In 1992, Dragon Magazine #182 (a special anniversary edition) released an article entitled “The Wild, Wild World of Dice”. In it, author Michael J D’Alfonsi discussed various superstitions, quirks, and problems with dice and their users – including, of course, the issue of players with too many dice.
His main annoyance was that these collections took up so much space at the table. But he also seemed generally bewildered that someone might keep as many as 100 dice (that’s around 15 modern sets), or even the record 382 from his local community. The number of dice that it was optimal to have, he said, was as follows:
5d4, 10d6, 2d8, 2d10, 1d12, 1d20
Nowadays, plenty of people keep far more than 100 dice, without it seeming strange or unusual. They don’t tend to take the whole collection to games, of course, but it’s nice to have variety. Instead, I like to think of the “ideal set” as a great recommendation for how many you’ll want to bring to a game away from home. That way, you have plenty of space in your bag for everything else you’ll need, and enough dice to easily play the game.
The ideal set is somewhat different, though.
How Many D4 in an Ideal Set?
D’Alfonsi lists the ideal number of d4 as 5, for casting Magic Missile.
The logic here holds up if you’re playing a spellcaster. The iconic spell has maintained both it’s popularity among the available attack spells, as well as the relevant damage die. You can use fewer if you’re of lower levels, but at high levels 5d4 is completely reasonable for a spellcaster. At lower levels, you might prefer 3 instead, since that’s the number of d4 you roll when you first get the spell.
If you’re not a spellcaster, you can make do with a single d4. You’ll only really need it for Inspiration, buffing effects, or dagger damage. And all of those are infrequent enough that simply rerolling a single die isn’t an imposition.
How Many D6 in an Ideal Set?
D’Alfonsi lists the ideal number of d6 as 10, for fireball and character creation.
While you definitely need more d6 than d4, 10 is a little bit excessive. Fireball damage, at a base-level casting, is only 8d6, not 10. And you only need 4 for character creation, even when you’re rolling for stats instead of point buy. You also use them for sneak attack, of course, but that doesn’t require so many until very high levels.
For a modern player, I’d recommend 4d6. Even for fireball, you can just roll the lot of them twice. At higher levels, maybe go up to 8, so that you don’t have to reroll too many times.
How Many D8 in an Ideal Set?
D’Alfonsi lists the ideal number of d8 as 2, for weapon damage.
This is just about right. Most weapons only do 1d8, of course. But plenty of spells might do 2d8, or you might make 2 1d8 attacks in a single turn, even pretty early. You shouldn’t need more than that, though – rerolling these 2 shouldn’t happed enough to be a major inconvenience.
How Many D10 in an Ideal Set?
D’Alfonsi lists the ideal number of d10 as 2, for percentile rolls.
This one is right for modern players, too, with one caveat. Modern sets will already come with 2d10, one listed 0-9, and one listed 00-90. The latter is to be used for percentile rolls as the tens place, while the latter is used as a standard d10. No need for deciding which is which!
And there aren’t too many spells or damage options that require rolling high numbers of d10, so you should be fine with just the 2.
How Many D12 in an Ideal Set?
D’Alfonsi lists the ideal number of d12 as 1, since it’s the rarest used of the dice.
No change here! D12 are definitely the least commonly used of the standard dice set. You might want to keep an extra on hand if you’re a Barbarian, but only the highest hit dice and weapon damages are d12, which 90% of players won’t readily need. A single d12, just in case, the generally the way to go.
How Many D20 in an Ideal Set?
D’Alfonsi lists the ideal number of d20 as 1, since “that’s really all you need”.
If you’re playing any edition other than 5e, a single d20 is more than enough. But 5e introduced the advantage/disadvantage system, in which you roll 2d20 and take the higher or lower result, respectively. This means that you’re best served by having 2d20 instead of one, so you can roll them both at once and easily read which you ought to use.
The Ideal Dice Set for Modern Players
In conclusion, the ideal set for a modern DnD player is similar to, but a little different from the one advised 30 years ago. It might look a little something like this:
Low Levels: 3d4, 4d6, 2d8, 2d10 (percentile and standard), 1d12, 2d20
High Levels: 5d4, 8d6, 2d8, 2d10 (percentile and standard), 1d12, 2d20
Of course, you can change this set to match whatever character you’re building, or to match your campaign. Different DMs might favor asking for certain rolls. But it makes a wonderful place to start!
How to Get An Ideal Set
Unless you’re ordering a custom set from a dicemaker, it’ll be hard to find a set with the exact recommendations that we’ve made for an ideal set. It just isn’t realistic for manufacturers and people who are making large sets. But you can easily mix and match sets that you already have. And if you’re looking for a place to start, we carry fantastic 14-piece sets that contain a sizable number of these here.
What’s your ideal dice set? Do you think you’ll use our ideal set, or the one from D’Alfonsi more often? Let us know in the comments below!