Hello to dedicated readers and the errant link-wanderers alike, it is time for another fitful post on The Marmot Report. I’ve risen early in the morning, assisted in no small part by a recent bout of insomnia, to commit some more ideas to the vast vastness that is, The Internet. This time around I would like to riff on the subject of the role playing game (or, RPG for the uninitiated). The subject is not tied to a particular RPG though I use D&D as my reference, or the tortuous process of getting people in a single place at a single time to play which most consider a meta-game, as the likelihood of getting 6-9 people’s schedules to match up is just as fantastical a scenario as cleaving an bugbear in half.
But lo, no, I am not here to discuss those things which I have just discussed. I am here to talk on the subject of…
Dice and stuff.
Yes, I am referring to the trappings of the RPG. The products that you can buy that may or may not be directly related to the game and in most cases are unnecessary, or at least not necessary in bulk. Things such as dice, notebooks, sourcebooks, dice, backpacks (yes, backpacks), miniatures, hero vaults, dice, pouches, you get the idea. These items are not required to play the game (probably with the exception of dice, which as I said may be necessary, but not in the quantities I currently possess), but help you to feel as though you are immersing yourself in the game. They enhance the experience by way of giving one the ability to imbue a physical object with the essence of the gaming sessions and lend a feeling of uniqueness and occasion. It is a physical connection to that which exists only in our minds. It is tactile. It is real. It is a great way to get rid of the random bits of cash you think you have laying around.
Gaming can be thought of as a hobby, and starting a new hobby can be a wonderful thing. A hobby can involve physical or mental challenges that push you past your comfort zone, or a way to do exactly the opposite, to lessen the load on your mind and body temporarily of day-to-day nonsense and rigors, a spa-day for your psyche and soles, if you will. A hobby can be viewed as something that will get you out of the house, or at least out of your partner/roommate/parent’s hair, which is generally considered to be a good thing.
Like almost any hobby, there are various levels of investment. In the realm for tabletop roleplaying, and again for this I’m using Dungeons and Dragons as a reference point, all you really need is a set of polyhedral dice, your character sheet, a pencil, and a GM who isn’t out to TPK the lot of you at the first roll of a Nat1 (don’t worry, these terms will be explained at the conclusion of the post). That’s it, that is all you need. You can get into it for about $10. If you’re feeling bold and want to toss another Hamilton into the mix you could get a starter kit which includes basic rules for both playing and running a game, as well as a set of dice. If you’re spending over $20, you’re probably doing something wrong though for reasons that will become clear, I’m not going to judge you. It could be argued that in the case of D&D, you could opt to skip the starter set and go right to purchasing of the Players Handbook, which depending on where you purchase it from can bring the initial investment to around $40. That’s it. That’s all you need. Unless…
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE
Once you get a taste for it, you start to become aware of those things that enhance and your hobby. The supplemental items. The sourcebooks. The miniatures. The rolling tray. The grid mats. The dice.
Oh, the goddamn dice.
AND IF YOU ACT NOW
I would venture to say that it starts with the dice. There are all sorts of dice out there in all manner of material. With the boom of roleplaying the last several years, there have been tons of entrants into the field of dice making and they have arrived at every price point. You can pick up a fully functional, completely useful, utterly serviceable and perfectly fine set of plastic dice for around $7. You roll them onto a surface and they show a number. Simple. Easy-peasy.
But if you are foolish enough to peek down the rabbit hole of polyhedral dice, an entire world opens to you. Dice of every material and price point present themselves for purchase, ready to make your roleplaying experience more unique and satisfying. There are plastic dice, metal dice, stone dice, bone dice, wood dice, and there are probably dice out there made of Bolivian mountain beaver shit and dice comprised of gluten free compressed corn husk shavings. I don’t know if there are beavers in the mountains of Bolivia or if one actually can shave a corn husk, but you get my point.
When I first started out, I went for the generic bag-o-dice. You get 100 or so mass-produced plastic dice. More dice than you could likely want or realistically use. You toss them in a ziplock bag or if you are feeling classy you repurpose that Crown-Royal pouch which until last night cradled a bottle in its felty caress.
But you discover specialty plastic dice, with sharp edges that roll more “true” and are less susceptible to the issue of statistically landing on specific numbers (you see the polishing process makes most dice egg shaped and so…..eh, go see for yourself). They cost a little more of course, but isn’t it worth it for the piece of mind of knowing that your character’s fate is truly random? (NOTE: Most reasonable people don’t give a flip which is…perfectly reasonable)
You have your first couple play sessions out of the way. You’ve got your dice situation sorted out. Maybe you’ve picked up a extra set or two because you liked the color or you got tired of having to re-roll your d4 multiple times. You’re having fun but one of your fellow players shows up with a small box-like object, the bottom lined with a mat of oiled leather. Curious, you ask what it is and they inform you that it is a “dice tray”.
“Oh”, you exclaim, “So you’re not rolling off of the table and onto the floor. Nice”
“Well yes, ” your fellow player replies, ” but it’s so I don’t ding the table when I roll.”
“I just got some metal dice.” Your playmate presents his new metal dice.
You stare in awe. A hunger grows deep inside you. Inside your wallet your credit card screams as if the holds of a thousand impulse purchases were just placed on your credit card. You are now trapped in the trappings. Roll for initiative.
To be continued (maybe)
GM = Game Master (more woke than Dungeon Master). The individual who manages the rules, creates and narrates the story/adventure, and rapidly loses or gains friends during gaming sessions due to arbitrary decisions that make no sense but whatever, sure, just do that, I don’t care, I totally should have made that jump over the ravine.
TPK = Total Party Kill. A game master places the players in a scenario that results in the death of all the characters. This happens when the GM hates everyone they are playing with, has someplace that they forgot they needed to be and has to screw out early or, it is the third session in a row that nobody has offered to chip in for the food and beer.
Nat1 = Natural 1. In the game of D&D, a roll of an actual 1 or 20 are considered “natural” and can have spectacularly good results (20 – you swing your sword and cut a dude’s arm off) or fantastically bad results (1 – you swing your sword and cut your own arm off). You can have rolls of 20 that are not “natural”. For example, if you are playing a character that has a bonus +2 to a particular skill and you roll an 18, the result is 20 but it isn’t a nat20.
Woke = I have zero idea what the hell this means but use it to give the appearance of…something.