One of my day jobs, at least. I put this together for a thematically appropriate Pi Day quiz for the site that I work for. If you haven’t played a Word Ladder quiz before, the concept is that each correct answer changes exactly one letter from the previous answer.
….and I think I know why.
I’ve mentioned several times that the SigFig and I enjoy playing tabletop games. What I don’t think I’ve mentioned is the fact that I lose most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy playing games. I’m just not the greatest strategist, and I think it’s because I’m used to thinking scientifically rather than strategically.
Now that I’m not working 60+ hours a week, the SigFig is no longer relegated to single-player gaming. A few nights ago we teamed up for an adventure through Castle Ravenloft: a Dungeons & Dragons board game with pre-constructed characters/scenarios and randomly generated maps and monsters instead of a dungeon master.
You can’t play DnD without dice, and you can’t play with dice without considering probability. Dice, coins, and decks of cards are the canonical examples for basic probability exercises. However, I’ve observed that more recent K-12 texts shy away from cards and refer to “number cubes” instead of dice, probably to avoid any links to gambling. (Side note: when I was an associate editor working on a middle school science program for a major publisher, I was shot down when I tried to use an ice cream scoop as an example of a lever. The reasoning behind that decision? We weren’t supposed to promote junk food. I’m of the opinion that anything that links science to ice cream is a good thing.) The gambling connotation could be avoided and more interesting calculations could be performed if polyhedral role-playing game (RPG) dice were used as examples, but I’m willing to bet that many of those who are convinced that using the term “dice” will drive children to casinos also think that DnD and its ilk are instruments of Beelzebub.
A standard set of RPG dice includes one four-sided die (“d4” in standard notation), a d6, a d8, one or two d10s, a d12, and a d20. Since the probability of any event (or set of events) occurring depends on the number of possible outcomes, RPG dice clearly allow for far more interesting situations than standard six-sided dice.
As you may recall from this post, I like figuring out how many options I have. This comes up a lot in one of my primary interests besides science: tabletop gaming.
The significant figure in my life (hereafter referred to as the SigFig) and I played a round of Dominion tonight. Each game of Dominion is played with 10 types of kingdom card, and the base set has 25 types to choose from. Let’s do our calculation.
25!/((25-10)!*10!) = 3,268,760
If the SigFig and I played 10 games a day, we’d have to play every day for over 895 and a half years to try every possible combination.
And that’s just the base game. Don’t even get me started on the expansions.