|This article or section is about something oldschool - and awesome.|
Make sure your rose-tinted glasses are on nice and tight, and prepare for a lovely walk down nostalgia lane.
Oh god, now we're reaching back, practically into your subconscious. Way back in the glory days of D&D, when Crayola Dice were the norm, a problem arose - whilst it was possible to get Dungeons and Dragons books easily enough through book stores, getting other D&D supplies - namely dice - was a considerably harder sale. Getting d6s, for example, was always easy, but getting other dice was always problematic in the early days. Understanding that not everyone wanted to use fucking Crayola dice, and that quality polyhedrals was kind of difficult for those who didn't live in big cities with hobby shops, TSR came up with a solution... of sorts.
What the Fuck is a Chit?
Chits were a form of non-dice Pseudorandom Number Generation for those who lacked dice, but wanted to play D&D.
They were little tiles of colored cardboard (or Scrabble-like wood or plastic tiles if you had a really fucking good set), sorted by color - there were 20 of one color, 12 of another, 10 of yet another, 8 of yet another, and so on, all the way down to four - and thus representing all of your major polyhedral dice.
These would go into a set of opaque cloth bags, and were shaken up thoroughly. Then you'd be playing D&D or Star Frontier or whatever, and when you had to roll a die, you'd reach into the bag and pull out a chit from the appropriate bag, with the chit you pulled out being the number you "rolled." Then the Chit would be placed back in the bag and shaken back up.
Some non-D&D books, especially of the single-player RPG variety like the Lone Wolf series, just had the tables set up in pseudo-random distributions and encouraged players to "close their eyes and point." The issue with these "randomized" tables are very obvious: how many of you people actually fucking closed their eyes and didn't just proceed along like you totally just rolled a natural 20 on everything ever, no really? If you only ever used one table, then you can pretty easily figure out where the sweet spots are and then the above argument comes up again like using a worn pair of playing cards.
The End of Chits
It was a kind of clever way to get around a lack of dice, but it wasn't without problems. Cardboard and paper chits were easily spoofed and manipulated, since a player could dent or bend a corner and always get the right number they needed. Particularly unscrupulous players or DMs could sneak in an additional chit or two of good (high) or bad (low) rolls, and unless the contents of the chit-bag were counted, were unlikely to go noticed. All of this made Chits unreliable for those who didn't have players/DMs that could be trusted to not cheat, or Chits that weren't the plastic/wooden varieties.
In time, D&D becoming a more-common and accepted game, and being much more mainstream caused Dice to become much more popular, and since they were more portable, easier-to-use, and less-prone to dickery than Chits were, Chits quietly faded out of existence in the 1980s. A few DMs keep a set on-hand for emergencies and old-school games, however, since drawing chits during an all-night session in a basement lit by candles during a blackout is the very definition of Neckbeardy goodness.
Chits have found a new life however in one setting: prison. Dice of any kind are banned in prison, as they could be used for gambling. So, enterprising locked up gamers have to find some way to "roll" without getting their dice stolen by guards. Chits were an obvious solution.