Awesome Dice!

(For those just tuning in, I usually strive for a bit meatier content; fluff posts like this are intended to be rare.)

This has been a good spring for dice. Not that I needed any more. But I received the rewards for backing a couple cool crowdfunded projects, as well as a belated Christmas present. I thought I’d share partly just ’cause I think they’re cool, and partly to provide a little shout-out for the various creators.

First up are lava dice, carved from the lavas of Mount Vesuvius by Escape Studios. I’m having a little trouble tracking down exactly what they’re made of, but Vesuvius’ flows appear to consist of felsic materials, which makes them extremely hard and dense. The creators compare them to marble, and I can attest that the dice I have at least approach the hardness of marble, though they’re not as smooth as you’re probably used to for marble. I got a set of Fudge dice, half painted and half not (for those tricks with Fudge dice that some games use), and then one of their “dungeon dice”. Unfortunately, they didn’t get here while we were still playing Dresden Files, though I’m not sure I’d want to roll them on our coffee table without a pad. Maybe I’ll get to use them at Gen Con. 

Next, we have some dice that I absolutely needed: d14s, d18s, and d22s! Also a couple d7s that are far funkier looking than the other ones I have. If you don’t understand why I need these, I don’t think it’s possible to explain it. ;-)

Here is a small pile of d6s numbered in Japanese. If you don’t remember your Japanese numbers from Sesame Street, they’re pretty easy to read–just count the number of strokes that make up each character. These were a reward for backing Tenra Bansho Zero on Kickstarter. 

Inspiration Dice are similar to some other writing tools I’ve seen through the years, though the first I’ve seen them as dice–usually they’re cards. The different colors are different categories of inspiration: plot twists, genres, and two sorts of character traits. They’re better made than most dice with words–engraved, not just painted, so they should last a long time. 

Dice rings aren’t technically dice, but they’re close enough. Give it a spin, and you can roll your dice anywhere, no surface (flat or otherwise) required. This is a “his & hers” set: my wife got a 2d10 ring, and I got a 4dF ring. 

Dice Cards aren’t even sorta dice, but they are a great dice substitute. A deck of cards with pretty much every randomizer you’re likely to use, and some you aren’t, distributed across them. Need a die roll (or domino, or whatever)? Pull a card and find that die on it and read the result. It’s a nice deck of cards, coated and very readable. They don’t necessarily take up less space than a basic set of dice, despite the creator’s claims, But they also don’t need a place to roll, and are a nice flat square shape that’s easy to pack. 

Tool Cards are getting even further from typical dice–but their content are very much along the same lines as Inspiration Dice, so I think they can go here. Each card in the basic set has 9 things on it: 7 inspirational terms or phrases (1 in each of 7 categories) and a pair of random numbers. I also got a couple smaller add-on decks that are more narrowly themed–one on wards and another of traps.

The Clockwork Drama card deck is an interesting beast. The closest thing I can think of is the Drama Deck from Masterbook. Like that deck, Clockwork Drama has a mix of mechanical and narrative/roleplaying effects. However, it’s not tied to any particular system, so most of the mechanical effects either manipulate the cards themselves (swap a card with another player), or are relatively generic effects that should work in almost any RPG (roll again, use the better of the two rolls). The few I saw with numerical effects were on an appropriate scale for D20 System or Savage Worlds (or Hero System, GURPS, and quite a few others); they would work but be more significant with Storyteller, Gumshoe, or Fudge/Fate, and would be too small to matter in BRP. Of course, that’s easily fixed with a multiplier applied across the board. And it’s interesting how they go out of their way to clearly keep the GM in charge. For example:

Play this card when a rival or enemy humiliates or defeats your character. The rival or enemy WILL suffer negative consequences as a result of their victory. (The Game Master decides the details.)

On the one hand, this seems like unnecessary micromanagement when the whole point of the card deck is to shift some of the authorial authority to the players in traditional-style RPGs. On the other hand, this sort of explicit delimiters may be exactly what is required to make a group that is used to the usual division of authority in traditional RPGs comfortable with giving this deck a try.

Finally, I do have one actual criticism: over half of each card is taken up with art. In most cases the art adds nothing [flipping through just now, the art on the Eulogy card is both appropriate and evocative, but I’d say it’s the exception], but it still takes space so that the actual parts of the card–it’s title, the mechanical effects, and a 1-to-5 rating (of “power”?)–are smaller than they would otherwise be. The art really isn’t the point of a card deck like this. What’s more, the art has a lot of cheesecake in it, which would be annoying enough if it were on-topic cheesecake, but in most cases, as with the non-cheesecake art, it’s not even particularly evocative of what the card is talking about. The art chosen feels like they had 150 pieces of already-created art to choose from, 100 cards to put art on, and grabbed the best they could; sometimes it’s a great match, mostly it’s not.

So, overall, I definitely recommend this deck, but you’ll probably end up ignoring the art, and I recommend you worry less about the strictures and let players run with it when they play a card.

These aren’t all dice, but they are all randomizers and play aids for RPGs, so they’re close enough in my book. ;-) 

Finally, my Xmas present: dice carved from spalted Norway maple, in a nice handmade box, from Artisan Dice. As cool as everything on this page is, and despite being “just” d6s, these are probably my favorite dice. They’re gorgeous, and have a wonderful feel–great texture, perfect weight, and with a nice clatter when rolled. 


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