The Oddball Dice Series #5

For the next two weeks, I will make daily posts where I’ll spotlight unusual or lesser known dice that I have in my collection that I hope are interesting for everyone to see and learn about. Each day I’ll cover a different theme, I hope you enjoy this series.

The Chessex Wedge d4

Many people will already know this, but still interesting to spotlight. The d4 wedge design itself isn’t an oddity, since some companies still sell dice in this general design, but these specific ones have become pretty rare, and there’s an interesting story attached as well.

Dice & Games started making d4s in this shape some time in the mid-1990’s with Chessex distributing them in the US, but they had to stop making and selling them when TSR Inc. made an infringement claim against D&G since they were holding an actual patent for dice shaped like isosceles tetrahedrons.

Let me quote from a Dragon Dice history document written by D. Scott O’Brien that has a bit more of the actual history of these:

[Dragon Dice] was brought to the German based Essen Game Fair in 1995. An attendee, William A. Sides, of South Carolina, approached the TSR booth, stating he was a big fan of the game, and had dreamt of a die that hadn’t been done yet. He then produced a drawing of an unconventional four-sided die, with an elongated, lozenge shape. A deal was struck to use the design and these became the games Magic Items. With a good-faith agreement in place for the Item dice, and an early August release planned for the expansion, Mr. Sides scrambled to hammer out the details and submit a patent filing for his unique design before the official unveiling. Finally, on August 7th, 1996, a proposal was received by the Patent Office, less than 24 hours before the commencement of Gen-Con ’96, where Magestorm! was to be unveiled.

[…] With the Item dice design revealed [at GenCon ’96] for all to see, it wasn’t long before the distinctive shape caught the eye of more traditional dice enthusiasts and role-playing gamers, and one person, unaware that the design had received a patent, approached a U.K. manufacturer to produce wedge-dice with numbers, as opposed to Dragon Dice symbols. When the quote turned out to be beyond their financial means, the endeavor was dropped. What follows is in their own words how the situation played out:

Some time later, the Wedge D4’s started to appear in shops in the UK. I was curious because the size, proportions and numbering were all the same as the ones I had proposed. They were also being sold under the name Wedge dice – the name I had originally given them. I did a bit of detective work and discovered that, sure enough, the company that was making and distributing these dice was none other than the one I had approached. I contacted the company to complain and they pointed out that dice had already been patented by someone in the US. I did some more detective work and found out that the inventor was a gentleman by the name of William Sides. I contacted him to ask him about the patent.
It turned out that he did indeed invent them and that he held the patent in conjunction with Hasbro (who owned the Dragon Dice game at that time). He knew about the numbered Wedge D4’s but informed me that they were an infringement of the patent he held with Hasbro. He had never given his permission for numbered Wedge D4’s to be made and was not pleased that he wasn’t receiving royalties for them. Even though he knew they were out there, he didn’t know who was producing them. Of course, I did – it was the company in the UK I had contacted. I even knew who their US distributors were. What’s more, when the patent agent representing the British company had contacted me, he had inadvertently admitted in writing (!!!) that the company he represented didn’t have the right to produce numbered Wedge D4’s. In other words, they couldn’t claim ignorance of the patent which is a legal protection against compensation in British law. 
I told all of this to William Sides. Soon after, Hasbro issued a cease and desist order against the British company and production of the numbered Wedge D4’s stopped.


This patent has since expired, but to my knowledge Chessex hasn’t considered remaking any d4s in the wedge shape, particularly since you can now buy dice like this from companies such as The Dice Lab. They sell very similar ones to those that Chessex made with a slightly different font in certain opaque colours.

The Chessex versions were made in different pearl colours, I have come across them in black w/white, blue w/white, red w/white and purple w/black. There are also versions of them out there in all the Chessex Rainbow colours. Maybe other colours exist as well.