Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Familiar Pattern

Over the years I've tried in my creations to utilize objects folks might have at home, like playing cards, poker chips, and dominoes.  One of the reasons for this is availability, but the corollary of that is if they are common things people will be pretty familiar and comfortable with them in mini-games or in-game puzzles.

Just yesterday I thought of a familiar pattern I've never seen any one use-- the pattern on a football (soccer ball).  The pattern, called a truncated icosahedron, has 12 black pentagonal faces and 20 white hexagonal ones.

I think there is a lot of potential here, though for what I'm not sure yet.  We humans have pretty good spacial memories, so if you have a "top" firmly marked it would be pretty easy to remember all the 32 different spots you might interact with, even without numbering or labeling them.

At first I was going to make an angel based on this, using a d4 and a d8 to randomly generate one of the 32 spots.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a quite a bit more potential.  For example, each of the hexagons shares sides with three different pentagons.  What if these pentagons had certain qualities, heat, light, or whatever and the different hexagons might be the varying combinations of those qualities.  I'm thinking weather, or maybe beauty, something with lots of possibilities to fill the 12 black spots.

The more I think about it the more I like it as a possible very simple weather manipulator.  And seeing as the Sleestak pylons are one of the weird influences that led to my angels, that would be pretty cool.

I would have preferred to figure an example all out before posting, but I'm anxious to make, share, and converse-- my blog has been quiet too long.  If you can come up with a cool use that has 12 qualities interacting, let me know.


  1. I don't know about an angel, but it could be used to make a dungeon map.

  2. It's the basic pattern behind the Traveller world maps, which simplified a globe to the faces of an icosahedron, making it a set of twenty triangles covered with hexes and pentagons at the vertices.

  3. We talked a bit about it....

  4. @Darnizhaan: That's a better idea than mine! It could be a kind of simple tesseract, with rooms looping back to the start of the dungeon. One of the problems I had with my Tumbling dungeon was visualizing it in my head, this pattern would help a DM with that. I'd probably make the entrance a ladder down into one of the pentagons and have the different pentagons themed, so it was clearer to players when they were revisiting the same rooms. You could also put some kind of sculpture of the soccer ball in the dungeon in case they get stuck enough to get frustrated, as a clue to what the dungeon's shape is.

    @faoladh: Thanks, I didn't play Traveller enough to see those. It makes sense as probably the simplest way to map a globe for a game.

    @Zak: That link's giving me "no results found" even when I'm logged in. I tried searching a few other ways but couldn't find the conversation. Bummer, I would have like to seen what you all talked about.

  5. There's a nice story about the guys that discovered buckminsterfullerene phoning down to the maths department to see if there was a special name for the shape and after describing it the reply from the maths professor was "well, there is a fancy name for it but what you've got there, basically, is a football".

    However, that's not the shape used for Traveller maps, which are just plain icosahedrons.

    Taking the tesseract idea to the extreme, it could make a new plan of either the outer planes or some bubble multiverse where the various faces are mini-planes interacting with their neighbours via gates represented by the edges. Or a set of stargates linked from point to point along the edges.

    1. If you examine the Traveller maps, you will see that they are icosahedrons covered with hexagons, with a pentagon at each vertex. Thus, they are effectively the same as the shape in question.