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.
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.
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.
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.
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