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Dungeons & Dragons dice are more beautiful than ever — and a big business

From cottage industry to multimillion-dollar successes

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Dice with multiple inclusions, including small roses and gold flake, set on a white background. Photo: Dispel Dice

Tabletop role-playing games simply wouldn’t work without dice. The act of rolling a 20-sided die sits at the core of modern games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, while other systems rely on 10-sided or six-sided dice to carry the load. That reliance on luck leads many players to grow pretty attached to their polyhedrals. No wonder, then, that a booming industry of boutique dice-makers has emerged to meet the demand. Now more than ever, the dice used to play tabletop RPGs are being treated like works of art.

Of course, things didn’t start out that way.

Dice have always been part of D&D, but early on, they were pretty crummy. The dice that came with the “blue box,” for instance — the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set first published in 1977 — didn’t even have the numbers painted on. Most players simply shaded them in with a pencil.

a set of colorful Dungeons & Dragons dice on a table with a dragon on it
In the foreground a vintage set of D&D dice from the 1970s. In the background a replica set sold by the GaryCon convention in 2019.
Photo: tazz2060/Reddit

If you got into pen-and-paper RPGs in the 1980s or 1990s, you likely picked up a set of dice made by Chessex, which has long been a staple brand in gaming shops. They’re much more vibrant than the original D&D dice, with many colors and patterns to choose from. Today, Chessex’s website boasts more than a dozen trademarked textures and finishes, with names like Leaf, Marble, and Vortex. Most sets go for less than $20.

But along with a massive renaissance in tabletop RPGs, there’s been a huge surge in boutique dice making. I first noticed it at Gen Con in 2015, when I stumbled upon the team from Artisan Dice. There at the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention was a display of products unlike anything that I’d ever seen before, including dice made from old Jack Daniel’s whiskey casks and laser-inscribed sets made from animal horn. One of the most expensive was cut from solid titanium and ran $344 plus shipping.

White dice with dark blue striations and brass numbers sit on a wooden table.
Howlite dice with inlaid brass numbers.
Photo: Artisan Dice
Banded purple stones with bronze letters on a wood table.
Charoite dice inlaid with bronze by Artisan Dice.
Photo: Artisan Dice

Since then, Artisan Dice has kept at it. Its website now features dozens of different styles including resin dice with real rose petals embedded inside, semi-precious stones inlaid with bronze numerals, rare cuts of ancient oak trees, and even dice made from hardened moose poop.

Of course, they’re not the only ones. A quick visit to Etsy will reveal dozens of craftspeople producing handmade dice. Some of the better artisans can also be found on Twitter and Instagram, where one-of-a-kind sets of dice go up for sale all the time.

Small shops and sole proprietors aren’t the only ones getting in on the action, however. Recently, D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast itself started selling more elegant dice through local game stores, big-box retail chains, and Amazon. It now has two unique sets of its own on the market, including an exotic blue set themed around the city of Waterdeep and a dark red set themed to the more hellish landscape of Avernus. Both come with a rolling tray and some themed handouts, including maps. To celebrate D&D’s 45th anniversary, Wizards even partnered with the team at Level Up Dice to create a set featuring a dark blue sapphire embedded inside the d20. At $300, the limited edition sold out quickly.

But the biggest players in the dice market right now are actually on Kickstarter.

The crowdfunding drive for Dispel Dice — a relative newcomer to the business — turned heads with its beautifully photographed offerings in December. Its line features sharp edges as well as inclusions that give the dice depth and motion on the table. Dispel Dice’s Kickstarter campaign raised more than $2.39 million, with final products expected to ship starting in August 2021.

The project with the most buzz on Kickstarter right now is also focused on making amazing dice. The team of craftspeople at Wyrmwood Gaming has also teamed up with the dice makers at Level Up Dice. Its campaign has so far earned more than $1.17 million thanks to a line of dice that runs the gamut from handmade wood to resin and semi-precious stones.

Tabletop RPGs have always been about individuality. Making characters your own is literally the point of the game. Now, thanks in part to a massive increase in players, the market for boutique accessories like dice is bigger than it’s ever been before. Good luck finding the set that speaks to you.

D&D Forgotten Realms Laerel Silverhand’s Explorer’s Kit

  • $17

Prices taken at time of publishing.

An excellent set of dice with dual oversized d20s, perfect for the new 5th edition of D&D, which has mechanics like advantage and disadvantage that require two dice. It also comes bundled with a felt-lined rolling tray and a set of inserts, including a map of the Forgotten Realms.

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