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The die question

June 21, 2007

Why the Dodecahedron?


Why the d12?

This is One of the most asked questions I have received. The question, whether in person, in e-mail, or on the phone, is one that typically goes like this: Why 12-sided die?

The answer to this is not as easy as I thought it would be.


The decision to use 2d12 was a primal one, rooted in my youth.

To put it simply, I really like the d12. From my early days as a youth, the d12 was the one die that held my imagination. You could have your d6, or d10, and even your d20. For me, it was the d12 that I liked. When I tried my hand at game design when I was 13, my games used either the d4 or the d12. I liked the using the different dice.

Gamers always tinker. We always look for different ways to build mechanics. We look for different ways to model rules to allow for a certain play styles. As a freelancer I did work on game systems that used the d20, the d6, or the d10. In my downtime, away from writing, I wanted something different. Tired of die pools. Tired of the same old same old, I came up with the seed, that blossomed into 12º.

The mechanic that is 12º dates back to 1996. I was in my last year of grad school. My regular play group, tired of playing the same games and styles, decided to have a challenge–create your own game, mechanic included. That was the only rule. Theme, tone and setting was open, the goal was to break a rut that, we as gamers, had found ourselves in.

Thinking about what type of game I wanted to play, I decided that I wanted something with Ancient Greece and Spartans. I wanted over the top action, similar to the movie Spartacus and Ben Hur. I wanted a simple mechanic, one that did not get in the way. This is what lead me coming up with the Target Number, and rolling it or less to succeeded. Tired of percentile systems, I grabbed two d12s, and based everything off the number of 24. Reason? I cannot tell you. The number appeared to me.


Just like that.

Everything would be based off the range of numbers between 2 and 24.

Instead of rolling high, I decided to roll low. It was intuitive to me, and meshed with the simple mechanic I wanted.

Though the game was not a hit, the mechanic was, because it allowed for larger actions. Once you strip away all the minutia, and look at the mechanic as a means to allow flashy big dramatic action, the rest falls into place.

I experimented with the mechanic, and tweaked it from time-to-time. Heck I even have a card game that uses a version of this mechanic. When the time came to get Colonial Gothic ready, it was an easy decision to use the mechanic.

So to answer the question: “Why the d12?”

I like the die. 🙂

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