I’m currently reading David M. Ewalt’s book Of Dice and Men with the large d20 featured on the cover and I keep looking at the dice. I remember purchasing new dice, a dice bag, and dice earrings when first visiting Gen Con back in 2010. I attribute my renewed love of gaming and dice to two people: my friend Gina and my husband Steve.
It’s a rite of passage to own a dice bag, even as a middle-aged adult. When I played D&D as a kid in the 1980s, I don’t remember owning a fancy dice bag. I think I had the basic polyhedral set encased in a small plastic box. Fast forward to the 2000s with websites like D&D Beyond and other apps where dice can be rolled virtually. Steve prefers to “roll the dice” using a virtual app. I tried the one on D&D Beyond a couple of times, but that quickly lost its appeal.
In this article I am going to compare the advantages and disadvantages of using polyhedral versus virtual dice in RPGs. (You can also use a giant stuffed d20 that I bought at Gen Con this summer!) Although D&D is my go-to RPG, it can also apply to other gaming systems.
The word polyhedral (pronounced polly-heeee-drull) fascinates me and is primarily used in the D&D universe, but dice are used in other games as well. I believe the six-sided dice is the most used one; I remember playing Yahtzee all the time as a kid using the five six-sided dice. Anyhow, here are the advantages and disadvantages of using polyhedral dice in RPG.
- The physical motion of rolling the dice and anticipating the results are part of the fun.
- It’s fun to compare dice at the table (unless your dice are sub-par.)
- Physically rolling and seeing a 20 is much more gratifying than seeing one on a screen.
- Not only are dice used for gaming, but players collect them.
- If your dice are producing too many critical misses (which is a 1), you can purchase a dice jail to place them in. (Based on my rolls in my last RPG, I’m considering it.)
- Not only can you invest in dice, but you can purchase fancy trays to roll them in. You can create your own, or purchase fancy ones from companies like Wyrmwood.
- If you’re playing a Zoom session of RPG, you may not see the dice rolls and will have to rely on the DM’s or player’s word.
- Dice can become missing or lost; your dice may become mixed up with someone else’s if you have the same color/style/type, and you will most likely need more than one set.
- You will need to have a physical space to roll the dice.
- Dice collecting, including the bags, dice, and trays, can become expensive.
- If you have fur or human children, your dice may disappear.
If you are tech savvy and would rather push a button than roll physical dice, virtual dice may be the way to go. RPG Simple Dice is available on Google Play. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using virtual dice in a game:
- The game may go faster by touching a button to roll, and DMs may prefer virtual dice to save time.
- If connected with other gamers, everyone’s dice rolls can be seen online.
- Virtual dice are better to use if physical space is an issue.
- Using virtual dice, especially with the sound off, is quieter than rolling dice.
- Virtual dice can be safer, especially if you have small children and/or curious pets.
- It’s not the same as rolling physical dice.
- Rolls can be disadvantageous, and you can’t put virtual dice in dice jail. (Unless there’s an app I don’t know about!)
- If you have a bad signal, this could delay gameplay.
- If your technology goes awry, you won’t be able to use the app/website.
What are your thoughts? Do you prefer to physically or virtually roll the dice in a game?