A Dicey Situation (Buying Gaming Dice in South Korea)

UPDATE (13 Nov. 2014): I’m guessing this is your cheapest option for polyhedral dice in South Korea now. There are also polyhedral sets that aren’t too expensive, if you poke around on Gmarket.

UPDATE (27 Nov. 2012): Got the polyhedral dice. The place I ordered the six-sided dice from took a few extra days to get those dice shipped, but I’m still hoping to receive them in the next couple of weeks. I’d better, since we have some Fiasco games planned for the third week of December.

ORIGINAL POST: I have a bunch of dice on order, at the moment. You might be wondering why: after all, as a longtime gamer, I have owned plenty of dice, and in fact I brought my whole collection of polyhedral dice with me to Korea when I came here. (Well, I think I brought them back from a subsequent visit home, but whatever.) But nope, I’ve got dice on order.

now, the first polyhedral dice I ever owned came with the D&D Basic set — the red box — that I got sometime around the end of elementary school. They’re not the best dice around, but they got the job done back in the day. They were solid plastic, with no coloring in the numbers; the instructions were to take white crayon and rub it onto the surface of the dice, then wipe off the excess, et voila: readable dice!

I still have these dice with me, believe it or not… they’re in a little basket amid other geeky objects like my Korean movie monster statues and my Ghosthulu figurine and the rest. But I can’t see myself using them: over the almost-thirty years since I first got them, a lot of the edges are worn down, and they don’t exactly roll randomly anymore. I keep them, though, for sentimental reasons: they opened up a world for me that ended up being much more than just gaming: the fantastical, writing, and so on all grew to mean a lot to me because I set out down that path of gaming.

I have a bunch of ten-sided dice on hand — in a candy tin my father game me, just a little less than thirty years ago, to keep my dice in — which I used when I was playing various d10-based RPG games, like the White Wolf games I’ve run and played. But I don’t have many six-sided (d6) or other polyhedral dice besides d10.

This is an issue now: for a game I’m planning to play soon with a couple of groups of people, I need more dice than I have on hand. I went hunting to buy some online, since usually things are available there for cheaper than you might pay in a brick-and-mortar shop…

Well, that’s true in Korea, but only of things for which there is a demand.  The high import tariffs and shipping expenses guarantee that speciality items are almost always more expensive here.

Sadly, dice seem to count as a speciality item here too. To the point where on the popular website Gmarket dice are being sold at 500% of the price back home, or more. There are actually people advertising a single d20 (twenty-sided die) for almost W40,000, which is about forty bucks. give or take a little.

(At those prices, I could get real wooden dice that are beautiful…)

A few years ago, this markup was so universal that one gamer in South Korea ended up ordering a a pound of dice from overseas, since the shipping cost made it more economical to buy way more dice than he needed, instead of just exactly how many he needed. (A pound of dice can be cheap when you’re buying them on special, and some companies do sell off dice by the pound at times.)

If you’re looking for polyhedral dice in Korea, though, you actually can get them relatively cheap here now. Mechashop sells some very attractive Chessex polyhedral dice for W6,500 a set, which is about the same as the  prices back home, or close enough. (Certainly better than W30,000 or more.) I have some on order, even though I haven’t played a game needing such dice in years; my interest in gaming is expanding again, and I figure it can’t hurt to have some on hand, and these prices are excellent.

But the dice I need for the game we’re planning to play (Jason Morningstar’s Fiasco) aren’t polyhedral: they’re six-sided dice. I first determined that it’d be best if I picked  up enough dice to make other games possible (such as Don’t Rest Your Head, a game in which I’m currently interested), and also to have some spares on hand if need be.

I settled on 20 each of white, black, and red dice, and what I found was that even taking shipping costs into account, it was cheaper to order the dice from overseas than to get them in Korea. Cheaper by so much that the price difference allowed me to throw in a couple of dice pouches, which I’ll need since the container I’ve kept my dice in for years (a candy tin) probably won’t cut it anymore.

What I found regarding dice in Korea was a little saddening, really: the most common dice on the market aren’t for games, but for education: math dice and language dice (and all of those in English, note). Okay, I picked up a couple of alphabet dice, because I think they might come in handy as prompts in a game or for English teaching or something… but I kept wondering, where are the game dice?

It’s funny, since there was such a cultural explosion of gaming here a few years ago: not RPG gaming, mind you, but suddenly, there were boardgame cafes everywhere, and they were full of young people. (I never went: they were too loud for me to find them comfortable, and the one time I tried to go, I walked out a minute later because basically everyone in the place was yelling at one another gleefully.) But the price of six-sided dice shocked me: the cheapest I found online was double the cost overseas, and the color selection was not so great either. (Mostly mixed sets with colors I didn’t want.)

I can’t help but wonder if the fact that working Koreans — and Korean students — have less leisure time on average than anyone else in the OECD is linked to the price of dice here. I imagine the two factors are probably very closely linked, and I’m almost tempted to suggest that there’s probably an inverse relation between the average price of plain-vanilla (non-polyhedral, non-fancy) dice and the amount of leisure time enjoyed in a given country, though of course my sample is far too small to argue that.

(Polyhedral dice here are a specialty item, but their specialness seems to drive the price much higher, except for speciality dealers who have an incentive to match international prices. People will order polyhedral dice from abroad, as those are rarer and usually bought by people who really want them. The smaller price difference on plain-vanilla dice therefore tells us a lot more — especially since I’d bet most of the dice are produced in China, and thus cheaper to ship to Korean than to the US, though they cost double here what they do in the States.)

In any case, ironically, I’ve got some polyhedral dice on order domestically, and a bunch of six-sided dice in three colors on order from the States. We should be in good shape for the game I’m planning to run in December (and, again, in January and February… I think I’d like to go on a gaming kick in the winter holidays, though mainly in no-prep type games, so I can still get everything else done that I need to.

One thought on “A Dicey Situation (Buying Gaming Dice in South Korea)

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