Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Hey, there's a bandwagon!

Look while I jump on it.

And as always when faced with a carefully reasoned argument I will descend into barely-coherent semi-mysticism with an opinion I worked out in a daydream, based on 'a feeling I had once'. Like a dirty hippy jumping onto a bus full of lawyers heading to the conference. "Hey guys, lets talk about totems!"

Basically dice are magic. They make you feel different. And since none of the rules make that much sense anyway you should go for the invisible feeling cause' its the most real thing at the table maaaaan.

We found a guys wallet on the street a few days ago and to find out who he was and how to give it back we had to root through it and get all up in his bizznes. (Guy needed to stop going to pawn shops). Anyway, doing that made me think about what would/will happen why my body is pulled off the train tracks and the paramedics root through my pockets for ready cash, what will they find and what will that say about me?

A fucking nerd is what it says. All of the Vast and Starlit nano-games plus the Citadel Of Evil pocketmod and no fucking money. One thing I don't have in there are the green minidice I got with the LOTFP grindhouse edition but that's just because they are lumpy and that fucks up the lines of my moneyless wallet.

The reason they will peg me right on the dice is because so far as I know they have never found another use outside RPG's. They are a shibboleth for a certain kind of person and a totem of cultic activity. What is the symbol of RPG's? What shows up on T-Shirts and mugs? The Icosahedron.

And they are strange things even independent of that. A clutch of platonic solids that someone carries around. Perfect little bags of angles, clearly part of a group yet each having its own personality. They are strange to hold in the hand. they weigh differently. The shape effects how you pick them up. The grip of your fingers. How you throw them down. The 20, most spherical, needs lightness, it'll roll off the table if you let it. But if you use the same force on the four it may land flat. That one needs a tip and a whack to roll right. The eight can be tricky with its landings, the six is dependable. The ten has mixed motives and soaks up hidden status from its side job as half of the d100. The twelve is always in the twenty's shadow. Never as useful, never as glamorous. It even has its own affirmative action site.

So with every action of play your kinetic senses are interacting with these strange objects and the way the occupy space. Your rational mind probably doesn't even register it much but do you think it doesn't leave a trace. Everything your body does effects thought. Limb position and movement can affect memory recall and if it can do that it can do other things.

When you are holding a bigger weapon in your hand you are holding BIGGER DICE. Not only bigger but more complex and more subtle to the grip. It feels different. Your characters weapon is matched by the feeling in your hand. None of you are going to give that up for good. You can cold turkey on sixes with talk of rules and reason but your body remembers holding that four and senses you don't even notice are itching for it.

Interesting shapes are interesting. They make the ritual more powerful. And you are engaged in a ritual, not a series of blank instructions. Look at everything around RPG's that is so ruinously impractical. Why are the books so massive? Why so many oddly-shaped things? The workings of capital? Maybe. But deep in your heart you know the books need to be big and look visibly strange. There need to be glyphs.

I am not joking. People need rituals and ritual spaces. Every time we try to take them away they spring back. Look at the flowers at crash sites, the sneakers hanging from wires. You are getting five or six people to put enough energy into an imaginary world to make it semi real for a few hours. That is not a rational thing. It cannot be reduced to reason.  I mean think about it man, people thought we worshipped the devil. I mean, Americans are mental but they don’t say that shit about cribbage. They couldn’t say it. Think about all the games you couldn’t reasonably paint as devil worship. Think about the bright, rational, open things they have in common. Then think about D&D. Its closed, its hermetic, it’s a fucking ritual. The Christians pegged it right, kind of. They sensed a rival faith and pattern recognition filled it in with Satan. But they felt something the rational world couldn’t, or wouldn’t notice. They kicked off at theatres back in the day and you can see why. Something powerful and strange happens when people physically gather in a closed space to act a story. It’s not religion, but its numinous, a little bit. Cracked religious people will feel the radiation coming off that act because they have it too.

Polyhedral dice mark the boundary between our world and the space of the imagined world. They do this better than six sided dice on their own in the same way that the pyramids do something better than a sign saying 'dead pharaoh here'.

The contrast between the shapes and their occupation of the same vertical plane in close conjunction, their constant re-arrangement but continual association. This creates and kind of tactile-kinetic signature in your mind. It helps you enter THE OTHER WORLD.

(I had a rational argument about how the damage die don’t necessarily indicate ‘one blow=one die roll’ and you can still have long abstract turns because they actually incorporate or ‘hide’ part of the attack roll inside the damage die. So a d4 isn’t necessarily the damage a knife does when it hits you, it’s the amount of damage it might do, over a round, compared to a sword over the same period of time. But fuck that. I will argue MAGIC)


  1. Anything so I don't have to roll 4-siders. Man I hate those things.

    1. I'm with you 10,000 percent. That's why I love these 12-sided d4's. All hail the d12, and its infinite uses!

  2. This is too beautiful a post for me to discover immediately before departure to work.
    I am a little bit synaesthetic (as are many people when they think about it) and I have always found d4s clattering and jangly like a shopping trolley accident, d6s solid and earthy and authoritative like choreographed thunder, d8s like actual combat, kinetic and violent, d10s like a machine in a factory with wheels that can amputate your hand, d12s similar to d6s - thunderously solid and weighty but with a bit of d8's combativeness, d20s are too slick and fast, they yearn for escape, even when they are just sitting there innocuously they dream of rolling far, they yearn for the prairie.

    1. For me the ones who want to escape are d12s. I have this pink d12 with slightly curved edges which might as well be a ball, that's how far it rolls.

  3. Absolutely. I like the ritual, I like the feel and the aesthetic. I don't care about streamlining I care about MAGIC.

  4. I think we should get as much ritual into stuff as we can. Determining outcomes by dropping a load of coins onto the table, by putting your cat in the middle and seeing where she goes. Spells you have to perform using real-life supplies - draw a protection circle in actual salt, if you scuff it the demon gets out.