The common factor to almost all Role-Play Games (RPG) and board games alike is that they contain one or more dice.
At their simplest, these might just be one or two six-sided dice (D6) used to determine how far a player can move, such as in Monopoly or Ludo. At their most complicated, this could be an array of polyhedral dice designed to randomly produce numbers from across the statistical spectrum to represent and reproduce the balance between skill and luck as a character attempts a very specific action, such as trying to scale a wall or attempting to strike an approaching enemy.
Because of their ubiquitous nature, dice sets have become more than just another game component for many people, especially for those who tend to find themselves taking on the role of Games Master more often than a player.
Dice sets seem to sit in a middle ground somewhere between the everyday trappings of the game itself and the more prized miniatures which you have lavished much time and effort over. Because of this unique position somewhere between the purely practical and the aesthetically pleasing, there are a lot more things to consider when buying a dice set, especially one that fits the game and will last, perhaps not quite a lifetime but that will certainly outlive a great number of characters and campaigns.
Unless you have a gaming shop near where you live, chances are that you will be buying your dice online, and even though you can’t study and handle the dice before purchase, all of the following factors should be taken into account before buying dice online.
1. Before Buying Dice Online, Check Size
Dice come in all shapes and sizes – nowhere is that truer in the world of RPGs. But aside from the natural variation of the different dice shapes and sizes, it is worth thinking about the overall type of dice size.
To understand this idea, it is best to begin by thinking about the trusty D6. The most common size for such a standard dice is 16mm from side to side, which is about 2/3 of an inch in Imperial measurement. This is the size of dice that you will find supplied as standard with most games, especially typical board games.
There are advantages of opting for smaller dice, which can be found as minuscule as 5mm across. If you have a limited playing space, smaller dice need less room to roll in.
Also, a lighter dice is less likely to knock over miniatures and other game components if your roll happens to be a little haphazard. Smaller dice are also quieter, particularly when you have to roll a whole handful at a time.
Your choice of size will often dictate how easy the results are to read. If you have less than perfect eyesight you may find yourself straining to read the results of a roll-on smaller dice.
And what is true for the D6 is true for all the other polyhedral dice you purchase for use in Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and most other game systems too.
There is a natural variation of dice, a D20 needs to be bigger than a D4 for example, just to fit all of the numbers on, but the same considerations apply. When considering the size, it is mainly about what is comfortable for you and suitable for your surroundings.
2. Dice Material
When buying dice online, you will be faced with numerous options. Perhaps the one which is less easy to understand is what material they should be made from.
Most dice are made out of resin which is cheap, easy to mould and hard-wearing. The material you decide on is more to do with personal preference than practical necessities as modern resin dice take a long time to lose their edges and even then will still roll fairly precisely.
Translucent dice are available these days and these are usually cast in acrylic which gives the finished dice a plastic-looking sheen whilst eliminating annoying and distracting air bubbles.
If you wish to get even more unique then there are numerous other options available, especially from specialist, online dice manufacturers.
If you wish to buy metal dice, you will find that they tend to be made out of Zinc Alloy in part due to how easy it is to work with during manufacture. It’s also because pure metals would render the finished dice prohibitively expensive. That said, if you do want such a material, then there are numerous custom manufacturers available.
Some manufacturers have released stone dice, which might seem a cool addition to the flavour of the game. In reality, they tend to chip easily if accidentally dropped and might even damage floors and furniture. A nice ornament but best avoided for the game itself.
3. How Readable Your Dice Are?
Although readability is in part related to the size of the dice, there are other factors which help of hindering your ability to clearly read the result of a dice roll. Contrast is an obvious one. Does the numbering stand out from the background colour? A dice with black numbers on a blue background is not as easy to read as the traditional black on white. A good example of easy-to-read dice is our metal set.
There is also the size of the numbering and how well etched the numerals are on the face. In the case of dots, there is also the factor of how close they are together.
As dice get more decorative, perhaps being made of the main background colour which represents bone or wood, something which adds a suggestion of an older or alternate world vibe to the game… Consider just how clear those dice will be in subdued mood lighting, three hours into an adventure as it gets dark outside after a long day at work. Such dice might be a nice touch but again, if your sight is not what it was, then perhaps more practical concerns should prevail.
4. Colour and Individuality
If the previous segment covered most of the practical considerations for the colour, pattern and look of your dice, then this part deals with the aesthetics, that is, how pleasing they are to the eye and even what the perfect purchase can add to the game.
Although there are a lot of practical arguments regarding dice with bright colours and sharp contrasts, D&D, and indeed all RPG’s, are as much about a feeling, about getting into character, about letting yourself escape to other worlds, as they are about the mechanics and method of play.
And that process of travelling to that alternative world is helped along by all manner of helpful stimulus. Subdued lighting, background music, well-painted miniatures and a host of other factors can help set the scene. One of those factors is choosing the right coloured dice. It’s not a big factor, but it all helps.
Your D&D campaign will most likely be some variation on a heroic, medieval-infused, European setting, set somewhere between the history books and classic fantasy literature, a cool balance between fact and fable.
Maybe the florescent pink dice with yellow numbers wasn’t the best decision? Maybe something which replicates a wood or metal finish? Gold or gemstone? Or something in black and red to reflect the dark horror of the adventure? Whatever fits your campaign really, but perhaps breaking character to make a joke about the dice looking like they came from a “Barbie Tries Roleplaying Games” range, isn’t going to help set the scene that you are looking for.
And there is an almost endless range of dice sets for sale from clunky looking steampunk sets to gemstone variants, from historical replicas to oriental infusions and from wooden peasant dice to regal rollers. And of course, you could even have different dice sets for different parts of your story or campaign.
5. Quality of the Set
As with most things, you get what you pay for. The trouble with dice is that it is very difficult to tell good from the bad. The outer visuals and quality of finish is obviously something that you can make a judgement on, but the main difference between good dice and bad is how fairly they roll. And that, after all, is their main job. Everything else is just visual, added bonuses.
The quality of dice and therefore its balance, fairness and consistency when generating results is generally governed by 2 factors.
Firstly, there is the issue of weightedness. A weighted dice is one which has been cast in such a way that it will favour a certain number or range of numbers. Such dice are deliberately used by people trying to cheat at gambling games and win big at the casinos but a poorly cast dice will have exactly the same effect. Getting that top score on a D20 to deliver a critical blow on the Goblin King should happen 5% of the time, with a poorly cast dice it might actually be impossible.
As this is a difficult aspect to judge, getting this right is down to you doing a bit of research, reading up on the customer feedback of a company and until you know a bit more about the market, sticking with the established company names.
The other main consideration is how sharp the edges are. A dice should roll naturally, face over face, edge over edge, landing a certain way only when it runs out of momentum. Blunt edges on a dice might hamper its ability to roll freely, again weighting the dice towards certain outcomes. This is not only a problem with poorly manufactured dice but the reason why you should replace much-used dice once they start getting blunt and battered. Just as a character would with his favourite sword. And for much the same reason.
One of our sets that have both – the right balance between weightedness and sharp the edges is our Dragon DnD Set.
As dice wear out through use you will find that the numbers begin to fade or flake. You could buy replacement dice but if on a budget, this is easily fixed by merely highlighting the numbers with a fine brush and a lick of paint. If you can dot the eyes of an elven archer and highlight the bristles on a dwarven beard, making numbers stand out on polyhedral dice will be a piece of cake.
6. Dice Cost
Of course, all of these considerations also have a real-life cost implication but rest assured the gaming industry has become so big and dice sets produced in such large quantities that cost isn’t really a big factor.
At the lowest end of the spectrum, a set of the 7 dice standard to D&D will cost about $2. This means that you can load up on dice sets, perhaps in different colours for around 10 to 15 dollars. You might want to also invest in a set which is a bit more special, a bit more personal to you or which reflects the mood of your campaign and again this will generally be under $15.
It is only when you want to really lavish yourself with something a bit flashy; manly metal monsters, objects of beguiling opaque wonderment, precious stones made into dice, that you need to start spending any serious money. And even then, not massively serious.
7. The Credibility of the Seller
Like all large industries, and D&D is a large share of the not unsubstantial gaming sector, information and feedback about company trustworthiness is not hard to find.
The games and RPG industry has always been one driven by peer review, critical comment and fan forums and so any poor or disreputable company is quickly highlighted by the community itself. When it comes to where to buy dice online, there is no shortage of information out there.
Generally, the same companies that make the games themselves make the peripheral elements too, the miniatures, the character sheets, the expansion packs and, so too, the dice. Even if they don’t, they will have an approved or official partner. And even then there are lots of companies who grow up between the big names supplying anything and everything you, as a player of games, needs.
Even when you wish to upgrade to something a bit more unique, something a bit more in keeping with your campaign, something wonderfully original, frivolous even, the companies which you’ll be looking to will have a well-documented track record. Just do a few searches online or buy a couple of dedicated RPG or Wargames magazines and you will have all of the information that you need at your fingertips.
Dice are as numerous and varied as the people who roll them. It is easy to get started, and as most people get into D&D and similar games by joining established gaming groups, there will already be a wealth of information available to you from the more seasoned players.
But when you are looking to collect your own dice, possibly because you are venturing into the role of Games Master, or just because you want to contribute physically to the resources of that group, there are plenty of options. Bear in mind the practicalities but essentially dice, like everything else in the gaming experience, should be as expressive, imaginative, unique and perhaps even surprising, as every other element of the gaming experience. After all, it’s called Dungeons and Dragons, not Accountancy and Admin. It’s the roll that you were born to play!
We hope that this article on buying dice online has helped with your purchasing decision and that you’ve learned some things to look out for. You also might be interested in reading about getting the most out of DnD to not miss out on your ultimate DnD Experience!