By: Maxwell Gawlick
Admit it: when you sit down to play D&D, Pathfinder, or any other tabletop RPG that uses dice, you rely on some kind of ritual to guaranty good dice luck. It’s okay, we all do it. We wouldn’t want to be responsible for creating the darkest timeline. D&D dice superstition paralysis is a very real thing — some people can’t start playing until they’ve completed their rituals. And that’s fine. D&D can be a high-pressure game. You wanna be the very best. The best that ever was. And with the right ritual, it can be a sure thing.
The most common ritual for dice superstition that I’ve seen and do myself is pre-rolling. As the name implies, it’s about giving your dice a few test rolls. Whether I’ve just sat down for a game or I’m at a convention trying dice out, I have to give them several test rolls each. If the odds aren’t looking like they’ll be ever in my favor, I toss those dice. I go for dice that I can rely on. This is backed by science, by the way. With random odds, you’re more likely to consistently roll similar numbers over again rather than having an even distribution. It sounds crazy, but it works.
We know how that sounds, but this dice superstition isn’t what you think it is. Having dice face-up just means having the highest number facing you. Like the previous D&D dice superstition, there’s also science backing this method. Leaving dice in this position long enough trains them to roll the desired number. That’s right. There’s no need for dice luck when you can simply train them. Personally, I’ll have an array of all the dice I’ll be using for the session behind my DM screen. I’ll spend a couple of minutes organizing them so I see only 20s, 12s, 10s, 8s, 6s, and 4s, or whatever fancy symbol is printed in place of the highest number.
This is another common dice superstition that aims for optimum success. Some players insist on keeping one or several sets for combat encounters, and others for out-of-combat rolls. Others have a single, extra-lucky d20 specifically for rolling initiative, so they always get a head-start on the enemy. Unlike what Rick Sanchez will tell you, everything can have a purpose. Players at my table keep d20s just for death saves, and as DM I’ll give them a new d20 when they gain inspiration. I pull out the metal dice for tough spots. My players insist they’re weighted. They aren’t, but it’s still fun to feel like a vengeful god sometimes.
Dice is Srs Bsns
Some people take their dice superstitions a little more seriously. Sometimes, too seriously. I guess when the entire game depends on the whims of RNGesus you tend to get a little desperate. Sometimes, all it takes is the breath of an innocent, and a gamer will have their newborn niece, nephew, or child blow on them. Some will baptize these indispensable tools in certain liquids, symbolizing the three stages of gaming: soda, cheap beer, and coffee. When it comes to doing anything productive, we sleep. But D&D dice superstition is real shit.
With this dice superstition, some gamers will always keep saline solution handy to test the weight of the dice. If you didn't know, you can fill a coup about ¾ of the way full of water and add salt until your dice float, and then roll them gently to test their weight. It gives you an accurate reading of your dice’s luck capability. Unfortunately, this test doesn’t work with metal dice, since they’re too heavy. There’s still plenty of other methods for those dice, though. Some gamers will do this only once, while others keep a cup of solution nearby to start testing at any time. You don’t mess around with saline solution.
Everything above was a dice superstition for preventing poor performance, and sometimes those fail. When that happens, people will employ retroactive D&D dice superstitions to improve their future rolls after certain dice have failed. Dice that consistently perform poorly are sent off to “dice jail” temporarily or permanently, depending on the severity of the offense. Slipping up at an opportune moment: jail. Failing to cast that important spell: jail. Rolling the same numbers so often it becomes suspicious? Believe it or not, jail. We have the best dice luck in the world because of jail.
Often, severe dice superstitions come into play for particularly bad performance. The dice are terrible and it should feel terrible. Gamers who are prepared to go this far will set one die apart from the others, but still let it watch as it destroys its siblings. The real ones will go for a blowtorch, but a microwave also works. The more creative you destroy the dice, the better. The other dice must be taught a lesson.
Our Relationship With Dice
We’ve gone over all the different dice superstitions at this point, but why do we do them? Do we want to please the dice gods or petition for the favor of the Demonlord of Fate? Maybe it’s all futile. Or, perhaps there’s some unknown node of possibility that causes our dice to improve our time with our D&D dice superstitions. Personally, I’m of a differing opinion: I think dice are sentient creatures, and these rituals improve our relationship with them, thereby increasing their likelihood of rolling in our favor. Whether that relationship is one of respect, fear, or both, is up to you. All in all, dice are complicated. Each dice master has their own rituals for keeping them in check. What’s your method of choice, and why?