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In the past I've toyed with playing games using dice numbered from 0 instead of 1.

So, for example, playing a d20 system game with 3d8, numbered 0 to 7, treating a roll of 21 as an automatic success and a 0 as critical failure.

What kind of dice notation would one use when writing about this?

What would you even call a die numbered from 0 to distinguish it from normal dice?

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Brutal: automatic success goes from 5.0% (on 1d20) to 0.195% (using 3z8). – yhw42 Aug 31 '10 at 19:59
@yhw42 - ... but the same can be said of automatic failure. And the probabilities are also a bell curve; you have almost a 10% chance of rolling a 10, around a 9% chance of rolling 9 or 11... so if your check would succeed on a 10, you're looking at almost a 60% chance of success. So in the end you succeed at your trained skills etc more often and fail at other things you're not trained in more often. – LeguRi Aug 31 '10 at 20:19
good counterpoint... :) – yhw42 Aug 31 '10 at 21:50
RE Notation: 1z8 is functionally identical to 1d8-1, and 3z8=3d8-3. Rather than using a replacement die (Where do you even buy a z8?) or subtracting 3 from every roll of 3z8, it would probably be easier to just use 3d8 and raise all difficulties by 3. – medivh Dec 16 '14 at 15:15
up vote 29 down vote accepted

According to Wikipedia, this is called zero bias notation, and you simply use a "z" instead of a "d". I.e., your example would be written as 3z8. The only reference provided for this is an RPG.Net post. I've never seen any signs that the notation caught on anywhere, but I do like it as a system.

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This is very comfortable for the Americans who would say "three-zee-eight" but for non-Americans "three-zed-eight" doesn't flow as nicely ;) – LeguRi Aug 31 '10 at 19:51
When hand-writing "3z8," I feel like the Z would look too much like a 2. "328 platinum pieces on one orc? Why did I write that?" – Adam Dray Aug 31 '10 at 20:26
Icelandic doesn't even use the letter Z. I am prone to adopting the European styling and adding a stroke through the diagonal, myself. – Bryant Aug 31 '10 at 20:31
in case anyone's looking for it, the zero bias notation part of that wikipedia entry was removed 3.5 years ago. :)… – Rob Starling Feb 18 '14 at 18:57
It looks like this is now part of the cycle of citogenesis – LeguRi Mar 20 '14 at 5:54

If I had to design a notation from scratch, I wouldn't use the zero bias notation (3z8) at all. The "z" is a little arcane for my tastes.

I'd prefix the die size with a zero: 3d08.

ETA: But, you know, 3d8-3 also works.

Geeky stuff, in case you're looking to write a dice roller or something:

For more power, use a range operator: 3d[0-7].

For even more power, use a set operator: 3d{0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7}.

This lets you express all kinds of weird dice, like Fudge dice for example: 4d{+1,-1,0}.

More power, allow strings or strings-value pairs in the sets: 3d{CABBAGE:1, GOAT:3, WOLF:-3, BOAT:0, PERSON:9} or 1d{ADAM, BOBBY, CHRIS}.

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I like the answer, but dice notation is to be read by normal people, not computers nor software developers. Using the set syntax... you might as well write it out in words! :P – LeguRi Aug 31 '10 at 19:48
... but I like 3d08 – LeguRi Aug 31 '10 at 19:49
Added a note that 3d8-3 works fine, too. – Adam Dray Aug 31 '10 at 20:09
@Adam Dray - Shhhhhhh... no one had noticed that yet... ;) – LeguRi Aug 31 '10 at 20:21
+1 for 3d8-3: no new terms. – Colonel Sponsz Sep 3 '10 at 16:32

The standard notation mode for this, using your 3d8, is 3d8-3, in the form NdX-N.

Zero-Bias notation (NzX) has never caught on, and would be presumed by many (including myself) to be a typographical error if seen without clear context. Worse, for dyslexics, including me, it can look very much like 3s8 or 328.

If your game uses only one size of die, and is always zero-biased, then using a letter code instead of the size might be a viable option.

For example, Fudge uses 4d3-8, written as 4dF, with 1dF = 1d3-2 (for a range of -1 to +1).

For example: the Stress Die in Ars Magica is sometimes fan-written 1dS, and is read specially - a 1 is "x2 and roll again" (Recursively), a 0 is a fail on an initial roll, or a 10 on a subsequent roll, while 2-9 are read as face value. In the editions I have, it's always written out as "stress die"...

1dA or 1dAv is a d6 marked 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5. It's used in a few older wargame sets, usually by approximation with standard d6's reading 1 as 3 and 6 as 4.

Note that dF is becoming fairly well known, but still puzzles many; dA are a historical footnote for RPGers.

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