We all have that one set of dice that we keep coming back to. Be it their colour, material, or simply a fond memory associated with them, the dice we use to play DnD or other tabletop games can hold a special place in our hearts. But the question arises – are all dice created equal? Are some dice more equal than others? (Animal Farm, anyone?)
The fact of the matter is, some dice may have a tendency to favour certain rolls. This can be the result of inconsistencies in the manufacturing process, such as small pockets of air that make some sides of the die lighter.
If you’re looking for a new set of DnD dice, or are wondering about the quality of your own set, then keep reading!
Testing your dice
Most of us only have anecdotal evidence to go on. If your friend rolls three natural 20’s in a row, you may begin to question their dice (and maybe their honesty!). However, it is important to remember that although the odds of a certain outcome may be low, it is still a non-zero probability. Therefore, we can use a slightly more scientific method to determine if our dice roll true. Get out your lab coats and safety goggles.
The simplest method to determine if your dice are random is to use the saltwater test, a method also used to test the balance of golf balls.
To perform the saltwater test, partially fill up a cup with water and put the die you want to test in, dissolving salt in the water until the die floats. Then push and spin the die around with your finger. If you find that the die constantly returns to the same number, it is not properly balanced.
Unfortunately, some dice are quite heavy and do not float at all, regardless of the salt content in the water. These dice cannot be tested using this method.
If you’d like a visual representation of the saltwater method, check out this video.
Comparing consistencies of dice
Luckily for us, there have already been some more extensive tests conducted on die randomness.
The first of these tests we found was done over at Awesome Dice. To summarize, they compared Chessex dice (one of the most popular and cheap brands) to GameScience dice, the founders of which created them in order to maximize randomness. After rolling each type 10,000 times, they came to the conclusion that although Chessex dice deviated more from the expected results (500 of each roll) than GameScience, it shouldn’t matter which you use when playing games.
The second test was conducted using an automatic dice roller to compare the roll values of many different brands. It is a very interesting article, albeit long, but it is definitely worth a read if you are interested. You can do so here.
If you want a quick summary:
While some brands tended to be more fair than others on average, there also exists variability between dice from the same company. This basically means that buying dice from a reputable source can improve your chances of getting more balanced ones, but does not guarantee it.
If your own tests or these results haven’t entirely convinced you, below are some simple recommendations that can put you on track for a fair rolling experience.
Cheap dice for beginners
It’s possible that you’ve chosen your class and created a sweet backstory for your character for your first campaign, only to realize you haven’t got any dice! While you could simply use an online DnD dice roller or app, physically rolling dice is part of the fun.
If you’re just looking at picking up a cheap set of DnD dice to get started, we would recommend looking for translucent ones. Some people claim that translucent dice are more fair than their opaque counterparts, especially in cheaper price ranges.
The logic behind this thought process does seem valid. With opaque dice, you don’t know what the interior looks like, meaning manufacturers have less incentive for quality control when it comes to pockets of air or cheap materials. Obviously, with a translucent die you can spot these types of inconsistencies more easily and avoid using it.
Don’t use spindown dice
We recommend not using a Magic: The Gathering “spindown” die as your main D20. These are primarily used to count lifepoints in the card game and are not created with the intention of rolling. Therefore, the likelihood that they are unbalanced is greater. In addition, since the numbers descend from highest to lowest as you turn the die (hence the name spindown) there is a greater incentive to “strategically” roll the die.
To avoid this, simply don’t play with spindown dice, or better yet, don’t play with people who would try to cheat.
Most dice you find in a store or online will have rounded edges due to being tumbled during the manufacturing process. This can naturally cause inconsistencies in the shape and weighting of a die.
Precision dice, on the other hand, are created to have sharp edges and an accurate balance. They also have the benefit of quickly reaching a standstill when rolled, as opposed to most regular dice that jump and tumble all over the place before finally coming to a stop, often somewhere under a piece of furniture, never to be seen again!
If you or the people you play with value consistency, especially in games where dice are rolled many times, definitely consider picking up a set of these dice. In the long run, they could save you from arguments about the integrity of your favorite “lucky” dice, as well as time spent crawling under tables and re-rolling.
Because they are solid metal, the likelihood that they are balanced is high, making them another great option for players that value true randomness. On top of that, their durability means that they could last you until you’re rolling new characters with your best mates in the old folks home.
Keep in mind that metal dice are heavy! To get a proper roll, greater force is required than with your standard plastic or acrylic set. Be warned: if playing on a sensitive surface like a wooden table, these bad boys could cause a lot of damage. It goes without saying that you can’t whip these out when playing on a glass surface.
To be safe, especially when playing on somebody else’s table, ask before rolling. Also, it is worth thinking about buying a dice tray for you to roll in.
It’s really up to you!
Ultimately, use whatever dice you favor. The differences between sets of dice may have no apparent impact on your games, or they could. Other factors also come into play, such as your rolling technique and the surface you play on.
The bottom line is that as long as you and your friends are having fun, there is no wrong answer. You could head to your local game store or a website and pick out a perfect set of dice for your needs, or simply purchase a big bag of random dice to distribute among your friends and get rollin’!