A few months ago, I decided I wanted to buy my first dice tray. My druid character in our ongoing D&D 3.5e campaign uses a lot of dice, and our GM (who comments here as Sarlax) has always used a dice tray and seems to quite like it.
I knew I didn’t want the generic light wood/green felt octagon that I’ve seen in most gaming stores. It’s too large and the walls are too short, plus I’m not wild about the color combination. I wanted something different, and fortunately I remembered a booth I’d spent some time at during GenCon 2007: Dwarven Sweatshoppe.
They make custom dice trays, and the ones they had on hand at the con were beautiful. I remembered that they came in a wide range of shapes and styles, with decorative options for the sides, different felt colors and walls in a variety of heights. From handling a couple trays at the con, I knew they were solid and well-made — the kind of game aid that should last for years.
Which is good, because at $20, $30 and $40 a pop depending on the type of wood and decorations, they’re two to four times as expensive as the generic, widely available trays. That said, having bought one and used it for the past several months, they’re worth every penny.
The order process begins with choosing the type of wood you want: pine ($20), oak ($30) or decorative pine ($40), as well as how tall you’d like the walls to be. They recommend tall sides for “chuckers” and short sides for “rollers.” I opted for short oak, reasoning that oak is a lot tougher than pine (and likely to last longer), and that with shorter walls I’d be able to read my dice more easily.
Once you choose your wood, you get to pick the number of sides: four, five, six or eight. Four looked like an invitation to get dice stuck in the corners, and eight was too traditional; I liked both five and six, and opted for five — the pentagon just looks cool.
The third step is picking a stain, ranging from dark walnut to olive. They’re attractive colors, and the little thumbnails suggest that all of them will look good on the actual wood. But how do you know? Are the thumbnails showing them on pine or oak? And how true to reality is the photo?
The same goes for step four: felt. Sure, the colors look good in the thumbnails, but how will they look paired with the wood and stain you choose? And again, how true are the colors in the photos?
For the last two steps, I scoured the web for larger photos, reviews and other sources of images of assembled dice trays. I checked online gaming stores as well as websites selling the specific makes and patterns of felt used by Dwarven Sweatshoppe. I found an image or two that were helpful, and eventually settled on red mahogany stain and cranapple felt, which looked like they would complement each other well, and also match the oak.
The Finished Product
Here’s what I wish I’d had on hand when I was creating my dice tray: nice big photos showing a finished tray in loving detail. If you’re thinking about buying one, my specific shape, wood, color and felt options may not help you, but hopefully seeing the quality and overall look of the thing will.
Head-on (or check out the giant version):
From overhead (muy grande):
The bottom, showing the felt that keeps it from scratching your tabletop (embiggen):
…and the edge, showing the quality of the construction and evenness of the lacquer (show me the big one, Uncle Martin):
Overall, this puppy is nicely made. The corners are subtly rounded, which keeps it from being too pokey and also ensures fewer wear points where the lacquer can rub off. The felt is perfectly flat and well glued-down, and hasn’t shown any signs of wear yet. The joints in the wood are sound, and the looks good and is evenly applied. I have zero complaints about the quality of my tray — it’s excellent.
At $30 plus shipping, my custom dice tray cost about the same as a hardcover gaming book. For that price, I got a game aid that’s served me well at every session for the past several months without showing any signs of wear. I’ve never used a dice tray before, and this one has made me a convert — I love rolling in it.
The compact size means that it’s easy to find a spot for it next to me as a player or behind my screen as a GM (and I love the funky pentagonal shape), and the height of the sides is just right: I’ve never had a problem reading my dice from any angle. The size of the tray also means my dice tend to “cluster up” when rolled, making scanning them just slightly quicker than normal.
On the ordering front, Dwarven Sweatshoppe did a great job. I got an email confirming my order, and it was assembled and shipped promptly. It arrived in perfect condition.
My only complaint, in fact, is that there aren’t nearly enough photos of completed dice trays available on DS’s website — there’s, um, one. For shame! You can find a few elsewhere, but as of now this review showcases the most and the largest photos of DS dice trays online — that shouldn’t be the case.
I couldn’t be happier with my dice tray. It’s going to be a faithful staple of my home games for years to come, and it looks set to last as long as I want it to. I highly recommend Dwarven Sweatshoppe‘s custom dice trays.
If you have any questions about my tray, the customization process or anything else about this review, fire away in the comments.