Disclaimer: I have not backed or had any contact with any of the campaigns below, nor is this article an endorsement of any campaign mentioned herein.
During my look at Rising Sun and what makes for a great Kickstarter campaign, I mentioned that custom dice seem to be a perennial favorite among the Games section. I started writing Kickstarter Corner only a couple of months ago, but in that short amount of time I can't recall a week going by without a new set of random number generators going up on offer. At the time of my Rising Sun article my assertion about the popularity of dice was anecdotal, and in the time since that article's publication I've come to think more about backing up my assertion with hard numbers. Perhaps I was mistaken, and dice campaigns aren't as common as I initially thought. Alternatively they may be far more prevalent than I suspected. As the Internet loves to call out people for being wrong, it would behoove of me to do a bit of research on the matter. We might even learn something along the way.
The reason I focus on Kickstarter over, say, Indiegogo, is that KS offers easy and intuitive means of organizing campaigns, which allows for more thorough parsing of data from those campaigns. Finding how many live projects focus on custom dice was easy as searching for "dice" and sorting by "newest." Those two parameters performed most of the heavy lifting, leaving me with forty live projects among the several hundred under way in Games at the time of this writing. From those forty I decided sift out anything dice related or adjacent: no dice-based games (of which there are many), no dice towers, no dice pouches or other storage solutions, and no dice earrings (though admittedly that last item could work in a pinch). I'm only interested in dice, agnostic of any game system.
After filtering out everything that didn't meet my specifications I was left with a grand total of five remaining projects. Not an overwhelming number, not enough to necessarily be called a trend, but enough to demonstrate there's a new dice-based campaign about once per week and enough to demonstrate continued interest in the items among KS users. Below I've organized the campaigns from most to least recent. They are all still live, meaning certain factors can and will change even as I type this, but they will serve as a snapshot of the current dice atmosphere on KS. Let's take a quick look at what's on offer and see if we can pull any lessons from them.
By: Anvi Original Game Hardware
Current funds: $1,784 (236%)
Base Pledge: $15 (for two dice)
Overview: A collection of eight-sided, laser-engraved aluminum dice containing the symbols of BaGua, which stand for Heaven, Earth, Thunder, Wind, Waters, Flame, Mountains and Swamp.
By: Hal Zucati
Current Funds: $1,484 (148%)
Base Pledge: $125 (for a 60mm d20)
Overview: A collection of extremely large d20 dice made from 6061 aircraft aluminum, available in 60mm (13oz.), 80mm (1lb. 15oz.) and 100mm (3lbs. 12oz.) sizes.
Current Funds: $6,298 (421%)
Base Pledge: $36 (for one die)
Overview: D6 die crafted from GR5 titanium. Higher pledges net you additional d6's at increasingly discounted prices, topping out at $120 for six dice.
By: Kickstarter Stock
Current Funds: $1,749 (80%)
Base Pledge: €12, or about $13 (one pair of classic dice)
Overview: An assortment of d6 dice crafted in a wide variety of unique styles, including numeric, delta, and grid (pictured left).
By: Q-Workshop and Chaosium
Current Funds: $141,174 (282%)
Base Pledge: $59 (one metal dice set, no stretch goals)
Overview: A full set of metal dice (d4-d20, and a percentile die) themed around Call of Cthulhu. So tentacles, elder signs and such. You know the deal. It's Cthulhu.
There we go. Now let's see what lessons we can learn from these campaigns...
The first realization that leaps to mind after reviewing these five offerings is that they all manage to stand out from one another, despite all offering functionally identical items. They each play with material, theme, design, even size, so that each appeals to different sensibilities. Frankly it's refreshing to see such variety within a common theme, as too often I see campaigns try to hop on one bandwagon or another while offering nothing unique. Remember that I didn't pull out the five most interesting dice projects, but merely the projects which are currently live. It seems, at least within this limited sample, that the people interested in making dice aren't out merely to earn a quick buck.
With functionality effectively a given, it becomes more important than ever to focus on form. The items above are all made of metal, which explains their price but also their appeal. Standard dice are made of light, cheap plastic which is solid enough but suffers from a lack of heft and personality. Turning to alternative materials excites the perspective backer with thoughts of the tactile experience that would come from using these dice. In addition to metal I've seen offerings in the past which were carved from bone or wood, and in every case I could imagine how they might feel to hold in my palm or twist around in my fingers, and I could hear the clatter they might make as they dance around a table. When I look at the Cthulhu dice above I can't help but picture running my thumb along the edges of each die and take in its texture as I play. It's said that a well designed product makes you want to touch it, and I'll be damned if each of those dice above doesn't do exactly that.
Such a level of design is necessary, as these campaigns wouldn't stand a chance without it. Dice offerings are both ubiquitous and affordable, to the point where even an interested hobbyist needs a strong incentive to drop the kind of money being asked for here. Anyone can go down to their local game shop and buy a handful of dice for just a few dollars (or they could buy 100 d6's for $8 on Amazon) and anyone interested in dice likely already has more than they can count. The most affordable of the options above is the Classic Dice Set at $13 for two d6's, or $6.50 each. That's a hard sell when the alternative is eight cents for a die which, again, will serve the exact same function as your fancy-pants hyper modern alternative. As it happens each campaign above succeeds in justifying its price point.
Finally, they all succeed in estimating the size of their respective markets. With KS it's a matter of not setting your goal too high, and in a traditional marketplace it would mean not ordering too much product at one time. The first four campaigns have goals ranging from $754 on the low end to a maximum of only $2,135. The Cthulhu dice have a goal of $50,000, but they have the benefit of both the Lovecraft association (another perennial favorite which will likely get its own article soon), as well as a partnership with popular tabletop publisher Chaosium. The others recognize how niche their appeal is and have set their goals accordingly, with three out of the four having exceeded their funding at the time of this writing. Even the one campaign that hasn't yet reached its goal is on track to do so with time to spare. There's always the chance of becoming an inexplicable viral hit (just look at this unremarkable jacket), but it's best not to bank on such an outcome.
Stand out from the competition, know your competition, know your market, and don't overreach. Very general lessons, and seemingly obvious as well, but they are easily overlooked and are applicable to any endeavor in life. See? We did all learn a lesson.