Is there really “best dice?” This depends primarily on how significant you determine the different factors by which dice can be judged and categorized. Some players will buy one set, having never given them a second thought. For others, it can be very serious – like, “don’t you ever touch my dice” level serious. If you don’t know where you fall on the spectrum, that’s probably because you don’t own a set of dice yet. Well now it’s time to Know Your Roll (they said the title of the post!) and learn how to pick the best DND dice set as well as where to buy DND dice, or dice for any game that uses polyhedrals.
There are several things to consider when shopping for dice, some of which you might not find worth considering – but they effect your rolls regardless. After you’re done, head on over to my recommendations page where I’ve reviewed many items. The legwork is done, and the reviews are in!
What Are The Different Types of Dice? What Is Their Purpose?
Fundamentally, there are seven shapes you need to learn. They are typically abbreviated with a “d” preceding the number of sides on the die. Therefore, a 20-sided die is simply referred to as a “d20.” If you’re going to roll four six-sided dice, then you are going to roll “4d6.”
The d4: Also known as “the caltrop” because if you lose this on the floor, your bare foot WILL find it. As you can see, it’s shaped similar to a pyramid. It doesn’t roll as much as it slides after it lands. Typically, this is rolled only for low damage abilities like dagger or spells such as magic missiles and healing word. There is a bit of variation of design: some d3 will indicate the number on the tip of the die, while others use the flat base. I prefer using the pointer-style because all other dice indicate their number with the number that’s on top.
The d6: Easily the most common style of dice in the world, and possible the one you might roll the most if you like fireballs or playing a rogue. It represents the lower-end of the damage dice such as short swords and short bows. A lot of d6, like the ones from Yahtzee or other board games, will have pips to indicate their value. I prefer to have numbers shown so that it’s easier for others to see the value from across the table.
The d8: This one looks like two tetrahedrons connected at the base. This is the average roll for martial weapons such as long swords, long bows, morning stars, etc. This one is also common for cure spells.
The d10: Again, another damage die. They are typically printed with the numbers 1 through 0 with 0 representing the 10. Some tabletop games will use ONLY d10’s rather than the d20. You can roll two of these (it helps if they are different color) and effectively represent percentage. A result of two 0’s would be 100% whereas a 5 and a 3 would be 53 or 35, which is why it’s important to call out which color represents the tens place.
The Percentile: This is also a d10 but with the tens place printed on it. Almost all prepackaged polyhedral sets come with both a d10 and a percentile dice. The main benefit of this is that you get to have two d10s that are the same color instead of one really weird oddball sitting among the others trying to make friends while being different.
The d12: This is the top of the damage spectrum and seldom used for anything else. Almost specifically made for barbarians due to how many hit points they get when they gain a level, and they great axes they tend to favor, you might also use this for certain spells.
The d20: The classic. The Big Boy. This little thing will build and shape worlds, events, actions. Few things can be quite as exhilarating to D&D players as watching the result of this seemingly innocuous die reveal it’s digits. You’ll roll this for almost everything. 1’s are often considered critical failures and 20s, conversely, are often considered a critical success. Every person that plays D&D will inevitably accumulate fond and bittersweet memories regarding an epic maneuver or crushing defeat that led to certain doom based on this little fella.
The d100: The Hectohedron, or “Zocchihedron.” I’m only mentioning this as more of a warning and an “umbrella” topic to discuss other dice like the d34 (WHY?!). Don’t buy this. It rolls forever, and if it DOES stop, you’re not going to be able to determine if the result is 82 or 11. Roll 2d10 and be happy you’ve saved yourself from the eye strain. If you still like to use them, these to the left glow in the dark.
Why Is It Important to Have a Good Set of D&D Dice?
You’re going to be rolling these dice a lot, and if they aren’t balanced, you may end up having a bad time due to a disproportionate amount of failures. If you succeed a lot for the same reason, watch out! – the DM may just start using it for the NPCs. There are a multitude of factors to consider such as readability and accuracy. Most people won’t, which results in the “most important” factors being subjective, such as weight and color.
Nowadays, there are so many dice vendors and manufacturers in existence that it’s difficult to search for your ideal set. Therefore, you can eliminate some options by examining certain factors. I’m here to help you decide and you educate you on what makes some dice better than others.
If you follow these basic guidelines you will end up with a great set of dice that should last for several years of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and adventures.
How They Look and Price
Appearance, more than anything, and then price, are going to be the primary reasons you buy your dice, let be’s real. I can’t tell you what you like, so I’m not going to go into detail here about it. There are many color patterns out there and designs – find one you like. Keep in mind the rest of the factors that follow, though, because as I said above, they will help you narrow down your choices. Alternatively, you could just buy them all, which is what some people inevitably end up doing anyway. Once you purchase your first set, it’s a slippery slope down a deep hole of emptiness and solitude where you try to fill that void in your Dice Bag with more dice. You’ve been warned.
The Big Six – D.R.A.M.A.S.
BILA! (Because I Like Acronyms, and this will be on the test.)
- Durability – You want these to last, especially if you’re going to fork over money for a really nice set. The numbers can wear off; they may chip, crack, or break depending on the material. Like a good coffee mug, you may prefer to see some weathering on your dice, but this may change the weight distribution, thereby affecting the accuracy. This is the #1 factor that can distinguish lesser brands from the more expensive ones.
- Readability – Numbers on the faces should be clearly visible. I’ve seen some noisily designed dice with a bunch of symbols and elvish-looking script superimposed over the numbers or vice versa. They look flavorful and cool, but players often spend an extra moment or two having to “see” the number through all the patterns. This also denies other people from being able to
read your dice and immediately share in your joy – we all want to see the result! Some color combinations work very well for readability while others don’t. At minimum, avoid getting dice where the number is the same color as the face. All black plastic dice will also eventually become hard to read as the numbers get filled in with gunk, though you could just give them a bath if black is your thing.
- Accuracy – While some power-gamers, murder-hobos, and outright cheaters may not agree, it’s vital that your dice be fair and balanced – allowing for an even distribution across all possible results. Otherwise, your dice are “weighted,” and you’re removing so much of what is fun from this game: unpredictability. Each face of the die must be of equal size, and there should be no air bubbles within. Air bubbles can form during the manufacturing process and are hard to detect with most die, since the majority of them are opaque. Unquestionably, I don’t want to run the risk of purchasing uneven dice – especially if they aren’t weighted in my favor!
- Material – Most dice you’ll see are a polymer blend (plastic), and the more expensive ones are metal, or some times something more exotic.
- Polymer dice, as you might imagine, are lighter and less expensive on average. However, they are more prone to manufacturing flaws that deal with weight distribution because they weigh significantly less. They wear easier, break easier, and are overall far less durable. A huge benefit, though, is that they won’t piss me off when you roll them on my glass gaming table. You’re definitely able to roll them on more surfaces and they aren’t as obnoxiously loud as their metal counterparts. They can be a lot more vibrant and their coloration vary more than metal dice, though, because they can be injected with different colors during the molding process. Consequently, this can lead to imbalances as well.
- Metal dice have their drawbacks as well. Price is the obvious difference you’ll notice once you start shopping around. This means that losing one can be that much worse because it’s more to replace that individual, or the whole set if you can’t find a match. Because metal dice have significantly more mass (they tend to weigh about seven times more), their rolls tend to carry with them more gravity (figuratively and literally). One cool aspect of this material is the finishing steps they go through, referred to as electroplating. This allows for different style and coloration options unavailable to polymers.
- Maybe you’ll get both?! If you do, store each set in a different dice box or dice bag. They don’t mix well; the metals will often scratch the plastics.
- Affordability – You probably know all about this category. Nobody wants to pay overpriced nonsense for dice. There are some crazy-priced dice out there, too. If you want to stand out at the hobby shop, getting yourself a nice set of custom-made or hand crafted dice from a smaller manufacturer or designer like on Etsy will really help. You’ll have to fight the dice-nerds off with a stick. Keep in mind how difficult it is to replace one of those dice, though. If you know someone that plays, a fantastic gift idea is a set of custom/rare dice because it’s unique, it’s something they’ll use repeatedly and think of you, and the pricier versions are sometimes things that a person wouldn’t get for themself.
- Style – I said it above and I’ll restate it here: the way the dice look is going to be the key determinant when you settle on a set. Chessex pioneered the path with swirly dice when they debuted a line of Geminis in 2006. This is going to be one of the cheaper ways to show off your D&D style without getting into other paraphernalia like mugs and apparel.
Now You Can Go Buy The Best Dice For DND
But you’re no expert! If you’re still not convinced about the importance of design and manufacture of dice, just take TWO MINUTES to listen to what these guys have to say. It’s potentially fascinating or boring, depending on your interests. For the sake of education, though, I’ve provided them here for your viewing pleasure. YOU MIGHT JUST LEARN WHY IT’S BEEN SO LONG SINCE YOU ROLLED A 20!
Regarding Accuracy and Fairness
I briefly touched on this above, but thought it might need to be expanded a bit for those that are truly curious, especially if you watched the above video in its entirety. While discussing accuracy and fairness, what we mean precisely is how random the dice actually is. Serious players should want truly random rice. That attribute is what keeps table-top players in suspense and what lends itself to building great and memorable stories.
This is pretty simple and straightforward to explain. We’re not aiming for a bulls eye here, so what we really refer to with the phrase “dice accuracy” is the manufacturing process. A process that results in a dice that is both have equal measurements on each angle, face, and edge as well as have an even weight distribution throughout is an accurate dice. Weight distribution is significant, especially in polymer dice, because a small shift in weight towards one face will cause gravity to tend to pull that particular face down – resulting in the opposite face showing up. Consider this as well: this is an ongoing problem that evolves through use, after manufacture. As you use the dice, edges will become rounded, therefore altering the shape and weight distribution. Thus, a bias towards certain rolls is developed. Metal dice are less prone to this effect because their mass is much more significant, and they wear down slower than plastics.
- There’s a simple test for accuracy that you can perform on your plastics: it’s mentioned in that video above and involves water and salt; it’s fundamentally a balance test. The heavy face will settle facing down while floating in the buoyant solution.
Online Dice Rollers
Some rolls will call for large amounts of dice, like the quintessential Fireball spell. If you lack sufficient dice, you could simply roll what you have multiple times. Other times, along with calculations that need to be made, it may be simpler to use a dice roller. Unarguably, part of the fun of playing is possessing your own personal dice collection, but a dice roller can help expedite those more time-consuming dice rolling moments. These are also useful tools for preparing for games or when you have to make several quick rolls.
Online dice rollers, or dice-rolling apps, or whatever other form of digital dice you might come across, are an easy way to avoid a lot of the design pitfalls that you’ve just learned about. I understand that some Computer Science nerds may call me out and say that number generators aren’t random either, but I’m not going to argue that. They definitely don’t suffer from the manufacturing process, you don’t have to worry about losing them, and they are free (which is infinitely cheaper than any set of dice you might pay for. From a DM perspective, I allow digital dice at my table, but I don’t like seeing players constantly staring at their electronic devices and getting easily distracted. Similarly, I don’t like hearing people continuously rolling their dice while I’m describing a scene or having my big bad evil guy monologue.
Now That You Know More Than You Wanted To About Dice:
Check out my reviews page. I recommend the best manufactures as well as some inexpensive alternatives. There’s also another quote there that you’ll regret not reading.
Signing off with finger guns! *pew pew*
Time to Hear from YOU!
What’s your favorite dice set look like? Do you have a naughty dice that refuses to obey you? Do you have specific dice for specific actions?