Dungeons and Dragons Basics : DICE

Dungeons and Dragons Basics : DICE

Dice can be your friends or they can be your worst enemy in almost any game that uses them. They are the very definition of RNG (random number generator) and wow can those random numbers smack you upside the head! Thankfully, there are plenty of things in Dungeons and Dragons to help give you an edge (those are called modifiers – which give you numbers to add to your RNG).

In D&D 7 different die are used. These will shape your character, define the role you will play, decide your fate (or destiny!), determine damage, apply healing, and so much more.

For the most part, you will only need 1 of each of the dice but there are instances in which you may want multiples (healing for example uses a D4; so if you are rolling a roll that requires FIVE 4-sided die rolls (abbreviated as 5d4) you may want 5 different D4’s instead of rolling the one you have 5 times).

Let’s break them down:

D4 – Tetrahedron

As I’ve gotten older, the dexterity in my fingers has begun to fail me, and I just hate these dice. They are difficult to pick up and hurt like hell if you step on them (their nickname is the caltrop).

The D4 is mostly used when trying to determine damage for small weapons and how much your healing spell has healed for.  As mentioned in the intro above, this is one that you may want multiples of.

They also are not the best die to use when you want to throw them, they don’t have much weight so as a result when they hit the wall they just kinda plink off and of course when they land on the floor you risk caltropping (yes, I just made that word up) your foot.  Don’t worry, we’ll recommend the best die to throw a little further down this list.

D6 – Cube

Ahh, perhaps the most famous dice out there.  These guys date back to about 2500 B.C.!  Most folks know this type of die from games like Monopoly and Yahtzee!

The D6 is one you will want multiples of as well.  The most common use is when creating your character.  While there are different methods for character creation, almost off of them make use of the D6.

In game the D6 is used for a variety of things from how much damage is dealt to how much health you gain after a short rest.  

D8 – Octahedron

The D8 looks like two pyramids standing on each other’s base.  These also hurt when you step on them (let’s be honest, all dice hurt if you step on them). 

These are generally used for determining how much damage your sword has done.  In the earlier levels of your character generally you will only need one of these, but as you gain levels multiple D8’s can be helpful.

Warriors will generally make use of the D8 the most as the weapons allowed to them (longswords, flails, etc.) top out at doing 8 damage, but those weapons also allow the player to hold a shield in their off-hand providing good protection.

D10 (percentile) – Pentagonal Trapezohedron

The D10 is similar in function to the D8, in that it is used to determine damage from a specific weapon type (two-handed weapons).

When used in conjunction with the 00 numbered D10 they can determine your chances to accomplish a specific task.

Example; there is a 25% chance that something will happen.  Let’s say the rogue is trying to pick a lock and there is a 25% chance it will spray acid in her face.  Roll a percentile D10.  The single digit roll is a 1 and the double digit roll is a 20; that’s 21%.  Of course you could also roll your D20 on various checks (perception to see if the lock is trapped, disarm trap to see if you can.. well.. disarm the trap, etc) but more on the D20 in a moment.  The roll see in the photo above, 90 and 9 is 99%.  0 and 00 would be 100%.

D12 – Dodecahedron


The D12, like the others, is also used for determining damage, mostly from larger weapons.  Think about what a barbarian would carry, massive axe, two-handed sword, etc.

Don’t get down magic wielders, there are some spells out there you can cast that will do D12 damage as well (poison spray, witch bolt, etc).  For the most part, you really only need 1 of these.

Unless you are a dice whore, then collect as many as you want.  I have 7.

Because of their shape, they also perform as the base of a dice stack really well. 

D20 – Icosahedron

This is the granddaddy of Dungeons & Dragons dice.  These are used by every class, pretty much the most.  But you will really only every need one (yeah yeah, dice whores like me need many, I have 15).

The D20 is used for determining pretty much any action performed in game.  Need to swim across a raging river?  Give me a D20 roll against your swimming skill.  Need to climb a rope, that’s saturated with oil, that’s on fire?  Give me a D20 roll against your climbing skill.  Trying to bluff the merchant to give you a discount? Give me a D20 roll against your charisma.

Each number on the die has a 5% chance of rolling face up.  Generally a roll of 1 means you failed miserably, either you just drowned, burnt to a crisp, or the merchant jacked the price up by 90%.  A roll of a 20 is an automatic success, you swam across that river carrying the rogue on your back, you clambered up that rope – put the fire out – and reclaimed the oil, or the merchant just flat out gave you the item you wanted to buy.

The D20 is going to be your best friend… or your worst enemy.  They are also the best dice to throw.  They sound great when hitting the wall, but do be careful, they hurt when they bounce back at you.



Optional Dice

There are more dice that are not necessary to play Dungeons & Dragons, but I use them just the same…

There are not really any D&D mechanics that use these, but there are many home-brew options that have popped up over the years that make use of them.

D30 – Rhombic Dodecahedron

What’s the point of a D30?  What will I ever use it for?  Do you have a table with 30 options?  Yeah, you’d use it to randomly generate one of those events.

You could also use it to randomly determine the day of the month (of course that assumes your game universe only ever has 30 days in it).  This is really just a novelty item.

There are a few Dungeon Masters that have created their own tables specifically to be rolled against with the D30 but again, it’s mainly just a novelty die, a conversation starter.



D100 – Hectohedron

The D100 more closely resembles a golf ball rather than a polyhedron, with it’s edges very rounded.  It’s also very much a novelty die, but some players will use it instead of using  the D10’s to generate a random percentile.

I use mine for a 100 entry random spell table.  Again, there are no mechanics in D&D that will use a D100, so it’s mostly used for home brew things.

The biggest issue with a D100 is that is really hates to stop rolling.  I have to roll this one in a small box and even then, it’s really hard to tell what side is up ( most of the time it lands in the corner without a true up face ).

I mentioned earlier that the D20 is the best one to throw, and I will still maintain that statement.  Yes, if you throw a D100 it’s gonna hurt way worse than the D20, but is this really considered a dice?  I mean, you might as well chunk a golf ball instead.  And why stop there?  Grab the baseball next!


There are actually many other dice out there that would fall under the category of novelty as well, but everything listed above is a die that I have used in my week to week Dungeons and Dragons gaming.

These are the Dungeons and Dragons Basics : DICE and a must have for anyone want to both play or DM.