Over the years when I have had to explain what Dungeons and Dragons is, one of the many questions I hear is – Why are there so many dice? In D&D there are 7 dice that are used – some more than others but at some point, you will use them all.
You will see many-sided “Polyhedral” dice available if you search for DND Dice or D&D Dice. Some are different colours and some are metal or plastic, but do you need them all? Well, this depends on a number of factors. Dice are used for everything, from deciding stats to figuring out if you dealt damage or even hit a target. Dice are even used in roleplaying itself, deciding if your charm or personality succeeded in convincing someone that you are telling the truth or lying to get away. This gives a bit of random excitement to the game, yeah, you may be the best at using that sword, but one bad roll and your whole encounter will change.
So every set has 7 dice – D20 or 20 sided die, D12, D10, D8, D6, D4 and a percentage die.
Most of these dice are used to calculate the “Hit Points” of your character in his/her chosen class.
The D20 is one of the most used and important dice in the set. D20 is used for character creation, initiative rolls and attack. This is even used for role-playing when trying to get information or lie to other players. Other important rolls include sneaking or bartering. This is the dice that makes you either succeed or fail in a task. Rolling a 1 or a critical fail is done with this die.
Barbarians are the only class to use this die. It is used not only to calculate HP but also, depending on what weapon they go with, Barbarians will most likely use this dice to determine the damage of their attack. This heavy hitter is used for great axes and lances but beware – whilst there is the potential for a lot of damage, there is also far more chance for Lady Luck to roll a lower number.
D10 Fighter -Paladin -Ranger
This is the second most used die, giving hit points to three of the classes and many of the ranged weapons like the bow, heavy crossbow and glaive.
D8 – Bard – Monk – Druid – Cleric – Rogue
One of the most used dice apart from the D20, the D8 is used in five of the classes. This die is used for many of the unusual weapons like flails, morningstars, war picks and rapiers.
D6 – Sorcerer – Wizard
The D6 is the smallest of the HP dice but it is well used for the more traditional weapons like the short sword, hand axe, and greatsword.
The D4 is the smallest die, both in size and number. Irrelevant for melee characters, this tiny pyramid is the staple of the magic-user. This is used for most, if not all, magic spells.
This die is very rarely used by players unless your GM requires you to work out percentage of loot or the rarity of magic items. Most GMs would roll this for you as they would be rolling for other effects, like how a cure or random spell outcome would play out.
Go out there and start rolling
So, there is a basic breakdown of the dice used. This only touches the surface of the dice and their roll in D&D. Don’t be intimidated by this. As you start, the more experienced players will walk you through the dice and most GMs will let you know which die to use at any point. So, now you have a better idea what these dice do, if you want to know more about the game, have a look at our Noob friendly section on DnD.