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Setting Up Your First D&D Game Part 2 – Dice

The core playing pieces of Dungeons and Dragons are still as simple as they were when the game was created. You will need some dice and something to write with and on. However, there are a ton of different options and you might be wondering what the optimal setup would be for your game. Well, there isn’t a one size fit all answer for that question. We are going to go over all the options and let you pick the ones that fit your play style.

Dice come in many different sizes. You may have walked through a tabletop gaming section at your local bookstore and noticed the seemingly endless array of dice. D&D takes advantage of this array in a variety of different ways. First let’s go over the staples. Most D&D dice come in a set of 7. You have a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20. So what is it that all of these dice are used for, and why do you need them?

The Meat and Potato Set:


D4 – Affectionately referred to by players as the “caltrop” this die always lands with the point facing up. Many experiences D&D players have stepped on a lost caltrop more than once.  There are 2 types of D4 dice, and the results of a roll are read in different ways.

The first type of D4 puts the numbers at the points and looks like this. The results of a roll is the number at the top of the die that is right side up.

The second type of D4 has the numbers clustered in the middle and looks like this and the result of a roll is the number that is right side up.

Note: Do not add the sides of a D4 dice after a roll. The number facing up is the same on all 3 showing faces.

D4 dice are used to represent a variety of different things in D&D. They can be used to calculate increments of time like number of days or hours for an effect. They are also used to calculate damage for small weapons like daggers and clubs. Additionally, it may be used to calculate magical benefits like those granted from the bless spell or crusader’s mantle’s ongoing radiant damage.


D6 – The ubiquitous die that every person will recognize. These dice have a long standing history in gambling and board games alike. In D&D they have a variety of different uses. One of the most common is their use for sneak attack damage for rogue characters. They are also used to calculate hit points for squishy characters. Other uses for the die include falling damage with 1D6 being rolled for every 10 feet, and damage for slightly larger weapons such as maces and scimitars. The one thing to note with D6 die is that it is the most often die rolled in multiple in D&D. It’s a good idea to keep at least 6 on hand.



D8 – One of the major workhorse dice outside of your D20. It is shaped like a diamond and you see it used at all points throughout a D&D campaign. They are used for hit points on mid-rank classes such as bards and warlocks, along with personality traits during character creation. D8s often roll for healing spells along with weapons that deal consistent, but not extraordinary damage. Often rolled in multiples, having a few D8s is usually a good idea.



D10 – The die of front liners throughout the realm, this die will be used for hit point rolls on characters such as Paladins and Fighters. The die will consistently see use when rolling high level spells, and may see use dealing with very strong weapons. Another potential use for this die type is when calculating percentiles. In this case you can either use a single, or two D10s (of different colors) to calculate your percentage roll. Usually one of the die will be used to represent the tens place, and the other represents the ones place.

Example – 2D10 one comes up 9 (tens place) and the other comes up 6 (ones place), would represent a roll of 96%.

These can represent a roll when the DM has set an effect to take place if the roll is over 50%, or it can represent the magical item received from a chest or a trinket. Another interesting use is represented extensively in the “Sneak Attack” D&D podcast. In their campaign the players control a trinket which when activated during combat gives them a random effect from 100 different options. This can add a very interesting element of RNG to a campaign and make for some great memories.

Overall the D10 is a die with a large number of uses and a few should be kept on hand.


D12 – An infrequently used die, it is considered essential for only Barbarians. Used for their hit points and their quintessential weapon the Great Axe. A single D12 should be sufficient for the table despite its slightly more common usage in 5e than in previous iterations of the game.




D20 – THE die of D&D. Look at any reference made to the game and you are likely to see this represented somewhere. This will be the most frequently rolled die in your campaigns without exception. You will be rolling it for every attack roll, have advantage, roll it twice. Trying to charm someone, persuade, climb, or do just about anything else? Roll a D20. This is where the term “critical fail” comes from, which is when you roll a 1, and no matter what your modifiers your action fails. It also is where the term “natural 20” comes from which is anytime the die lands on a 20 without modifiers. In this case whatever the action is succeeds and the player may receive an extra bonus depending on how the DM handles natural 20s. When used for combat a roll of 20 represents a critical hit and is handled accordingly. Another use of the D20 is when determining initiative prior to combat, where the order of rolls will determine the players turn order.

Since this dice is rolled so often throughout a campaign it is recommended that each player have at least 2 on hand. This will increase the overall game speed, and decrease logistics.



Personally I recommend the following set of dice for players and DMs.

Player:                              DM:

D-4 :  3 dice                     D-4- 6 dice

D-6 –  4 dice                     D-6 – 7 dice

D-8 – 3 dice                      D8 – 5 dice

D10 – 2 dice                      D10 – 3 dice

D12 – 1 die                         D12 – 2 dice

D20 – 2-3 dice                  D20 – 4 dice


The DM will often need more dice than players in order to deal with boss attacks, or multiple enemies. Dice can be split among players and passed around as needed, it just makes rolling a little slower/more difficult.


Special Dice:

Now that we have covered the basic set of dice you are going to need, we are going to look at some of the more advanced options. These dice are by no means necessary and are purely for convenience.

Double D20: A relative newcomer to the D&D dice family the double is a transparent die outside of a standard die. The purpose of these dice is convenience. When players a rolling for advantage you roll a Double D20 and take the higher of the 2 showing faces. This is the most common use of the die. I like to have 1 of these available on the table, usually kept in the middle and shared since rolling with advantage can happen to any player in any given situation.



Percentile Die/Dice Set: These sets come with 2 dice. One of the die has number ranging from 00 – 90 representing the tens place. The other die has numbers ranging from 0-9 and represent the ones place. These work similar to using two D10s, but make it easier to tell the two places apart.




D100 – The legendary 100 sided die. These are cumbersome, but can be fun to throw around when the time is right. Of the 2 options this is the one that I prefer. Great for people who really do not like doing even the most basic math.




D60 – A very infrequently used die, I cannot see why this is worth investing in for most players.





How to Choose Your Dice:

Once you have narrowed down your choices and decided what dice you want in your basic set it’s time to buy. The question is where do you get them from and how much do you want to spend?

Dice come in an unbelievable assortment of colors and designs, and can range from a few dollars for a basic plastic 7 piece set to well over $100. If you are just getting started and are not sure you plan to stick with D&D I recommend your group pick up a cheap bag of dice like this. This will give your group all the dice you need and more at a fraction of buying them individually. If however you are looking to add a little style to your set there are a ton of options for you. The set that I use can be found here. Which I supplemented with a double d20 and a few other pieces. Below are a number of great options that either I or friends have used.

Gemini Set

Metal Set

Elven Set

Glow In the Dark

Another accessory many D&D players choose to have is a dice carrying bag/box. While you could put your dice in a Ziploc bag and be fine, most players I have met prefer something a little more…unique. The box I use can be found ***here** and again these come in an innumerable number of shapes and sizes.

Gosu Box

Treasure Chest

Viking Box

Cthulhu Box

While it may seem like a lot to take in when reading about it, overall the structure of D&D is very intuitive. Once you get into your first campaign the role of each die quickly falls into place and players and new DMs alike will catch on. A group can get away with a lot less than what is recommended in this article, however the more dice you have the simpler the game becomes. If you are anything like us, in short order you will have more dice than you know what to do with. There isn’t anything quite like waiting for a custom dice set and coming home one day to find it waiting for you on the porch.

If you haven’t already check out Part 1 of this series – Books here 

Next Article – Virtual Tabletop Options

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Setting Up Your First D&D Game Part 1 – The Books

Alright, so you want to start a D&D campaign with friends, but you don’t know where to start. This is completely normal and honestly it’s become one of the weirdest barriers to entry to D&D. We are going to base this article on 2 assumptions.

1. You plan to play D&D in person (online will be covered in another article)

2. You planning to play the 5e(newest) version of the game.

The Dungeons and Dragons books are the #1 resource for any Dungeon Master (DM) and his players. They will guide you through everything from setting up your world to level progression to monster scaling. The purchase you want to make first is the D&D Starter Set

I. Your First Adventure Book – you absolutely do not want to start off your DM career trying to create your own world.

II. A rule book for playing characters 1-5 – This is important because while D&D is a very open RPG, the rules keep things within a somewhat reasonable realm.

III. 6 Dice – A full dice set. It’s easier when everyone has their own set of dice and I recommend you get them sooner rather than later, but this will get you started.

IV: 5 Pre-build characters – Arguably the best part of playing D&D is creating your own character with it’s specific and unique backstory. However, the first time you play it is easier to use one of these until you get the hang of how everything works.

The starter set will get the ball rolling. It is designed to be used with 4-6 players, so I would recommend staying in that range for the time being. The included first adventure also means no need for self designed worlds/monsters/etc. during your first play through.

Now that you have the starter set, and your initial characters in order you can start looking at optional items.

The first of these is the 5th edition DM Screen

I recommend you pick up the DM screen for 2 reasons. The first is that hiding your notes/dice rolls from players adds to the role playing aspect of the game. The second is that the inside is populated with wonderful tools such as lists of magical items, optional game rules, and more. These tools come in handy when something unexpected happens in the game, or you decide to throw a bone to a player with an item drop. For the $15 that it costs it adds that much in value in just a few adventures.

Aside from the DM screen and the Starter Set Wizard of the Coast (D&D’s founders) offer a plethora of other books to augment your experience. Note: These books are best purchased after your initial adventure, when you plan to take a deeper dive into the D&D universe. They allow for things like character and world creation, monster design, level scaling, bosses, additional rules and guidelines, and more. The 3 additional books are as follows, in order of importance.

1. The Players Handbook


The players handbook is kind of like bumpers for character design. It will outline the different classes/races, it will also help you to understand character’s specific strengths and weaknesses. It provides nitty gritty information on things like traits and sub-classes, and delves into skill allotment. I would say this book stands as the hands down most important core text outside the starter set. The book should be kept at the table at all times when playing as a reference for the DM and players alike. In terms of building your own characters the PHB is essential for getting the most out of your designs.

2. Monster Manual

This is your bible when it comes to putting together encounters in your first few adventures outside of the pre-scripted modules. If you are not planning to create your own worlds and populate them, this can be pushed to #3. If you are planning to try your hand at world creation though this book is a dictionary of potential monsters. The beautiful part of this book is that it also provides lore for monsters as well. The added lore makes role playing the monsters and creating a rich story line much easier. If you are very creative and understand balance quite well you may be able to get away without this one, but I don’t recommend it.

3. Dungeon Masters Manual

The Dungeon Master’s Manual is the book you will want on your shelf when you want to nail down a new world. This book is arguably of the same importance as the MM in this regard. The book will give you access to the following:

I. Optional game rules and guidelines. – These are perfect for adding an interesting twist, or personalizing your world. They allow you to guide players into certain decisions and challenge them to figure out the secrets to the world they are in.

II. A list of magical items – These are great for giving drops based on percentage dice rolls. Maybe you want to give your players a chance to find something very valuable with a little RNG. This book will give you the ability to do those kinds of things.

III. Tips and Tricks directly from WOTC on how to build dungeons and engineer the right experience. The designers that created D&D are a great resource to learn from, and they pass along a lot of sage knowledge in this book.

Optional Books/Resources

While the above are going to be the core of every D&D adventure for the most part, there are still other books and resources that might be valuable to you.

Dungeon Masters Guild
A collection of fan inspired worlds, monsters, adventures, and more. This site is run directly by WOTC, and items range in price from free to quite expensive. This is a great resource if you get stuck trying to flesh out a certain part of your world, or just want a unique encounter. The community for this site is very strong and growing, and you can expect new content on a consistent basis.

Pre-Designed Campaigns

If you are like many DMs and simply don’t have the time to sit down and create an entire world from the ground up then these modules are your best bet. Each one comes with everything you will need to get your players immersed into a brand new adventure. They range in time and difficulty so be sure to read a little into them before purchasing.

Tales From the Yawning Portal
Storm Kings Thunder
Curse of Strahd
Out of the Abyss
Princes of the Apocalypse
The Rise of Tiamat
Hoard of the Dragon Queen
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

There are more, and we will be doing an in depth review of all of these adventures in the coming weeks. With this many adventures at your fingertips, plus all the fan created ones at Dungeon Masters Guild, you shouldn’t be running out of them anytime soon.

This info should get you off to a quick start, and provide you with all the information you need for a great introduction to D&D. In the next article we will be covering dice, their roll (pun intended) in D&D, different types, and what you want to have on hand during your adventure.

Go To Part 2