Aug 14, 2015 | By Simon

Considered by many to be an icon of geek culture, the 20-sided die - or “d20” - has been commonly used in role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons as the controller for most actions in a game.  Of course, it was only a matter of time before somebody hacked the otherwise lifeless die into something more interactive - and in this case, it was Adafruit’s own Phillip Burgess.  

Designed to be used for a “good laugh”, Burgess’ ‘Talking d20’  is a talking 20-sided die that can be produced using 3D printing and some basic electronics assembly and programming.  Although it works as intended and the code and sounds are completely customizable, it may not be suitable for all gaming situations - however Burgess notes that it could be used for real-life “executive decisions” such as “loading each of the 20 faces with the names of local lunch spots and use it to pick the day’s destination."

Although the talking die is relatively easy to assemble, it does require sourcing a number of parts before embarking on the build process - most of which Adafruit carries.  Among others, these include an Adafruit Pro Trinket microcontroller, an Audio FX Mini Sound Board, a Triple-Axis Accelerometer, a Lithium Polymer 150 mAh battery and a Mono 2.5W Audio Amplifier.  Once these parts have been sourced, it’s time to get 3D printing.  

Because the project only relies on two simple 3D printed parts, most any 3D printer should work, however Burgess notes that users should print each half of the housing as its own separate job to keep the outside faces cleaner and to minimize any filament strings between the halves.  Once these are printed, a little cleanup using files and sandpaper is to be expected to ensure that the interior is clean for embedding the electronics and that the exterior is clean enough to let each of the 20 faces sit flat without rocking.  

Once the housing halves have been cleaned and prepped, ensure that the screws and magnets work by testing their fit.  If they don’t align properly, it is critical to fix this before going through the effort of installing the electronics.  

Once the fit of the housings has been tested and works as intended, the code - which is supplied by Burgess - can be added to the  Adafruit Pro Trinket microcontroller and the remainder of the electronics assembly completed.  At this stage, it’s also good to charge the battery - which should take approximately 90 minutes.  According to Burgess, a full charge is good for a couple hours’ play, or about 15 hours max standby if you forget to switch it off.

Finally, once the electronics have been assembled and tested outside of the unit, it is ready to be assembled inside of the 3D printed shells.  During this stage, it’s important to ensure that wires and other electronic components are installed as directed in order to ensure that the die rolls as intended and is as balanced as possible when used, however Burgess admits that the balance likely isn’t going to be perfect.    

“The balance isn’t perfect and it will probably show a slight statistical preference for certain numbers…I’d keep it away from tournaments or OMG SERIOUS BUSINESS gaming sessions,” says Burgess.   

“(But) it’s perfectly fine and entertaining for “farting around” games though.”

During testing, the die was able to correctly announce the number for each face of the die it landed on, however Burgess adds that there is always the possibility of a bug or a calibration mistake, which should always be taken into consideration before playing a game.  

Needless to say, this is certainly one of the most impressive roleplaying game hacks we’ve seen yet.  To create your own 3D printed talking “d20”, you can find the STL files over at Adafruit.   




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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