How Dicecards Came to Be

Dicecards was born in August 2009. I was developing the artwork for a card game that had random events on each card. It struck me that cards are a kind of universal randomizer: with 52-56 cards in a normal deck, there are plenty enough to represent any standard dice. And if you only looked at one die per card-draw, a single deck could replace a complete dice-bag.

In an hour or so, I had modelled a set of dice, plus a coin and a dreidel. I had a set of poker chips from a previous project, and I added them too. Originally I'd thought they could be used only to randomly decide a stake, but I figured later you could use them as a full set of chips too. Three or four hours later, I'd written the software to do the randomization, and hooked it up to Blender, the Open Source 3D package I'd been using.

The first version was a bit abstract, with dice floating on a white backround. So I tried a different tack and added a background so the dice would look like they'd been rolled. On its own the desk didn't look great, so I scanned the first RPG character sheet I had to hand (Call of Cthulhu, if you look carefully), and it all came together in the result on the right.

I rendered four cards that night, emailed them off to my gaming group and went to bed.

The next day I had an inbox full of suggestions for useful new elements, and for aesthetic tweaks. One very close friend: Richard, who I'd been gaming with since the mid-80s, worked through a whole set of ideas. He pushed me to make the cards more useful, but more importantly, more interesting. With elements such as the average dice, letter tiles, and a set of Trivial Pursuit cheeses (which is the only element that got removed later). Version two was the first full set of cards, about a week after the initial experiment.

Initial playtesting gave me something to change: the colors of the dice were different on each card, making it harder to find the right die quickly. Richard asked for two new elements to spark interesting gamesmastering: the target for determining the result of missile attacks, and the compass for determining random movement. The character sheet had been replaced by a map in version two, but at this point it was the only element on the card that was purely decorational, so I tried various things to make it earn its place.

Many more elements followed over the next three months of design and playtesting. As Heroscape was popular, I added a dice that could be used to resolve its combat. The map got its spot-the-capital quiz. I tweaked the 3D so that the rolled number was brighter than the others. And I rewrote the code that randomly generates and scatters the dice: as the cards got more conjested, I needed to place elements so the card looked random, but nothing was blocked from view. This was the end of 2009.

In March of 2010, Richard passed away suddenly. No cause was ever found. I'd been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007, but in 2010 I started to lose my mobility. As a result of both these things, Dicecards stalled, and though I hoped to get back to the project, I didn't have much fight to see it through, so the digital printed test decks from version four were all that existed.

Until September 2012. Dusting off the code on my hard-drive, I decided to extend, tidy and prettify Dicecards. I added a whole bunch of new elements, including an original push-your-luck pirate game. The original plans for a whole series of decks with different elements fell by the wayside, and I decided to get this deck out to print. That's the version you see here today.