D&D for Beginners: Know your dice

D&D for Beginners: Know your dice

By Bree Smith on February 25, 2020 in Beginner's Guide, Dungeons & Dragons

Before beginning your first adventure you will need to become familiar with your greatest blessing and your worst bane – your dice. These small chunks of plastic will determine the fate of your character from the moment it’s created until either retirement or death.

Unlike a traditional board game, Dungeons and Dragons uses a set of 6 different dice. Sure, you’ll have a traditional six-sided dice, but you will also need ones with four, eight, ten, twelve and, most importantly, twenty sides. It may seem like a lot, but this guide will help you recognize each type of dice, and outline when they are most often used.

20 sided die


The twenty-sided die, also known as a D20, is the most used dice in D&D. You can identify it by it’s rounder, hexagonal shape.

You use it to determine a success or failure for the following:

  • Attacking
  • Using a skill
  • Saving against an effect

The threshold that determines a success for failure is determined by your Dungeon Master. So roll high, friends. Roll high.

Twelve sided dice


The twelve-sided die, also known as the D12, is one of the 5 damage dice. You can identify this die by it’s pentagonal faces.

This die is used to determine the amount of damage an attack gives to your opponent. The D12 is used for heavier weapons or more powerful spells.

  • Great Axe
  • Lance
  • Toll the Dead (spell)
  • Poison Spray (spell)
Ten sided dice


The ten-sided die has 2 purposes – damage and percent. You can identify this die by it’s similarity to a spinning top toy.

Below are some examples of weapons and spells that use the D10.

  • Glaive
  • Pike
  • Heavy Crossbow
  • Fire bolt (spell)
  • Eldritch Blast (spell)
Eight sided die


The eight-sided die is one of the most often used damage dice. You can identify it by it’s diamond shape.

There are a number of weapons and spells that use the D8, below are a few.

  • Great club
  • Light crossbow
  • Longsword
  • Cure wounds (spell)
  • Thunderwave (spell)
Six sided die


Ah, the good ol’ six-sided die, something we’re all familiar with. This is another commonly used damage die, mostly used for smaller, more versatile weapons.

  • Hand axe
  • Javeline
  • Short bow
  • Acid Splash (spell)
  • Guiding Bolt (spell)
Four sided die


The smallest of the damage die, the D4 can be identified by it’s pyramid shape. This die is used for small or simple weapons and low level spells.

  • Club
  • Dagger
  • Dart
  • Healing Word (spell)
  • Magic Missile (spell)

A handful of D4s can also be an effective, and easy booby trap. Trust me, stepping on a D4 hurts a lot more than stepping on a LEGO.

Now that you’re familiar with the dice, it’s time to go out and get a set. Or two. Probably three. Maybe just one more…

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