Divinations from the Collective

How Many Gaming Dice Does a DM Need?

Photo of a hand held out flat, on which are several transparent dice in different colors, with white numbers. The hand emerges out of a completely black background.

Getting started as a Dungeon Master can be a little bit intimidating – there’s a lot to keep track of.

Not only do you have to build the world, but you also have to play all the NPCs, keep track of the PC abilities, and figure out the encounters, loot, and locations! It can be hard to keep track of everything. And then, on top of all that, DMs are often expected to bring the majority of the supplies necessary to play the game.

All those things can build up: the DM screen, the books, the miniatures, the maps, the dice. Oh dear, the dice. If you think you know a player who collects dice like a goblin, just wait until you meet a Forever Dungeon Master. It can be something of a hurdle for newer DMs, who might feel that all the bells and whistles are necessary to running a game.

Really, all you need to run a game of Dungeons and Dragons is a single set of 7 dice. Exactly what you’d need as a player.


The Bare Minimum

A photo of s set of gaming dice in red, white, and black swirls with gold numbers. The dice are stacked on an old gaming magazine.

Just like any player, all that you really need as a DM is one set of Dungeons and Dragons dice. It can be nice, and even easier, to have extra sets and individual dice on hand, but those are just a bonus.

Being a DM has no extra rules or checks that need any different dice, and very often you’ll be making pretty much the same rolls as your players, except on behalf of the NPCs instead. This means that you might get a lot of use out of two or three extra sets – just so that you can roll for multiple characters at once. But there’s nothing to stop you from rolling the same d20 multiple times.

Of course, just because you can use the bare minimum, it doesn’t mean that you have to. There are some dice, or combinations thereof, that make running things behind the DM screen just that much easier.


Multiple d20s

The easiest extra dice to get your hands on are multiple d20s – these will allow you to roll for multiple things at once.

I find that this makes rolling initiatives for large combats much faster, and it speeds things up when you have multiple attacks. They’re also handy for scaring your players when they’ve lost focus on the game (just roll as many as you can at once, hum mysteriously, and see how fast you regain their attention).

Having them in multiple colors will also make it easier to keep track of which die is for which NPC! Just make sure that the inking is in clear enough contrast that you can easily read each die when it’s in a group.  



A photo of several d10 dice with smaller d10 dice within them. There are four sets, each transparent with a different color of smaller gaming dice inside

As a DM, you’ll probably find yourself rolling on tables pretty often. It can be fun to get the players involved (especially for things like randomized loot), but often you’ll be using your own tables and information to try to come up with stuff on the fly. It’s useful, in that case, to have a d100 on hand.

The standard 7 die set comes with a d10 and a percentile, which combine to become a d100. But there are also 100-sided options for if you only want to roll one die. And, if you’re feeling really fancy, the ‘die within a die’ option exists as well!

Even if the table only goes to 25 or 50, some quick division from one result is much quicker than trying to combine various dice to get your roll number.


Party-sized Dice

A photo of a number of gaming dice in various colors, each with an unusual number of sides, including a d3, d4, d5, d6, d7, d8, d9, d10, percentile, d11, d12, d13, d14, d15, d16, d17, d18, d19, d20, d22, d24, d26, d28, and d30

No, I don’t mean ‘extra-large'.

It can sometimes be hard to decide whom the enemy attacks, who gets randomly poisoned, who takes the brunt of the AOE spell. DMs are fallible, and it can be easy to accidentally target one player more often than you target another, which makes for conflict at the table. The bad kind.

I find that having a die that corresponds with the number of players at the table helps a lot with randomizing who gets targeted. Of course, the randomization isn’t always necessary, and a lot of more intelligent enemies will have a reasonable plan of attack rather than a randomized assault. But still, for random encounters or animal combats, equal opportunity attacks are often the way to go.

If your party has 6 players, a standard d6 set aside is what you’ll use. If you have 4 players, use a d4. If your party has an odd or unusual number of players, you can always just re-roll an impossible number, or you can track down some unusually sided dice here: Specialist Dice


The Dragon’s Hoard

Of course, it’s always nice to be the kind of DM that you wished you had when you started playing. It can be fun to provide extra dice and emergency supplies for your players when they forget theirs, or to be able to hand them out to any newcomers to the game.

A photo of a large pile of gaming dice, of various types, colors, and sizes. The central die is has the image of a wolf on the top-facing side.

Keeping a massive collection of dice behind your DM screen is far from necessary, but it sure is a lot of fun. And if you’re looking to start your collection, D20Collective has a great variety to get started with – you can see some of our bundles and varieties here:

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