D20 AutoRoller

I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for a few months, but it was watching the VOD of !!Con (BangBangCon) that finally pushed me write this post and really begin to figure out how to start tackling this project rather than just have it stuck in my head.

The What

In 2009, the website PlayByEmail, built a robot called the Dice-O-Matic to roll a bunch of D6 dice to use as the random numbers used on the website rather than rely on digital random methods. Beware your volume, this video is rather loud as the Dice-O-Matic is loud.

I’ve always loved this idea. Not that I don’t trust digital randomness to be random-enough, but I love the idea of a tangible dice machine that could generate random numbers for use in virtual D&D or simply as a random generator.

What I would ideally love is actually something more akin to a desk sculpture, something that is compact enough and quiet enough, that I could set it up on my desk and let it run. Have it as a conversation piece and distraction.

The Why

Necessity is the mother of invention. But necessity also removes a playfulness and freedom from this sort of project. On the one hand, I have no timeline for it. I have no hard deadline.

This is a purely fun project that I can come back to from time to time and no requirement for ongoing attention. It’s something I can fiddle with.

And I have learned, one of the keys to my own sanity, is to have exactly this sort of project.

On top of that, this is a project which will require a number of learnings, and honestly that is super exciting to me. I understand the concepts of almost everything in this project, and yet I look at it and realize there is almost no part that I can pick out and go, “I know exactly how to do that.”

The How

I’ve done a few iterations, but I would really consider this my first concept sketch for this project.

A – This is the roller box. It has a unique shape.
B – A D20, a twenty-sided die
C – In the roller box, these are stairs or ridges, high enough to agitate the dice and ensure it tumbles rater than just slides
D – A motor mounting on the box which is used to rotate the A box 90 or degrees in a back and forth motion. I have it pictured outside here, but I imagine it is probably attached behind it or done smartly to minimize space it takes.
E – This is a pair of webcams which will capture the upward face of the D20.

Not pictured: Raspberry Pi controller for activation of the motor as well as the processing the d20 cameras and recording the results.

In terms of size, I’m imagining it is 12″x12″x6″ or so. I doubt the first iteration will get down to that size, but I won’t consider it done until it fits into that space. Maybe I’ll find that’s just not doable, but I have to believe it is.

The D20 part of this project is something that could be interesting. One of the things The Dice-O-Matic did was it used a brand of D6 which had color-coded faces to aid in the computer-vision reading of the upward facing side.

So, I am wondering if I might need a blank D20, and then develop a color-coding / simple patterning for computer vision readability. An example could be, Red X = 1, Blue X = 6, Yellow X = 11, Black X = 16. Red O = 2, Blue O = 7, etc.

It could also be that computer vision processing has progressed far enough since the days of the Dice-o-matic.

Once I have the visual processing figured out, then comes the question of what to do with the D20 rolls. I assume I just keep it in a running text file and then can pull from it whenever I need a d20 roll for D&D online. Or maybe something else, no idea.

Humorously, what to do with these rolls is not something I really care that much about.

What’s Next

So that’s the idea. Here’s my sketch of what I think my process will be:

  1. Build the roller box.
  2. Figure out motor solution for rolling the box back and forth
  3. Attach Raspberry Pi to control motor
  4. Attach cameras and solve computer vision of rolling result tracking
  5. Implement full control and tracking of rolls

Simple enough, Right?

We’ll see.

(We all know it’s not going to be that simple, right?)


My Star Wars Viewing Suggestion

May the Fourth be with you all.

On this day I feel compelled to share what is my current belief in how you should watch and experience Star Wars. Be warned, it is unique and likely to be contentious.

Phase 1: Entering the Star Wars Universe

  1. Phantom Menace
  2. Solo
  3. Rogue 1

These movies support or are disconnected from the main plot. Starting with Phantom Menace is a risky gambit since the movie is so widely derided (with good reason) but I continue to believe it is superior to the other two prequels, even if it is the least connected to the core plot.

If you step back and frame it for the viewer as a welcome to the SW Universe, I think it does a good job. Jedis & Sith, multiple planets, crazy scenarios, pod racing.

Add in Rogue One and Solo for further stories which support the upcoming marathon but which aren’t integral to it.

FWIW, Rogue 1 is not as smooth a transition into A New Hope as I had, well, hoped.

Phase 2: Luke’s Story

  1. A New Hope
  2. Empire Strikes Back

Once we’ve introduced them to the Star Wars universe, it’s time to begin the core plot.

Phase 3: Anakin’s Story

  1. Attack of the Clones
  2. Revenge of the Sith
  3. Return of the Jedi

Make no mistake, I hate Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. They are two of my least favorite movies in the entire series, but they are integral to the long plot which is being told. And, per the Machette order’s original purpose, integrating them into the movie watching after the reveal at the end of Empire Strikes Back, provides a nice tie-in.

Phase 4: Rey’s Story

  1. The Force Awakens
  2. The Last Jedi

Now we come to the sequels, well, most of them. As a continuation from Return of the Jedi, the shift to Force Awakes is a rough one. It becomes best connected through the story of the empire.

I leave The Rise of Skywalker off the list for two reasons. Firstly, because I hated it. It undid so much from Last Jedi with deus ex machina. Secondly, it’s plot is dependent on that deus ex machina that creates a wild plot which seriously makes no sense. It isn’t needed. You can end on The Last Jedi and what is left unresolved is not overly troubling.

And there you have my morning ideations on May the Fourth.


The YouTube algorithm served this video to me and I am instantly enraptured and fascinated.

Film Media


That movie was excellent. It has made me realize how few international films I watch and unquestionably how many excellent films I’m missing as a result.

5/5 bowls of ramdon

Media TV

The Good Place

Just watch it. All of it.

Rating: 25 out of 5 Jason Bortles

Book Media

Gideon the Ninth

I always have a book to read for when I go to bed. However, since I tend to only go to bed when I’m tired, reading times can be drawn out. Gideon the Ninth, though, was entertaining and intriguing enough as I got into the latter half of the book it broke from the chains of my bedside table and I had my Kindle out and about with me to churn through it. I finished it last night during a bit of insomnia from 3am to 4:30am. But it was time well spent as I greatly enjoyed the story!

It’s a Sci-fi & Fantasy novel. It’s very unique and I greatly enjoyed unraveling the mysteries of the novel. Highly recommend if you’re wanting something punk-y.

5/5 animated space skeletons.

Film Media

Almost Famous

An old movie that I loved so much growing up. In the modern day I realize there are some problematic themes and moments of the movie, but I still love the music and story. 5/5 people of substance.

Book Media

Seattle Prohibition

Seattle Prohibition: Bootleggers, Rumrunners and Graft in the Queen City is a great read that gave me insight into Seattle history that I knew nothing about. Fascinating stuff. If you want to read about an interesting person, look up Al Hubbard. 5 out of 5 moonshines.

Film Media

Bad Times at the El Royale

It’s interesting. I didn’t feel like I enjoyed it after I finished watching it, but I can’t tell you why. It was fine in pacing. The plot was contrived but expectedly so. It was fine, I guess. 2.5/5 hotel keys.


Stumbled across the above on YouTube, and seeing a Bulldog with these moves just brings a smile to my face. This, of course, led me down the rabbit hole of dog agility highlights:

And then from 2018…

Which then led me to the Crufts 2019 competition from the UK…