You have decided to embark on a journey into the unknown. As you experience the twists and turns of your new adventure, your fate is determined by your choices. The success of your choices is determined by the roll of the dice and the use of different modifiers to those dice rolls. These modifiers are found on your character sheet. The dice you roll for decision making is made up of seven dice, each identified by the number of sides they have and abbreviated with the letter D beforehand (e.g., the twenty-sided die is known as D20 and the twelve-sided die is known as D12). The seven dice include a D20, a D12, two D10’s, a D8, a D6, and a D4.
The D20 is by far the most popular and frequently used die, and is considered the most essential in a large amount of role-playing systems. With triangle-shaped faces and sphere-like appearance, this die is used in most of your decision making, including a skill or an ability check, attacks made, and sometimes even spells. Once you have determined a plan of action, consulted your character sheet, and analyzed which modifiers you are going to use, this die roll will determine if it is successful and sometimes to which degree you are successful in your efforts. As far as obtaining multiples of a single type of die, the D20 is the second most sought after for having additional dice.
With broad hexagonal-shaped faces, the D12 is the next die in size. Most often representing large weapons such as the Greataxe, this die is most commonly used as a ‘damage die.’ Used after determining if your attack was successful, a roll of this die will determine how much damage is taken from the weapon it represents.
There are two main uses for your D10’s. The first and primary purpose of a D10 is the same as the D12. It will help determine how many hit points to take off your opponents when using your larger weapons. However, the reason there are two different D10 dice, is to determine percentages. Usually, one of them has the numbers 0-9, and the other has the numbers 00-90. With the combination of these two dice rolled together, you get a D100. The D100 is sometimes used in role-playing game systems that do not use the D20 and are excellent for rolling on charts, such as random encounters or loot charts.
The D8 is similar to the D12 and D10 dice, as it is primarily used for calculating damage. However, the D8 is extremely popular and used more often than the D12 or D10. D8 weapons tend to be favored as they offer more versatility for the player. Because D12 and D10 weapons are larger than D8 weapons, they usually need to be carried with two hands. A D8 weapon provides a decent amount of damage while only being wielded with one hand.
The D6 is the most recognizable die shape, as it is in many household games. The D6 is often found represented in two different ways, with either the numbers 1-6 on the faces or different numbers of dots called ‘pips’ used to represent those numbers instead. They are used just like D12, D10 and D8 to determine damage. The D6 is the most commonly used die when it comes to damage dice. It represents the damage for a significant number of weapons, as well as being used consistently with damage calculating on spells. As far as obtaining multiples of a single type of die, the D6 is the most commonly sought after for having additional dice.
The pyramid-shaped die often joked about as ‘caltrops’ is the D4. The smallest of the damage dice, this die is more often found representing smaller versions of the D6 weapons such as daggers. It is commonly seen when a player is using a smaller race, such as a halfling. An under-appreciated die, but one that is used in more games than realized.
Understanding the differences each die offers will help you advance your way through the world of DnD.