This week’s new dice pre-orders are in, and they’re decidedly dungeoneer-y in nature. Enjoy the new Halls, Rooms, Hazards and Features set of dice, available exclusively from RPGShop.com. We also have a Door Status die and a Confusion d4 – the Enchanter’s Best Friend.
While we’ve got you here ogling our dice, we’d like to answer some questions that came up quite a bit in conversations on Facebook and Twitter over the last two production runs of dice we’ve released. We answered some questions so much, our owner said “just write a freaking blog post about it already.” So we did. If you want to read about it, scroll past the new releases grid.
New Dungeoneering Dice
#1 Why are custom dice so expensive?
Yes, individual dice are very inexpensive. A friendly local game store will typically sell single dice from $.25-$1, depending on the color, size and other factors. Still; $1 is 20% of our cheapest custom die, so what gives?
The short answer is; “custom dice require a lot of extra steps and often are made partly or entirely by hand.” Hand-crafted anything takes time. Time requires someone to be paid for their work.
#2 Okay, we get it, making custom dice is different from the dice I get in the pick bin at my game store. But how is it different?
Oh, I see, you want a detailed answer.
First of all, before we get to the mechanical process of etching the dice and how that’s different, lots of custom dice have art on them. Typically, one piece of art has to be made per side. So D12s require twelve hand-made images.
Most of this is line art, and most of it can be made quickly and relatively inexpensively, but it still requires an artist to make concept sketches, submit them, have someone approve or edit those images, and then make a final production file.
Artists are professionals. They require paychecks for their work (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). So right away, the cost to make these fancy new dice has gone up – no longer do we have a die with pips, we now have a die with pictures.
After the art is done, we have to make the dice. Ordinary modern polyhedral dice are (typically) injection molded. Meaning the manufacturer takes a mold and squirts liquid plastic into it with a specialized machine (there are great videos on Youtube if you want to see a more complex and nuanced explanation that include words like “hoppers” and “pellets” – those terms make my head hurt, so here’s a fuzzy picture of an injection molding machine).
Making a mold is expensive – thousands of dollars expensive – so it’s only economical if you’re going to make thousands of dice with it. The upshot is that each die costs less because injection molding is faster and easier per die. So that makes pick-bin “normal” polyhedral dice cheaper.
Custom dice, like those we carry, do not (unfortunately!) sell thousands of copies. Certainly they do not sell enough to make a mold. Consequently, they are created through a process of etching. This etching is done with lasers.
No, not that kind. This kind:
Okay, so that video gets ear-numbing after the first 10 seconds, but you get the idea. It takes a long time to do a big batch of dice this way. As you’ll notice in the video, this process doesn’t leave any kind of color in the etching – so the dice have to be inked.
Unfortunately, lots of custom dice are in colors or resolutions that require hand-inking. That means someone (hint: me) has to sit down with a paint pen or brush and put the ink into those laser etched little guys by hand. That takes between 5 and 10 minutes per die. Yikes!
Sometimes, custom dice can be painted in big batches by dumping them into a bin of paint, then rock tumbling off the excess. Again, the internets can explain this in great detail – it’s cool, if you’re into watching paint dry. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible with custom dice for a variety of reasons (type of image, background die color, etc). When it can’t be done as a batch, each die face has to be hand inked.
#3 So custom dice take time and effort to make. I can respect that. But why aren’t there more designs? I want more dice!
Oh man, I wish we could make a randomizer die for everything. That would be so cool! Unfortunately, even with a company like ours, specialized in making small, custom print runs of dice, we still need enough customers who want an individual design to justify an initial print run.
So while there are lots of people that want, say, dice with random monsters or urban encounters on them, there are fewer people that want to randomize the fur color of their wizard’s familiar. This means that while we can make a small run of *almost* any die, some dice are too specific for us to create.
#4 Can you make me…
The answer is probably yes. If we can’t make it or don’t know someone who will, we can recommend someone to you. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with all your dice-making questions, requests, and concerns.
That said, we can make a huge variety of dice in very small quantities using the model we operate under and the methods described above. So if you’ve got ideas for dice – toss ’em out there. If you’ve got questions about dice making that aren’t answered here, shoot an email to email@example.com, and don’t forget to check out our new dice!