Have we outgrown polyhedrals?

As a longtime tabletop roleplayer, I have been using polyhedral dice for most of my life. From the caltrop-like d4 to the near-spherical d20, these multi-sided dice have simply been a part of my gaming life, because they simply… were. Dungeons & Dragons used these multiple types of dice, so essentially everyone else did, for the most part.

But, why?

Look, I don’t have a problem with the various polyhedral dice, I really don’t. They all have their place, for the most part, and I have plenty of them. But the longer I roleplay, the more I wonder why we don’t just use the common d6, if we must use dice at all?

Take a look at the d6 System from West End Games, as made popular in the “Star Wars Roleplaying Game” (especially their excellent 2nd Edition). This shows how a game system can run quite efficiently with the common cubical d6. Furthermore, there are plenty of other tabletop roleplaying games that just use the six-sided die most people just have lying around their house.

“Toon”? d6. “In Nomine”? d6. Even the excellent “Fate” system, and all of the games based upon it, uses the d6 (albeit one modified to their own ends, but you can just use d6 instead).

My point is that many roleplaying games use the less-common polyhedral dice, simply because it is almost expected. “Dungeons & Dragons” I can understand, since the d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20 have all been a part of that game for more than 40 years. But why do newer games bother with anything but a d6, when it has been shown time and again that – should they need dice at all – they can easily design a game that just uses a d6?

I think part of it is a symbiotic relationship with brick-&-mortar gaming stores. If players need more than just the core rulebooks to play a game, such as polyhedral dice sets, it drives business to game stores to get these items. And this encourages those game stores to sell those games, since they drive extra purchases down the road.

Also, many game systems seem to use different dice because it is ‘expected’ of them to do so, when that isn’t remotely true. Games use what they need to be run, be they various dice, no dice, playing cards, or whatever to resolve conflicts. It is almost going the easy route to just fall back on using the full sets of polyhedral dice… Lazy, even.

Yeah, I just called your favorite game developer ‘lazy’. If the term fits, wear it.

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of keeping things simple, which is why I feel more game systems should let players and game-masters use what they have on hand to resolve conflicts. This is why I’m a huge fan of systems based upon the d6 or common playing cards, because almost everyone has those laying around their house, or they are easily obtainable. They are also easily understood by most people, which makes running these games much easier as a game-master.

Thoughts?

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