I still remember my first set of dice from Gods & Monsters– A tiny set of 7 purple click clacks suitable for a Halfling. I was really excited to roll them for my first session (which I subsequently learned is actually Session 0 and didn’t roll dice) but I did get to roll them for Session 1! I don’t remember what the roll was for but I do remember clearly staring at all 7 purple pieces of plastic without having a single clue as to what any of them did or why I needed so many. I remember sitting next to Variants J and Rory and they were very helpful, but I understand that not everyone has a J or a Rory to help walk them through things. For you, I give you this Port of Entry – Dice article.
d4 - Tetrahedron
The d4 is small but mighty! While weapons requiring a roll of this die may not do as much damage (Think daggers, throwing stars, darts, etc), the buffs gained from this tiny die can quite literally mean the difference between life and death! Spells that add to your rolls such as Bless and Guidance, or subtract from an adversary’s roll, such as Bane, can prove to be absolute clutch in the right moment. While this little die may not get much love (I mean have you ever stepped on one?) it can be essential to move the numbers in your favor.
d6 - Cube
The d6 is what most of us have in mind when we think of dice, thanks to its popularity in gaming the world over! There are many ways in Dungeons and Dragons to use these 6 sided cubes in your favor.
One of the most common uses for the d6 is when you are rolling stats. Many tables will have you roll this die 4 times and drop the lowest number to generate you stats. The d6 is also commonly used for damage dealt in both weapons and spells. Weapons such as a hand ax, shortsword, and hand crossbow rely on the d6, and it is essential to the iconic Fireball spell, among many others. Some casters (bards, druids, wizards and the like) will keep extra d6 in their dice bag to allow for easier rolling for damage dealt on some of their more powerful spells.
d8 - Octohedron
D8s are great for some heavier weapons, such as the battleaxe, longsword and longbow. Some weapons can also deal a d8 damage, if they are wielded two handed, such as the quarterstaff. Clerics also make great use of the d8 when casting spells such as Spiritual Weapon or Cure Wounds.
d10 -Pentagonal Trapezohedron
A standard set of polyhedral dice will have two d10s, one with single digit numbers and one with double digit. These dice are often rolled together to achieve a number out of 100. This number is used every time something in the game calls for a percentage to determine success or failure, such as the Divine Intervention Cleric ability, or may be used to roll on random tables, such as the Wild Magic Surge table on page 104 of the Player’s Handbook (PHB).
A single d10 is used for damage dealt with weapons such as the halberd, pike or heavy crossbow.
d12 - Dodecahedron
When dealing damage with a weapon, the d12 is reserved for only the heaviest of equipment. A great ax or lance is able to use this for its roll. Some other weapons, such as the greatsword, allow you to roll 2d6, ensuring that a 1 is never rolled.
The d12 is also essential to the raging barbarian!
d20 - Icosahedron
The d20 is so essential to the game that it is frequently used as the symbol of the hobby and is so much fun to roll! This is the die used most often in your standard game of D&D. Roll for initiative, roll to attack, roll for a skill check, roll for a saving throw and you will be using the d20. You will commonly see a Dice Check (or DC) in explanations about monsters, traps, perception, etc and the d20 is the die used to determine that. Many players will choose to have at least one extra d20 in their dice bag for when a play needs to roll with advantage or disadvantage.