by Tina Manneborn
“Does anyone know what these dice are?”
This question is asked a lot all across the dice groups, and it’s a blessing that we have many members in the community that have a vast knowledge of the different dice makers and manufacturers, and how you can tell them apart. However, it doesn’t require that you actually own or even know all the dice ever made to be able to come to a conclusion what “these dice” are.
This guide is aimed at showing and explaining some basic differences to help you make conclusions about the manufacturer from the way your dice in question look. It will focus mostly on plastic dice, as there is not quite the same abundance of manufacturers out there for metal, wooden, gemstone or dice made from other materials as for acrylic or plastic dice. We will also not include handmade dice, but focus on factory-made dice only.
There are three basic indicators you can use to identify dice:
- The mold, which influences
- The color/color combination
- Color/color combination of the die material
- Color/color combination of the die and the ink
- The feel and weight
We’ll start with the molds in this blog entry and will cover colors, ink and materials in a second, separate entry.
Perhaps the most important piece to narrow down which manufacturer the dice are made by, is the mold. There are many differences in molds, and it would go beyond the scope of this blog entry to explain all the existing molds and their variances. Let’s try to get you started on a few basics that may be useful in determining what manufacturer we’re looking at.
As a disclaimer, we would like to add that this list isn’t exhaustive and doesn’t cover all the intricacies of mold variances per manufacturer. Some of these rules cannot be applied across the board for all lines of the below mentioned manufacturers.
Most of the existing Chessex lines (except some of older lines) use the same mold and font, which is exclusive to Chessex and can relatively easily be identified. The typical telling signs that you’re dealing with Chessex are an underlined 6 and/or 9, a 7 with a hook on the horizontal line, an upstroke on the 1, and a running track shaped 0 (straight lines linking the top and bottom arcs). The percentile dice are aligned perpendicular with the die’s equator. The numbers on the d4 are always top-read. The d20 has an 8 below the 20.
There are some older Chessex lines that use other molds, for instance the Chessex Rainbow line (that has molds similar to Crystal Caste), or the Marbleized, Sparkle and Glo-Dice line. Koplow also sold dice made with that same mold and design (likely made by the same factory), which makes it hard, or sometimes even impossible, to tell them apart.
The newer Chessex mold (pictured die set is Chessex Phantom Cranberry):
Crystal Caste molds have changed somewhat over the years, which makes them harder to pin down. However, there are a few general indicators that may tell you that perhaps your dice are Crystal Caste. Their 6 and/or 9 usually has a dot behind the number, the 7 is not hooked, the 1 often doesn’t have an upstroke, the 0 is more rounded, and the 3 often has a triangular top half rather than rounded. The percentile dice have smaller numbers and are aligned in parallel with the die’s equator. The numbers on the d4 are always bottom-read.
Most Crystal Caste d20 molds have either an 8 below the 20, or a 14. Crystal Caste dice also tend to be somewhat smaller compared to Chessex or newer dice out of China such as HD or T&G.
There are exceptions, such as Crystal Caste Satin, Porcelain, Ice Cream and Silk lines, which use different molds altogether. Crystal Caste also makes gemstone dice, or barrel shaped dice sets.
Example of one of the more common Crystal Caste molds (pictured die set is Crystal Caste Gold Mist Blue):
Dice & Games (D&G)
D&G is a UK factory that both sells dice under the D&G name (via eM4 Miniatures) and also supplies dice to Crystal Caste. One example is Crystal Caste and D&G selling the same dice under different names, e.g. Crystal Caste Firefly and D&G Gem Blitz, or Crystal Caste Magma and D&G Spectrum. D&G molds are similar to or the same as some of the Crystal Caste molds.
There is one D&G line called Marble that doesn’t seem to be sold by other manufacturers, but which uses a similar mold to some of the Crystal Caste dice. Please refer to this guide to tell the difference between the Crystal Caste Silk and D&G Marble dice, which are often confused with each other. D&G Marble d20s have a 14 below the 20, and the d4s are bottom-read.
Game Science is one of the manufacturers producing sharp-edged, untumbled dice, which makes them quite unique and easy to identify. Game Science dice are very pointy with crisp edges, are usually sold uninked, and have visible sprue marks.
Pictured die set is Game Science Opaque Turquoise.
HD dice are manufactured in China, and it’s unknown whether they use several factories or just one. The molds for the HD dice are perhaps the closest to the new Chessex mold, but there are a few subtle differences.
While the 6 and 9 are usually also underlined, they are more rounded. The 1 has an upstroke, which is more pronounced than with the Chessex mold. The 7 is not hooked but has a curved vertical line, and the 0s are also more rounded. The percentile die has the numbers aligned perpendicular to the die equator. The numbers on the d4 are always top-read, the d20 has an 8 below the 20. The d6 is somewhat bigger than the Chessex d6.
Example of the HD mold (pictured die set is HD Iridescent Purple):
It’s harder to pin down an exact Koplow mold, since they seem to have been using different factories or molds over time. They also often sell the same dice Chessex does or did under the Koplow brand name (e.g. Chessex Sparkle and Koplow Glitter, Chessex and Koplow Speckled). There are a few lines that have very distinctive molds that seem to be specific to Koplow, and that can you tell relatively easily by the way the font on the d12 or d20 looks.
The 1 has an upstroke and a horizontal line at the bottom. The 3 has a triangular top half, the 6 and 9 have a dot behind the number, the 7 has no hook and a curved vertical line, and the numbers themselves look rather wide. The d4 is usually bottom-read, and in some Koplow lines, the dot behind the 6 and 9 is quite large. Other Koplow molds also have a dot behind the 16 and 19. For some molds, the d20 has a 7 below the 20 (same as the Chessex Marbleized mold), for others a 17 below the 20.
Example of one of the Koplow molds (pictured die set is Koplow Translucent Smoke, single d20 is Koplow Pearl Emerald):
King Cards is an older German company that no longer exists, who sold a number of different dice, some of which were the same or similar to existing dice (e.g. King Cards Marble, which is virtually identical to Chessex Rainbow), but also produced a few lines that seem to have been exclusive to them.
King Cards specific lines are King Cards Pearl, which are visually similar to Crystal Caste Pearl, but have a deeper pearly sheen, and use the same mold as the Chessex Rainbow line. King Cards also produced a line called King Cards Rainbow, which uses the same mold as the Crystal Caste Satin, Ice Cream and Silk lines.
Example of one of the King Cards molds (pictured die set is King Cards Pearl Lavender):
Kraken Dice has a number of signature lines exclusive to Kraken that use a special mold for the their d20s and d2s with a stylized logo of a kraken as the 20 and the 2, respectively. While their mold is similar to other Chinese factory molds, their font is somewhat leaner, and the top-read d4 sometimes has the numbers aligned close to the tips of the die. Another more distinctive feature of Kraken signature sets is that the diagonal line of the 4 is slightly convex (i.e. bends outward).
Kraken signature dice sets are usually sold as 12-piece sets (regular 7-piece set plus a d2, one extra d20 and three extra d6s) or 14-piece sets (regular 7-piece set plus d2, three extra d6s and three extra d20s in different sizes).
Pictured die set is Kraken Blueberry Açaí Ice Cream.
The Polish manufacturer Q-Workshop makes dice with very distinctive designs, which are often inspired by certain themes such as runic, steampunk, Cthulhu, etc. Q-Workshop dice can usually be identified by the intricate patterns on their die faces that surround the numbers, or by the way the numbers themselves are depicted. There are many different designs in different colors available, and molds and patterns are too diverse to cover the full range in this blog entry.
Pictured die set is Q-Workshop Celtic Yellow and Black.
Wiz Dice are not always easily identifiable by mold, since they changed their molds over time, and sometimes within the same line as well. Characteristics can vary within sets, e.g. some dice having underlined 6s and 9s, some dice having dots behind the 6 and 9. There are Wiz Dice lines with top-read d4s, and those with bottom-read d4s. Some Wiz Dice lines have larger d6s and tiny d4s, some lines have percentile dice that look the same as the HD mold (perpendicular to the die equator), while others have molds with the number alignment parallel with the die equator and quite a large font. Some lines have very small d12s. The d20 has an 8 below the 20
Wiz Dice sets are not easy to identify by the mold alone, it is often the overall combination of mold, material, color, design and finish that will tell you whether a die is by Wiz Dice or not. Below are two Wiz Dice sets that use completely different molds.
Wiz Dice Enchanted Clay:
Wiz Dice Swamp Ooze:
Not all dice lines will be attributable to one specific manufacturer or maker. Especially in recent years, it has become easier for small businesses or even private persons to have access to Chinese factories and get dice designed and manufactured. We see some of these in Kickstarters, but we also often see retailers or online stores selling dice where we don’t know the exact source (one example is the Kraken Factory Rescues). Small dice designers start cropping up here and there with exclusive lines, like Cusdie, Bryce’s Dice, Beholders Gaze or Cozy Gamer. Some factories sell their dice directly from China via brokers or Wish or Aliexpress.
While the combined knowledge of the dice community will most likely be able to attribute Kickstarter lines made exclusively for one person or business, you may just end up with a die that you’ll have to ultimately catalogue as “unknown Chinese manufacturer”. Kickstarter or signature lines sometimes use d20 molds that have a logo or symbol instead of the number 20, e.g. CritIt ‘Spirit of’ dice, MDG’s Unicorn line, etc.
Lastly, there are also specialty dice, such as life counter spindowns or Amonkhet dice for Magic the Gathering, or level counter dice for games like Munchkin. These are usually quite specific and use very different molds than the regular polyhedrals or pipped dice for the more classic RPGs.
- Michael Schäffer’s Dice DB
- Kevin Cook’s Dice Collection website
- Jon Peterson’s ‘Identifying 1970’s Dice’ YouTube video and blog post
- HD website #1, HD website #2
- Mel Shaw’s HD Dice Comparison Spreadsheet
- Bescon website
- Chessex website
- Crystal Caste website
- Dice & Games website
- Game Science website
- Koplow website
- Kraken website
- Q-Workshop website
- T&G website
- Wiz Dice website
- Chessex Borealis Glitter Identification Guide
- Crystal Caste Silk vs. D&G Marble Identification Guide
- Kevin Cook’s dice mold identification guide
- Michael Schäffer’s Dice DB page on dice molds
- Orientation guide for pipped d6 by Lord of the Dice