Dice are used in games around the world to generate a random number. Traditionally the die is cubical; however there are multiple forms of non-cubicle die, such as, the 20-sided die. Ancient die were typically made from bones, wood, or rock. Today, die of all shapes are usually made from resin.
The 20-sided die can be traced back to the Romans, however this ancient tool for generating numbers was put to a new purpose in 1974 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. In 1974 Gary Gygax incorporated the 20-sided die into a new game he had invented. That game was called Dungeons & Dragons.
Before adopting the die, Gygax’s now-famous game asked players to randomly draw numbered poker chips from a bag. This method was cumbersome, limited the game’s portability, and was not sufficiently random. Gygax adopted the new die because the shape of the 20-sided die offers an equal five percent probability for each outcome. The more commonly used six-sided cubical dice do not offer equal probability and are relatively predictable in their results. With two six-sided die, for instance, rolling a 6, 7, or an 8 is frequent, while 2’s and 12’s are rare. This does not create equal probability in a combat with monsters!
In his fantasy-based tabletop game, Gygax introduced Americans to a new kind of role-playing game where all players needed was the rule book, seven types of dice, pencil, paper, a sheet of graph paper, and their imagination. Players create their own personas, endowed with characteristics achieved by a roll of a die. Once the brave companions have started their adventure, the 20- sided die became the most important die used in the game. That die controls the strategies and attacks made by players; an ancient tool put to new uses!
Duke, Galen. Dungeons & Dragons: 40 Years of a Wisconsin Invention, Wisconsin Public Radio, 20 Jan. 2014, https://www.wpr.org/dungeons-dragons-40-years-wisconsin-invention. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
Dungeons & Dragons; New to the Game, What is D & D?, Wizards of the Coast LLC, dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/what-is-dd. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
Kusher, David. Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax, Wired, 10 Mar. 2008, https://www.wired.com/2008/03/dungeon-master-life-legacy-gary-gygax/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, metropolitan Museum of Art,https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551072. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
Morrisy, Anne. Dungeons & Dragons: A Journey of Imaginations, At the Lake, Geneva Lakes Area Magazine, 25 Nov. 2014, atthelakemagazine.com/dungeons-dragons/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
About the Author: Mallory Zink
The 40-inch refracting telescope at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, contains the world’s largest refracting lenses. Built in 1895, the telescope contains two lenses, one made of crown glass, and one made of flint glass. The lenses are each 40 inches in diameter, weigh 500 pounds, and have a 62-foot focal length. The telescope and observatory…
This bowling pin was produced by the Vulcan Corporation in Antigo, Wisconsin, sometime in the late 1950s after Vulcan had introduced its patented “Nyl-Tuf Supreme” plastic coating (as indicated by the pin’s red label). The pin complies with American Bowling Congress (ABC) standards, and is currently owned by the Langlade County Historical Society. The Vulcan…
Object history created June, 2018.