Different D&D Dice Types: A Short Guide

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different d&d dice types
different d&d dice types
Ask any Dungeons and Dragons player what the most important dynamic of the game is, and most likely they will say it’s the dice. Regardless of what moves a player takes, a roll of the dice always leads to the outcome of the game.
 

Whether you play the game or not, chances are you have most likely heard of Dungeons and Dragons. This staple American game has been on store shelves since the 1970s, but what’s the real history of the game with all the crazy dice?

History of the Game

In 1967 The International Federation of Wargaming is founded by Gary Gygax to give wargame fans a platform to exchange ideas and different gaming designs they have.
By the time 1968 rolled around, the Lake Geneva Wargames Convention was planned by Gygax. Hosted in the Horticultural Hall of his hometown in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, this was an official IFW event.

The second Gen Con was when the pieces of the game started coming together. Gary Gygax meets Dave Arneson. The two begin exchanging ideas for a mutual interest they have in adopting official rules for a game.
 
In 1970 the two form The Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association which is a small wargames club local to Lake Geneva. Up until this point, most of the themes involved in gaming had been present-day war scenarios.
 
Gygax always had an interest in the medieval war period. Gygax decided to form the Castle and Crusade Society, which was a subgroup of the IFW. This small subgroup focused strictly on medieval wargame scenarios in their gaming situations. Members of the game are assigned property on the imaginary continent known as “The Great Kingdom”.
 
Chainmail” is officially written by Gygax and Jeff Perren and is picked up for publishing by Guidon Games. It describes in great detail medieval war scenarios which include a plethora of wizards, heroes, and dragons.
 
Arneson, who had already established what was known as the Blackmoor fantasy campaign situated within The Great Kingdom, uses Chainmail as his official set of rules.
 
In the summer of 1972, Arneson publishes a piece in issue #13 of the Castle and Crusade Society newsletter. The piece is titled “Facts About Blackmoor”, and brings his ideas to a wider audience.
 
Later, during the fall of the same year, Arneson and Gygax meet in Lake Geneva. Arneson demonstrates his Blackmoor game to Gygax. Dave Megarry also demonstrates his own game, then known as “The Dungeons of Pasha Cada”. This would later be published simply as “Dungeon”.
 
In 1973, Gygax and Arneson begin officially collaborating on the first drafts of Dungeons and Dragons.
 
Finally, in 1974 Dungeons and Dragons is published in three booklets. The game shipped in a woodgrain-colored cardboard box entitled Men and Magic, Monsters and Treasure, and Underworld and Wildnerness Adventures. The entire series is hand-printed and 1,000 copies are made. Within eleven months the entire series sells out.
 
In 1975 another thousand copies is printed and sell out in just six months. This is followed quickly by another 2,000 copies which would sell out before the New Year of 1976.
A fourth printing is released in 1976 and the packaging is switched to a white box which would become its permanent casing.
 
In 1977 the game is split into two versions known as “The Basic” and “The Advanced” versions respectively.
 

In 2013 the original 1974 version is reprinted and released in its original packaging. Since its origin, Dungeons and Dragons have sold millions of copies and have been adapted into many different versions known as “dimensions”.

The Dice of Dungeons and Dragons

Typically the game is played with seven different sets of dice. There is the 20 sided die, also known as the D20, the 12-sided or D12, the 10-sided die or D10, the 8-sided die or D8, the six-sided die or D6, and finally the 4-sided die or D4. Most versions of the game include one set of each die. The exception to this is the D10. Used for percentage rolls, most games include two sets of this particular die.

The D20

the d20 dice

The D20 is the most used die-out of the whole set. If you are engaged in a battle, it determines who strikes the first blow and how efficient that blow is. If you are going up against a player and he rolls a 9 but you roll a 13, you have the initial advantage over that player. In a simplified way, if the player you roll against has a protection level of 17, you must roll higher than 17 to deal any damage to him. If you don’t roll 17 other dies can add levels to your attack, but this will be explained later. This is actually how the other die comes into play during the game.

The D12

the d12 dice

The job of the D12 is to almost exclusively determine the damage dealt during a battle. During the game, you have “life points”. Once your life points hit zero, your character in the game is dead. You roll the D20, and the D12 determines the level of damage done by the attack determined by the prior roll of the D20. If your opponent only has 7 points left and you roll an 8 with the D12, you will take him out of the game.

The D10

the d10 dice

The D10 is very similar to the D12. Remember in the beginning when we said there were two D10’s used? These two dice will make up a percentage point. Let’s say you are playing the game and you have to cross a river. You roll a 5 and a 4. You have a 56% chance of surviving. Other attributes factor into your percentage. Let’s say after these factors you are down to a 29% chance of survival. You roll a second turn. If you roll higher than 29%, you would survive your trip across the river. If you fall into the river it starts a whole new turn. Other attributes determine whether or not you survive a spill into the river. This would fall on a subsequent roll of the dice to determine your fate on a new turn.

The D8

the d8 dice

The D8 is used quite often because it decides the damage factor done with weapons that can be held in one hand, such as a sword. The other hand can hold a shield. This is the most common type of combat in the game. Weapons that do between 1 and 8 points worth of damage will call on a roll of the D8 die.

The D6

the d6 dice

The D6 is the die that is most common to outsiders who don’t play the game. It’s shaped just like the die used in common board games. However, in Dungeons and Dragons, there are numbers on the die and not dots. The D6 determines the damage done by different spells and weapons other than those decided on by the D8.

The D4

the d4 dice

The D4 determines the damage done by the most minute weapons in the game. Now you are most likely seeing a pattern emerge. The result is determined by the number on the bottom edge of the die you are using. There is a number on each of the three sides of the die. The number determined along the bottom edge is the only one that appears right-side-up when you hold the die at an angle.

Making Your Own Dice

Designing and creating your own dice can be a very rewarding way to bring your own signature to the game. The process is fairly easy and requires very little material. Since you’ll be pouring the design, you can virtually use any items you want to decorate the dice sets.

1. Materials You’ll Need

  • Silicone making material
  • Casting resin
  • Type of die you want to create (you’ll use this for your mold)
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Toothpick
  • Disposable cup
  • Material/items you want to fill and decorate your die with

2. Mold

Using whichever silicone mold package you decided on, begin pouring per the directions that came with the kit. Stir with your spoon.

Pour about a quarter of an inch into a disposable cup.
 

Mix a fresh batch of a silicone mold. Pour a little bit of the new batch on top of the first batch you made. Place the die you want to cast into the middle of the cup with the two silicone molds. Make sure it is face up. Press down on it so it makes contact with the dry silicone from the first batch. Fill the cup around the die with silicone, but stop at the edge of the die. Set this aside to dry.

3. Removing the Die

Once the silicone is dry, carefully remove the dice from your molds. You can make several at a time. This method is perfect for Dungeons and Dragons considering you use several different types of dice.

4. Making the Resin

Mix your batch of resin and stir it with your toothpick or disposable stick.

Add your chosen items or materials you want to decorate the die with. This can be anything you choose. Creativity is key. You can use different materials based on different themed games and characters.
 
Slowly pour your resin into the mold. Pour enough so the resin is rounded at the top, but don’t spill it over the mold. You can add one drop at a time if you’d like. The resin will shrink slightly while you wait for it to dry.
 
5. Remove Dice
Pop the new dice out of their molds. The top side will be number one. If the top has shrunk upon removing them, you can mix up another batch of resin to add to the form.

6. Personalization

You can use a sharpie to draw on pieces of clear plastic and embed this beneath the resin to add a personal touch.

Let the bubbles rise to the surface for about a half-hour after you pour the resin. After you’re certain the bubbles have settled you can dip the die back into the resin one side at a time. This adds one last protective layer.
 

The complete drying process will take a couple of hours. Keep an eye on the die during this time to make sure no edges end up bubbling or bowing out, causing a warped shape.

Final Product

You can use a permanent marker to color the number of each side of the die. There may be some slight imperfections but if you were careful these should be minimal. These imperfections just add character.

Special Edition D&D Dice for Collectors

For players who aren’t as creative, there are many specialty websites and stores that sell personalized and custom dice for the game. These special edition dice sets come in all varieties and are made of a wide array of a different materials.

You have your natural plastic dice. There are hundreds of different types of collections that come in regular plastic casting.
 
If players want to get a bit more intricate, there are more rare materials you can get your die-cast in. Some websites sell dice made of gunmetal, aluminum, silver, and even gold. There are collections with diamonds and other rare stones set in them as well.
 
Speaking of stones, you can also get whole sets where the dice themselves are made of stone. Tumbled rock is fashioned in the shape of the cast die and decorated for gameplay.
A simple search online can turn up many of these specialty online stores. Dungeons and Dragons have become so popular that stores selling handmade dice are plentiful.

Keeping Your Dice Clean

Caring for your dice can consist of several different methods depending on what type of dice you own.

Assuming you own plastic dice, warm water and soap will do the trick. Simply wipe the dice clean with a warm washcloth slathered in dish soap. Give them a good rinse in clean water and dry them with a dry towel.
 
For storage, several different methods keep the dice safe. You can opt to keep them in a sack made of some sort of soft material. This keeps outside elements from damaging the dice.
 

Another idea is to use an old ring or jewelry boxes if you want to store each die separately. This is a cool idea for gamers who have a more intricate die collection that needs more care.

Metal Dice

You can store metal dice in the same fashion as the plastic-type. Any dry, soft container that keeps them out of the elements will do just fine. What you are looking to avoid is extreme heat and moisture. These two elements will destroy your dice faster than anything. Heat and moisture both can cause warping to your dice and problems with the cosmetics and finish.

The cleaning process is quite similar to plastic when it comes to the metal version. One of the biggest differences is in the type of soap you use. If you have metal dice, you’re going to want to use hand soap as opposed to dish soap. Hand soap is more gentle, so there are fewer chances of damage to the dice. Be sure to use a non-abrasive cleaning towel and always wipe dry when you are done cleaning.

Throwing Techniques

How do players get an edge in Dungeons and Dragons? The answer to that question is easy. You get your dice-rolling technique perfected. This is the most important dynamic of the game. You’re going to want to master your throw. Luckily we have some tips for you to live by.

1. Roll as many dice as possible.
This is for the intimidation factor. If you have an opportunity to roll multiple dice, don’t split it over two turns. Pack it all into one roll. Get crazy and roll six sets of dice at once. This has an impact on the tension of the game and can jar your opponent.
 
2. Create a labeled dice strip.
What is a dice strip you ask? It’s just what it sounds like. Use a piece of cardboard to cut out a long, thin strip. Make sure it’s not paper-thin, you want a little bit of depth to it. During times of the game where dice rolling is hot and heavy, you can roll the dice against the strip and label where each die landed. This avoids any confusion or lag in gameplay. In the long run, this can avoid disputes as well.
 
3. Use body language.
Have you ever seen baseball players get really into their throw? We are talking about pitchers, specifically. Some pitchers use their wind-up to intimidate batters or hide their pitch and confuse a potential hitter. You can use this same technique when you roll. Don’t be afraid to use your arms, legs, hands, and head simultaneously. Leave it all in the field and don’t pull any punches. These techniques can seriously intimidate your opponent.
4. Open or closed roll?
This is a lifelong question that begs to be settled. There are two types of dice rollers in this world. There is the open-handed roller and the closed-handed roller. Keeping the closed hand may add a layer of mystery but it can also confuse.
 

Using an open hand displays a form of confidence. It also leads to transparency between you and your opponent. Using an open-handed style can save you from being accused of shady gameplay.

Surfaces To Roll On

There are many different options when it comes to surfaces to roll dice on. You have to consider several factors when making your decision.

If you have very rare or expensive dice, you’re not going to want to roll them on any surfaces that can lead to damage. Avoid glass or concrete at all costs.
Seriously, if the dice are that special to you, rolling on carpet or even a turf-like surface maybe your best option.
 
Assuming you’re using normal dice or just an extra set you have, wood will most likely be your best bet. Wood doesn’t lead to much damage unless you throw a fastball with the dice. You also get good velocity and can crank out some pretty amazing rolls.
 
Some players get very creative with this aspect of the game. You can use special materials such as felt or types of nylon to make your rolling surface. This can add another layer of personalization and creativity to the game. A self-designed rolling surface can even be decorated and designed to match personalized dice.
 
This is one of the many great things about the game. There are no limits to the personalization a player can create in Dungeons and Dragons. You can drag the game as far as the imagination will go. That’s the whole point of this created gameplay universe.
 
The dice are just the beginning. Personalized dice lead to personalized dice-holders. Then you can start creating rolling surfaces. Before you know it, you’ve created several different personalized game sets altogether. These can be taken out and shared with other gamers and traded.
 
You can even make a few bucks on it if you’re creative enough. The fantasy and creativity of the game end only where the game player allows them to. This is perhaps what creates the lore of the game and makes it so special. It is a self-fulfilling, neverending realm of adventure that truly sees the game player at the helm of where the game goes. There are no shackles of gameplay or levels to stick to. The possibilities are endless.
 
Who knew how far a simple pair of dice could take you? After learning about and playing Dungeons and Dragons, we guarantee you’ll never look at a pair of dice the same again!

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