The new player’s guide to D&D dice

Today is a fun little day called Dice Day, which I genuinely didn’t realize was even a thing. But as an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and wildly inexperienced DM, I love the idea of having a whole day to celebrate dice—one of the most essential parts of any D&D player’s toolkit.

Specifically, I thought it would be fun today to talk about finding your own dice—especially for any of you who might be thinking about trying it out!

So here’s what you need to know for your dice shopping endeavours.

First: Here’s what you need to find.

When you’re playing D&D, you’ll want to have a set of polyhedral dice. These sets, which you can find at most game stores and a few online stores too, include seven unique dice, all appropriately named for the number of sides they have:

  • A d4
  • A d6
  • A d8
  • Two d10s (they’re usually numbered differently)
  • A d12
  • And a d20

Each of these will have uses through your game; for example, your d20 is what you’ll roll for any skill checks, attacks, and spells, a d6 or a d8 might be your attack damage dice, and your d10s are what you’ll roll together for any percentile chances.

If you don’t have any dice yet, I recommend picking up at least two sets. There will be times you need them! For example, there are all kinds of spells and attacks where you’ll do 2d4 damage, and trust me—it’s easier to roll them all and see the numbers than it is to remember and add it all up after, especially since when you get a critical hit, some DMs require you to roll your dice twice.

Plus, this way you can cycle out a d20 if it’s not behaving.

Next: Figure out the material you want.

Dice are getting more and more mainstream, so there are all kinds of options for materials! The most common is resin, but metal and wood are on the way up, too.

Figuring out what material you want will tell you where to look for your dice. Resin ones you can get pretty much anywhere; most game stores keep them in stock. If you want wood, you’ll likely need to find a smaller artisan store—and if you want metal, I recommend checking out discount sites like AliExpress. The shipping takes longer, but I’ve gotten nice metal sets like my rose gold one from there that cost about a third of what I would have paid at our local game store.

Note to the wise: Metal dice dent! They’re hefty, and they tend to have sharp corners, so be sure to use them only on surfaces that either can’t dent or you don’t care if they do.

Finally: See how they roll!

I know this isn’t exactly the most practical piece of advice right now with the pandemic, but even so, some stores will let you test dice before you buy if you’ve followed their hand sanitizing rules. If you can’t test before you buy, at least test before your first game with them!

The reason you want to test them is because dice all roll differently, and as much as D&D is a game of chance, knowing how to throw your dice can help you get higher numbers more often. I have one set that has never given me below a 5 since I figured out its style!

Your primary interest here is the d20, because it’s the only one that really affects how your game turns out. Your investigation, which is basically just rolling it different ways and seeing if it will at least somewhat consistently give you above a 10, should show you:

  • Whether the die likes being dropped or rolled
  • Whether it likes hard surfaces like tables or soft surfaces like books
  • Whether it likes a bit of height so it can bounce, or likes to stay close to the ground

Once you’ve got this figured out, you’ll be ready to roll!

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