Not long ago, archeologists in Bergen (Norway) discovered a mystery die from 1276.
It is a normal six-sided die, but the numbers are not the normal 1 to 6.
Instead it sports a three, two fours, two fives and a six.
Archeologists immediately assumed the die had been used for cheating, and therefore, so did the media.
It may be so, but there is another possibility.
The cheating theory has mostly gone uncontested, except in the comment section of the only English article I could find on the subject.
Like these good people, I find it more likely that this die was used in a game with skewed probability. A game that had been designed so that it would be more likely to get ‘ok’ numbers than ‘very good’ or ‘very bad’ numbers.
One reason for doubting their theory is that the fault with the die is far too easy to detect.
Making a loaded dice, that would land on a specific side, seems like a safer bet to me.
And the die does follow the same tradition as normal dice. Namely having all the opposite sides adding up to the same number.
Dice can be used in a lot of very creative ways.
In ‘Dungeons & Dragons’, and other table-top roleplaying games, dice are often used to test the abilities of the player characters, with some randomness added.
An action the player attempted to make may have a difficulty of 15 out of 20, and the player would then have to match or go above that number on a 20-sided die.
If the character was skilled in said action, they could get bonus modifiers to the outcome on the die.
And that is just one example.
There are countless ways dice have been used, beyond the straight forward “normal” way.
If the find does turn out to be an unknown game, rather than an attempt to cheat at dice, this is an even bigger discovery than first assumed!
Imagine if we were able to somewhat recreate a game from 1276 with this die and our knowledge of Bergen from this time.
In fact, I would love to see what you could come up with!
Be it a concept, idea or a full print&play experience, please leave it in the comments.
Maybe together we can discover some new possibilities about this mystery die 😉
Recommended article: InterRail 2010 – Part 1: From Bergen to Berlin
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