rpgs: dice and minis

David Frickman
April 01, 2020

When it becomes possible, gathering a few friends for a game night can be good for your well-being. And it doesn’t take much to get a role-playing game (RPG) going: Your friends (including one who can lead the game), a guidebook, a set of specialized dice, and some imagination.

But what about those special dice? And what are those tiny statues?


Nicolas Logue, professor of theatre at Windward Community College and award-winning game adventure writer, knows a lot about those little extras that make game night even more special.

The dice
Dice are an integral part of any RPG. They determine the results of the players’ actions. Imagine playing Monopoly without dice — it just doesn’t work.

On the other hand, imagine playing Monopoly with dice that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. While you don’t need to spend that much to play an RPG (a few bucks will do), some players spare no expense.

RPG dice

A typical set has seven dice: 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided with numbers 1 ‒ 10, 10-sided numbered 10 ‒ 100, 12-sided, and 20-sided. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and prices.

“A lot of games use a D20 system, in which the 20-sided die determines success or failure for all types of actions your character may take in-game,” Logue says. “Some games use a pool of dice and you roll several to resolve your actions.”

Of course, with today’s technology, you can easily find a free app and have a full set of RPG dice right on your smartphone. But Logue says virtual dice haven’t really caught on yet.

The miniatures
The adventures that players encounter during an RPG often take them to ancient lands to meet strange and unique people and creatures. You can picture these in your head — or have them on the table right in front of you.

Many players use these tiny statues, called miniatures or minis, to enhance their gaming experience. Players can use miniatures that resemble the character they’ve taken on in the game or the creatures that they’ll face along the way. Logue says, “Nearly every RPG gamer I know has a ton of minis and uses them in play.”

He says that miniatures were once made from materials such as lead or pewter, but plastic minis are more in style now. Players can buy them right off the shelf ready to go or purchase colorless ones and paint them themselves.

“Painting them is a huge hobby unto itself and players spend hundreds if not thousands of hours painting their collections,” Logue says, “though most of the gamers I know fantasize about it a lot more than they get around to actually doing it.”

Of course, minis aren’t for every player. One who doesn’t like to use them when playing is Logue himself.

“It completely detracts from my fun when I play. I find people stare at the board, stop looking at each other, and focus on the strategy and not on the storytelling.

“But the coolest thing about RPGs is that there’s no right way to play, just all sorts of different ways to engage with the game and have fun.”

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