BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — A Biloxi man's dice are sold nationally and have made him a familiar figure in the role-playing gaming community.

Louis Zocchi's involvement in magic and gaming goes back decades, and modern gamers who enjoy role playing are familiar with one of his specialties.

Zocchi's company, GameScience, was the first to patent and produce polyhedra dice in the U.S. A polyhedra die, as the name suggests, has multiple sides. Most of us are familiar with the six-sided cube dice used in gambling and board games. But Zocchi's die can have a few as three and as many 100 sides. That 100-sided version — known as a Zocchihedron — looks much like a golf ball, albeit a golf ball with flat dots instead of dimples, and numbers and symbols that role-playing gamers use to advance their characters in the storyline.

Zocchi's interest in games predates GameScience.

"I play chess, and 95 percent of people who play role-playing games play chess," he said. Chess, he said, lets a player develop strategies instead of rolling that cube dice and moving from one to six steps in a game's progress.

"You'll find they're all basically the same," he said, referring to the classic board games produced by more famous companies.

But that changed in 1958, when Avalon Hill introduced a game called Gettysburg, and the world of board games was turned on its head.

"Who would want to play a game called Gettysburg? Wouldn't the South always lose? You'd already know the end. But no," Zocchi said. The game used a half-mile square grid (scaled down), for tracking hidden movement instead of moving a game piece. It was a form of miniature war-gaming, and the end result of each game was not obvious.

"I thought it was a really good design," he said. Avalon Hill began publishing a magazine, and Zocchi worked 11 years for the publication. He playtested several of their earlier games and has designed Avalon Hill board games such as Luftwaffe and The Battle of Britain.

"Avalon Hill went out of business some time later, and Decision Games did their own version of Luftwaffe," he said. Meanwhile, as role-playing games became more sophisticated, and Zocchi became involved with manufacturing die, which he still does in Biloxi.

But gaming is only one of Zocchi's many talents. The Maywood, Ill., native is a retired air traffic controller who also taught at Keesler Air Force Base for two years.

The side of his car states he performs the musical saw, is a magician and a ventriloquist and performs close-up and walk-around magic.

He demonstrated most of that recently at Camp Stanislaus on the campus of the prep school in Bay St. Louis. A throwback to the days before laser lights and special effects favored by famous magicians such as Chris Angel and David Blaine, Zocchi prefers sleight of hand and classics such as Yuri Geller's famous bending spoon trick.

In a time when electronic devices, games and movies can jade children before they're even in elementary school, middle and high schoolers were open mouthed and laughing with disbelief as he and other regional magicians presented close-up tricks and a magic show to the young campers.

It's something he and his friend and St. Stanislaus alumnus Joe Harrison have been doing for years. Zocchi also played an assortment of zany instruments to the children's giggly delight.

Oh, and another thing for which Louis Zocchi is known? He was a member of the now-defunct Gulf Coast Jazz Society and plays the piano, drums and bass fiddle.

"Now I go over to New Orleans," he said. "The Jazz Society over there plays the last Sunday of every month."

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com