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Buying RPG Dice for Beginners

Don’t Buy a $50 Metal Dice Set… Yet

The first reaction of many people I’ve introduced to Role Playing Games is “I want to get my own set of dice.”

I personally love this sentiment. I started buying polyhedral dice years before I played an RPG.

The size, variety, and randomness in them is intriguing, but also they just look cool.

However, it’s possible to get really discouraged if you go out and start looking at dice sets with unique designs or materials. A cheap set of metal dice still costs $20, while most are priced around $50.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with buying a $50 set of dice, but if you’re not very familiar with RPG’s you might spend a lot of money on dice that don’t entirely suit your needs or have unforeseen consequences. Take metal dice as a quick example: you’ll never be able to roll them without a dice box. If you bought the metal dice, you now need to search out and purchase another piece of RPG gear.

The Point of a Set

RPG dice sets exist because people like to easily delineate their dice at the table. Players want their friends to be able to look at the stack of dice next to a chair and know who was sitting there.

A dice set does not need to be limited to the standard seven dice. I played in a Cypher system game where my dice set consisted of nothing but a D20 and a D6. In a D&D game I played, I made sure to have an extra D20 and three extra D8. My rule of thumb is to have enough dice so that you don’t need to re-roll the same die multiple times in one action. If a weapon deals 2D6 damage, I make sure I have two D6’s.

My gaming group can usually tell immediately if a die is one of mine, but I rarely ever use a traditional set. Instead of being exactly the same color and pattern I like to theme my dice based on the purpose they represent in the game, but they’re still a set and still very recognizable.

The Point of Dice

Dice are usually advertised by describing their set in some combination of their color, the feeling they’re meant to invoke, and their pattern. “Regal Periwinkle Swirl” is probably a name you could find on a set of dice, while “Indecipherable Elvish Squiggles” would never be advertised.

However, a large part of enjoying dice is actually getting to use them in a game. If you can’t read the font on your dice they’ll make playing the game much harder. Font can be fairly easy to judge, if you give the dice a practice roll or two and can’t tell what number you’re looking at, that die will be harder to use.

I find it harder to determine what colors can still be read on the dice. If you’re considering black dice with dark gray numbers hold the die out at arms length and make sure it can still be read. Then check it from a slight angle, and consider the lighting where you usually play RPGs.

If you’re looking to buy your first set of dice online I suggest passing on anything you think might be hard to read, it will make your gaming experience much smoother. By the same reasoning, don’t buy metal dice if you’ll be playing on your grandmothers mahogany dining table.

Dice with Character

Much like an antique passed down from generation to generation, I like to think of my dice as tools being passed from character to character. As I mentioned earlier, I like dice to resemble the actions they represent, so the D20 my cowboy rolls when he fires his pistol might be silver and smokey. In the next game I might need a die for when my pilot is flying his spaceship, and that same silver and smokey die could be used. What once was a gun has now be repurposed, reforged, into a spaceship.

Dice don’t need to all fit the same mold to be a set. It’s perfectly fine to walk down to the nearest game shop and buy loose dice from the bins, put certain ones in a bag together and call them a set. You can make the connections between the dice and your character yourself, tying them together and giving them purpose as you play.

If you want as little hassle as possible, my brother recently bought a set of perfectly fine, simple RPG dice from Wish for $1. Even many custom dice companies will have a page of clearance items for cheap, easy purchase.

Finally, if you just can’t resist that set of aged bronze dice with the Celtic font, think about it for a day, be an informed shopper, and buy them.


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