Dice. The world’s oldest gaming accessory. In the Olduvai Gorge proto-humans were tossing marked knucklebones and yelling “Yahtzee!” Okay, not really, but there’s this. She was clearly the world’s first die collector.
The original AD&D used a set of six dice, based on the Platonic Solids. These six dice were the d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. Legend says E. Gary Gygax created the first five D&D dice from an educational mathematics model set (no d10 yet).
Today, there are all kinds of dice available, some 3D printed, some for novelty, and some still properly cast. Let’s take a look at them.
This is just a singularity. Do not make a singularity. I guess this warning is unnecessary unless you work at CERN.
Yes, somebody makes a d1. And it’s not just a ball with a “1” engraved on it, either. This is a novelty die, obviously. If a player’s spectacular failure is certain, just roll the die that always critical fails.
Okay, this is just a coin. Flip a coin. BUT NO. Someone had to get complicated and create this monster. I scoured the internet for the proper mathematical name for this shape, to no avail. Please comment if you know it.
And in the spirit of the d2, here’s a d3. Because 1d6/2 is too hard.
Ah, the first of our old D&D stalwarts, the d4, otherwise known as the caltrop. Worse to step on than a lego brick. Used to determine hit points for magic-users, illusionists, and monks, and damage for certain weapons. And you can throw a bunch behind your car to blow the tires of that pursuing cop.
There are various shapes of d5, for those too lazy for 1d10/2. Still, I think there could be uses for this. For instance, determining which finger is amputated.
The second of the stalwarts, and what 98% of humans on Earth think of when they think of “dice,” the d6. TTRPG dice are traditionally marked with Arabic numerals rather than dots, but dotted dice work just fine. In AD&D, they’re used to generate character stats by players too rules-bound to use something more sensible like point distribution. I mean, at least use 4d6-remove-lowest, people! They’re also the hit dice for assassins, bards, thieves, and thief-acrobats.
Some games, often board games, will use d6es with icons instead of numerals or dots. These are usually designed for specific purposes. Above, a set of “scatter dice” for the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop miniatures wargame. There are also “fudge dice,” marked with two “+” signs, two “-” signs, and two blank sides; plus “problem dice,” “ammo dice,” “Ubiquity dice,” and a number of others.
Rolling 3d6 produces numbers from 3 to 18 on a bell curve, which is very close to rolling a d20, but with a bell curve. Plus, you can buy them anywhere, not just in specialty gaming stores. So they’re very popular, and the d6 is probably the most important TTRPG die after the d20.
I did see a weird thing another day, an independently-published random encounter table that used three six-sided dice. One die represents hundreds, one tens, and one for ones. The lowest number you can roll is 111, then after 116 the next number is 121, and so on. I’m not a math guy, but ChatGPT informs me that produces 216 numbers, and in my experience, ChatGPT is right about 40% of the time.
d7, d9, d11, d13, d15, d17, and d19
Look, I’m going to just get the rest of these odd-numbered dice out of the way at once. They’re novelty dice, that’s all there is to it. Some gamer with a mathematics degree just went crazy one day and whipped these up. I mean seriously, a d19? When do you have exactly 19 choices? I guess 3d15-2 would produce a random number on a bell curve from 1 to 43—boy howdy, how useful!
Still, I want to own all of these.
Let’s get back to the original D&D dice with the d8. This is one of the two bastard children of the original set; along with the d12, they only exist because they’re Platonic solids. These are the hit dice for clerics, rangers, druids, and many monsters in AD&D1e, and of course for the damage of certain weapons. Other than that, I guess they’re good for… which of the giant spider’s eight legs you cut off?
d10 and Percentile Dice
The d10 was actually not in the original set of D&D dice, but it was a welcome addition. Humans have ten fingers, so we use the number 10 in almost everything. Take for instance the metric system, which every civilized nation on Earth uses. ಠ╭╮ಠ
They are the hit dice for cavaliers, fighters, and paladins. And many AD&D 1e DMs prefer the AD&D 2e initiative system to the baffling 1e system, and this used d10s.
We also have percentile dice. Roll 2d10, but don’t add them up—declare in advance which die represents tens and which represents ones. Rolling 4 and 1 gives you 41. 0 and 1 is 1 and 0 and 0 is 100. There is also a specialty percentile die marked 00, 10, 20, 30, etc. to 90. Roll with a regular d10, and a result of 40 and 6 results in 46. Rolling 00 and 1 is a 1, and rolling 90 and 10 is 100. Either way, you get a 1-100 on a flat distribution.
Sometimes people will use “d100” when they mean percentile dice; the actual d100 we’ll get to below.
Want 1-100 on a bell curve? The secret to that lies below, and in the name of this subblog.
Anyway, in a perfect world, a set of percentile dice, a few d20s, and a satchel of d6es would be all you’d need to play TTRPGs. But what would be the fun in that?
Ah, the original, vaunted, practically useless d12, the other bastard stepchild of AD&D dice. We use it for battleaxe damage and as the hit die for barbarians (and it’s pretty good for determining barbarian intelligence as well (˵¯͒〰¯˵) ). Some DMs use it to track or randomize time of day (see d24 below).
A fun board game I used to play, now called Ikusa, formerly Samurai Swords, formerly formerly Shogun, uses d12s. Other than that, well, perhaps you can use it to randomly choose an egg in a carton.
d14, d16, d18, d22, d24
Here’s another run of completely useless dice, except maybe you can use the d24 to keep track of or randomize time of day. I intend to buy all of these.
Arguably the most important die in tabletop roleplaying, there’s an entire game system named for it—the d20. Decider of fates, beloved giver of critical hits, dispenser of the dreaded critical fail. In AD&D, it resolves stat-based checks and determines combat outcomes. And if you’re really mad, throwing it at another player will give them a nasty welt, but it doesn’t do damage like a d4 or cause a concussion like a d60 or d100.
The d30 has been popping up since the turn of the millennium, and more and more dice sets include it. I found a list of games that use the d30, but I hadn’t heard of any of them, so they don’t matter.
But Kuno, why would anyone want a d34? It’s simple. 3d34-2 produces a number between 1 and 100 on a bell curve. It’s great if you want percentage rolls, but weighted for average results and against very high or low rolls. Now, when I think of a situation where you’d need this, I’ll let you know. But it’s cool.
I’ve checked everywhere, and I cannot find them for sale.
Dice sets have also started including d60s. I searched the web to find out who’s using a d60 and why and got almost nothing. Some random encounter tables published independently contain 60 items, and you use a d60. Other than that, or astonishing players at your gaming table, I got bupkis. If you’re using a d30 or 60, tell us why in the comments!
And so we come to the d100, the largest mass-produced TTRPG die. The hecatontagon, the ol’ golf ball. Roll it and off the table it goes and under the couch. Gives the same result as percentile dice but with none of that pesky thinking.
It’s inventor in 1985, Lou Zocchi, called it the Zocchihedron because he was humble that way. According to Wikipedia, they do not roll a flat distribution. Just stick to percentile dice. The d100 is cool to own, though.
Know of any other cool dice? That’s what the comments are for! Please comment, all I’m getting are spam comments for furry porn sites.