About Die and their use
The first place you want to check when you want something to know about dice is the RandomFandomClub (for the record D6 means 6-sided dice, D12 a 12-sided dice, etc.). Some pictures have been taken from Don Duecks' collections with permission and dicemania (permission pending)
In general die have numbers on their sides, but in many games the die have text or symbols on them to represent a effect. As a matter of fact, this doesn't change anything to game mechanic, as a number can refer to a description in the manual. Not just for convenience but also for 'the looks', you might want to play with special die. Typical those die contain 'deadheads' (to tell you you died or lost a unit, e.g. Games Workshop games), conflict signs (crosses, etc eg. Games Workshop games), percentages (meaning you lost or gained 0%, 20%, 40% of failed: e.g. Business), army abilities (DragonDice), doubling dice (Backgammon), Poker dice, etc. (see some Dragon Dice examples below)
This pages is setup in a few different paragraphs
Some common terminology:
Die come in all kind of shapes: 4,6,8,10,12,...,100,.. sided. In general die are numbered, according to the number of sides (e.g. 1 to 6 on a 6 sided die). Many games however come with different notation (e.g. letters or symbols). Below is a short overview on the different die and their use.
Numbered dice are the most obvious and used ones. They have been used for ages, especially the D6. I must say I'm still surprised that some people have never ever seen any other dice that a regular D6 dice.
A general D6 has the following layout (Sicherman layout):
Any other layout means you are dealing with a crook.
In case you are wondering you can have die in any range (use a coin for D2).
(from left to right: D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D16, D20, D30, D34, D100)
In addition, if you need a figure between 1-99, you can either roll a D100 or a combination of a regular d10 and the dice 10-sided dice below.
Oddly shaped dice
In the former paragraph, you could see that there is more to a dice than just a cube. However, all the die above are symmetrical. Here are some that aren't. As a matter of fact, you can be pretty sure they are biased, except for the ball.
Different 'normal' D6
Hmm, normal D6's heh? Here are some more D6's:
Loaded Dice: These are weighted to favour a particular number. It will
throw the desired number up to 90% of the time. All 6 numbers are available in
(die mentioned above are available at Highland Games)
A lot of word games use lettered D6's.
Letters can be used form words, or a single letter may indicate the starting letter of a word. Usually these type of die are used in 'Scrabble'-alike games.
Most die refer to things known to a player (numbers are there to count while letters are there to form words). In addition, many players are aware of play cards like below.
Here are a few other (odd) examples that are pretty illustrative :
D8 Poker die
Bowling dice and regular poker dice. In addition there are golfing die, cricket die, NHL die.....
More D&D die
Die, that use symbols, usually refer to some reference in a manual. Typical games that use symbol die are Warhammer (for shooting), Bloodbowl, etc. Other things that might be represented on a dice are
[note, this list is taken for Thatgamestore where you can actually buy these die]
DeathDice is not really an outstanding game. Throw die and add up until you throw one or two skulls. Player with largest sum wins.
Gaming die are typical games that use die as a major symbolization AND mechanic within the game (check also the collectable games mechanic pages). Typical examples:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Marvel Super Dice
Fortune Telling die
Throwing Stones (Gamesmiths, 1995)
Many many more.....
Die can be used in all kind of different situations that require random effects. Besides the 6-sided die, there are 4-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, 12-sided, 20-sided and 100-sided die (and probably there a lot more variations available) as allread shown above. Bby the way the 100-sided dice requires good eyes!. More usefull is buying a 10-sided dice with the figures 00,10,..90 in combination with a standard 10-sided dice. If you mark two 10-sided die differently you can use that as well (as matter of facts, you can generatie any number easily with different colored 10-sided die, as long as you identify upfront which color has which value (0-9 (single), 0-90 (tenths),0-900(hundreds),0-9000 (thousands), etc): throwing 1,4,2,7 would give you 7241.
Be carefull with replacing a large number dice by a few small large numbered dice: to give a an example, if you want a figure between 1 and 12, there are differences in chances when using a 12-sided dice versus two 6 sided die (most obvious one: you can't throw a one with 2 6-sided die)! But there is another, even more important difference. Look at the following table for retrieving a value between 1-12 bij a 12-sided dice, 2 6-sided die and 3 4-sided die.
(the following table is given as example of how to derive chances without extended knowledge of statistics). What you do is, you write down all the possible combinations and then count them)
This makes an interesting graph:
This graph tells you that the more die you use, the more chance there is to throw the avarage or close to average of the individual die (In statistical terms, there variance will diminish). This in fact simulates the 'normal' distribution (Gauss Distribution). So, if you want equal changes you need one dice or a different mechanic (take 12 cards numbered 1-12 and draw one randomly).
NOTE: common beginners statistics mistake: if you need a random figure, evenly divided between 2-12 you can't take 2 6-sided die as the graph above shows, as the chance to throw a figure of 7 or around is bigger that a figure of 2 or 12.
Another trick to use with die is to pick the best of a N-diced roll. Like in Risk you roll 3 die (as an attacker) and pick the two best rolls. For instance, the avarge of X-sided dice is (X/2)+0.5 (X=equal). The average of a 2dX-take-highest = [(X+1)*(4*X-1)/(6*X)] or, simplified 2x/3 + 1/2 - 1/(6x).
In general a dice is used to generate a figure 1-6. In fact you can generate any random number with normal die, but it needs a little trick. Say you need a figure between 1-5, use a six sided dice and ignore the 6. Unfortunately, if you need a figure between 1-100, you will need a lot of 6-sided die (and calculation) (non-evenly divided) (but remember: for an evenly distributed figure you may not! (NOT!) sum up the results as that would give you result of a normal distributed draw), of let's say or some large-sided die (e.g. 1 hundred sided dice) (evenly divided).
There trick however to avoid large numbers of die if you want to generate large numbers: with 2 standard die you can generate a number between 1 and 36, using one dice to generate an number 1-6 and another to generate (x-1) times 6. You need to identify those number upfront though (unless you want users to select themselves what dice to use for what, but that would not get an evenly devided outcome).
Example: suppose you throw a 5 (normal number) and a 3 (special, noted a 's'), that would generate the number 5 (dice 1) plus (3 (dice 2)-1) times 6 = 5 + 2x6= 16.If you would throw 1, 1 (s), that would generate a 1 ([1-1]*6 + 1 = 1), if you would throw 6,6 (s), that would generate 36 ([6-1]*6 + 6 =36). This trick is expandable, a third dice would add (x-1) times 36, giving you a random number between 1 and 216. With the N of six-sided die this would generate any number between 1 and 6N. To add variation, you may have the player decide which one is the special one. More simpel however is just buying 10 sided die, there are 10-sided die available stating 00, 10, 20,..., 90 and 000,100,200 to 900, thus you need only 3 die to roll a figure between 0 and 999 (why didn't I say that in the first place?).
Warning: using more than one dice to retreive a random number may/will change the propabilities! Be very carefull is you use more than one dice (see my note and the graphs above).
A dice in general (a standard D6) generates a number between one and six evenly. In some cases you want a dice to generate a 'true' random number, in some cases you want a dice to bring in a 'little' luck.
In the first case you just throw a DX. The second case is more interesting. Typical examples are Risk and Warhammer. An example: say the odds of winning are 6:5 (or something alike (close, but not equally), now how can you represent that with die or a least something that comes close:
1. Modifyers: give the attacker (6) a +1 modifier on his throw.
2. Have the attacker draw 6 six die and chose the highest five. Let the defender draw 5 die and then compare sums (note: this is statistically not 6:5 but more of an example to give you some idea's).
It's obvious that method 1 has a bigger variance that method 2, so method two would be more real-life (depending on the situation of course).