Help support TMP

"Balancing the Dice" Topic

27 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Game Design Message Board

Back to the Dice Message Board

Action Log

31 Dec 2017 5:12 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board

Areas of Interest


1,094 hits since 1 Jun 2017
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian01 Jun 2017 12:43 p.m. PST

Parzival once wrote – TMP link -

…a consistent target of either high or low rolls could cause a player to favor unfair dice whether intentionally or not (your "lucky" dice may just be unbalanced, even if you don't know it). If a game requires both targets, or even targets in the middle, then the favoritism might be eliminated…

Should games require a mix of high and low rolls for success, in order to compensate for dice which might be unbalanced?

Hafen von Schlockenberg01 Jun 2017 12:54 p.m. PST

Interesting question.

Um,another one would be, where is the front page?

Edit: And it's back. Yay!

Marshal Mark01 Jun 2017 1:11 p.m. PST

No. Either high rolls or low rolls should be consistently good.

Ragbones Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 1:13 p.m. PST

Hmm…that IS a good question. If I knew my dice were properly balanced I'd prefer rolling high merely because many of the rules we play are written that way. Does anyone know of a source of dice – mostly D6 and D10 – that are good enough to be considered balanced? Without breaking the piggy bank?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 1:20 p.m. PST

+1 Marshall Mark

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 1:48 p.m. PST

Wow! I got quoted for an Editor's thread! I'm somebody now!

I guess there will be an autograph line at my next convention. Not to mention paparazzi. Can I handle the fame?

As for the question, why, of course! It's an absolutely genius idea. evil grin

Stryderg01 Jun 2017 2:18 p.m. PST

Ok, I got into Excel and setup 10,000 cells with the formula =randbetween(1,6). That puts a random number in each cell between 1 and 6 (just like 10k die rolls!)
Totaled the number of 1's, 2's, etc. Pressed F9 to recalculate and here's what I got pretty consistently:
1,3,4,5,6's = about 1200 each
2's = about 3800

No, it isn't dice, but I did all that in under 5 minutes.
Just how random do your dice need to be?

Note: I just did it again with a range from 0-7. Much more even distribution, but still not perfectly even (1208 4's to 1294 1's)

All of that to actually answer the OP: I like one or the other, easier to remember.

emckinney01 Jun 2017 2:38 p.m. PST

If it was perfectly even, then there'd be a real problem.

emckinney01 Jun 2017 2:38 p.m. PST

Everybody uses the same dice.


Toaster01 Jun 2017 2:41 p.m. PST

I like the face to face roll system from infinity, to succeed you have to roll equal to or less than you modified skill, but you also have to beat your opponents roll so you want to roll as high as you can without going over your target number.


Russ Lockwood01 Jun 2017 2:49 p.m. PST

I'm in the all low rolls are good or all high rolls are good -- no mixing.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 3:25 p.m. PST

Does anyone know of a source of dice mostly D6 and D10 that are good enough to be considered balanced?

For D6, get Las Vegas casino dice. These are translucent so that any flaws that might make then unbalanced are easy to detect. And the spots are painted on to keep the weight evenly distributed.

Ok, I got into Excel and setup 10,000 cells with the formula =randbetween(1,6).

I don't know about the random functions in Excel, but its statistical functions are notoriously wonky. One of the senior bio-statisticians where I work like the quote "friends don't let friends use Excel for statistical analyses." I trust it to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but that's about all.


Ottoathome01 Jun 2017 3:31 p.m. PST

Want perfect balance?


Take 120 business cards and write on 20 of them a 1, 20 of them a 2, 20 of them a three and so on. Make one deck for each side. On any turn you can choose what number you want to roll for that die roll. Your choice, no randomness. If you want to use up your good rolls at the start of the game, go for it. If you want to save them for later, go for it. Toss away your dice.

Or you can simply shuffle the deck and keep it at your side and pick a card at random from your deck.

In either case, when you pull a card it goes into a discard pot and can't be used again that game.

There you go, perfect odds either chosen or at random. No more worries.

Dynaman878901 Jun 2017 3:37 p.m. PST

Or just not worry about it, the mere act of rolling a die far overwhelming any idiosyncrasies of weight in all but the crappiest of dice. By crappiest I mean some D&D basic set dice I have, when you can SEE a big chunk taken off of once and a huge pit in another it is a problem.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 4:38 p.m. PST

I suppose if you had rules where all combats need high numbers and all morale rolls low, it shouldn't be too hard to internalise if you have serious dice concerns.

For a number of years DBM comps in OZ had the organisers provide all dice. For your home games why not have the host provide a block of identical small dice as many companies sell.

The casinos and tourist shops in Vegas sell retired casino craps dice at a fraction of the usual cost for such things – I guess getting hold of them is not practical for many people.

David F Brown

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 5:20 p.m. PST

I tend to prefer all high or all low, and of the two, I prefer high to be good, but that's subjective. Here's what's not.
--If you reach the point at which you think your opponent may be using loaded dice, you shouldn't play with that person any more, even if you're wrong.
--And if the tactics aren't overwhelmingly more important than minor flaws in the dice, you shouldn't play those rules any more, even if you win.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 6:31 p.m. PST

But my original suggestion, not fully quoted above, noted the very human tendency to select "lucky" dice-- that is, the die that always seems to roll high for us (or that we think does), though we assume and believe it's a fair die. There's no intention to cheat. It's just that the die itself is somehow unbalanced without the user knowing it. Perhaps it is a manufacturing flaw, perhaps some imperceptible wear and tear has caused the unbalance. The player isn't intentionally cheating, he's just doing what he thinks is "lucky." Thus, the idea that a split high and low situation in key elements of the game might eliminate this tendency.
(Coincidentally, Warmaster does this, as the command rolls need to be low, while the combat rolls need to be high. I don't think my suggestion is the intent behind this difference, if there is any. But the high/low difference isn't at all confusing in play, as the two actions are quite distinct and different in process.)

In any case, I didn't suggest it as a way of protecting against deliberate cheats (who are usually pretty easy to spot, if only for their pathetic personalities). Merely an observation on human nature as we define (and try to influence) "lucky" situations, and a way to even out such "luck" in play.

By the way, Lou Zocchi's Gamescience dice are advertised as being "more fair" than common competitors, namely because the sharp edges and corners aren't polished off in a tumbler, as other dice manufacturers' are. Don't know if it's a valid claim, but there you go…

TNE230001 Jun 2017 8:16 p.m. PST

"Be thy die ill wrought"

a test for dice fairness
Dragon Magazine #78 page 62

PDF link

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 8:43 p.m. PST

It strikes me as kind of wonky to create more difficult game processes [a variety of high and low dice results for one game] simply because the game tools [i.e. dice] can be sub-standard…particularly when it is easy enough to test the dice balance… or simply buy better dice.

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 10:40 p.m. PST

My die rolls suck. They suck low. They suck high. They suck no matter what I try. I guess I'm just an unlucky guy…

Vigilant02 Jun 2017 2:45 a.m. PST

RRobbyrobot and I must get our dice from the same place. Mine always roll high when I want low or low when I want high.

Schogun02 Jun 2017 5:09 a.m. PST

When writing rules, I always choose either all highs or all lows. Makes things less confusing for players.

But having both high and low would balance bad dice. Interesting idea.

Lou Zocchi has a treatise (and videos) about badly balanced most dice are because of the way they're manufactured.

This guy floated d20s in water to see what number came up on top: YouTube link

Here's a report -- d20 Dice Randomness Test: Chessex vs GameScience: link

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2017 2:24 p.m. PST

Guys, really: if commercially-manufactured dice aren't deliberately loaded, how far off random are they going to be? And how many times would you have to throw them to be sure they weren't random--hundreds? Thousands? And then you'd have to throw out all the dice which didn't roll high (or low) mark the high rollers, or place them in distinct containers--all of which cross the line into cheating as far as I'm concerned. But surely reading the game conditions or studying the rules would give you a better payoff for the time involved?

Roll the dice and get on with the game. Me? I pick my dice based on ease of reading and appearance. I never ask them how honest they are, and they never ask how competent I am.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Jun 2017 2:46 p.m. PST

I'm more concerned with how to compensate for unbalanced players …

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2017 7:59 a.m. PST

I'm more concerned with how to compensate for unbalanced players …

Fish weights

Roll the dice and get on with the game. Me? I pick my dice based on ease of reading and appearance. I never ask them how honest they are, and they never ask how competent I am.

I think that is just a difference between the gamer who is playing a game and one who is designing a game.

Marc the plastics fan07 Jun 2017 11:54 a.m. PST

Oh man. Forget the dice. Just check out that PDF of classic dragon magazine goodness

RudyNelson09 Jun 2017 9:13 p.m. PST

With the rules we designed in the 1980s era, we used a mix of high and low results on the charts for players. Since percentage matrix charts were common, it was easy to have a successful hit or melee be below a certain percentage level to succeed. At the same time, the charts controlling morale were built to allow for high dice to represent a good command roll or a successful morale roll.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.