by Alaina McNeal
Most people in the dice community are familiar with Die Hard Dice (DHD), who are known for their stellar metal dice and excellent customer service. Fellow Dice Maniacs often share stories of the personalized touch that DHD includes with their orders, which range from freebie dice to heartfelt messages and intricate doodles on packing slips.
Die Hard is also closely involved in charity work; they’ve donated to after-school tabletop gaming clubs in the past and have a longstanding history of contributing site profits to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that focuses on saving young LGBTQ+ lives.
We touched base with Jessie and Todd, the husband-and-wife team behind DHD, to get to know them and their company more. Jessie and Todd took the time to answer questions spanning topics such as their first sets of dice to how their business came to be—and, most importantly, what’s in store for Die Hard’s future.
How did you get started with Die Hard Dice? What pushed you towards making and selling dice?
Jessie: This is definitely a Todd question so let me hand the mic to him for this!
Todd: Oh, wow. Okay… I’m going to try to condense this as much as I can.
I grew up as a gamer. My childhood summers were filled with roleplaying, Warhammer, BattleTech, MTG, and every other card game that came out in the mid 90s. At some point, though, RPGs faded from my life. Jessie and I got married, we started a family, and settled into a pretty average life. In the summer of 2015, I stumbled upon a set of metal dice online, and it was like a switch flipped inside of me. A wave of nostalgia washed over me, and I felt like a kid again. It made me feel this sense of wonder that I hadn’t had in my life for many years. I began listening to all sorts of DD podcasts, and Jessie and I started collecting and painting miniatures. I came to feel that these metal dice deserved to be out there, doing for others what they did for me. My incredible wife let me purchase $1,300 worth of metal dice, and Die Hard Dice was born on December 9th, 2015.
Jessie: And as a fun little behind the scenes, when DHD first started, I had a newborn and was homeschooling our other 2 young children in a small condo. Todd worked fulltime as a project manager, so we had many many many long nights of packing orders and replying to emails. While I may feel nostalgic over those early days, I don’t miss boxes of dice in every room, and our master bedroom as an office space (we slept in a tiny bonus bedroom instead).
Where do you get your inspiration for your DHD exclusives?
Jessie: With colors and inlays, honestly, a lot of them happened while working on a different specific project or idea. I’ll make a mistake or a test goes totally rogue on me, but it starts my brain going in a totally new direction of ideas. I joke I’m the Bob Ross of dice, all these happy little dice accidents.
How long does it take to make a new set from start to finish? Could you walk us through the Moonstone line as an example, from inspiration to final product?
Jessie: So the timelines can vary SO MUCH, depending on what type of product it is. If it requires new molds, of course it’s a much longer process as Todd designs all our dice. But for Dreamwalker, it took about… 4 months from creating it to launching it on the website.
Todd: Even as recent as about a year ago, designing the physical shape of dice would take me a very long time. Mythica took about a year to complete, and the Dwarven Forge and Mistborn sets both took over a year from conception to reality. The last year has changed this dramatically for me, though. We have enough help that I can dedicate far more time to design, and our next set was more like 5 months total from start-to-finish.
How many new sets are being planned/created right now?
Todd: 2020, the year of critical hits! 😉
Jessie: Oh man, ohhh man… so so many. 2020 is looking to be pretty epic, honestly. We perpetually get overwhelmed trying to decide and narrow down WHICH ideas and prototypes are the ones that get to move over into manufacturing, and which ones go on the shelf for a later time.
You are well-known for your metal dice, but you also resell polymer dice and have your own lines. Which are a better seller for you overall?
Jessie: Honestly I think they are pretty even, but that may change next year with a new line launching *wink*.
You also sell dice accessories. Are there any unique or interesting upcoming accessories?
Jessie: We just announced them last month, but yes! Immediately after we had launched folding dice trays, we knew we wanted to do the same thing as a dice tower. But it took us 3 years to get there, because of time constraints and having to prioritize other projects. So we have the folding dice tower launching next week, FINALLY, and also our new dual scrolls with artwork from the amazing Deven Rue and Crystal Sully. (And a shout out to Joss Hevel, a comment from her wishing our scroll was a dual scrolly was how this new product all started)
Todd: Yeah, we absolutely do have new accessories in the works, one is in the final prototyping phase and two more are earlier on in that process.
With recent issues of copying and many similar dice on the market, how do you keep your designs protected? Do you have any plans to combat the copying issues?
Jessie: It’s hard, and when it comes to colors/materials, almost impossible to enforce or lay claim to the idea. Many times we’ve worked out a new idea, just to realize 3 other dice companies had almost the exact same idea (it’s a small market and so it’s not surprising we all are running into the same ideas). When it comes to physical shape, designing and creating your own molds goes a long way toward protecting them. I won’t lie, there have been a couple of instances of blatant copies/dupes that were really hard on me personally, but I remind myself that if we are being copied, it means we created something that is a winner and I should try to think of it as a form of flattery.
Todd: Early on it would really sting to see ideas and designs we put so much energy into be copied. Over time I feel like we’ve both gained additional perspective, though. For good or bad, this is pretty much how things are in every industry. Some things we can protect, and some we cannot. So, we do what we can, but instead of letting ourselves dwell on duplications or feel like a victim, we try to use it as motivation to always innovate.
Other metal dice that are often cheaper than your sets are sold on places like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress and come in a variety of styles and colors. Why should customers purchase your metal dice instead of these?
Todd: We understand that compared to metal dice on Amazon, some of ours carry a premium price. When we first started the company, our only goal was to get cool metal dice into people’s hands, so we priced them as low as I possibly could. Because it was a side-job at the time, we didn’t need to make a penny on it. We were doing it for the love of it. I don’t think either of us really anticipated our success, as we hadn’t factored in the cost to invest in new designs, equipment, and molds, the cost of offering a lifetime guarantee and the time it takes to QC everything, let alone a warehouse or actual employees! We still price our products as low as we possibly can with our needs, but there is some more overhead than we planned for. I believe the same is true for most companies, and even sellers on Amazon. Most people aren’t out there price-gouging, they are just trying to keep things running. We believe people should vote with their wallets. We see every order as a vote of confidence and an investment in our efforts to build that next cool thing for the community. We are truly humbled by our awesome customers.
Jessie: You may notice we don’t sell on Amazon right now. We did early on, but stopped when we started selling our products to game stores. FLGS are the heart of our communities, and for some, the only safe place to play. So many owners run their game stores as side-jobs, and just make enough to keep them running. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to compete with places like Amazon. Whenever we see a game store close its doors it hurts and we grieve that loss to the community. Places like Wish and AliExpress are great for super cheap product, but they do come with an additional cost. Whether it’s questionable customer service or guarantee of quality (or even getting what you paid for), or that the sale won’t help people closer to your home, or directly fund future innovation. We know some don’t have the luxury of choosing where to buy from based on their financial situation, though. Having sweet dice is better than not having sweet dice!
With the holiday season coming up, do you have any special plans for releases during this time of year?
Jessie: As you probably have seen, we released a BUNCH of stuff this past week for the holidays. We also have some new polymer colors coming next week too!
Todd: Also something metal…
The Adventure Packs are cool ways to jumpstart a collection or start a palette for a certain D&D class. Do you have any unique classes or more customization options (such as being able to pair a race/class combo) possible in the future?
Jessie: Oh, there are SO many things we want to do with the adventure packs. Our old website hindered what we could offer, so now that we’ve moved shops, expect to see a lot more offshoots of that next year. And a side note, I’m thrilled people like the packs. It was something I dreamed of doing a couple years ago and really pestered Todd to give it a try!
Todd: I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge that Jessie was absolutely right. *grin*
Your company also sells dice for other systems, like MTG and Fate dice. Will you continue to expand this collection, such as more styles for spindowns?
Jessie: Yes yes yes! We have some big MTG players on our team, and have been working on some fun new stuff for it. We also have been working on some things for other game systems that we love playing personally.
Todd: Oh yes! I wish so badly I could talk openly about that “other game systems that we love playing personally” part! Soon, very soon!
What is your favorite set of dice that you own? What’s your favorite that you’ve created for DHD?
Jessie: Oh man, as a dice collector it’s almost impossible to nail down just ONE favorite set. I have so many sets from incredible dice makers, but I think the uniqueness of Gio Lasar makes his dice a top favorite. As far as my favorite DHD creation? Design-wise our Mythica line, that was a year-long labor of love and I still smile and feel such pride every time I see a set in the wild. Color-wise, Dreamwalker and Lunar Abyss. Those came about as one of my “happy accidents.” I was working on a fan set for one of my favorite characters, Merrick from the Mythica series. It was Necromancer on my mind when making them.
Todd: For me, the answer to both questions is Mythica Dark Iron. It suits me perfectly.
What was your first set of dice?
Jessie: A red and yellow crystal caste firefly d20, and set-wise a Chessex marbled green with dark green ink (I think).
Todd: A set of translucent blue Chessex dice. So many good memories were forged with those dice. I wish I still had them.
DHD has donated to LGBT+ organizations and continues to offer Pride stickers all year round with proceeds going to the Trevor Project and GLSEN, which is awesome. Why is this important to your company?
Jessie: I could talk for hours about this, but what it boils down to is that even as a child, the treatment of LGBT+ was very confusing to me and I adamantly disagreed with it (Todd and I were both raised very religious and the community definitely was not a part of our world). So I always tried to be an ally, and then as I grew up it became incredibly personal to me and my little nuclear family, and also with members of our DHD team being part of the community. I obviously cannot share the stories and experiences of others, especially as one is a minor, but suffice to say, LGBT+ peeps are incredibly important to me and I’m grateful every day that we can give support and love to them.
We live in Utah, and the safety and support of LGBT+ youth is a very serious issue here. As someone who personally has had issues with mental health and suicide, learning that the Trevor Project was created to specifically handle the needs of the community was amazing and I immediately decided to do all that I could to support organizations like them.
Todd: Jessie is right (again)!
To follow up, can you talk more about why inclusivity is important in both the dice collecting and tabletop gaming community as a whole?
Jessie: Everyone needs a safe place, somewhere to feel included and loved. As gamers ourselves, it was just natural to try to make sure our incredible TTRPG community was as inclusive to others as it has been to us.
Todd: Roleplaying is more than fun and games. Life is complex. We’re all working through something, or multiple things. Sometimes these things are so deep that we don’t even see them ourselves. Roleplaying gives people a safe way to test the boundaries of who and what they believe they are. I’ve heard it said that prejudice rarely survives experience, and I think that’s true. We need more diversity at our tables.
Tabletop gaming and dice collecting have both boomed in the last few years. How is your company handling this growth?
Jessie: I LOVE seeing how much the communities have grown! Sure it can bring more competition for us, but at the end of the day it’s about people finding something they love and helping the industry grow and thrive.
Todd: Every day is a new adventure for us, and we’re constantly having to learn new skills! The growth was very hard for us until we got to the point of being able to hire some help.
What makes you unique compared to other dice companies?
Jessie: It’s always hard to “toot your own horn” so to speak. But honestly, I think our dedication to customer service (thanks to Todd and his brother Paul) really helps us stand out. Our customers always come first, we truly love every interaction we get to have and for us, if the customer walks away from us with a bitter taste in their mouth, we failed them. We are being given people’s hard-earned money for pretty new click clacks, and that trust and investment in us is humbling. I’ll share a little of what Myn our DHD Distribution Elf said the other day in our work slack, because I think she nailed it….
I think people don’t realize that we ARE them and they ARE us. We’re all Goblins and Maniacs. We’re not MBAs, we’re a part of the dice/D&D community. Sure, sales are great and we’re all happy to have jobs, but Todd and Jessie have created an environment where we’re encouraged to feed our kindest instinct. The world can certainly use a little more joy and kindness and gentleness into the world. We’ve just been given permission to bring it… We’ve got their backs, and our die hard fans have ours. That’s what the world needs more of. Lifting up the hands that hang down.Myn the Die Hard Dice Distribution Elf
Todd: I absolutely agree! Shortly after starting the company, we came to learn that as strange as it may sound, we were having an impact on people’s lives. It’s hard to explain without sounding like delusions of grandeur, but somehow the things we were doing could have an impact on someone’s day, or even week. We didn’t write a note on every order back then, but that changed quickly once we saw the reaction people had to our simple scribbles of gratitude or encouragement. It was such a good feeling that chasing that feeling became the real goal. We found ourselves trying to one-up the last thing we did, or come up with new and unique ways to delight customers. Sometimes we lose money doing it, but we feel like karmically it will come back to us in the end. And even if it doesn’t, at least we can feel good about what we’ve done.
Last but not least, what’s your favorite thing about the dice community?
Jessie: The people, hands down. Such a mix of different opinions and beliefs and lives, but each person is so unique and important. As we grow, I don’t get to interact as much as I used to on social media, but every comment and message is seen by us and truly is the highlight of our days. DHD exists because of the community, and our number one priority is always to show our love and gratification for the support given to us.
Todd: It’s encouraging to see so many people are willing to open up to each other and bond over dice. Dice brought us together, but every day we see people in need of help or encouragement, and the community is there right away. I personally think that our willingness to help each other is in part because of the games we play with these dice. This community feels uniquely compassionate, and I love it!
If you hadn’t heard of Die Hard Dice before, we recommend taking a look at their (new!) website, especially their Mythica metal dice line and exclusive Moonstone polymer sets. Special thanks to Jessie and Todd for the interview!