Many of us geeks take great pride in the ability to recite the history of role-playing games based on the 20-sided die, but what about the history of the die itself? Apparently it predates the original Dungeons and Dragons by almost two millenia.
Christie’s, auctioneer to the rich and famous, sold a glass d20 from Roman times. It was included in a collection of other antiquities that sold in 2003. The markings on the die don’t appear to be either Arabic or Roman numerals, but it’s probably a safe bet that it was used in a game of chance. As the auction catalog notes that several polyhedral dice are known from the Roman era, but remarks, "Modern scholarship has not yet established the game for which these dice were used."
I wonder - how do you say "critical hit" in Latin? (Ed. note: "maxima plaga")
The seller acquired this die from his father, who picked it up in the 1920s in Egypt. Sounds like the beginning of an Indiana Jones movie, doesn’t it?
Photo from Christie’s web site