Dice Obedience School


After twelve intense sessions things have culminated and you finally manage to corner the elusive 'Master Villain'. Your party engages him in combat, and before long you are fighting for your lives. The Ranger lets loose with his powerful Bow of Death, and rolls a 1. Next the fighter attacks with his massive two-handed Sword of Decapitation, and rolls a 1. Yep, we have all been there at one time or another. Some people say that dice are fickle, but I know the truth. They just need to be trained.

After twelve intense sessions things have culminated and you finally manage to corner the elusive 'Master Villain'. Your party engages him in combat, and before long you are fighting for your lives. The Ranger lets loose with his powerful Bow of Death, and rolls a 1. Next the fighter attacks with his massive two-handed Sword of Decapitation, and rolls a 1. Yep, we have all been there at one time or another. Some people say that dice are fickle, but I know the truth. They just need to be trained.

I think every group has at least one person with a history of rolling abysmally. For whatever reason he critically fails seventy percent of his rolls, and it always happens at the worst time possible. People have tried loaning him dice, buying him dice, exorcising evil spirits from him, teaching him methods of rolling, and many other strategies. Yet none of them ever seem to work.

The reason is simple. It's not that he has bad luck. It's not that his dice are cursed either. The problem lies with how his dice perceive him. You see, dice are sentient. They have a primitive animalistic cunning, and like dogs they can sense fear and weakness. Every time the 'unlucky' player rolls them they react to his mindset. If he is timid or unsure of himself, they will roll poorly. On the flip side, if you believe you will be successful, you tend to succeed more often.

Now don't get me wrong. A positive attitude is not going to dramatically shift how well you roll. It's just the first step in the process. Dice react better to a confident owner, but they can get spoiled and lazy just like people. The longer they have had a lax owner the worse things tend to get. So the question remains, how do you break your dice of these negative habits?

It's not a simple process, and it takes a great deal of effort on your part. But, if you persevere these methods will work. You will roll well. By God, your dice will respect you.

First, you have to teach them about consequences. If they take care of you, then you will take care of them. Put all of your dice in a single pool before the next session starts. When it comes time to roll pick a random die from the pile. Tell it what minimum number it needs to give you. Let it know that if it doesn't, then it will pay the price. The first die will likely not take you seriously, and will probably roll low just to spite you. That's ok. Now you get a chance to set an example. Take the offending die, and punish it. This can be done in several ways. The most extreme is to destroy the die with a hammer or other blunt object, and will get the quickest results from the rest of your dice. When they see their companion destroyed for his impudence, then they will begin to fall into line.

If you are more merciful, then there are other ways to punish a wayward die. You can set aside a glass of soda (Mountain Dew and Pepsi seem to work best). When the die fails drop it into the glass. Not only does this humiliate the die in front of its friends, but the soda will also slowly eat away the die.

I am sure you have heard the phrase 'walk softly and carry a big stick'. Ruling your dice through fear is a good start, but by itself it is often an unsuccessful tactic. You have to remember: like people, dice also have a social structure. D20s usually get the most respect, but D10s and D6s can be the big man on campus depending on what game system you use.

You can exploit this to your advantage.
Now we already suggested before the next session you put your dice into one large pool, and that you punish failure harshly. You also need to reward success. When a die meets or exceeds the target number that you have given it set it aside in a special area. I suggest making a small box lined with some sort of soft material (like felt). Praise the die before putting it in, and explain to the other dice that only the 'elite' dice are allowed to go to the special place.

This will cause competition to erupt between your dice. Some will be jealous of the successful die, and will try harder to win your affections. Others will be spiteful, and will still roll badly. The important thing is you have shifted the focus away from you. Rather than have all of the dice looking at you now they are competing with each other.

Over time you will learn which dice respect you, and which are not worth using. I recommend putting the useless ones in some sort of glass bowl or vase, and having them present when you play. But don't use them. Let them see how much fun the other dice are having. Eventually some of them will come around.

When you buy new dice make sure to only put them with your successful dice. New dice tend to adopt the prevailing attitude whenever they enter a new environment, and they will perform better if only exposed to other obedient dice. If you happen to buy any bad apples, just add them to the Vase.

One last important thing to remember about dice. Like people, some of them have more aptitude than others. Some really try, and find that they just can't roll those crits you want. Learn the capabilities of your dice, and be realistic in the numbers that you ask them to roll. Don't always push for 20s. In doing so you are putting your dice up to an impossibly high standard, and all will eventually fail. Settle for that thirteen or fifteen, and your dice won't disappoint you.

Now I know all this is a heck of a lot of effort to go through. But you have to ask yourself this question- if I am lazy why would I expect my dice to be any different? If you want to succeed, then you have to be tough. Remember, you are in charge! Not the dice, you!

WOW Arkelias, I have seen the light!

You need to come to Quebec City to show us the one true way. Gee would you consider giving a seminar, me and my friends could really use it. I'll have my people contact yours.

I've used the hammer on my bloodbowl dice and I once kept the shards in a ziplock, so the others would know what awaited them if they pissed me off too much.

But the vase and the padded box… that is awesome.

But, you got me thinking, what if I started using dice from lower social stratae to make my rolls. ex: using a D10 for my hit rolls in D&D, that would show the D20's… if only my DM were to allow that…
d4's in Bloodbowl would be very humiliating for those snotty D6's… but I've always found D4's to be chaotic and unstable it's as if they all suffer from bi-polar syndrome.

Thank you man


This has to be the most eye-opening article in the history of dice-operated gaming. You have a convert right here.

Yes, I am one of those countless masses who are constantly disrespected by their own polyhedrons. Now I must adopt the Doctrine of Fear to insure that my dice will obey my will.


If you really want to put your dice on an even playing field try playing Earthdawn. Every time you roll max on a die you roll again and add it to the total. So d4s get a chance to outroll those d20s!

Glad you guys liked the article. Its time we fought back against our dice!

I've found the Hammer Method of execution to be most effective when you take the offending die outdoors to a cement surface, and line up the other dice to observe the execution. One good swat with a hammer will send dice shards flying so far you'll never find them - and terrify your other dice into submission.

Starhawk::Dice Tyrant

Starhawk is right about the cement, I once left an impression of my BloodBowl dice on the kitchen floor... not too bright when angry am I...

I have a problem I hope you can help me with. I have this old, old (21 years dice). She was my first. But now all her fine lines are - well, not fine at all. She rolls around like some sort of no-sider rather than the trained d20 she was.
Once, it was 20's all the way. But now...crit failures by the bushel.
Is it laziness, or is she just ....sniff... all used up.
The hammer ? Or a place of pride on the mantlepiece.
Or do you think she can be saved?

I didn't touch on this point in the article, but I firmly believe in retiring dice when they are past their prime. I still have a set of dice from my first game almost twenty years ago. They worked hard for me, and have been given a place of honor amongst my dice. Rather than use them for rolls I keep them around for their experience and wisdom. The other dice respect them, and my veteran dice have taught the newcomers a lot.

Great article! I would say more but the construction workers are likly to blow up the burger king if i don't get back to them!

I tend to steep my set of black dice "Morte" on a text of Sun Tzu's Art of War. I don't use them with just any villain, but special baddies warrant their special power. The players get nervous when I uncask Morte.

GreyShirakwa, send your die out with a bang. It would be interesting to see if the old urban myth is true - does it shriek in the fire?

I must confess, I am an unusually lucky gamer, My dice obey me and fear me almost instinctivly, but sometimes they misbehave, now I know how to put the fear of doom into them.

However I have a better Idea for how to punish them, Loan your worst dice to the DM(or the players if you DM) then you get double benifits.(Maniacle laughter in the backround)

I have seen this tactic before Neuro, and it can be really risky. Dice that perform badly for you can turn into player killers really fast when given to a GM...

Hey Sam, how is that Bloodbowl game? Is it fun?

Blood Bowl is the only Games Workshop product I will admit to having and liking. A great game, not so expensive, easy to learn and a high re-play value makes it a very popular game up here.
Actually I think that when 3rd edition came out back in... 92? Quebec City had the highest sales rates in North America (per capita of course).

Fourth edition rules are available as a free document in PDF format. We're starting a new league in three weeks I'll keep you guys posted.

I always orient my dice with the highest number facing upwards -- it helps to train them by example to see which number we want them to roll.


I've had a similar experience. My dice became obediant to me almost instantly due to this.

My first ever gaming group was cheap with dice. Since I was the new player, they were always asking me to loan them dice. Well, our ST never remembered his dice, so he'd ask to borrow mine and I'd have to mooch from the players the rest of the session.

This, STs, is a critical mistake.

I had just purchased myself a nice, shiny set of 10 Vampre: the Masquerade d10s (they were out of the Werewolf ones, which was the game we were playing). I hadn't even opened the case when my ST said, "Eustacio, I want to borrow those dice tonight".

Botches and failures for the ST all night long.

On the positive side, these dice then started to serve me faithfully, as they remembered the cruel and harsh ST I had in the past. So, if you get new dice and your ST asks to borrow them, remember this technique. It'll bring you much good dice karma in the future.

Call me a paranoid, but I think the newer dice tend to be less well balanced than my old ones. I know I'm veering away from the subject here but, hear me out.

Coul Chessex and the others intentionnaly make bad rolling dice? Just so you had to buy new ones. I mean, I was so fed up with some of my dice always rolling badly that I tested them, just to see if they really were bad. And voila! They really were.

I rolled the D6's and D20's I had suspiscions about. Well after close to 30 rolls for each of the suspects. I finally found 2 D6 that actually rolled less than 2.5 average, the most frequent number they rolled was 1 (one out of four times). Tabarnak! you don't know how many crapy character's I've rolled because of those two bastards in the past year and a half! The D20's were below average but within standard deviation.

Funny thing is, the worst dice were all new real pretty transparent ones, my old opaque ones rolled real nicely.

Coincidence or not?

To keep into the spirit of my dice trainig program, I showed the traitors to the their compatriotes just before they were thrown into the garbage can.

Oh and I've added a twist to my training program.

There are four stages to it.

1 - All dice start in the big pouch. An old Tia Maria Gift bag that I've had since... 1991.

If they perform relly well, they get sent to the small satin bag, really comfy and nice with the elite. They remain their untill performance fall down (Stage 2).

If they perform badly they are sent to the pickle jar (yep it still smells like sweet pickles in there) Where they remain at least till the next game (Stage 3), where they get one last chance to prove themselves and get out of there. If they perform too badly it's to the garbage can or worst, the Hammer (Stage 4). Their remains are then inserted in the jar, to scare off the others.

It's possible for dice to skip the Tia Maria pouch and go straight to the jar or the satin bag, depending on how much effort they put.

Not only is this efficient, it's also more fun for me and my fellow gamers than hearing me curse about my bad dice rolls.

Chaos be with you fellow gamers.

G'day folks

Well - we have one of those gamers, I sent him the article - in the hopes that maybe he won't give up gaming completely on the strength of his amazingly poor rolling.
This guy once rolled 7 botches in a row in a vampire game - needless to say, it came at a most critical time, and as the ST I HAD to make the results ball-bouncingly amusing to save the party the crushing defeat they would have suffered!

However, when you have loaned this guy dice, they seem to gather bad habbits like fly paper - I have found that isolation seems to work well for the most part to make these troublesome dice re-evaluate their behavior. For best results - keep yourself a 'dice dungeon'

Keep up the good work!


I had a GM once who had a d20 that absolutely hated me.. and the other players, too, but mostly me.

One day I stole it and slowly crushed it to death in a shop vice.

Unfortunately, none of his other dice seemed intimidated; if anything, they almost seemed encouraged. I probably should have had them watch the execution, but I couldn't very well steal them all, and I doubt he would have been a willing participant in The Crushing.

Make of this what you will.

Well it took some time but it's starting to pay off.

There has been some Eugenism practiced on the content of my dice bag.

Actually the biggest gain is: I don't get as pissed off as I used to when I roll badly (a + for everyone around the table).

Still, I've eliminated badly ballanced dice which statistically roll bad. Refering to my adaptation of the training program, once I notice a dice keeps popping up in the pickle jar, I test it (roll at least 20 times or twice as many times as there are faces on the dice, whicever is highest) then I see if it is well ballanced or not.

I've thrown oun some die in the past few weeks.

I keep finding that the newest, pretiest die are, on average, much less ballanced than the old ones. My best ones are the oldest, they roll "normally" or better.

I'm sure Chessex and the other companies know their dice are badly ballanced and keep it that way so we keep buying new ones... or maybe I watched too many X-files in the 90's when the show was still good.

One guy in our group had a habit of rolling dice nearly constantly throughout the game to see which ones were 'rolling well'. It seemed to work, because every time he got a good roll on or around his turn, he would claim that was the roll for his turn. It worked, until I stopped him from 'testing' his dice.

Ive had a guy roll dice near other he had set up on good numbers. Not being a suspiscious GM, it worked until the players told on him after a perticularly bad game. Maudit Ghislain va...

One time, I asked if a certain action was possible. My DM said roll a 20. I picked up the dice without looking, confidently stared him straight in the eyes and rolled on the table(still without looking).

He looked down first and said, "I don't believe it, you suceed".

I've been plagued and vexed by my dice for years. Basically at this point i'll try anything. It truly has been uncanny how at every crucial juncture in the game i've never failed to roll a succession of 1's. i've tried everything from spitting dice out of my mouth to hurling them across the room to color coordinating them according to the foe, yet i still remain cursed; but I have a good feeling about public dice executions. I think i'll start our next session with it this weekend and scare the whole parties dice into submission. I mean, come on, at this point nothing could hurt, my dice have marshalled against me and curse my very existence...

I've heard rubbing your dice over the autograph of the game's creator works...:-)

Also, my cats tend to take offending dice and dispose of them in some fashion...

My jar is full.

Last monday, I rolled 1 ... 11 times for crying out loud. But only a few of those were critical rolls so no dice got the hammer.

I still maintain that the dice that got eliminated were poorly ballanced.

There are now broken dice shards at the bottom of the pickle jar, it serves as a reminder to the other inmates.

PS: I don't believe my training program should be applied to humans, pets, computers or household appliances. If you decide to use it in such a way, I will not be held responsible.

This reminds me of YU-Gi-Oh! (not the Duel Monsters series) Specifically the finale of the original manga series where his entire party fumbles one right after the other.

"My hand CHANNELS their anger! Into these dice!!"

Some methods of taming dice include hurling them across the room, setting them in the microwave on high and even chewing on them.