What is a countdown [d20] die?


Gamer Life General Discussion


I was looking on the paizo site and discovered these dice labled as countdown dice. They also are labelled unusually with low numbers on one side of the die and high numbers on the other.

I tried searching on google what a countdown die is but was not able to find a clear answer, though it seems like countdown d20s are larger than a regular d20 and are labelled unusually.

What are they for?


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For countdowns obviously :P

My guess is that you use it as a counter to show specific numbers on it instead of rolling - numbers being next to each other make it easy to turn it to the next number while the number placement on the regular d20 are placed in a way that maximizes randomness of the roll (with number next to each other you could try to aim at a certain range number by rolling very weakly to have the die roll only a few sides and have a high chance of getting a number you want, with desired numbers spread over different sides it is rather hard without functional telekinesis).

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

If you look at your normal d20s, you will see the numbers are spread around the faces in a non-sequential order. (e.g. the 2 and 20 are next to each other rather than the 2 and the 1) This is to prevent people from practicing how to cast the die in order to bring the high side up at will.

A countdown die (also known as a spindown die) has each number next to its next highest and lowest numbers for easy adjustment. Typically you use them in Magic and other games that require tracking of life totals from 1-20.


Ah, I understand now! I suspected that the countdown die had to be for some other purpose thank rolling since having low numbers on the same side reduces randomness, but wasn't sure what.


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Yeah, the reduced randomness thing is a constant battle between my players and me. "Oh it's fine! It still rolls, right?! And I roll better on them!"

Yes. Yes you do roll better on them. Because they're not bothering about making sure they're weighted right since they're not meant as random number generators, and added to the fact that they numbers are ordered, of course they're going to be biased to a certain range of numbers. Thankfully the ones in my group are easy to recognise even ignoring the numbering, as they're all Magic: The Gathering life counters (which you normally get at pre-releases or with certain decks or boosters), so they're all slightly bigger than normal d20s, share similar patterns (usually a colour associated with whatever set they're from, speckled with a secondary colour) and always either have their set symbol or another symbol relevant to the set on them in place of a 20. I keep a stash of normal d20s on me and confiscate the counter dice for the session as soon as I see one hit the table, throwing them a normal one to use instead.


solution: force every player to use an RNG that utilizes quantum fluctuations as a source of entropy.

Liberty's Edge

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*cough* Random.org *cough*

As an aside: I always keep a page or two of random integers from Random.org in my GM folder. It's so much fun 'rolling' (really crossing off) Perception checks and such without the players knowing. :)


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That is a solution, but we all like the feel of rolling dice. I know that the weighting is never going to be perfect, but in general I think it's good enough. It's just that the spindown counters are clearly not designed for it, and give biased results for the most part.


I know, I just like suggesting extremely impractical solutions in a completely serious tone of voice.

I blame it on my beard.


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BEARDS FOR LIFE! Mine has the perfect feel for stroking while I contemplate answers to questions the service desk ask me at work.

Also, you should listen to The Beards. Start with If Your Dad Doesn't Have A Beard, You've Got Two Mums. Best beard themed band ever. 4 albums and going strong.

Yeah, I know what you mean about liking to suggest impractical things though. My standard response to a request for a solution is "How about... a... Swarm of bees?"


I too enjoy stroking my chin fluff. Unfortunately my natural hormone levels won't allow it to actually be a beard so I will need HRT to fix that problem.

I'm going to be honest tho that's a terrible title :Þ

"I blame it on my beard" also doubles as a private joke to myself regarding a great friend of mine whose most notable feature is his beard, closely followed by his totally deadpan but whimsical sense of humor, which I have been slowly replicating via constant exposure.

Also, a swarm of bees is the perfect solution to any problem, including problems you didn't even know you had!


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Oh yeah, it's a terrible title, but they're basically a novelty band :P Just got amazingly popular somehow. The way women go crazy for them at their shows defies belief... I was at the front of a few shows they did here, and each time I nearly got crushed beneath a horde of screaming women attempting to rush the stage. Stood my ground so that when Johann came down to the edge of the pit I could get him to grizzle me with his beard.

The film clip is worth a watch too. Actually any of their film clips are.

If Your Dad Doesn't Have A Beard You've Got Two Mums
Got Me A Beard (animated)
The Beard Accessory Store
You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man - this one is actually a parody of the film clip for Prodigy's Smack My B~&@@ Up

And a couple of live songs:

Shaved Off His Beard
A Wizard Needs A Beard

Man, this got off topic fast... sorry bout that.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Okay, back to counter dice...

I have a large black counter d20 that I use to keep track of the current combat round. You only need to move the die one facet for the next number in sequence. Works very well.


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Krensky wrote:

*cough* Random.org *cough*

As an aside: I always keep a page or two of random integers from Random.org in my GM folder. It's so much fun 'rolling' (really crossing off) Perception checks and such without the players knowing. :)

As a GM I feel like that is only fair if you have a way to conceal the next number from yourself. If you know the next check will be a nat 20 it is really easy to "decide" for "legitimate reasons" that the century's next roll happens just as the PC's start sneaking in, etc, etc.

Realistically, it doesn't matter how awesomely awesome the randomness of the numbers is; if you get to know them in advance and apply their use.


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Haladir wrote:

Okay, back to counter dice...

I have a large black counter d20 that I use to keep track of the current combat round. You only need to move the die one facet for the next number in sequence. Works very well.

Yeah, for something like that they're perfect. I'll sometimes use them for an actual countdown in a game as well, like if my players have a certain number of actions before something triggers, I'll use it as a reminder.

Liberty's Edge

Magic the Gathering. Thats what they are for. HP in Magic.

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