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Types of Dice by Number of Sides

Updated on September 19, 2016
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TR Smith is a teacher and creator who uses mathematics in her line of work every day.

Various polyhedral dice: cube, tetrahedron, dodecahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, pentagonal trapezohedron.
Various polyhedral dice: cube, tetrahedron, dodecahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, pentagonal trapezohedron.

When we think of dice, what usually comes to mind is a small cube whose six faces are numbered from 1 to 6. These are most commonly used in games of chance and games of strategy that have some component of randomness. Yahtzee, Clue, Monopoly, Parcheesi, craps, and many other classic games are played with regular 6-sided dice, also known as D6 dice.

Yet they are also made in other shapes, allowing for more than six outcomes. For example, archeologists have uncovered small carved dodecahedra in Roman and Greek ruins, suggesting the ancients used these 12-sided shapes as dice. Today, D12 dice are mainly found in table-top role playing games and educational math activities, but not in many mainstream games. Octahedral dice with 8 faces allow for more outcomes than traditional 6-sided ones, but you are unlikely to find these in board games either.

Dodedecahedron, octahedron, and cube.  These dice have 12, 8, and 6 faces respectively.
Dodedecahedron, octahedron, and cube. These dice have 12, 8, and 6 faces respectively.

List of Different Types

If you want to discover new kinds of dice or create your own unique games, you can find a large selection of polyhedral varieties at most game stores. The magic of 3D printing also allows professional game designers and hobbyists to create new shapes never seen before. Here is a list of the most common types that are commercially available.

A tetrahedral D4 and dreidel are statistically equivalent.
A tetrahedral D4 and dreidel are statistically equivalent.

D4, 4-Sides

D4 dice are most often made in the shape of a tetrahedron, aka triangular pyramid. When a 4-sided die is thrown and lands on one of its flat faces, what you see from above is a point, rather than a flat face. The value of the roll is usually read along the bottom of the die on the landing face. Some manufacturers make 4-sided ones with the points labeled so you can read the value at the top.

Because the shape is so pointy, it doesn't roll as well as dice that have more faces. It also hurts like hell if you accidentally step on one! For these reasons, and because reading them can be awkward, D4 are often replaced with spinners. A spinner divided into four equal sections produces the same outcomes as a 4-sided die. A 4-sided dreidel can also be used in place of a D4.

D6, 6-Sides

Dice with six faces are usually cube shaped and numbered with dots, also called pips. Some are also numbered with the digits 1 through 6. Some manufacturers also make 6-sided ones in the shape of crystals with elongated triangular faces and pointed ends. These are all shown in the image above.

D7 dice in the shape of pentagonal prisms
D7 dice in the shape of pentagonal prisms

D7, 7-Sides

Unlike other shapes listed here, a 7-sided pentagonal prism isn't always a fair die, meaning it may be more likely to land on the pentagonal faces than the rectangular faces. If the pentagonal prism lands on one of the rectangular sides, the value is read along the edge that shows upward.

D8, 8-Sides

Dice with eight faces are made in the shape of octahedrons. The faces of an octahedron are eqilateral triangles that meet four to a corner. The shape has six corners and 12 edges; it can also be visualized as two square pyramids that have been glued together at their bases.

On octahedral ones, the faces are numbered so that opposite faces sum to 9. 1 is across from 8, 2 is across from 7, 3 is across from 6, and 4 is across from 5. The figure below shows a folding pattern for making an octahedron out of paper.

Octahedral folding pattern
Octahedral folding pattern
10-sided dice
10-sided dice

D10, 10-Sides

D10 dice come in the shape of pentagonal trapezohedra; think of two pentagonal pyramids that have been fused at their bases in such a way that the faces of one pyramid line up with the edges of the other. This creates a solid shape with kite (deltoid) shaped faces with opposite faces parallel.

D10 are often used to generate percentiles in role playing games. One die is labeled with the digits 0 through 9 and the other with multiples of 10 from 00 to 99. When you roll both, you generate a number between 0 and 99.

Dodecahedral dice.
Dodecahedral dice.

D12, 12-Sides

12-sided dice are based on the Platonic solid dodecahedron. It has 12 regular pentagon faces that meet three to a corner. Dodecahedral dice are labeled with the numbers 1 through 12 so that the sum of the numbers on opposite faces equals 13. These can also be used as calendar dice, with the faces labeled with the names of the month. A pair of 6-sided ones with a special numbering scheme can be used to represent the date number.

Different views of 16-sided dice.
Different views of 16-sided dice.

D16, 16-Sides

16-sided dice are harder to find and do not come with standard sets of unusual types. Most 16-sided ones are made by fusing two octagonal pyramids at their bases. The faces are isosceles triangles with two long sides and one short side, where the long sides are more than twice as long as the short sides, making the faces quite narrow. They are labeled with the numbers 1 through 16 so that opposite faces sum to 17. The even numbers are on one side and the odd numbers on the other.

D20, 20-Sides

Dice with 20 faces are based on the Platonic solid known as the icosahedron. An icosahedron consists of 20 equilateral triangle faces that meet five to a corner. Because these have so many faces, they appear more spherical and are easy to roll. The faces are labeled with the numbers 1 through 20 so that opposite faces sum to 21.

Different views of an icosahedron, a 20-sided polyhedron.
Different views of an icosahedron, a 20-sided polyhedron.

D24, 24-Sides

24-sided dice come in two shapes, the tetrakis hexahedron and the deltoidal icositetrahedron. The tetrakis hexahedron has 24 triangular faces. You can picture it as a cube in which each square face has been replaced with a very flat square pyramid. The deltoidal icositetrahedron has 24 kite-shaped faces. You can picture it as a cube in which each square face has been faceted into four smaller quadrilaterals.

24-sided dice come in two shapes.
24-sided dice come in two shapes.
D30 dice with letters.
D30 dice with letters.

D30, 30-Sides

A rhombic triacontahedron is a polyhedron whose faces are all rhombuses. The acute angled ends of the rhombuses meet five to a point, the obtuse angled ends meet three to a point. In total it has 30 faces, 60 edges, and 32 points. Because it has so many faces with a high level of symmetry, the figure appears almost round and rolls much like a sphere. The sides are usually labeled with the numbers 1 through 30, with opposite sides summing to 31. Some word games are played with D30 dice labeled with letters of the alphabet instead of numbers. 26 of the faces contain the letters A through Z and the other four faces are wild.

D30 rhombic triacontahedron dice.
D30 rhombic triacontahedron dice.

Large Number Dice

The more faces a polyhedron has, the more round it has to become, which means dice with a large number of faces don't land as well. Some large number types include the D100 (or Zocchihedron, named after its developer Zocchi) and D50.

50-sided die and 100-sided die
50-sided die and 100-sided die

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    • paxwill profile image

      paxwill 3 years ago from France

      Very interesting. I have some 12- and 20-sided dice that came with a math game, but I never thought to replace them in a game like Monopoly.

      When you play with two dice you can make extra rules for getting doubles. But it's hard to do that when you replace two regular 6-sided dice with one bigger die. And if you introduce two big dice, then the numbers you can roll get too large. Perhaps that's why most game makers stick with one or two 6-sided dice, to keep the possible outcomes in a smaller range.

    • calculus-geometry profile image
      Author

      TR Smith 3 years ago from Germany

      Good points and I think you're right about the reasons why 6-sided dice are still the most popular choice. If you played monopoly with two 8-sided dice, you could still roll doubles, but the probability of doing so would be reduced. You would also roll higher numbers on average, which means you'd go around the board faster. I guess there's some added fun if you go more slowly.

    • 3 years ago

      What is the name for dice with 26 sides? I have seen some with letters. Thanks.

    • hyabi 3 years ago

      26-sided die is an icosahexahedron

    • sir Darwin wolfenstein 2 years ago

      You forgot about a d100

    • Marek14 16 months ago

      I just discovered (and got) some 60-sided dice offered at a local online store. They are deltoidal hexecontahedra (dual of rhombicosidodecahedron)

    • cy10 profile image

      Claire Yuan 7 months ago

      Very simple and informative. Interesting article. Good job.

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