Introduction: Adventure-lite Dice

About: I'm a car mechanic that secretly longs to be a bicycle mechanic. That should say it all ....

Every human on this planet faces a number of perennial questions; Where did I leave my shoes/sandals/snowshoes? What’s for dinner? What the heck am I going to do on my day off?

It’s an incontrovertible fact I’d rather make than do. But sometimes the “make” synapses need a break, and the “do” synapses need a bit of exercise. To answer this question, I made the “Adventure-Lite Dice” to give me some inspiration to go out and do something. It’s “lite” because the activities don’t require branded clothing, freeze-dried meals, or a companion that calls you "brah."

Speaking to inspiration, I must give more than a passing nod to Atomic Shrimp's "Invention Dice," which I made years ago, and still use to get myself out of mental and maker ruts.

The set consists of four dice, roughly grouped around themes. Roll the dice and BOOM … inspiration for a fun day of activities, adventure, exploration, and maybe just a bit of illicit danger to add spice. Not that I endorse or condone any sort of illicit activity, but where your ethical and moral lines are is not my concern.


Four 1” wood dice, available from craft and hobby stores.

Small piece of 320- to 440-grit sandpaper (optional)

Acrylic craft paint

Small paint brushes

Fine-tip permanent marker

Clear sealer (brush on is easiest)

Drawing skills (very optional)

Step 1: Step 1: Lightly Sand the Dice

This usually isn’t needed, the dice are fairly smooth out of the bag. However, I think the paint lays down better when the surface is very smooth. Plus, if there are glaring imperfections on one side of the dice you’re more likely to note it as you go through the sanding process.

Don’t spend too much time on this. A few passes over the sandpaper, feel for the results, move on. When your done, clean the sanding dust off. I just rub the cube on my pant leg.

Step 2: Step 2: Paint the Dice

My preferred technique is to lay down a small piece of wax paper to make clean up easy. Unscrew the top to the paint, and put a small blop in the top (you don’t need much). Grab the dice in two fingers, paint the four remaining sides, and place one of the non-painted sides down on the wax paper. I wait about 15 minutes for the paint to dry, then do the two remaining sides. Wait 15. Done.

Step 3: Step 3: Create and Trace the Designs

This is the cool part, and the part where your creativity comes into play. I’ve photoed each side of each dice. You’ll see they are broken into loose themes: Food, Destination, Activity and Exploration. Food is yellow, Activity is ivory, Destination is green, and Exploration is orange. You can go with my exact designs, or throw your own in. You may want to add another in place of something that’s there. For example, I didn’t add sports to the destination die. I’m not a sports fan, you might be. Or maybe I’ll add it later to really push in something new.

Sketch in the design on the dice face. When it’s to your liking trace the sketch with the fine tip permanent marker. Once that is dry erase the whole side of the dice. This will get rid of the under sketch and give it a nice clean look.

If you’re at all artistic you can add colors as well. Atomic Shrimp did this with the Invention dice. It looked great, and added a whole other element. I’ll stick with tracing.

If you make a mistake during this phase just sand it off, paint and all. Then dust on the pant leg, repaint, sketch and trace.

Step 4: Step 4: Design Reference

The photos are of all the designs on each face, 36 in all.

Step 5: Step 5: Final Notes

Clear coat, or not. This is your choice. I haven’t clear coated yet, and the dice seem to be holding strong. I made a small bag for the dice, as well. As a personal challenge, I break them out and hit the road once a week for a couple-hour adventure. I could also see these used if you travel to new places, say if you’re stuck at wedding for the weekend and have some down time. It could be used by a group tired of the night-out grind. Even a scout group could use them as an exercise in navigation, cooking, and really looking at the world around them without a screen in the way.

A note on the Exploration die, and The Past die face:

The exploration dice was the hardest to make. The idea of exploration has been co-opted, and now connotes travelling to the far-flung parts of the world in search of an ever-dwindling list of places where few people have been or seen, at the same time experiencing deprivation and hardship. I take the opposite tack.

Exploration, for me, is finding things I haven’t encountered before. Seeing a landscape in a new way, stumbling across some cellar holes, plotting their locations on a quick map, and figuring out I was seeing a barn, small home and smokehouse. I don’t care if there was a team of historians there the day before, finishing their dissertations on the site. I don’t care if the site was a favorite drinking spot for generations of juvenile delinquents and “everyone” knew about it. I didn’t. I claim the wonder and joy I got in finding it.

So the exploration die is about suggestions on new ways to see, to look and observe.

This is the same with “The Past” green die side. Maybe it means history as a destination, or maybe you decide to find the tree house you built in the woods when you were 10.

I’ll leave you to interpret what all this means, and how to use it. In the photo the destination is a place you've never been, a call to go dancing and grab some dessert. Finally, or maybe first off, explore an abandoned place. Now fuzz up your mind, cast off your preconceptions, and mix things up. Go dancing in an abandoned place, and have dessert in a town/restaurant, sweet shop you've never been to. Or go dancing at a place that serves dessert, digest, then explore a part of your city you've never been in search of an abandoned place to explore. This is all about inspiration, not direction.

Use the dice, and get out and explore the world.