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  • Writer's pictureRobey

#diceday - The Forgotten God of Dice

The d12. Ah, the d12.

I could probably wax poetic if I were so inclined, but I'll spare you my tortured attempt at verse and acknowledge, to no one's surprise, the that d12 is far and away my favourite of the polyhedral pantheon.

It rolls well, is easy to read, has great hand-feel, is a Platonic solid, aligns with familiar concepts like a clock face, imperial measurements and a 360-degree circle, and it has a pleasing aesthetic beyond that. Each face on a d12 is a pentagon, and the pentagon and its close cousin the pentagram can be found in classical imagery, mythology and mystery cults throughout the millennia. I promised not to get poetic, but the human brain and our evolutionary fixation upon pattern recognition sees something intuitively special in a pentagon that a square just can't match. A square is humdrum, everyday, accessible. But a pentagon is mystical and transcendent.

Yeah, yeah. It's just a dice.

I first picked up a d12 before I was a teenager, when my older brother introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons in its second edition incarnation, at the height of the 80s Satanic Panic. He quickly lost interest, but I remained in equal parts mystified and fascinated by the game. But I soon graduated to miniatures games and Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader and the d6. My brother's old d12s were still around, somewhere. I still have them - here they are:

I didn't re-discover the d12 until I was in my 30s and looking to develop a miniatures game. The game itself would eventually be Skrapyard, a black powder fantasy skirmish game that my patrons now have access to, but which is otherwise deep, deep on the back-burner of my projects. I made a lot of mistakes trying to develop and launch Skrapyard, but one thing stayed with me: the d12. I picked it for Skrapyard almost on a whim. It seemed like a neglected thing. It would make the game distinctive. It was largely a gimmick. But, having picked it, it was soon clear to me what a versatile and interesting tool it was.

So when I got back onto the game design horse with MechaWar - the game that would eventually become Horizon Wars - it was an easy go-to and it's really only since then that I've come to appreciate its value.

It's not perfect. It is a little too prone to cocked results (not so much as a d20, but much more than a d6), and it is extortionately expensive to try to get custom d12s made, compared to d6s. It's not as easy to use, like a d6, d8 or d10, in combination rolling (where you roll two or more dice and add up the results).

But, given how many positive aspects it does have, it astonishes me that it's not more widely used. The number 12 is so much a part of our intuitive relationship with mathematics that, for a good portion of our early history, we probably counted in base-12 (whether counting in base-12 came before we split the year into 12 months and the day into 12 hours* or as a result of that is still subject to debate).

Anyway, the up-shot is that you can expect Precinct Omega games to be built of d12s for the foreseeable future.

*yes, I know it's 24 hours, but originally the day was 12 and the night was 12.

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