The tabletop gamer's essential guide to dice etiquette
When you're a tabletop connoisseur, there's an all but certain chance that you've got at least a small collection of dice in your life. But have you ever stopped to think about how you're using those dice? Before you now is the work of thousands of hours of research, surveys, scientific studies and dice fondling - this is the tabletop gamer's essential guide to dice etiquette.
Control the direction of your rolls
Whether you're playing a board game, in the middle of a Magic: the Gathering match, storming your army to the front lines in Warhammer or getting to the good part of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, there's a good chance the table in front of you will have stuff on it. From pieces to cards to figures to maps, there's a lot to keep track of.
If you're rolling dice on the same table where you're playing a game, try to be mindful of all the stuff you could possibly knock over in the process - especially when you're working with heavier dice. Games like Warhammer 40,000, where the exact positioning of a model is crucial to factors like line of sight, can be greatly affected when proper caution isn't taken!
Alternatively, if you'd rather not have to worry about the force of your roll mid-game, a dice tray is a good way to keep your cubes in check.
Utilise your different dice effectively
One of the best things about dice today is the amazing variety on offer. From tiny D4s to intricate giant D20s, there's more options than you could poke a stick at.
However, there's a time and a place to flex your collection of differently coloured D6s, and it's not when you're playing a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck in a game of Commander (for those not down on the Magic: the Gathering lingo, those dice should all be the same colour). Keeping your choice in dice consistent not only helps you by giving you less to remember, it's also just a courtesy for the people around you! The best way to do this is investing in a large set of uniform dice... like Chessex's D6s! (Nice plug, Gabe - very subtle and clever!)
Keep it down!
Within the menagerie of dice that exist now, one of the best things to come out of it are all the different sizes and materials you can find. Whether you're looking for giant wooden D6s for the intimidation factor or Level Up Dice's gorgeous hand-crafted precious stone masterpieces for the subtle flex, you're bound to find so many dice that are... loud.
While it's immensely satisfying for the roller, the volume factor will definitely get on the nerves of the people around you if you're not careful. If you're rolling with dice that have a high risk of banging the table, it's a good idea to contain your roll to your playmat (if you have one) or a nicely padded dice tray. Not only does this deal with the decibels, it should also keep your dice in better condition for longer by keeping them off of hard surfaces!
Manners make the mage
Unfortunately, we don't all have never-ending dice bags, filled with near infinite quantities of every side count you could ever want. When it comes time to cast a fireball, if you've only got two D6s, you'll need another six in a hurry, and the only way to ensure that you'll get those six in the future is a healthy dose of manners!
This seems like a simple thing - maybe even a little patronising - but I've seen plenty of players reach across the table to start adding counters to their planeswalkers without as much as a, "may I?" When all it takes is a please and a thank you to keep scowls at bay, it's worth that second of your life!
Beyond that, if you're rolling those bad boys, keep your rolls light and clean. Sometimes, a particularly heavy D6 is a part of a hundred dollar set (like a set of Level Up Dice WINK. WINK.) and should be treated like a priceless artefact in a museum.
If you're borrowing dice, make sure to not accidentally take ones that are being used to track an in-game value. You can't imagine the genuine heartache that occurs when you don't quite remember if your Toothy, Imaginary Friend had twenty-three or twenty-four +1/+1 counters (it's a real issue, I swear!)
Repeat offenders - get some dice, please!
When I began writing this article, I had a chat with two Vault Games regulars while they were in the middle of a Kill Team game. These are two people who routinely play games of Warhammer 40,000, a minis game where you might need to roll twenty D6s at a time - basically, they're dice rolling experts. I asked them what their biggest pet peeve was when it came to dice, and they both agreed that it was people who never brought enough.
If you fit this description, and you've got the means to fix it, please do! A set of Chessex D6s won't run you much, and will easily improve your standing with the people around you.
Homemade dice are a yes... if they pass the test
Back in 2017, I came to my favourite friendly local game store for a Magic: the Gathering pre-release. The set was Unstable, a joke set in the lineage of the game's previous Un-sets. While there was lots to prepare for to get optimal results out of your possible deck (one card required you to throw it at other cards to kill creatures), there was an important mythic - Ol' Buzzbark. This big boy required players to hit as many creatures as possible during a dice roll to give your creatures benefits.
Buzzbark was the only card that cared about dice rolling onto cards, and was a mythic no less, meaning you were unlikely to find one in a draft. This fact, however, didn't deter one of the eager drafters, who went out of his way to turn two large foam cubes into D6s.
While there was hesitation at first, Dylan agreed to allow them... as long as they passed the test of a thousand evenly distributed rolls. Sure enough, they did, and they proceeded to be a great novelty for the weekend with no reasonable payoff (I don't think Buzzbark ever made his way onto a table)!
When you bring in custom dice, you're presenting the slim possibility that you're trying to give yourself an unfair advantage. Be prepared to test your handiwork with a thousand valid rolls before you're allowed to bust those bad boys out in a game!
Establish the rules for your rolls
Dice as coins
While rolling dice is usually as simple as checking the numbers after they hit the table, those little cubes serve a dual purpose in the age of cashless payments - coin flips. Nowadays, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who lets that shrapnel find a home in their pockets (after all, why would you when you can just wave a piece of plastic over a machine to have money sucked instantly out of your bank account?) This means every game that counted on your loose change collection being nearby is now at a significant disadvantage.
Fortunately, dice do exist! Those bad boys retain the same random element without the baggage of monetary value. However, when you're rolling a D6 in place of what is essentially a D2, it's important to loudly declare the rules of your roll before they even leave your hand. A simple, "odds, I win" keeps the people around you happy and fends off accusations of cheating.
Rolling off the table
When you roll your dice, as I covered previously, it's ideal to exercise caution to prevent any accidents from occurring. Unfortunately, nobody's perfect, and sometimes those rolls slide off the side of the table into the abyss known as... the floor.
Once you've shed your tears, it's important to set a precedent for how to handle this in the future - to reroll, or to not reroll? Much like the toilet roll debate (it goes away from the wall and you can't change my mind), audiences are split... but let's settle it once and for all. Are you a reroller, or do you accept the validity of the floor as a surface? Let the world know in the poll below!