There has always been a correlation between nerd hobbies and the act of collecting. It seems that each one of my hobbies involves some sort of collecting, either as the main component of the hobby (comics, action figures, ect.), or as a satisfying result of having that hobby. Even playing video games has an aspect of collecting. Sure, the focus of the hobby is playing the games and not just having them, but there is definitely an inherent sense of pride that comes with having a large game library. I’d be lying if I said I never purchased a video game just to have it in my collection.
Role-playing can be on the cheaper side of the nerd hobbies. A lot of game publishers tend not to try and exploit their customers the same way tabletop war gaming can. The required materials can easily be shared among an entire group. There is no need for everyone to have their own books. The onus more or less fall on the GM to provide the materials for the game.
There is one exception, though, and that is the dice. While dice can be shared, players often take great pride in their dice collections.
Dice collecting is an interesting beast. Most people see the dice that they can purchase at their local gaming store—bins filled with individual 50 cent dice, or the standard 7 pack for around 7-10 bucks, if you want a consistent design. I think the most interesting thing about collecting dice is to listen to why people might pick one color over another. While rummaging through these dice bins I’ve overheard people saying things like “I want my next set to look more sci-fi,” or “none of my dice fit with my current character.” Thinking about it, yeah, I’ve had these same mentalities when looking for dice for myself.
I think something unique about dice collections is that they are way more personal and subjective than more traditional forms of collecting. Dice don’t really have any sort of measurable rarity to them. Sure you can get really nice expensive dice, and there are some sellers who charge several hundred dollars for beautifully crafted golden dice sets, but aiming to get those isn’t a standard part of the collecting experience. People don’t really use their collections to compare value among one another. It’s much more about creating a collection for yourself.
For me personally, I’m probably to the point where I have as many standard dice as I’m ever going to use. My focus is now on adding weird dice to my collection. I want things that aren’t standard numbers or dice shapes. I have one already that’s just a bunch of faces, and emotion words rather than numbers. Or one that is a d6 of colors. I want more of these. I’ve seen d30 where 26 of the sides are the alphabet and the 4 are punctuation. There are some that are weighted so that vowels come up more, and you’re able to roll pronounceable words with them. There is a whole world of weird dice that I’ve been so intrigued with. Right now, I feel like what my collection needs is for me to get more of these irregular dice, and come up with ways to use them in my games.
Once you get into finding dice, it’s a much broader endeavor than people initially perceive. Instead of going to my normal hobby shop to buy dice, I’ve started going to a teacher supply store. In this hobby of role-playing, I’ve come to learn that you find the exact thing you’re looking for in the most unusual of places.
Over time. dice collections will grow and change with their player. Since dice are so small they’re easily lost or accidentally traded with friends. Your collection is going to take on a life of its own and that’s part of the beauty to it.
I think the size of the dice play into this. As you expand your collection, you stop noticing individual pieces of it and start noticing the collection as a whole. It becomes this big amorphous pool of color and shapes. Even if you started out with several sets of the same colored dice, those will change. You’ll lose parts to those sets, letting them become a part of the greater whole. Sure, everyone is going to have their favorite dice—their centerpieces, if you will. The few dice that they pull out specifically to show you. I’ve noticed that a lot of the time, the dice that people show off aren’t necessarily their prettiest or priciest dice. They are the dice that come with a story.
To a player, a dice collection isn’t just about the objects themselves. It’s a collection of their entire role-playing history. Each dice tells a story, or has a memory associated with it. Similar to the collection itself, it’s the amalgam of all these experiences that create something truly special. Dice collections are fascinating because it is an entirely gestalt experience. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The collection of dice and the experiences come together to form a vivid mosaic that reflects the player who carries them.