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A dice tower is a useful tool for keeping your dice from ruining your game (physically, that is).

Can anyone point to:
- Good dice towers, and possibly places to acquire them.
or
- Resources of information on how to build one yourself.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The primary goals of a dice tower being

  1. Keeping the dice on the table
  2. Improving the randomization by reducing the ability to manipulate the dice.

There are several good designs, however, the basic principle to check for: it should have at least 3 slanted faces, and all the slanted faces should be covered in felt or corduroy. Friction is your friend, here.

The shape is almost always an L. Let's compare it to a cowboy boot...

  • The toe is opened up so that you can see the landing zone. It needs about a 3/4" to 1" high rim.
  • The heel has a slanting plate, angled to kick the dice out to the toe.
  • The shaft of the boot: deflectors.
    • Plates: The shaft has anywhere from 0 to 5 angled plates within, usually about 30° to 45° downward, angled to toss the dice about in the tower. I don't use ones without at least 2 additional plates. Most have a top plate, angling down to the front, and a second plate below angled down to the back. The plates should cover about half to 2/3 the cross section. Better designs may have left and right angled plates, or even a narrow center triangle, to toss the dice side to side.
    • Dowels: if plates are too much trouble, dowels can be used instead. The dowels should be about 3/8" to 1/2" hardwood, and are placed in levels. Top is usually a front to back and a side to side cross, centered. 1.5"-2" down, 2 off center parallel; a crossing set another 1.5" to 2" down. Taller ones may have additional crosses, or even run dowels corner to corner.
  • Plastic, Foamcore, Bare Wood, Felt, or Corduroy? What do I cover the thing with?
    • only the inside of the tower and the tops of the deflectors need covering if you opt to do so, and dowel deflectors can have slipcovers rather than glued down ones.
    • Bare wood is noisy, and some dice will slide flat along it. It's acceptable, but not preferred.
    • Felt: cheap, easy, reduces noise, no nap, so it produces less hang potential than corduroy.
    • Corduroy: has a clear nap. This will help catch and tumble the dice. The nap, however, should be arranged to put the lines at a downward angle of 20°-40°, so that the dice also get some sideways motion and better tumble. Probably the quietest of the mentioned materials.
    • Bare plastic: extremely noisy, very slick. Least tumble.
    • Foamcore: as slick as plastic, but not as noisy, but often puts more bounce on the dice. A foamcore sole of the boot can easily result in dice bouncing OUT of a low toe. (personal experience.) Also, damaged by water, unless sealed with paint or glue.

There is another design for a dice tower I've seen used: spiral staircase. Each stair was angled 30° down, and it went clockwise with 1/4" drops off each stair. Being bare wood, it was rather noisy, but it also was very random.

Plans & howto's

The plans at http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-a-Formboard-Dice-Tower/ are decent enough; it's a short 2 deflector boot-style.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/13307/dicebox-pdf Plans for a 2 deflector tower. Annotated.

http://www.io.com/~beckerdo/games/articles/HirstDiceTower/HirstDiceTower.html Building with plaster molded "stones".

http://webspace.webring.com/people/xc/crosstowngames/crosstowngamesdicetowerplans.pdf Another set of plans for a square boot.

http://www.io.com/~beckerdo/games/articles/DiceTower.html A square castle design, using 3 deflectors.

http://www.geeknews.net/2008/01/02/very-cool-diy-dice-tower Spiral path in square tower; wood core with polycarbonate sides.

commercially made towers

http://www.chessex.com/dice%20accessories/Dice_Accessories.htm
I have one of these! It's noisy as a monkey house. But it's good and random, tho' it lacks side-to-side deflectors. the toe plate is a little short, however. Also, it's friction fit, so it can be taken down and stored flat. This is great for the GM on the go... unless you space where you shelved it!
http://boardgamegeek.com/image/625539/gruumsh the same clear boot after adding some felt to the deflectors...

http://www.bluepantherllc.com/BP3_DT.htm Kits to construct both small and large dice towers... just need "... glue, rubber bands and about 10 minutes..." The mini is a "land in drawer" mode, and the larger ones are a variation on the boot.

http://www.uniquedicetowers.com
Assembled dice towers started on Kickstarter.

Alternatives to the tower

The dice tray: a dice tray of some kind (we've often used the box lid) controls the dice, but doesn't add much to the randomization unless requiring a bounce off the back wall.

Dice Cups: all the material issues for towers apply to dice cups. Plus, as dice stacking displays show, it's possible for the skilled to manipulate them pretty well, tho' it's still MUCH harder than in a tray or tower. It does, however, take some practice to shake-flip-slam so that the dice don't roll across the table. Again, good ones are felt or corduroy lined (my good one is). An inepensive one can be made by taking a soup can (not a poptop, tho), carefully filing the edge smooth (steal your sister's emery boards!). Then line with felt or corduroy, gluing it to the inside. Use some more, or some inexpensive leather, to cover the outside. This gets you a lunch and a dice cup for under $15...

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Could you extend your answer with the commercial dice tower links from Lance's answer? I think that your contribution, combined with those links, makes a pretty comprehensive answer. Thanks. –  Rogier Apr 26 '11 at 15:14
    
Could, but won't, as I've no experience with them, and so adding them would violate the basic SE guidelines on how to answer. –  aramis Nov 28 '12 at 11:29
    
I have one of the Chessex portable boots. I can't speak to the felt on the deflectors, but you really want some sort of softer surface on the bottom to prevent dice bouncing out the end (I usually use a pad of paper) –  Allen Gould Oct 29 '13 at 19:42

Building one is probably your best bet, as they're pretty easy to make.

The design is basically a tower with a hole out front that spills dice into a little pan. The tower has projections on the inside to scramble dice around so that you get random rolls. I would do this using an arrangement of parallel pins that cross the inside of the tower semi-randomly. The tower also needs a slanted bottom so that dice roll into the pan after falling down.

If you're feeling ambitious and you have a saw hanging around then you can make one out of wood. Balsa wood is probably best because it is both light and easy to cut, albeit expensive.

If you want an less involved project then get some card stock and print a dice tower design on it (example), or cut your own with an X-acto knife. Fold, add a little bit of glue, and voila!

If you want to save money and you've got some Lego sitting around there's a great post showing off some dice towers here.

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You're missing the key components... namely the randomization deflectors inside. –  aramis Apr 17 '11 at 1:32
    
@aramis - I allegedly forgot to mention how important it is for the dice to scramble on the way down. I've updated my answer, thanks for pointing that out. –  Sadly Not Apr 17 '11 at 2:06

There's a good - if slightly tentacle-heavy - dice tower available in papercraft print-and-fold PDF from Worldworks Games

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I've used several dice towers over the years, but now I use a dice tray:

enter image description here

It has the main advantages of a tower

  • Keeping the dice in a confined area
  • Protecting your game surface/table from damage

While avoiding many problems that I have with Dice Towers

  • Excessive noise
  • Occasional Jamming
  • The tower blocks line of sight to the dice
  • The tray can handle larger dice than towers

Plus, I just love rolling the dice from my own hands!

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Self-loading dice tower :D –  Sadly Not Apr 15 '11 at 15:55
    
@Sadly Not - LOL, apart from the noise it generates. –  Rogier Apr 16 '11 at 9:42
    
It also lacks the randomizing features of a well done dice tower... it's much easier to cheat the dice with a tray than a tower. –  aramis Apr 17 '11 at 1:31
    
@Rogier - Yeaaaaaahhhh ... but it's so awesome! –  Sadly Not Apr 17 '11 at 2:07

There is a nice instructable about making one from foamcore:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-a-Formboard-Dice-Tower/

And here's a papercraft GM screen with 2 dice towers:

http://www.fatdragongames.com/fdg0070.html

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Have you used these? –  Pat Ludwig Apr 14 '11 at 21:09
    
@Pad Ludwig - no, but I've looked at the instructable and it seems like it would make a perfectly serviceable tower. The papercraft model looks like it's beyond my skills. Beautiful, though. –  gomad Apr 14 '11 at 22:18

Plan for DIY:

http://www.io.com/~beckerdo/games/articles/DiceTower.html

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Any personal experience with this? –  Pat Ludwig Apr 14 '11 at 21:09
    
Well, I have not personally built this one, but I got this link from a friend at the FLGS that built a bunch. –  Zeronyne Apr 15 '11 at 14:40

Dice Towers are great devices, and used to be hard to come by. There are now a lot of sellers online that you can buy one from. I'll list some here.

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Do you have any personal experience with any of these? –  Pat Ludwig Apr 14 '11 at 21:08
    
@Pat, No, I own a few but I've had them a while, though I have the need to get another tower, just haven't got around to it yet. –  Lance Roberts Apr 14 '11 at 21:36
    
I requested Aramis to include your list in the final answer. I upvoted your answer as compensation. –  Rogier Apr 26 '11 at 15:21

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