Odd Balls: The Weird World of Dice
Dice: A cultural touchstone
From board gamers to wargamers, RPG players, casual party gamers, casino card players, and even Magic the Gathering players, everyone has encountered a set of dice in their favorite games. Whether it be a standard pair of casino-style six sided white dice with black pips, or a twenty-three piece Dungeon Crawl Classics set, dice are absolutely ubiquitous in gaming, and only grow more varied and beloved by the day.
And why not? The beloved little math-rocks have been around for millennia, and people have always enjoyed them. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art keeps a sizeable historic Dice collection.
Dice been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and in the homes of excavated Chinese residential sites dating back long before the Qin Dynasty. 5,000 year old dice were found in an excavated Bronze Age settlement in the Middle East. (For perspective, that’s older than Stonehenge.)
They are mentioned in ancient Sanskrit manuscripts, the Old Testament, and other historic texts. Roman soldiers carried them to war, and Silk Road traders carried them on their long expeditions. We can’t say exactly why everyone loves to roll those bones, but there’s something fascinating and delightful about letting lady luck guide the tumble and fall of those shiny little randomizers.
Variety is the dice of life
Dice throughout history have been made from a variety of materials, and with a variety of shapes to enable different numbers and results. Their many forms have been crafted from stone, antler, bone, human teeth, wood, gems, and metal. And of course plastic and resin, the classics of our modern world that most people have encountered somewhere between Yahtzee and D&D.
The iconic 6-sided cube die, (known as a d6) with white base and black pips, is recognizable internationally as a symbol of gaming and chance. A d20 (a twenty sided die) has become an icon of role playing games, despite the d20 being around since the Greco-Roman times.
But even in today’s day when we are (mostly) no longer making dice with knuckle bones, there there are so many varieties of dice in this world that we wanted to bring some of our favorite odd boys out into the light. Lets take a look at some of the less typical dice, where they come from, and what they’re for.
Unusual Dice: Strange Shapes
Wear jewelry? Perfect. If not, you can start with something both functional and fancy like these rings from CritSuccess. They come in all different sizes, colors, and die options, with a few non-dice options as well!
These are wonderfully portable and precious all in their own way. Yes, my precious… Have a d20 ‘on hand’ at all times!
Need another portable option? Perhaps a d20 that can fit in your pocket without a strange bulge? Here’s a great substitution for those bulky dice! The Tin20 from Mythroll dice fits unfolded into a pocket, wallet, or even between the pages of a book for easy carrying. Fold it up and flatten it back out as many times as needed.
Foam Brain Games offers another such option. It’s probably the most ‘not-dice’ dice we’ve ever had in stock. Keep a few of these in your wallet or purse and your real-life d20 roll will always feel like a lottery win!
Another oddball from Mythroll, who have a knack for the unusual yet glorious. Tired of picking your over-thrown dice up off the floor? The Mythroll Spinners are only a few inches tall and come in a variety of number combinations, great for any gamer. The spinners are made of steel bearings, making this “die” weighty in the best of ways.
And it certainly won’t roll off your table!
Keeping up the theme of odd shapes, next we pull out the long-loved and very affordable Crystal Caste crystal dice.
They come in a nice variety of color combinations and unusual shapes and may be considered a standard for many long-time gamers. We have a staff member (read: resident Dice Goblin) who prefers these over anything else in his collection.
Looking for something neat to fit your player character?
Check out these Poly Hero Sets from Game Salute. They have a variety of sets to suit various classic character classes. These thematic dice really do put you in the right mindset for your player character, with every single roll!
Bang! Playing in a Wild West, Steam Punk or War themed game? These Bullet Dice from Steve Jackson Games are great for so many different settings. From Post-Apocalyptic Mutant Epoch, to wargame RPGs, these d6’s are sure to turn some heads.
Want something controversial that might emotionally scar your OCD players or GM? These might be the dice for you.
Skew Dice from The Dice Lab are definitely something most won’t have in their collection. The image doesn’t do justice to how sickeningly warped these dice are. Each and every one of them is balanced for randomization, but gives the appearance of being a factory-error shape, or wrought from the mind of Salvador Dali.
What we trained professionals call “rolly-polies,” (we’re very scientific) these are always a fun inclusion to any collection. The Koplow Round d6 pieces are something to behold.
While you think that these would keep rolling forever, they’ve got a weight inside that prevents them from doing so.
Speaking of dice that you’d like to think would roll forever, these Unicorn Horn dice from Level Up Dice are really something new and different!
Each die can be interchanged with the unicorn horn base. Then, once united, gently push them and they roll in a full circle! They’re each weighted to make sure you are guaranteed a random roll.
Unusual Dice: Strange Numbers
Dice aren’t just six-sided cubes with numbers on them. We’ve seen some different shapes, but most often we can all agree that no matter how many sides a die has, its usually numbers, or at least a standard number of numbers.
The most common numbers are d4 (a 4 sided die) d6, d8, d10, another d10, (with extra zeros to represent ‘percentile’ or the 100 in conjunction with the other d10) d12, and d20. These are considered the standard dice for use in most RPG games.
But, certain games like to break the mold.
The first that comes to mind is Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. This beloved and quirky old-school rock and roll system asks for some pretty a-typical dice. For example a DCC game might use a classic d6 and d20, but also a d16, d22, d30… These wacky numbers are called ‘Step Dice.’
Your options are unlimited with Step Dice from Impact Miniatures. If you find yourself needing to roll for an odd number, these are definitely for you. Impact Miniatures has quite a lot of unusual dice, in fact!
Some of our most odd and unusual dice don’t even have numbers. These can be helpful in some most wonderful ways, whether it be teaching children their ABC’s, playing non-English games, or teaching your players a lesson… Such as:
Last, but definitely not least in the Strange Numbers category are the Koplow Double & Triple dice. Hey man, we heard you like dice, so we put dice in your dice. Now your dice can roll dice! These are great for a percentile check or when you need to make a sizeable roll with an even number of dice.
Now, Koplow’s series of dice inside dice is for those of you who actually WANT a die inside your die.
Seen here, a cautionary tale about low quality dice. This little blue rogue d6 was lurking inside the shell of a larger d6. That’s what we in the industry would call “bad.”
Make sure to obtain your dice from reputable sources, so you don’t wind up with unintentional dice-ception deception.
Unusual Dice: Strange Materials
This brings us to a new category though, rare (and admittedly high-ticket in some cases) shiny dice made with unusual materials!
This category is something Level Up Dice is known for in the dice community. They have some absolutely glorious pieces, including the most expensive set we currently carry, made of pure Tungsten.
Tungsten is the third heaviest solid metal in the world. These tungsten dice are easily the heaviest full set we have ever acquired, and probably ever will. We definitely recommend rolling these table-breakers in a dice tray!
Speaking of odd (and yet strangely historically accurate) these Level Up Domesticated Yak Horn dice are made from a single piece of horn, no fillers or resin. These are humanely sourced and wax coated for protection! You can imagine yourself as any of the ancient peoples who used stone, bone, horn, and antler to craft the first gaming dice.
O.G. Borealis – What’s the big deal?
We often get inquiries as to why this next set is listed at such a high price: the Chessex 1st Edition Borealis dice.
Chessex had a slight issue back in 2017 regarding the O.G. Borealis lines of dice. The material they used to make the glitter started being used in the production of European currency, make it a controlled substance unavailable to anyone but the government.
This caused a shift in the way Chessex made their borealis glitter and dice. Which in turn made the old glitter (or O.G. as known in the dice industry) much more sought after.
The prices of the borealis line skyrocketed, making some of the sets like Aquerple, Clear, and Confetti worth up to $900 to collectors! While the prices have subsided quite a bit since then, you can still find OG pieces and sets being auctioned on the internet, and we acquire them in trade regularly. So if you want to add them to your collection, hit that “Add to Want List” button on our website, so we can notify you when we have them in stock. (They go quickly!)
Unusual Dice: Awesome and affordable
While there are plenty of fancy and expensive options, what about fancy and affordable? We’ve got plenty of those too!
Some of our top picks come from Crystal Maggie with their Fantastic Glass, Dice Envy with a pure Ebony Wood set, and a variety of options by Foam Brain Games who carry a large assortment of metal and resin dice.
Unusual Dice: The heavyweights
Foam Brain Games also carries some pretty fantastic big boys like this metal d100. Great replacement for a percentile, or a great gift for the dice goblin that literally has everything else.
Looking for something even bigger than a d100 for your collection? We also have a selection of d120’s from The Dice Lab to go along with their odd skew dice we had mentioned earlier!
Is a d120 still not big enough? Then try this 130mm hollow Archon die from Kraken Dice. It may only be a d20, but it sure is BIG.
Could you imagine stringing lights in this bad boy and hanging it from the ceiling? Even having this sitting out on a table would be a wonderful conversation starter for any Gamer’s home.
We carry a limited other selection of hollow dice, but absolutely love this new line that Old School Dice and Accessories has recently come out with, named Hollow Dragon.
They’re a colorful, lightweight way to add a bit of spice to your rolls!
The next set is something truly unique. A “throw” back to original knucklebone dice.
Rose & Pentagram Design really knows wacky when it comes to dice. Check out their other dice on our website for more information on those. (We’d rather not mention them here as they’re a little… over PG-13.)
RPG Dice is a company that has some of the most unique faces we’ve ever seen on dice. These unusual dice are really a Dungeon Master’s best friend when making a last-minute decision!
We would suggest that you take a peek at their full range as they have everything from dice to roll up your character, create a dungeon, or decide what treasure your characters will get from looting.
Dice for all
To any outsider of the gaming industry, owning more than one set of dice may seem like a waste. But to gamers and those of us inside the industry, dice are both a commodity and a necessity in most cases.
Whether you are a RPG dragon hoarding their piles of shiny click-clacks, a goblin just starting out your math-rocks collection, a wargamer with a few d6s to match your army, or a casual board gamer with just a set of Yahtzee dice in your spare parts drawer, everyone needs dice. We have a set for you, no matter what flavor of dice you find delicious. (Please, don’t eat the dice. Even tasty looking ones. Sorry.)
We hope you enjoyed our selection of odds and ends you can find with us here at Noble Knight Games!
– Concept article & images by Nikki H.