah, gimme dice. And cards. And nice pens. And minis. And glass beads. And…

(It’s that time of the year again. #RPGaDay2016   #RPGaDay )

22 thoughts on “RPGaDay: “Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to roll?”

  1. I prefer cards because they’ve got narrative resonances, and because it’s more egalitarian to use them. Decks of cards are available in almost every gas station and convenience store. Dice (even d6s) are harder to come by.

  2. Robert Bohl I think you can find d6s in about as many places as playing cards. And I also feel like odds as are good that a given household has regular dice as they are for having a pack of playing cards. (One of the first things I did when I discovered RPGs was scavenge all our boardgames for six-siders.)

    And, I dunno; is access to funny dice really an issue for anyone these days?

  3. You can also deal cards face down…face up…you can turn them sideways. You can stack them, pass them, trade them, discard them, or sort them in various ways. There’s so many more interesting things to do with cards.

    However, there is one (ONLY ONE) flaw to my plan, which is that our current RPG design standards are so fucking terrible at probability with dice, it seems just an insane fantasy that playing cards would ever work out for us.

  4. Mark, it’s not like I think that people who really want dice can’t find them. I’m talking about shaving off fractional friction to jumping into the hobby. I disagree about the ubiquity of dice.