Monday, February 24, 2014

The Oldest D20 Ever Discovered

Next to murder, thieving, and whoring, dice games are perhaps one of the longest-lived passions we share as a species. From Louisiana riverboats, to the courts of decadent nobles, all the way to the campfires of ancient, savage nations, dice have never been far away from the gambler's limelight. And while you might think the funny-looking, twenty-sided die familiar to any lover of roleplaying games is simply the latest in a long line of evolving dice, you'd better think again.

Turns out the D20 might just be the patriarch of gaming as we know it.

You ain't ready to roll with this.
Do you see that die up there? The one with the old-school runes and the "roll me if you dare" attitude? Well, that die was relatively common around, and has been dated to, the Ptolemaic Period. That means this die was carved sometime between 300 and 30 BCE, according to i09 and The Mary Sue.

This die is older than god.

Not only that, but it's entirely possible that the D20 is the third oldest die in any given set. The only die types that are older than the D20 are the traditional six-sided dice which were around at least since 900 BCE, and the infamous D4 which was created sometime around 3,000 BCE. None of these dice had Roman numerals; they're older than the Roman Empire. Hell, they're older than Ancient Greece, and in some cases at least as old as the Torah.

Did ancient peoples play games where they took on the storytelling roles of great hunters and powerful shamans? Did they draw epic tales in the air, with the cast die changing the fates of the gods and heroes every time the story was told?

Probably not. It is cool to think about, though.

As always, thanks for dropping by Improved Initiative and checking out this week's Moon Pope Monday. If you'd like to see more historical/factual articles like this, leave us a comment, or subscribe to us by filling out the box in the upper right hand corner. If you'd like to help keep us going, please click the "Bribe the DM" button, or check out our Patreon page (all we ask is $1 a month to bring you solid gaming entertainment). If you want to keep tuned in to all our updates then just drop by our Facebook or Tumblr pages. May the weight of the ages guide your dice!

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