What did they call D&D in Rome?
July 19, 2008
Modern history tells us that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson designed Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), and first published the game in 1974. Ignoring its geeky stereotypes for a moment, D&D is chiefly remembered for its use of polyhedral dice, which were used to resolve in-game event through chance-mechanics. In the basic game, a 20-sided die was the largest commonly used, though many a geek hobbyist shop sells the quite ridiculous 100-side die for percentage-based calculations.
Interestingly, a Christie’s auction from December, 2003, featured “a Roman glass gaming die”, which included 20 distinct symbols on its many faces. The auction description includes a note about how the die was not entirely unique in Rome.
Several polyhedra in various materials with similar symbols are known from the Roman period. Modern scholarship has not yet established the game for which these dice were used.
Perhaps researchers should have looked towards their more geeky co-workers, who could have clued them in. We don’t know what it was called in Rome, but we’re guessing these dice may have belonged to a game called something akin to “Carcer quod extraho”, and may have been a bit less fantasy-based, and more religious in background instead. At least, we’re entertained with the idea.