Thursday, 1 April 2010

Toying with things which should be avoided

Idle Lunch Break Activity #137-5(b): Do a search for "dungeons and dragons" on Westlaw, JSTOR and LexisNexis. Find diverting references to D&D in case law in England & Wales and in Scotland, and in academic articles:

We learn from this report also that Gormley and Wilkes, at the urging of Wilkes, became obsessed with playing a game called “Dungeons and Dragons.” Involved in this is a great deal of fantasy role playing. So it was evident to Dr. Spragg that Gormley and Wilkes had been toying with things which they should have avoided. (From (1992) 13 Cr. App. R. (S.) 689, a Court of Appeal case in which the length of a sentence for armed robbery with a crossbow was appealed.)

"The solicitor for the appellant informed me that, her parents having separated, the appellant had an unsettled background with attendance at residential schools. She was normally employed in catering. On a trip to visit her mother in Edinburgh she had got married and had later given up work to look after her husband's disturbed son. She and her husband had separated about one year ago, and the appellant had been unable to find work since.

"The appellant had bought the drugs the weekend previous to 19th November 1990 and had supplied to friends during games of Dungeons and Dragons. She had made a full admission to the police and had named her supplier. Her supply was not commercial. She sold to pay for her own drug habit. Her accommodation was not lavish. She was very concerned and worried about the offence..." (From Alison Elizabeth Wood or Gibson Appellant against Her Majesty's Advocate Respondent, 1992 S.C.C.R. 855, at the Scottish High Court of Justiciary.)

Never fear, we're not all armed robbers and drug dealers though. We also use our maths PhDs to figure out whether or not a dice could be made with an odd number of sides. From "Dungeons, Dragons and Dice", an article in The Mathematical Gazette by K. Robin Mclean (at of all places the University of Liverpool):

Certainly there are solids with an odd number of faces. We could cut off one vertex from a cube to get a solid with seven faces, but it would not be suitable for an unbiassed die because its faces would not be alike.

Drat you, laws of geometry. I won't ruin the article for you by giving away the ending. I'll give you a clue: it involves Euler's formula for convex polyhedra. Yeah, you knew that already.

Finally, we also write poetry. From the National Council of English Teacher's English Journal, an extract from a US high-schooler's poem entitled "Dungeons and Dragons (to Brion)":

Lost in the world of is,
You wandered in the realms of might have been.
On your white horse you fought dragons,
Lurking in paper dungeons, with your paper

It goes on like that in requiem-like fashion, though I half suspect it's an obituary for a character rather than a real life person. Kind of sweet though.


  1. "a great deal of fantasy role playing"

    You can almost smell the disgust on his breath. Save vs Poison.

  2. Maybe he preferred a different kind of fantasy role playing...

  3. "She was very concerned and worried about the offence..."

    I would be, too. Crazy, mixed up kids and their d20s. *sigh*

  4. You just make a squat cylinder and that's a 3-sider right there.

    If the rounded side is as long as a can of beans, that's too long (it'll be biased toward that number), if it's as small as a tuna can, that's not enough, so you just need an intermediate side length.


  5. See, now I'm picturing a Call of Cthulhu Mythos artifact that's a dice with an odd number of sides that produces perfectly random results nevertheless...

  6. LOL, nice.

    Hopefully they don't look to close at your Westlaw research trails for the bill...

  7. Zak: In the article the guy elaborates on why that sort of thing isn't allowed (basically your idea would have a dice with two sides that are the same shape and one that isn't - so even though the surface area of all the sides might be the same, the dice would still create biased results).