Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Fair Shake

That gamers have a lot of superstitions regarding dice is an understatement. Over the course of the three decades I've been involved in this hobby, I've seen a lot of weird dice-related rituals, from only using a "lucky" die to rolling dice in a particular way to "ensure" a propitious result. So, I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise to see this ad in issue #76 (August 1983) for a "dice device" called the Fair Shake:
Given the expense and the complication, I have a hard time imagining that any gamer except the truly gadget-obsessed would buy something like this. I remember being quite baffled by this ad, wondering why anyone would pay $12.95 plus $2.00 for shipping and handling for something that doesn't do anything that you can't do more easily with your own hands -- but then gamers often buy all sorts of crazy stuff that doesn't make any sense to me.

27 comments:

  1. I remember seeing plans somewhere for building one of these out of scrap wood & some felt. Can't remember if it was in Dragon, the Polyhedron, or one of the other "back in the day" magazines.

    A couple of us used it as shop class projects, but quickly went back to hand rolling.

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  2. I knew several players who would fudge die rolls when you weren't looking, and a few who seemed to be able to get a 20 more than 1 in 20 times with careful rolling, and several who could get whatever number they wanted on a d6 have the time with careful rolling. Spontaneously gating in Type IV Demons helped with this problem, but I could see someone wanting a more direct approach.

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  3. I think the other name for these are dice towers. I happened to pick one up as part of the Free RPG Day this year. You know what? It works good and the dice don't travel all over the place.

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  4. I agree that dice towers seem pointless, especially for the 30 bucks that i see them for now. But when i started playing with my kids, i considered building a cheap one. I think we spent more time fishing dice off the floor than actually playing. Plus the boys do like gadgets and gizmos...

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  5. Dice on the floor, dice disturbing pieces, people "funny rolling"… there are plenty of good reasons for these, but more in wargames than RPGs I've found.

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  6. If I remember correctly, for most of dicing history, the hands were actually not used that often. Dice were either cast from a cup, or tossed into a dice tower (which have been around for thousands of years). I believe the concept of "hand rolling" dice as a common convention only came about in the 19th century.

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  7. Dice were either cast from a cup, or tossed into a dice tower (which have been around for thousands of years).

    Yes, that's true, I believe. Backgammon players, for example, typically use a cup (or at least they did when I was a child), as do many dice-related casino games.

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  8. I saw a video somewhere which showed that not only is hand rolling dice biased, but most dice are biased as well, they tend to land on one side more than other. It pays to buy high quality dice, and a dice tower if you really want to achieve something close to random. Even better is electronic number generator but never could see the fun in that.

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  9. I know an occasional gamer who has one of these. He thinks it's awesome but all its does is take longer for him to roll dice and then no one else can see the results because the landing area has a wall around unlike the pegs in the picture above.

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  10. but most dice are biased as well, they tend to land on one side more than other

    If the dice are not weighted properly, they will bias to a side. Most RPG dice are fairly cheap and are not properly weighted. This is very different from casino dice, which are heavily regulated.

    And for many RPG dice, the plastic is low quality enough that the dice are susceptible to microwaving (which does work, but it only increases the bias -- it does not guarantee a roll).

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  11. I thought about getting one for the times I GM because I thought it would be neat to use when i'm making secret rolls behind my GM screen.

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  12. I built one as my final project for Junior High woodshop, based only on the photos in the Dragon review. It worked pretty well but we all hated using it. Why reach across the table to drop the dice in and ask the nearest player to read the results when you can just pick up the dam things and give them a throw?

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  13. I built one out of Legos, but I've seen others from Legos, that will roll the dice for you at the push of a button....

    I also found a guy at Origins last year that was selling $5 ones made of cardboard. They were plain white, so that one could decorate it.

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  14. These are practically a hobby unto themselves now, aren't they?

    http://boardgamegeek.com/tag/dice%20tower

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  15. dice towers are popular with wargamers. Mainly because they keep the dice corralled.

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  16. I second turnerhooch's observation about these being around forever. In the late '60s in Wisconsin, I remember seeing my grandma and aunts using them for Yahtzee. These were shorter than the one in the ad and were basically just a wooden box with two slanted baffles inside.

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  17. Off topic... you changed your Grognardia banner...

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  18. As someone who personally has a dexterity of 1 and had the unfortunate tendency for dice to go flying from his hands (and whose local wargame club actually named this "manoeuvre" after him), I do like the idea of controlling dice in some manner, although we never noticed dice towers until recently (otherwise people probably would have raised a collection to buy me one).

    One method is to use a bamboo or leather Cho-Han cup, which is slammed down on the table (use a mat to avoid damage to the table) and then lifted to reveal the dice thrown. Works well for games where their is a confrontation with another player, as you can reveal at the same time, or where multiple dice are thrown to form a "hand" (such as the Tali dice in Fulminata). Less so for games where only one die is rolled repeatedly (where in my case it often just serves as a catapult).

    And why do it? Well to prove that there is no sleight of hand going on, as it's really easy to manipulate die rolls if you throw by hand. My rolls may be wild but no one can say they are fixed. And also, in Dwimmermount terms, to honour The Lady. <grin>

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  19. Off topic... you changed your Grognardia banner...

    I did. A No-Prize to you for being the first to notice.

    Basically, I wanted something similar to my original one but that didn't use an image whose copyright was held by a corporation, so a kind reader offered me this one as a replacement.

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  20. I never had a dice tower, but one of my regular players back in the day was so adept at manipulating his dice rolls that I started requiring dice be rolled from a vigorously shaken cup into a cardboard box.

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  21. A new player in my group "hey guys I have a dice tower that I can bring to the gaming space"

    Me (aghast at the speed bumps involved with using one) "please... ...no..."

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  22. I've got a dice tower. I made mine out of stoneware in a pottery class. I agree with James, they are kind of pointless, but still, it was fun to make and it's definitely unique. I've posted a couple pictures on my blog.

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  23. I got a dice tower about a year ago. Interestingly enough, the teenager in my gaming group (the rest of us are at least 34 years old) uses my tower more than I do. He is fascinated with it.

    As far as functionality goes, it does do a good job of randomizing the dice, but so would many other methods as others have pointed out. I can say from experience that pyramidal d4s tend to just slide along the baffles, so I don't use those in the tower anymore.

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  24. I have a dice tower that a friend gave me for Xmas. At first I thought of it as the ultimate silly geek gag gift. But given that we play in small apartment, with a small round table and players sprawled around the couch next to a narrow coffee table, the tower helps keep the dice from skittering all over the floor as they seemed to do every other roll. So I like them now.

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  25. There has been a spike in dice towers for sale at Gen Con, so I've had the opportunity to play with a few. They make a satisfying clatter and involve needless technology, so they appeal to me. I never got one because of the space they require. I find my RPG session tabletops cluttered enough.

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  26. We use these when playing Descent. The ones we use are handmade, including one from Lego :)

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