If I’m a rational person, then why am I “putting effort” on rolling a die?

I “know” I’m pretty rational chap and know enough math to understand that rolling more than 6 on an 8 sided has 2 out of 8 chance, but that doesn’t stop me from doing magic. Things like “those guys rolled small numbers in the last 2 throws, so there must be big number waiting for me!”

What sort of strange magic are you doing, in order to get critical hits or something? Ever stopped wondering why?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Juuso kindly said it was OK to post a link to this after I spent way, way too much time thinking about dice rolls and umbrellas this week :-)

  2. @Idefreeze: let’s have dice throwing contest, you may roll D6. 1000 times. If you roll 4-6 at least 550 times, you win. If you roll it 549 or less, I win. bet for 1000 bucks.


  3. I don’t totally agree on the total randomness of dices… virtual on not.

    A physical dice seems random because we (=common mortal) have no idea how to calculate his exact trajectory and therefore how the dice will land… But Lumooja is theoretically right, if you throw two dices from the exact same position with the exact same vector force, you will have the exact same result.

    It’s kind of the same with virtual dices (at least the ones I know of). The only problem is that you have to know exactly how the algorithm works to repeat twice the same result, and depending on the parameters available it may mean you have to wait for the right throw to expect a second time the same result… :D

    That being said, it won’t stop me to keep my dices with the best figure up and try to set up “strategies” to keep my rolls as high as possible… :)

  4. I love this kind of thought – about the imagined control over dice and the perception of randomness in video games.

    If you randomly do things to players in a game with no warning, they hate it. “Why did THAT beam fall on my head, but not that other one which is seemingly identical?” However if you give them the control over the random number generator (AKA, dice), then it’s ok. “ARRG! I rolled a 1 and that means the beam falls on my head!”

    With that thought in mind, I’ve always wanted to see a multiplayer game that threw virtual dice in the mix. Same random number generator on the back end that’s being used to drive events, but show the player actual dice. Let them click to roll these dice, and let them see the dice rolls that the computer (DM) is making.

    Imagine a fantasy dungeon game with an evil looking D6 at the top of the screen. Every once in a while, the dice begins to tumble ominously, maybe with a bit of creepy music to boot. It tumbles for a few seconds, and if it ends up with a 1, there is a wandering monster (random encounter). The tension that would create in players would be fantastic — FAR stronger than just randomly some monster appears. Imagine the player party being pretty weak from a previous encounter. The dice roles and it comes up a 2. The player’s thoughts would be something like, “Whew we just dodged that bullet”

  5. Indeed they are, the ability to generalise allowing our brains to fit inside our heads rather than requiring a skull the size of the moon :-)

    What got me thinking, though, was the relationship of these little rituals to replay of multiple outcomes and imagining potential outcomes. Honestly, I fear for myself sometimes!

  6. It is odd. As you say, we all KNOW it makes no difference… and yet for some inexplicable reason I believe that the length of time spent shaking the dice along with style of shaking will increase the chance of me getting the numbers I’d like to see. I also have techniques in scrabble to get the letters that I require and yet I believe I have never, once, won a game of scrabble.

    Perhaps it’s related to the brain’s ability to play many possible scenarios out and see which fits the best. Like a wardrobe of options. Except with this, it’s hopeless as we can’t affect the outcome. It doesn’t stop the brain from thinking it through though. Still, these little rituals add character to the experience even if most players of Risk spend more time shaking the dice in increasingly odd and complex ways than playing the game…

  7. @Lumooja: that’s something I wouldn’t expect to hear from you. You’ve tested this 100 or 1000 times and counted results, right? ;)

  8. I think it’s possibe to cheat on dice rolling a bit too. You can practice like throwing a knife so that it always lands on the same side. Maybe it’s not 100% accurate, but chances are that you get a higher chance on getting the top number if you always use the same force and throw it as straight as possible.

  9. We have one guy in our group who was throwing good numbers in Risk and BSG… so good that if somebody now suggests playing Risk we reply “only if Troy isn’t playing. It wouldn’t be fair”.

  10. Well, this is true story.
    I once played with a table top group. We were in some sort of a difficulty situation, discovered in an area with many pirates and we had to escape. Making things short, the DM told me I am going to be lucky in this battle\scene, and I could ask for a 20 result once or three times. Something like that.
    Then, regardless of this rule, when I rolled a d20, I rolled so many 20\19. Like out of 10 rolls I had like 8 20s and 2 19s. Don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was very improbable.
    It was weird. :/

  11. Hehee, I also changed bad dice… and we had one D&D player who always kept dice 20 facing up too. :)

  12. During my D&D sessions I tend to keep all my d20s with the 20 facing up. And if I get burned by a particular die, I segregate him from the others.

    I know the maths and I’ve even taken records to get the statistics but it just feels better to do these little rituals.

    My friend took it to the extreme: to get some new d20s he grabbed a bowl full of them, dumped them on the counter at the games store, kept the ones that were 20 side up, repeated a few times until he had a bunch of “lucky” dice to buy.

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