Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Screams from the Outhouse: Todays dice.

One of the first visuals that comes to mind when you mention role-playing games to anybody who has had any experience with them is that of dice. We seem to have a love affair with our dice. From people who collect endless amounts of sets and varieties to rituals that some do at the table to help their odds of rolling good numbers. Don't even try to grab somebodies little pile of polyhedrons without first asking for permission, you can lose a finger that way. It's in our blood to roll these things, the clickity clack of the plastic across the table is forever ingrained into our minds.

But usually the image in all our minds has pretty much remained the same. The colors may change, the six siders may have pips or numbers, the one may be a little picture instead of a number. But they all have nice, flat, solid sides. Koplow, Gamescience, Chessex and many other dice makers have their own fans who say they are the best, but in the end they all end up looking pretty much the same. Even when Crystal Caste turned up with some neater looking designs and the 'rolling log' appearance most still remember the ones they have spent years with.

However things are changing in the dice market now. The technology used to etch or laser craft dice has become more available over the years. People can now operate out of their homes, basements and garages in the dice business. The base unetched dice must still be bought from suppliers because, lets face it, plastic injection mold machines are a bit much to get into. So now you can have custom made dice for your specific game or campaign made just for you. Want a D6 with the symbol of the ruling empire in your game on it? It can be done, just decide how many you want and they'll send you a price. Combine this with blogging about all your new creations, your successful (and failed) tests and you can build up some popularity.


However for some this is not enough. If a technology is out there and it can some way be used to fulfill a gamers dream then by god somebody will use it. Enter the age of 3D Printers. For those of you who don't know these are damn near micro factories that can print full three dimensional objects in a variety of materials. You just design the item you want, or scan the hell out of an existing one and let the printer 'build' it for you. They are truly wonderful things.

So of course people are breaking the mold in how dice should look. Especially since the 3D printers break all the rules of the old injection mold technology. Things that would have required multiple pieces and be glued together can now be built as one object. Over on Shapeways there is starting to be a large variety of these dice being made available all with some very interesting designs.

Made by Wombat


These are just a couple of what is there. Plus there are many other sites offering up 3D printer created objects. Prices will vary a lot from maker to maker of course. But this is the start of a movement into smaller independently owned creators and away from the mass quantity companies of the past. Will Chessex and their like go away? I doubt it. But they will have some unique competition now.

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