Ask The Readers: Fancy dice? Yay or nay?

fancy diceA lot of players shy away from certain games because they use “fancy” dice like Fudge dice, non-standard polyhedral dice, dice with funny symbols instead of regular numbers or something like that.

In a way, I can understand that. Usually roleplaying game players just need a set of the most common polyhedral dice and they can play almost everything. It’s like a basic tool you can use all your life. But then there are these games that need you to buy these fancy dice, or even worse, only one set came with the game itself and you have to share these dice with your GM and the other players! Yuck! Nobody touches my dice!

Roleplaying games that use fancy dice exclusively or even utilize cards for task resolution are usually hard to sell to the average gamer. Or is this just a common misconception? That’s why I am asking my readers today: do you like fancy dice or do you hate them? And why?

I am curious because I have pondered using fancy dice for my own game designs from time to time. I totally love Fudge dice and recently I picked up a set of dice with six-sided dice numbered from 0 to 5 as seen in the image above. Rolling 4 of those and adding the results together generates a number between 0 and 20 in a nice bell curve. My friend Andrew called them z5 (analogous to d6). The results are basically the same as if you rolled 4d6 and subtracted 4, but rolling 4z5 is just easier and nicer.

So, what do you think about fancy dice? Yay or nay? Please post your comments below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

16 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: Fancy dice? Yay or nay?”

  1. My biggest gripe about “fancy dice” is that usually the range of options for buying them is super limited, and so I can’t find ones I like. I’m pretty picky, and I have requirements for my dice. (I want them to feel good in my hands, have aesthetic appeal, and suit my mood when I’m using them, which is why I have multiple sets.) I wish more companies would get into making alternate dice, so I could have a wider range of options to choose from.

    For an example story: I finally settled on a set of Chessex’s “smiley dice” to be my Fudge dice, because I’d been searching for six months for a set of pink ones to go with all my other pink dice. They were manufactured briefly, but now no one carries them, so I had to find something else. It’s that sort of thing that turns me away from “fancy” dice.

    1. I agree with Rowan, if they were easy to buy, I’d be happy to play games that required them. However, they’re often not easy.

      Fudge dice do make sense because it’s easier to count the successes than with plain numbered dice but it can be expensive if they need to be shipped.

      1. I ended up making my own Fudge dice with plain old black-spotted white d6s and a black marker, following the directions here:

        Other folks might not be as easily-contented, of course. And yes, ease of access certainly helps with the “non-standard” or “fancy” dice problem. If a game is going to require them, it would be nice if the game came with at least enough to play.

  2. If the funky dice offers an alternative using regular dice, it’s a lot more palatable than if that alternative is not there.

    What are you trying to gain using the funky dice?

  3. It really depends on the game. Some, such as Fudge and (I cannot think of another now, but DCC may be it) make the odd dice part of the fun, somehow. Most of the time, there’s little or no reason. I admit that I like oddball dice more than six-sided dice. Might be the reason why Tunnels & Trolls didn’t become a much bigger sales item, though I always preferred it to D&D.
    When it comes down to it, I always have the option of apps on my cell phone to roll ANY sided dice.

    *jeep! & God Bless!
    —Grandpa Chet

  4. I love funky dice, cards, mechanics that break the mold (the use of Jenga on Dread comes to mind), but must echo previous posters that the main problem is actually getting the dice. Also some of these alternate methods are a hard sell on my players, who tend to be older gamers who are reluctant to spend time learning a new system.

  5. I love funky dice, but I also have a fairly extensive collection at home. I have no problem with buying and/or playing a game that uses them. For the most part, funky dice can be substituted or approximated with more standard dice rolls. For example, 4dF is equal to 4d3-8. The more mathematically inclined of us can create and reference a table with percentile(%) or per-mille (‰) look-ups.

  6. All hail the fancy dice … mostly because I’ve never seen a game use them and have linear results. I’m a fan of bell cuves, so dFs suit me nicely.

    I’ve recently taken up WFRP3 which has very complicated special dice (providing a degree of success / failure and at least four kinds of side effects). I haven’t played enough of it to form a proper opinion yet though, but it looks promising.

  7. I don’t mind fancy dice, but I saw the era when games were making fancy dice just for the sake of having something “unique”. I’ve got one around here, I think it’s MetaScape: Guild Space, that has a 16 sided die that goes from 1 to “trademark” with a couple of stops at “+” on the way. From what I’ve remember, there is nothing this die does that can’t be accomplished in a simpler, slicker way. So yeah, I’m in favor of fancy die as long as there is a valid reason for it. But if you publish a pdf that calls for some truly funky dice, don’t be surprised if nobody buys it.

  8. I think funky dice are nice promotions, but I’m lukewarm on games that require their use without some kind of translation for using “regular” dice. When West End Games did the Hercules & Xena RPG the boxed set included some beautiful funky dice for the success/ failure resolution mechanic in the game, but that was easily translated to a standard d6. When ICE did the Lord of the Rings CCG they had an oversized d6 with the Eye of Sauron on the “one” face…not required for gameplay, but exceptionally cool for Middle-earth fans.

  9. nay!


    – They are always much more expansive than regular dice, usually for absolutely no reason.
    – They are less widely distributed.
    – They remove ergonomic choice from the player. Some like (or need, sometime for a very good reason like a handicap or a non regular table settings) smaller or bigger dices for example, or dices with much more contrast.
    – They make harder for us to add new players to a table, introduce people to tabletop rpg.
    – They are very hard or even impossible to use on a virtual rpg table, like Rolisteam.

    Mostly, these fancy dices makes me things of inkjet cartridge. Buy a nice printer, get lock up in one vendor for a needed accessory, you end up paying for accessories than for the main product.

    Some don’t bother me that much. FUDGE dices for example have a real mathematical use, can be replaced with regular d6, can be replaced in virtual table software with 1d5-1d5 for example, can be approximated with d6-d6, can be homemade easily. The main point being, they have a real mathematical-statistical-probabilist raison d’être.

    I don’t include in “fancy dices”, the regular dices with purely aesthetics modifications (from #11’s description of the Eye of Sauron dice for example). If someone who didn’t read the rules can easily read the dice, that’s a regular dice enough for me.

  10. I like the fancy dice, but prefer if they’re not mandatory or if regular d6s or D&D-style polyhedrals are usable….

  11. The dice marked 0-5 actually also work really well for exploding dice, where if you roll a 5, you add another die. It produces a continuous sequence of results because the next roll could always be a zero. If you do that with a 1-6 d6, and roll another die and add it, you wind up with gaps because you’ll always be adding a +1 or more to the highest result.

      1. Resolute, Adventurer & Genius adds 5 on an explosion (roll of 6) rather than adding 6, for just that reason. Technically an explosion adds a minimum of 6 (because the next roll will always add at least +1) but it avoids the gaps.

        Now I’m wondering what WR&M and RAG would be like using z5s instead of d6s, as well.

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