This is how I roll…

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.

Various RPG dice that I recently picked up at a garage sale. Most of them are d20s; the turquoise die in the top center is a d4, the cookies-and-cream die towards the bottom is a d8, and there are three d6s under the orange d20.

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