Where Can I Buy a Dicebag +5?

In my Pathfinder group, there’s a guy who recently bought a used set of crystal dice (that is, transparent dice) from a former member. And I have to tell you…these dice are magical.

Ever since he got them, this player has rolled spectacularly well. It’s not unusual for his d20, for example, to see around eight natural 20’s in a single session, and most of his other rolls are in the high teens. This d8 tends to roll 7’s and 8’s more often than other numbers. Even his four-siders turn up a disproportionate number of 4’s.

Now, we’ve all made jokes about how lucky his dice are, and even kidded that they must be loaded, but I’m honestly beginning to wonder if they are improperly weighted. Unfortunately, there’s no way that I know of to conclusively check, and asking/telling/demanding that he not use them seems petty, since without definitive proof it just makes me look jealous of his presumed luck.

It also seems, to me anyway, that he’s begun to overshadow the rest of the group thanks to his unbelievable rolling. When everyone else is undergoing a tense battle to bring down their own foes, this guy’s erudite (a variant psion, from WotC’s Complete Psionic) will invariably blast the enemies around him to cinders in one or two shots. There’s still dramatic tension, of course, but a significant amount of it is being undercut thanks to the Superman in our midst.

Given that this seems like an unsolvable problem – how do you nerf a set of miracle dice?  – I’m asking for suggestions. Is there any definitive way to tell if dice are loaded? I really want to check his, if only to put this issue to rest once and for all. If not, what should I do about the fact that this player is simply doing too well?

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5 Responses to “Where Can I Buy a Dicebag +5?”

  1. Will Says:

    With the dice being transparent, that actually makes it easier to determine if they’re ‘crooked’ or not. I’m assuming these are ‘Crystal’ Dice in that they’re made of transparent acetate, but in the event that they’re plastic the first and hardest way to rig them is the old microwave trick; put the dice in the microwave with the desired face up and zap it for a few seconds it takes practice to get it right, but if done correctly it will cause the plastic to melt slightly and ‘pool’ at the bottom, making that face heavier, but with no noticable visual distortion.

    Barring that, another possibility is that the actual numbers in the dice have been weighted slightly; you can check this by examining the numbers and seeing if some of them are cut deeper than others.

    Given the fact that the dice are used, by far the most likely reason is pure wear and tear; check the edges of the dice. If the edges are all razor sharp then it’ll be a very precise dice, if the edges are instead all rounded then the dice will be less precise. What you’re looking for is a mix of these edges; if some edges are really sharp and others are rounded then the dice will have uneven traction as it rolls which will influence the rolls.

    Additionally, check the number arrangements of the dice; the numbers on a d20 should be mixed in such a way as that any given side has an equal amount of high and low numbers. If the 1, 2 and 3 faces are all adjacent to each other and the 20, 19 and 18 faces are all adjacent to each other on the opposite side, you’ve probably got a crooked dice. Ovbiously if the numbers on opposite sides of the dice don’t add up to 21 (max roll + 1) then that’s another indicator of crooked dice.

    Ultimately though, i wouldn’t start trying to check the dice right away. Talk to the player about it, say that you’re concerned there may be something iffy with the dice and that you’d like to test them out a bit. I doubt he’s intentionally cheating, although it is possible, and if it is intentional you’ll probably be able to tell easily enough as he’ll probably refuse.

    If he lets you test them, grab a piece of paper and start rolling, mark down the result of each roll on the paper, you’ll need to roll the dice alot, a hundred times at least, preferably more, but if they are crooked to any significant degree it will be ovbious. Don’t worry if you don’t get precisely 5% on all results, you probably won’t, but if one number is showing up 10 or 20% of the time, or a group of numbers are showing up significantly more often than they should (which would be the case if the high numbers are all together and the dice is weighted).

    If he doesn’t let you test them, record the numbers during a game instead. It’ll take longer, but you’ll get the same result.

    What you will -probably- find is that the dice are in fact about normal for your standard set of used dice; not exactly perfect, but close enough for all practical purposes. You’re just paying attention to the good rolls and discounting the bad ones; everyone does this, it’s why your memories of things always seem to be better than the reality.

    If, after testing the dice you’re still concerned they may be crooked, keep a log of the rolls during the game; if the player’s rolls vary by a significant amount across multiple games and rolls then he may be employing trick rolling methods. I know it’s possible to roll d6’s in such a way as to increase the odds of them landing on a given side, in theory it should be doable on other dice as well, although it would probably be less precise the more sides the dice has.

    • Will Says:

      Woo, look at that wall of text XD

      Anyway, i forgot to reiterate; talk. to. the. player. Nothing undermines trust and authority faster than discovering that someone you thought was your friend is secretly investigating you behind your back. It is possible he is intentionally cheating, but given the dice are used it’s far more likely they’re just ‘dead’.

      • alzrius Says:

        Wow, thanks for the in-depth reply!

        I really don’t think that this player is intentionally cheating, and as I mentioned we’ve all been joking with him about how he so often rolls well, though I think I may have voiced that often enough that he knows I’m suspicious now.

        That said, I’ll probably do a combination of recording his die rolls from now on and (if he lets me) rolling his dice a hundred times or more and logging the results.

        Ultimately, I suppose that (presuming they are rolling unevenly) the reason that his dice are rolling so consistently high is less important than what to do about it. Whether they’re weighted wrong of just have rounded edges, if I do find that they really do roll higher than they should, something will need to be done.

        I’m all for having a really great set of dice, but luck should be the only thing that makes them so great.

      • Will Says:

        If they dice are crooked, either intentionally or no, then you can’t really use them.

        The purpose of dice is to create variable random results, if the dice are crooked they’re not producing random results and they’re defeating the purpose of having dice in the first place. Might as well just have the players pick a number they like for their attack rolls.

        I’d imagine if you find the dice are rolling high and show the player your proof, he’s not going to hold it against you if you say he can’t use the dice, hell if i was playing a D&D game and found out my dice were crooked, i’d retire them on my own; no point in playing with crooked dice.

  2. Thoth Says:

    The easiest way to test them is to simply roll them for awhile and keep a record of the distribution. There are various statistical methods to calculate whether or not any given result is reasonably likely (the Chi-Square calculation is probably easiest) – but for all practical purposes, eyeballing the results of a hundred or so rolls will usually give you a pretty good idea. A simple single die should have a roughly even distribution over enough rolls.

    The vast majority of dice are quite fair enough for gaming purposes; it’s been a truism for decades that everyone remembers the “20” that was rolled at a critical moment, but forgets all the bad rolls at other times.

    Personally, I usually just make sure that outcomes are decided by the quality of the players decisions, rather than by the rolls of the dice.

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