My dysfunctional relationship with dice

A few weeks ago I filled this space with a bunch of my psychological problems with games. Despite all of that, I actually do enjoy games; I just have to be careful to not cross any of the many lines my psyche has drawn around them. As long as I feel that I’m still learning how to play the game, and still figuring out the strategic aspects, I’m good.

And that (sort of) brings us to the other major problem I have with games. A lot of them include dice. And I don’t roll particularly well. And if that weren’t bad enough, I tend to be a “karma well” for the others around me.

“Dice karma” is simply one way of explaining how people interact with their dice. It’s basically an extension of luck and how someone’s luck works out over time. Having people with physics backgrounds in my gaming group has sort of turned the concept sideways, making for some fun theoretical discussions of how each of us affects the universe around us. So my karma can affect the karma of others in the same way gravity can amplify around a particularly dense object – it magnifies the attraction, essentially sucking away the good karma. Hence the term “karma well.”

Less technical version: I make the people around me roll worse. This is bad enough and obvious enough that when someone at the table needs to make an important roll, I get up and walk away from the table. And the other members of my group will wait for me to do so. It has become an expectation, and one that I’ve accepted. I just wish I could walk away from my own rolls sometimes…

Of course this applies to board games as well. I’m a decent strategist (modesty be damned) but I’ve never done particularly well at strategy games such as Risk. This is simply because I tend to roll low on average. I simply lose too many troops to be able to pull off any significant attacks. And over time this slows me down to the point where I will run out of troops or get routed on what should be an easy fight somewhere along the line. Every battle eventually becomes the Russian front, and I end up being Napoleon or Hitler (take your pick, the result is the same).

I’ve learned to make up for this in RPGs in two ways: one, I try to out-roleplay everyone at the table; and two, I never ask to roll the dice. The more I ham it up, the less likely my DM is to ask me to roll. And if I can talk him into letting me do something without rolling, I’m a lot more likely to succeed. Fortunately for me, my DM is one of the physics guys and is also pretty cool about it, so he lets me get away with it as much as he can.

With board games, it just becomes one more of those lines my psyche has drawn. I’m happier if a game doesn’t include dice. And I lower my expectations if it does. If I can find another reason to play than winning, I’m a happier camper all around.

I tried to warn you that it was dysfunctional… 🙂


2 responses to “My dysfunctional relationship with dice

  1. It’s really funny how no matter how much physics or statistics a gamer might know, we all believe in bad rollers and dice karma. My wife is confident that she’s a bad roller, and damn if I haven’t seen her tell that to skeptical people and then prove it to them during a game session at least a dozen times.

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