Artisan Dice is a luxury dice brand known in the dice collecting community for their unusual materials such as mammoth ivory and walrus baculum. Artisan Dice make a variety of premium dice in several different ranges, as well as dice accessories and various seasonal special offers such as holiday dice and their recent Operation Corona campaign selling wooden D20s to fund the donation of face shields to American medical personnel.
Artisan Dice categorise their premium dice into five main ranges:
- Druid’s Dice: wooden dice (of increasing rarity and specialness in their Archdruid, Gaia and Ent ranges)
- Alchemist’s Dice: dice made of modern materials such as polymers, carbon fibre, graphite, and teflon.
- Dragon’s Dice: metal dice – machined, rather than cast.
- Elemental Dice: dice made of semiprecious stone compounded with resin.
- Necromancer’s Dice: dice made of organic materials – bone, horn, antler and ivory.
Today we’ve got several Artisan Dice sets to review, so let’s take a look.
This set is part of the Druid’s Dice range; it’s made of Purple Heart, a very strong wood with a vibrant natural wine colour. The wood can vary from strongly purple to a warmer more brown-maroon shade; the set I received tends towards the latter.
The dice have a satin finish, and the numbers are laser-engraved without paint or adornment. The grain on this wood is really remarkable – you can see from the pictures that die faces cut with the long grain have a smooth, variegated appearance while faces cut against the grain show a lot of stippling as you can see the fibres end-on. It creates a lot of variety from one face to the next. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s unavoidable with woods like this, and from my perspective it’s just part of the beauty of this wood.
Speaking personally, I’m not a huge fan of the laser-engraved numbers; the texture and technique makes them feel “unfinished” to me. That’s not unique to Artisan Dice; I feel the same way about similarly-finished wooden dice from other brands, so it’s clearly just not my style. If you feel differently, there’s no reason not to like these!
- You can find these here on Artisan Dice’s site: Druid’s Dice – Purple Heart.
These dice are from Artisan’s Elemental Dice range and their material is quite noteworthy. Although they look like natural malachite, the material is actually ground semi-precious stone bound with resin to form a new material that’s much more resilient than natural stone.
This is absolutely a trade-off – on the one hand, you’re not getting “natural” stone, and if that’s important to you, you need to be aware of that. On the other hand, these dice are tougher and lighter than natural stone, making them more practical for use, and Artisan offers a lifetime warranty to back that up.
Personally, I think the Malachite dice are the best of the Elemental range – while some of the other materials do look a little different from the natural stones inspiring them, these are all but indistinguishable from natural malachite. (I make no promises about your likely experience if you’re a lapidary or geologist.) They’re also extremely attractive.
The dice are highly polished with a glossy finish. The numbers are inlaid in copper, flush with the surface and apparently all but seamless. The faces show a range of patterns in the ‘grain’ of the synthetic stone, and the numbers contrast well for readability. The dice are really pleasing in the hand – they’re nice to hold, roll and fidget with – and whether it’s just from knowing about the material or not, they don’t feel fragile or brittle as natural stone dice sometimes can.
- You can find these here on Artisan Dice’s website: Elemental Dice – Malachite Dice with Copper.
Bloodwood with Elvish Brass Inlay
So these dice are a bit of a mystery! I haven’t been able to find them on Artisan Dice’s website, so I’m not sure which range they hail from; they may have been part of a special run or a limited edition offering.
Bloodwood is a dense, heavy wood sourced from Central and South America, and – although it’s hard to capture on camera – it has an amazing shimmer in the grain when the light hits it right. (I’ve just learned that shimmer effect is called “chatoyance”, and it’s the same effect you see in cat’s eye and tigerseye gemstones.)
The dice are highly polished, and the numbers are inlaid in brass. As you can see here, the numerals are in Tolkien’s tengwar script, the alphabet used by Quenya and Sindarin elves in the Lord of the Rings. That makes them a bit of a challenge to use unless you can read tengwar, but they’re still a thing of beauty anyway. The highly polished finish is absolutely stunning, and takes these dice to the next level. They’ve absolutely set the bar for beautiful wooden dice, in my book. If they sold these with Arabic numerals I’d be super tempted.
- You can get bloodwood dice here on Artisan Dice’s website: Archdruid’s Dice – Bloodwood Dice.
The Archdruid dice on Artisan’s site have laser-engraved numbers without the brass inlay, and don’t look as highly polished as the Elvish set I received – but they do feature numerals you can probably read, so that’s a bonus! I’ll update with a link to the Elvish set when I have it, for those who are interested in acquiring one of these beautiful sets for themselves.
Features of the Dice
All three sets are clearly made to the same design specifications.
Set Size: Artisan’s standard polyhedral set is a 10-die set: 1d20, 1d12, 1d10, 1d%, 1d8, 4d6 and 1d4. A nice choice for people who use a lot of d6s.
Edges: The edges of the dice are “crisp” rather than sharp – they have very slightly tapered edges, but they still feel sharp without being uncomfortable. That said, as is common with sharp-edged sets, the edges are noticeable in the hand, and the D4s are definitely caltrop-level pointy. I’m enjoying the surge in popularity of sharp-edged sets across the industry and these are definitely welcome in that category, for me.
Size and Shape: The dice are standard polyhedral shapes, but the sizing is unusual compared with most mass-market dice brands. There are two main factors in play:
- The d6s are the most notable difference – they’re about 20% larger than the d6 in a standard mass-market set, and because they’re a solid cube that difference is really striking. They felt disproportionately large. I’m not sure if I like it or not, but it’s worth knowing when you purchase. The difference is less obvious in the Artisan Dice store photos because they usually lay their dice out with the d6s stacked at the back, but you can see the difference clearly in my photos above and in the packaging section below.
- The d10 and d% feel disproportionately large compared with the d12 and d20 – they were all actually the same size as the dice from a plastic set I compared them to, but they felt different – and I think that’s for a couple of reasons: a) the points are sharp, so they feel longer than comparably-sized round-edged d10s, because there’s more material there, and b) newer brands in polymer dice are making larger d20s common, and so I’m used to d10s feeling smaller in comparison.
So, some interesting factors there – I’m not making recommendations based on the above as they’re all personal preference.
I’m excluding the Elvish set here as their design is unique.
Typeface: Both sets feature the same stylised font for the numbers; all Artisan Dice with Arabic numerals use this style, and it’s vaguely fantasy themed which is appropriate for D&D-focused polyhedral sets. I’m extremely picky about fonts on my dice; this isn’t my favourite, but I certainly don’t hate it, and it wouldn’t stop me from buying Artisan Dice sets. (I can’t say the same for all brands.)
Face Design: It’s worth noting a couple of points here:
- Artisan Dice d4s are numbered in the corners and top-read.
- Artisan Dice uses a non-standard number layout on their polyhedrals. The standard rule is that opposite face values will add up to the number of faces + 1; on a d20, two opposite faces would add to 21, for instance. This rule obviously doesn’t apply for d4s, and Artisan’s d6 and d20 layout comply with the rule, but the d8, d10, d% and d12 layouts are non-standard.
- The d12 layout in particular is notable as high numbers are not evenly distributed around the die’s faces, meaning care must be taken with your rolling method to ensure it’s random enough.
- The d10 layout is numbered 1-10 rather than 0-9, so if you’re rolling percentiles you’ll need to decide ahead of time how you interpret a 10 result on the d10. (When rolling percentiles with a standard 0-9 d10, it’s easy to read “0” + “30” as “30”. But with a 1-10 d10, do you interpret “10” + “30” as “30”, or as “40”?)
None of these are necessarily dealbreakers for most dice collectors, but some people do care about these factors a lot – so if layout choices like this matter to you, now you can make an informed purchase.
All the dice were of a very high quality, with no real flaws. if I wanted to nitpick, the only issues are:
- The Purple Heart set had some tiny splinters on some long-grain edges of the d6s. These were very, very small and likely unnoticeable if you weren’t poring over them really closely; they’re probably also an unavoidable artefact of working of woods with a pronounced grain. They weren’t present on all the faces, and definitely not a dealbreaker in my opinion.
- A few faces, particularly on the d10 and d12, had numerals that were slightly offset from centre – present on both the Malachite and Purple Heart dice, and generally the same faces. This is quite common in wood and stone dice, and these were minor offsets compared with many I’ve seen. Again, not a dealbreaker for me and I wouldn’t be unhappy with these results on other dice.
Standard – Stamped Steel Tins
The Purple Heart and Malachite sets both came in lightweight steel tins with a lift-off lid stamped with the Artisan Dice logo. The tin is lined and padded with foam, topped with a wooden inlay with cutout holes that hold all the dice snugly. It’s a cut above the standard tin-with-a-shaped-foam-insert, and I wish I had tins like these for all my “fancy” sets.
The Bloodwood set was packaged in a Reliquary, Artisan Dice’s high-end dice storage and carry container. The lid is held closed with neodymium magnets, and inside there’s an inset custom-cut to suit a single die or a set, and a lining beneath it.
The Reliquary pictured here is made of loganberry wood, also known as rambutan, with a decorative inlay in steel and brass. Inside there’s a suede-covered wooden insert to hold an Artisan Dice 10-piece set, and chocolate suede lining. In a particularly nice touch, the lined base is designed to be used as a (small) dice tray for rolling.
Before I go any further there’s an elephant in the room that I should address: among some quarters Artisan Dice has a reputation for slow fulfilment of orders, or not fulfilling them at all. There are backers of a previous Kickstarter who say that they’ve never received what they pledged for. On the other hand, there are also people who’ve ordered from Artisan Dice with few problems, and who are very happy with their dice. Often, you’ll see comments from both groups in the same place.
Thus, all I can say is to be aware of this when you shop, and do your research – which is something a smart shopper does any time you’re buying from a new-to-you vendor, of course. (If you’re interested, the recommendations for buying successfully from Artisan Dice seem to be “purchase from them in person at events and Cons if you can”, and “buy dice that are already made and in stock”.)
Now, with all that said: the dice themselves are excellent. The quality is amongst the best I’ve seen even for premium dice, the designs is good, and the attention to detail is excellent.
I’m not going to make recommendations about whether to buy premium dice or not. It’s easy to talk about a twenty dollar plastic set being “worth it”, but when it comes to dice sets worth hundreds of dollars, the question of value becomes much more personal. What I will say is these dice are gorgeous, the Malachite most of all, and I think people who make the decision to buy them will find them as lovely as I do.
- Gorgeous dice
- Excellent craftsmanship
- Unusual designs, hard to find at other vendors
- Non-standard layout on dice faces
- Very very minor imperfections
- Laser-engraving on Druid Dice may feel “unfinished”
- Some reputation issues; do your research
- May take a long time to fulfil custom orders
PR sample: these dice were provided free of charge, for my unbiased review.