Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Of dice and (little) men...

Have you noticed it recently? The new trend in tabletop gaming? I'm talking about the dice dude. Yes, the dice. It is a slow, but creeping trend amongst manufacturers of games to make their dice, those innocent pieces of plastic used to generate random numbers, a proprietary part of their game.

Back in the day, when Dungeons & Dragons first hit the shelves, you needed some unusual polyhedral dice to play it. Lucky owners of the D&D Basic set, the famous red box, had a set of dice that game with it. But one of the crazy - and funky - things about the new game was the dice. It was novel.

Today game designers are beginning to realise they can make MORE money by also requiring that proprietary dice be used with the game. A good example is War of the Ring, where there is a set of dice that plays a key role in dictating what both players can do in any given turn. Similarly, Commands & Colours has its own set of dice for determining combat results. This is all fine, as the dice come with the game.

Action dice for War of the Ring

However...Blood Bowl was one of the first games to dictate that the player needed to own a special set of dice to play it. The conventional d6 was no longer sufficient. The recent Saga Dark Ages miniatures rules from Gripping Beast needs its own set of dice, and requires that each faction in the game use a different set. Your Anglo Danes use different dice from your Norse.

Typical faction dice set for Saga

Fantasy Flight has leaped onto the bandwagon, with special dice for its new version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and it seems as if its new Star Wars game will go the same way. Cubicle 7 has produced special dice for use with its One Ring RPG, and wait for it, even the recent Bolt Action WW2 miniatures rules from Warlord has special orders dice you can buy from Warlord for that complete experience.

Dice set for the One Ring RPG
Dice are easy to lose too. I own dozens of d6s and d20s, so losing one here or there is not a problem. But some games are now going to be hostage to having the right dice. And replacing them won't be cheap. Oh no. I was recently quoted £16 for a set of Saga dice. I doubt there's much we can do about this trend - games manufacturers have obviously realised that linking a game to sets of 'special' dice gives them the opportunity to make a few more bucks on the side.

I'm all for innovative mechanics in miniatures games and RPGs, but I wonder whether these can still be achieved using conventional dice...

1 comment:

  1. You can -- we did! -- use standard d6s and d12s for The One Ring, but I don't think you could do the same with WFRP3 without also having some sort of conversion table close at hand.