Dice and DnD
Dice and Dungeons & Dragons go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s an iconic pairing that’s hard to separate. When most people think of DnD, they imagine people sitting around a table rolling dice and telling stories, and that’s precisely what DnD is. This guide is designed to give you all the information you’ll ever need about dice for Dungeons & Dragons. Which dice are best? What dice do you really need? Can and should you use dice rollers? We set out to answer all your questions thoroughly.
Since this guide is long, we’ve assembled a table of contents for it (above) that will quick link you to specific sections. The guide was designed to answer questions for many types of players, from the newest beginner to the hardened veteran.
Using Dice in DnD
If you’re brand new to DnD, you likely have a loose understanding of how dice are used for the game. Anything in DnD that can be left to chance is resolved by rolling dice. This dice roll represents both the player’s action and any random variance from the environment or setting. This can be jumping a gap, climbing a wall, sneaking through a forest, or any action that could have a chance to fail. These rolls are typically rolled on a twenty sided dice, also known as a d20. A high roll on any particular check often indicates the player did better, where a low roll would indicate that they did worse. As an example, a player sneaking through the woods that rolled a 17 will make hardly any noise. A low roll on the same check might indicate that same player stepped on some twigs or rustled some leaves.
Those rolls are all very important to the game. Depending on how your dungeon master runs their game, they may have you roll more or less often. Some DMs prefer letting the dice determine your fate, and others would rather your roll playing determine the majority of it. Role playing and dice rolls are not opposing forces, but sometimes what they do overlap. If a player is trying to persuade someone, the DM could have them roll for the outcome, or they could role play the scene. This comes down to both dungeon master and player preference.
So far we’ve only talked about one particular type of roll, checks with the d20. While you’re most likely to roll a d20 at any particular point in DnD, the game uses a full set of polyhedral dice. Beyond the standard checks, there are percentile rolls, damage rolls, and modifiers that get rolled on other dice throughout the game. If you’re a completely new player, we highly recommend picking up a copy of the Player’s Handbook and reading the introductory section that starts on pg. 6. It details how to play the game as well as the actual rules that are involved with game dice.
Understanding Dice Rolls
Beyond simply rolling dice in the game, you need to understand how to translate the rolls you make to the game itself. As a player or a dungeon master, interpreting dice rolls will be very important to keeping the game moving. The more you play, the more you start to see these outcomes as less of a number and more as your actions.
Dice typically give a general sense of how well you did at any particular action. In our early example about stealth we’ve talked about how low and high rolls have polar outcomes, but that’s only the beginning of dice interpretation. A roll adds modifiers that can improve your odds, making lower rolls more average and higher rolls even better. If you’re a dungeon master, there is also the difficulty of the challenge to consider. A high roll might seem like a character did well, but that only means it did well relative to the difficulty of the task. Even the best rolls might not be enough to overcome an especially difficult challenge.
A dice roll might also convey the tone of an action. Voice, demeanor, and general conversation may all be directed by a dice outcome. While the DM will ultimately be responsible for explaining those specifics, the player still needs to have a sense of what their roll means. A good DM will make sure they explain what certain outcomes mean.
If you’re a dungeon master, knowing dice averages can make your game run more smoothly. New DMs often struggle with averages for damage rolls or working out the likelihood of success for particular tasks. You either need to do the math or get experience with difficulty curves for different rolls. It’s not always necessary, but once you really understand dice averages and their probable outcomes, both planning and improvising become easier.
If you want to get a better understanding of the averages of any particular dice, you can use a dice calculator. Two of the best are Dice Roll Stats and Any Dice. With these tools you’ll be able to see distributions of rolls and averages for different combinations of dice. While the average player doesn’t need to have a full understanding of these probabilities, it is likely that eventually a DM will need this information to correctly figure out how difficult an encounter should be. How much health does a creature need? What is the average damage my players output per turn? Finding dice roll averages for these scenarios will give you an estimate you can use to create balanced, challenging encounters.
Dice Rolls and DC
Difficulty class, or DC, is a number that is compared against d20 rolls to determine success or failure for a particular action. Because this is always a d20 roll plus applicable modifiers, a dungeon master will be able to set the DC of a challenge that divides up the success or failure into clear divisions. Once a dungeon master has an understanding of DC and how dice rolls work with them, they can create DCs on the fly and give the players descriptions that help convey the challenge’s difficulty to the players.
The math for determining the DC is comparatively simple to understanding dice averages. Any fair and accurate d20 has an even 5% probability of rolling any number 1-20, and with multiple rolls will begin to average between 10 and 11. Knowing this allows you to set up basic distribution or difficulties for a d20 roll. For someone with no advantages, setting a DC 10 gives the player a slightly better than 50/50 shot at succeeding. It’s slightly better because the lowest roll is 1 not 0, which makes the average 10.5 instead of 10. But still, on a single roll it’s pretty much random chance. Also be sure to keep in mind that meeting the DC means the player succeeds, so DnD is a little more forgiving to the heroes in that respect.
When players start adding modifiers to their rolls, the math gets a little more interesting. For each +1 a player has, it moves the average up by one. So what was once an average roll of 10.5 is now 11.5, and the players odds of success on a d10 are 12/20 or 60% (because they would succeed on every roll of 9 or higher). The quickest way to figure this out for any roll and set the difficulty is to assume no mastery and try to estimate what percentage success the average person would have.
From there, it’s easy to work backwards. If the average person would have a 25% chance of success at a particular task, the DC would be equal to 20 – (.25 *20) for a DC of 15. That means the average person only has a slightly better than 1 in 4 change to succeed, but a hero with might fair better because of their particular skills and training. There is obviously a learning curve to these calculations, and not everyone gets excited about doing math for fun. But these calculations will help you balance your game and create a more enjoyable experience for your players. Once you learn a few DC percentages, you quickly build a framework in your mind making it second nature. Like anything, you’ll get faster the more you practice.
Advantage and Disadvantage
Another piece of math that many people may not consider is Advantage and Disadvantage. For new players or players from older versions, advantage is taking the higher of two d20 rolls, while disadvantage is taking the lower of two d20 rolls. Until you look at the math, you don’t really think about how big of a difference this can make! So how does advantage or disadvantage affect the probability of meeting a DC?
Let’s take a DC 10 for example. A normal roll comes out to a 55% chance to meet or beat that difficulty class. When you throw advantage in the mix and roll twice, the probability shoots up to a staggering 79.8% chance of success! Similarly for disadvantage, the odds drop to 30.3% chance of success. This is a huge difference when you look at it in the context of battle. Simply giving a monster disadvantage on a hit can statistically save 25% of the damage you might have otherwise taken (assuming an Armor Class of 10 with no modifiers).
There is a great article with useful tables that shows the probabilities for each of the d20 rolls for advantage and disadvantage over at Columbia University’s statistics department website.
While physical dice are the norm, they are not necessary for DnD. You can use a digital dice roller in place of your physical dice. However, most players prefer having their own dice to use and enjoy rolling them. Watching the physical roll of a set of dice can add a lot of suspense and emotion to a game.
Dice come in all shapes and sizes and are made of a wide variety of materials. Which dice you’ll like best comes down to preference, even though there are quality and use differences for each type. In this section we’ll examine the different types of dice used for DnD and discuss what determines the quality of dice you might buy.
Polyhedral dice are your standard geometric shapes that are used in many dice games. The most famous around the world is the d6, a six sided cube that is easy to make and use and has been common for centuries. While technically all dice with distinct faces are considered polyhedral dice, there are a few that constitute a standard set.
Polyhedral Dice Set
A standard polyhedral dice set consists of 7 dice. These are the d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. The 7th in the set is a second d10, which has numbers from 0 – 90 instead of 1-10. For each die in the set, the number in its name indicates the number of faces. There are 20 faces on a d20 that range from 1 to 20, and similarly there are 6 faces on a d6, numbering 1-6. A d4 is a pyramid shape and each face contains three numbers; the roll is indicated by the number that is facing the upward point on the dice.
All of these polyhedral dice are used with DnD in regular play. Statistically, the d20 is the most used and the d12 the least used. Typically the d20 in a polyhedral set is used for most skill and combat checks, while the other dice are used for damage or modifier rolls.
Percentile Dice are a set of two d10’s. The standard d10 has the numbers 1-10 on it’s faces while the percentile die is the d10 with a 0-90 on it’s faces in increments of 10. When rolled together, a player is able to get a number between 1-100 by adding the dice together. If you roll a 70 on the percentile die and 5 on the d10, the number is 75. If you roll a 30 on the percentile die and a 10 on the d10, the number is 40. In Dungeons & Dragons you’ll generally see percentile dice used for highly random effects or loot tables.
You can also use an actual d100 for percentile rolls. The disadvantage of using a d100 is with that many faces, the die is almost a sphere. This makes them difficult use and hard to manufacture, so two d10’s have become the norm for percentile rolls. You can get a good d100, but often they are a bit more expensive and are unnecessary for everyday DnD.
The concept of fair dice means that all the outcomes on a die are evenly likely. When looking at this in mathematical terms, we mean a die’s face will have the same chance to come up with any roll. In practical terms, this means that your dice will have the same size and shape for each of their numbered faces, but this does not mean you cannot have other types of fair dice.
The standard set of fair dice are composed of shapes known as platonic solids. Platonic solids are 3 dimensional objects that meet two conditions. First, each face of the object is made of the same regular polygon. Second, the same number of polygons meet at each of the shape’s vertices. While this is a little more information than necessary, it really all boils down to equal chance comes from equal representation of surfaces.
While fairness is not the only quality of dice that needs to be considered, it is often what people think they are looking for in good dice. But fair dice are not always accurate and may favor one face over another.
The Difference Between Fairness and Accuracy
While the terms fairness and accuracy may seem intuitive, their strict definitions may surprise you. Fairness is the chance that any side will come up being equally likely based on geometry. Any standard d6 in its cube shape is fair in its nature. However, this does not mean that the die is random. You may have a d6 that is fair, but always lands on a 6. While the dice is fair, the accuracy is low in this situation.
Accuracy of dice is the measure to which they are random. The higher the accuracy, the more random the die is. The lower the accuracy, the more often if favors a single number over others. This all comes down to a die’s weighting, density, and fairness. All accurate dice have some degree of fairness, but not all fair dice are accurate. An example of an unfair but accurate die would be a d20 with differently sized faces that are weighted to negate the unfair bias of the geometry. While it is unlikely that you would ever encounter a die like this, they certainly do come up in mathematics from time to time.
As a buyer, finding fair dice is far easier than finding accurate dice. With this in mind, we make some recommendations in our buyers guide.
When people think of fair dice, they imagine weighted dice as the opposite. Weighted dice are what people consider to be the tools of cheats. Also known as loaded dice, a weighted die is typically a fair die that has a very low accuracy. Despite the dice roll appearing to be fair, the number rolled is heavily slanted towards a certain value. This does not mean that it will land on the same number each time, but will roll that value more often than would be expected.
All dice, regardless of their fairness, have a weighted bias to them. We say this so confidently because it is very hard to make a single die that rolls completely randomly. This is something that dice manufactures work against all the time, and they constantly try to get the dice to be as accurate and random as possible. In fact, it’s hard to make loaded dice when you start increasing the number of faces above 6 since the number of faces continually divides up the chance that one side will appear more than another.
To make sure dice resist weighting and are more random, numbers on the opposite faces are paired up in a way that makes them add up to the sum of the faces plus one. By putting high and low values opposite each other, you end up with dice that have a good distribution of high and low numbers in each region of the dice, and the effects of weighting are reduced significantly. This increases the random chance of rolls and works to make them more accurate.
Weighted dice are commonly used to cheat in games, but in Dungeons and Dragons it’s not really desirable. Many players and dungeon masters take a lot of care when choosing dice to make sure their set isn’t unintentionally weighted towards a specific outcome. If your dice always roll high or always roll low, this can cause problems in the game. If someone is intentionally using weighted dice, it robs the other players from a genuine experience.
Weighted DnD Dice
While most players try to avoid weighted dice, there are those that look to get weighted dice for DnD. While we don’t suggest this as anything more than a prank, when used in a single session they can be fun. One way to use a set of loaded dice is in a trickster quest. These kind of things can make a lot of sense since a trickster would naturally be putting their foot on the scales of balance. Another option would be if the players try gambling. There would be a physical reason why the House always wins.
Not all dice are physical anymore, and depending on your preference or needs, digital dice may be a good alternative for you. The number of dice rollers and random number generators is vast, and often you have your pick of the litter. But there are some things to consider when going the full digital route.
When using a dice roller, you want it to accurately represent the dice you are using. Today, almost any dice roller you would use will be sufficiently random and fair, probably much more so than traditional dice. While you may lose some of the tension that comes with rolling physical dice, the advantages of quick, highly random rolls can be very appealing for some gamers. These are especially common as more and more people are playing Dungeons and Dragons online and use dice rollers that work with their chat application to share results and make rolls faster. Easily programmable macros for common rolls help keep the game moving during combat sessions.
DnD Dice Roller
You have many options when choosing a dice roller. Dice rollers are so common and easy to make that many have been built specifically to cater to the needs of DnD players. Master the Dungeon has even created its own dice roller that incorporates some quick rolling options for weapon damage, adding modifiers, and keeping a log of your rolls for the game. A good DnD dice roller can make your life easier, so look for one with a lot of quality of life features. Feel free to give ours a try!
Percentile Dice Roller
A percentile dice roller is another common need for players and DMs. This is is a random number between 1 and 100, so don’t stress about finding a specific percentile dice roller. Any standard dice roller should be able to generate this, and you should have no trouble finding a dice roller that has a d100 function built in.
Dice and Accessibility
Every dungeon master should strive to make their table as accessible as possible. There are a number of different dice types available to people of all different types of abilities. The DOTS RPG Project provides a full set of polyhedral braille dice for people who may require visual assistance. You can get these from their online store, and they also provide the STL file for 3D printing.
There are also other kinds of tactile dice sets that have a very similar look to non-accessible dice. The major differences are that the dice are typically larger and players can feel the numbers on dice with few faces.
Blind Sparrow Interactive is an independent development studio making inclusive, blind and low vision accessible games and applications. They’re currently working on an RPG Dice manager for blind, low vision and sighted players called Ready To Roll. It’s currently out on iOS.
We want to give a special shout out to the DOTS RPG Project for their help with this section. They were an invaluable resource for keying us in to accessibility options. If you have time, please go check them out. If you know of any other accessibility options, please let us know so we can add them to our resources list.
Master the Dungeon’s Dice Buyers Guide
When it comes to buying dice, DnD fans everywhere tend to go overboard. This might be you, it might be a friend, but sooner or later you’ll run into someone with more dice than they can possibly use (or sometimes even carry). In a way, this has just become a normal part of Dungeons & Dragons. Your first set of dice are usually basic and on loan. But as time goes on, you find yourself upgrading to fancier dice. As with any hobby that you spend a lot of time on, you’ll gradually upgrade your tools to reflect your tastes. You see this in music, art, and even tech hobbies; upgrades happen as people become more attached to their hobby.
When buying dice, there are a variety of factors you can look at. You might be shopping for quality, style, or some combination of the two. Some people have a preference for a certain material, while others get different dice for each character they create. Buying dice is not something you should stress out about, but there are a few things that might be handy to know. In this section we hope to provide you with enough information to make intelligent buying decisions the next time you purchase a set of dice.
Providing Dice for Your Group
While you need a full set for yourself if you’re a dungeon master, it is a good idea to have spare sets available for your players too. Eventually they will all get their own dice and begin hoarding their own, but until then we recommend that you have at least a full set for each player in your group. They’ll come in handy far more often than you think! Take a look at the information in the following sections and make some recommendations for getting great dice, even on a budget.
Dice quality can be very important. When talking about quality, we’re looking a few main features, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with how the dice look. Quality is really about fairness and accuracy being as high as possible. These two factors are typically the most important when it comes to quality, followed by durability. These topics are all explored below in the section on “What makes good dice?”.
While quality is certainly a standard that everyone should look for, readability is also important. Clear, readable numbers seem like an obvious choice when you choose dice, but sometimes stylish dice are not always easy to read. Easily legible dice are something that you come to respect the more you use them. We’ve seen more than few pairs of stylish dice that rarely get used due to their reading difficulty. The reverse is true for plain dice that are easy to read. The speed and clearness they offer can outweigh the desire for style over time.
Dice Value and Dice Budget
The value of a particular set relies on the factors we touched on above, as well as craftsmanship and uniqueness. Quality and readability make sense as metrics for you to follow when you’re looking to buy new dice. But dice that are made out of harder to craft materials or designed in interesting ways will always cost more. What you are willing to spend and what dice are worth are two separate things. Many dice can be produced for pennies and still have high quality and readability, while exotic materials might make expensive dice with low quality metrics.
When shopping for new dice, set a budget and think about what you want to get out of the dice you are buying. If you want high quality random dice, you can get these fairly inexpensively. If you’re looking for hand-carved bone dice that are just so cool, they’ll cost a lot more. So knowing your price range before you shop is a must.
Good-looking Dice Are Not Always Quality
The sad truth about pretty dice is that they often are not quality. Swirled plastics make weighting a problem, and different materials inherently have density issues associated with that material. This can be doubly true for dice with fancy, inlaid designs. While the designs are cool, the extra material cut out changes their center and causes them to roll differently. When looking at fancy dice of any kind, we suggest you look for some statement of statistical randomness published by the company. If you can’t find it, be prepared for some lower overall accuracy on your rolls.
Which Dice to Buy for DnD
There are tons of different dice out there and so many made specifically for DnD. When it comes to buying dice for the game, you will need a full set of 7 polyhedral dice. Most major dice manufacturers sell these sets and you can get them in a range of prices. The three major companies in the DnD dice space currently are Chessex, GameScience, and SkullSplitter. Each company has their advantages and disadvantages, but all of them produce quality gaming dice. We explore each companies pros and cons in later sections, but first we’re going to get into the meat and potatoes of dice shopping comparisons.
Finding the Best Dice
What Makes a Good Set of Dice?
A good set of dice has to hit on the crossroads between style and quality, but what determines those items? In this section we break down the objective parts of each and explore both dice materials and statistical qualities. We’ll also look at ways you can tell if any set of dice has major flaws or issues.
How to Test Dice Fairness
Fairness of dice is something that usually does not need to be tested for. If you wanted to see if a die was fair, you would need to measure the area of all of its faces and check that they were equal. Additionally, you would need to ensure there was not any weird geometry that skews one face or another towards more likely outcomes. One of the ways this can be altered in the manufacturing process is when die edges are rounded. If you have sharper corners on some edges and not others, the fairness of the dice is reduced.
How to Test Dice Accuracy
Testing for accuracy can be done in two ways: roll testing and buoyancy testing. Roll testing is the best way to measure accuracy for heavy/dense dice that will not float in anything. Simply roll the die 100 times and record each value. The distribution of numbers should be roughly equal. The more you roll, the more even the distribution should get. If you start seeing one or two numbers crop up more frequently, you’re likely seeing low accuracy dice. It’s important to note that, while extremely unlikely, if a die is truly random you could get the same number on every roll by chance. So the more rolls you do, the better your test will hypothetically be. But your results could also be skewed due to the chaotic nature of the universe.
Buoyancy testing does not have the same chance of random failure that roll testing has. The test measures density distribution and dice weight. You can do this test by creating a saturated salt water mix where you cannot dissolve any more salt into the water. Drop in the die you want to test and if it’s less dense than salt water (most plastic dice are), it will float. While the die is floating it should be able to be spun to different numbers without re-centering on a single one. If the die is accurate while floating, any number could be up per spin. If it’s inaccurate, the die will always come to rest on the same number, which is also the number the die is skewed towards when rolling.
Dice can be made out of all sorts of materials. There are plastic dice, metal dice, wooden dice, bone dice, stone dice, even dice made out of hops! The limit to this is the manufacturer’s imagination, but not all dice materials are created equally. In this section of our buyer’s guide, we’ll dive into the differences between each material and talk about how it changes the dice.
Plastic dice are the gold standard for modern games. Plastic dice are both relatively easy to make, cheap to produce, and often allow for relatively high accuracy when designed correctly. Chessex is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of plastic dice and have been making great ones for years, so it’s no surprise we still see them dominate the market.
Plastic dice are typically made through injection molding using a plastic polymer known as polymethyl methacrylate or PMMA. PMMA is an ideal material for dice because it is easily colored, heat stable, has great impact strength, and can even be transparent if desired. Due to the nature of PMMA, plastic dice typically have a relatively uniform density and resist weighting to some degree when created.
When it comes to being of higher quality, the process under which they are manufactured matters quite a bit. Decisions made in the manufacturing process change the cost considerably and may impact quality. These can be the settings for the injection molding process or even the molds themselves. Additionally, the coloration of the dice can change their accuracy, as cheap swirled colors end up having more or less pigment in different areas, and the pigment adds weight to the dice. While coloration is a factor, good manufacturers understand its effects and account for this in their process or testing.
Wooden dice are among the more common dice you can get after plastic. Wooden dice are often milled or carved and can be made in a variety of ways. One of the biggest setbacks with wooden dice is their often low accuracy, since wood is rarely uniform. These are one of the few dice that are often less dense than plastic dice, and they tend to have a softer bounce and a bit more roll. Because of the qualities of wood, sharper edges can help compensate for some weighting issues by reducing their overall roll. This increases their bounce, which can result in a more random roll.
Most quality dice manufacturers do not make wooden dice due to their low suitability for other markets. They cannot be used for gambling games and can very easily conceal weights and other biases. If you are looking for wooden dice for DnD they won’t come from the standard dice manufactures you’re used to.
Stone dice are rising in popularity lately and DnD is one of the reasons for this. Stone dice are definitely stylish, and depending on the material they are hewn from, they can have a fairly consistent roll. When looking at stone dice, the stone that they are made of it very important. While it may seem like stone, being a hard material, would make a good die, hardness does not necessarily discount the brittleness of certain rocks. Cheaper stone dice can be prone to cracking or splitting when rolled on other hard surfaces. On top of this, stone dice are exceptionally loud. If you are looking for a nice set of stone, we recommend that you also look at getting a softer material rolling tray, perhaps something lined with a cloth like felt. This not only helps protect your investment, but it also cuts down on the noise level that will drive other players crazy.
Some of the cooler stone dice can have veins of different materials running through them. Marble is common since it’s a relatively soft material and easy to carve. Some stones have quartz or other gems and can make for very pretty, if not extremely expensive dice. The materials here will lower the dice accuracy if they are not balanced well, but you can often find dice like these that are within normal tolerances for a game. If you do get quartz or any other crystal dice, do not roll them on hard surfaces; they are exceptionally prone to shattering and can be quite expensive.
Of the specialty materials, metal dice are easily the most popular. Metal dice are made similarly to plastic dice in that they are created in a mold. However, they take a considerable amount more effort to make and the molds last for a very short time comparatively. Metal dice come in many varieties and can be created from many different metals. Of all the dice you would ever buy, these will be the loudest and most durable. We’ve never seen evidence of these dice cracking like others would, and often the dice tend to damage tables! Be careful when using or storing them, as most have some sharp edges. We’ve seen people ruin boxes, other dice, play mats, tables, and more with these heavy polyhedrals.
If you’re looking to purchase metal dice, there are so many options out there that it can be hard to know what you’re looking for. When it comes to value, bronze is a very good choice. Bronze is a composite material with a fairly consistent density and is hard enough to avoid becoming scratched on the surface. The cost of these will still be higher than normal, but you can find good sets for a reasonable price online.
When you start getting into exotic metal dice, you can spend quite a lot of money in a hurry. In fact, you can even buy gold dice! When you look at exotic metals (anything outside of steel, copper, bronze, etc.) just be sure to check out the metal. Some metals are quite soft and through normal play the faces will wear down. Other metals need surface coating to keep from reacting with the air or wet surfaces. Event copper and silver tarnish and corrode over time, so make sure you aren’t buying these from a place that cuts corners when making them.
Bone dice are cool, there’s no denying it. If you start playing a necromancer and are rolling some sweet bone dice, you’ve certainly committed to a style and we applaud that commitment. Bones can actually make for some very good dice. Some of the first dice ever used were sheep’s knuckles, due to their natural, uniform shape and good bounce. These early sheep bone dice would later set the stage for the creation of Crazy Bones, a plastic novelty popular in the 90s and early 2000s. We’ve come a long way when it comes to making bone dice, but the material is hard to work with and can have some quality issues.
Bone dice are very light weight. Bones are naturally only as dense as they need to be to support the weight of the animal they come from. Bird bones are hollow to allow them to fly, while large land mammals have some of the densest bones on the planet. This leads to differences in what bones make the best dice and which animals it’s okay to make dice from.
If you are planning on buying bone dice, we encourage you to buy dice made from animal byproducts or taken from animals that have died naturally. It’s rare that you will find dice from animals that were used specifically for it, but it’s important to take these ethical concerns into consideration. If possible, it might be worthwhile to look for people who are making bone dice that aim to reduce animal waste products. While we don’t currently have a manufacturer that we support, we are open to suggestions from the community on this topic.
Bone dice, like stone, can be brittle and prone to damage, though due to their light weight they often will resist breaking for a long time. The can be fragile, so it’s best to keep them in a dice box or their own bag and never store them in a place where they might be crushed or shaken with heavy objects.
Plant Based Dice
This one caught us off guard while researching for this guide. There are some manufactures that are making dice using compressed plant matter and gilding them with metals or coating to keep them whole. The first example we found was made from hops with a copper trim and inlay. While it might be the most hipster thing you’ve ever encountered, the process is very interesting and certainly worth keeping an eye on. These are the most sustainable dice we’ve ever seen and are worth looking into if that is something that matters to you. Likely these have some of the lowest environmental impact as far as dice and role playing hobbies go.
As for quality, these don’t seem to be super popular yet and the reviews we’ve seen are all over the board. The dice might be fine, but there’s not a lot of information on manufacturing process at this time. If you are getting some of these unusual compressed plant matter dice, be aware that rolling fairness and accuracy is not often guaranteed.
Other Fancy Dice
Fancy dice are not something made out of a single material, but instead made with style unique to the manufacturer. These might be intricately carved dice or perhaps even dice made out of many composite materials. Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes fancy dice, but for our purposes we’re talking about any dice that has extra details, creation materials, or crafting steps that are wholly unnecessary.
When looking for fancy dice you likely already have a particular style in mind. We 100% support the purchase and use of fancy dice, but we also want to remind everyone that form follows function. The more modifications you make to a die, the more care that needs to go into testing and balance. If you use fancy metals for the number inlay, it changes the weight based on the size and shape of the number. If you use multiple types of materials, the density or center of gravity could easily be shifted. Style and quality are very different, so make sure if you spend a lot on fancy dice you’re getting your money’s worth!
When most people think of dice they generally imagine the normal 7 polyhedral dice, but that’s just the beginning of the types of dice there are. Beyond the normal dice you might expect, there are all sorts of unusual ones, like spherical dice or skewed. If you want to find some really unusual ones, skew dice are the right place to start. These are fair dice that look like they should not be. They come in all sorts of odd shapes and sizes.
Odd shapes are interesting, but there are also dice that come with different sides and numbers. While these aren’t as useful for DnD, they occasionally have their place. Some great examples would be the d2 (it’s not a coin), and the d120. Both are fair dice, but due to the numbers you’re rolling for, they have some interesting geometry and number orientations.
Some unusual dice aren’t even rolled the same way as others. There are cylindrical dice that have no numbers on the short faces, but contain all of their values on the long faces to indicate your roll.
There are many more types of unusual dice out there. If you’re looking to purchase some for your game, just make sure they are both fair and accurate before you spend too much on them. The Dice Shop Online has a whole section dedicated to specialist dice of various make and quality if you want to get an idea of just how weird they can be.
Where to Buy Dice
Dice can be purchased pretty much anywhere games or comics are sold if you’re looking to support local businesses. Outside of your local game or comic store, your next best bet would be to purchase from a manufacturer online or head to Amazon. All of our favorite dice are carried on Amazon and sold both re-seller and by the manufacturer themselves.
Dice on Amazon
Choices on Amazon are nearly endless. There are literally thousands of options, and all from different vendors and distributors. While the descriptions for dice on Amazon are important, it’s equally important to read the reviews. Dice sold online don’t always match the descriptions provided and the quality can suffer for it. You might think you found a great deal, only to realize that you’ve been the victim of misinformation.
The easiest way to avoid any heartache is to buy from the manufacturer of the dice. Most major manufacturers also sell on Amazon to capture their audience better, and in some cases the prices on Amazon are cheaper than buying them from the manufacturer’s personal website.
The biggest gamble you’re going to take when buying dice online is color. Many dice are pictured one way, but end up looking another. This is often not malicious, but simply because dye lots change and it’s hard to make the dice appear the same way each time they are created. Additionally, the pictures used for marketing are going to show the very best version of the dice that are available. If you keep that in mind, you can be sure to find dice that will look good regardless of any color irregularities.
Master the Dungeon’s Brand Guide
Chessex dice are the gold standard when it comes to buying dice that balance all the qualities you would look for. Their quality is very high, which makes them some of the most accurate gaming dice on the market. Rarely do you have any issues with color or finished product look. And the price point in very reasonable given the high quality. If you’re getting your very first set of dice, we recommend Chessex over any other brand. They’re not always the fanciest and they aren’t the most affordable dice you can get, but they are easily some of the best dice for someone starting the game. If possible, look to purchase from their Gemini Series as these are more accurate than some other series that they produce. They also happen to come in cool multi-color varieties.
Chessex Dice Recommendations
If you care about accuracy above all else, Gamescience dice are for you. This company prides itself on creating the most accurate polyhedral dice on the market. Many reviewers have compared and tested these against Chessex dice, and while both are very accurate, Gamescience dice tend to be more accurate more consistently.
The downside to this accuracy is often a lack of interesting color options. These dice also tend to be a bit more pricey than most. Their dice tend to have very hard edges and precise numbering, which is great for accuracy but not for style. Some of their dice do come in interesting colors and have some variety to them, but these come at a premium price. You’ll likely shell out nearly $30 for a complete set of good looking dice.
The dice are great, and we love them for games, but they fill a special niche and are better suited for a dungeon master who wants to be more random than for a player who’s just trying to survive.
Gamescience Dice Recommendations
Skullsplitter dice are a relatively new brand. They’re not the fanciest and not always the most accurate, but they are still good quality and come in at a price that cannot be beat. We recommend these dice for your party or new players who don’t have their own dice yet. A bag of more than 10 complete sets of dice can be purchased for under $15 and they more than meet the minimum standards of accuracy for any game.
Skullsplitter also make a variety of more specialty dice and offer unique patterns and themed options. These start to become more expensive if you’re looking for a particular style, but they tend to have something that fits any niche.
Skullsplitter Dice Recommendations
- Skullsplitter One Pound Bag – 18 complete sets of polyhedral dice
Buying Dice in Bulk
Dice purchasing is a slippery slope. You start with a few sets, then add a few more. After that you’re purchasing by the pound. Before too long you’re on Ebay buying bulk lots of dice. Don’t let dice addiction take hold too hard!
We recommend you take a more discerning approach to your dice purchases. While bulk purchasing dice is a possibility, quality takes a huge dive if you aren’t spending a ton of money. Most pound-o-dice or larger bulk lots are the ones that failed to meet one or more of the quality standards of the company making them (with the exception of Skullsplitter dice). Rather than throw them out, they sell off the lots in bulk. Every manufacturer has different quality control practices in place, so you’ll have to consider your bulk purchases carefully. Chessex offers a pound-o-dice that is quite good for misprints, and usually contains high quality, ugly dice. Errors where the color didn’t mix right or the dye lot was wrong are common. Sometimes you get lucky and these will contain perfectly fine dice that were just an overrun. Those cases are rare and any bulk dice purchase is a gamble.
Dice have all sorts of accessories that people like to use for DnD. There are dice trays, dice towers, boxes and bags, even dice rolling machines. While it’s true none of these are a necessary addition to your dice collection, some accessories may be a good purchase for you.
A dice tower is device that helps roll your dice. Rather than rolling on a flat surface, a dice tower introduces internal geometry for your dice to bounce off of. While it’s not too clear if they actually help with the random outcomes of your rolls, they can certainly help keep your rolls contained. Many dice towers are designed to help keep your dice from flying off the table or bouncing into your minis, so they serve a good purpose.
Dice towers have become more elaborate and a lot more thematic. Many dice towers resemble actual towers, and quite a few are DnD themed accessories. Some of our favorite dice towers are linked below.
Dice tower recommendations
Nothing is fancier for your DnD game than having a custom box for your dice. A dice box, or dice vault, is exactly what is sounds like. Despite its simple purpose, it’s amazing how many options there are. You’ll find hundreds of different options for storing your dice, from plain latching boxes to form factor boxes that have individual spots for each individual die. A nice dice box is certainly the height of DnD luxury. But from a more practical standpoint, if you’ve bought a nice set of dice, it’s a good way to keep them safe. Bone dice are fragile and a good dice box might make sense for a set like that.
If you’re really looking to get into your character, you can even get themed dice boxes that fit who you’re playing. Skullsplitter makes a few cool ones like a thieves tools box, or the warlock dice sets. These can certainly add to the role play if you’re looking for practical props.
Dice trays are also becoming a lot more popular. Dice can get everywhere during a DnD session, but a dice tray can help you keep them contained and out of the way. Good dice trays are also made to reduce the sound from rolling dice. We’ve all heard the clatter of dice on a hard surface, and if you’re using metal dice, this can be so loud. A nice dice tray can significantly muffle that sound. Dice trays range from cheap plastic all the way up to hand-carved mahogany. We’re not recommending you spend $250 on a dice tray, but you absolutely could.
Get Ready to Roll
We hope our breakdown of all the different aspects of dice has been helpful. But the most important thing to remember about dice is that you should choose the set that you like the best. In a game where you share the spotlight with others and your current character can be destroyed in an instant, it’s nice to have something solid that you can take with you from game to game. Unless that set of dice betrays you. Then you need to throw those cursed polyhedrals in dice jail and switch loyalties to a new set. Happy rolling!