The travelling RPG Blog Carnival continues to jump from one blog to another. I try to contribute every month, although a topic can catch my imagination and lead to a long series, such as the 2017 February topic.
In October, the traditional Carnival host is Scot Newbury at Of Dice and Dragons. The chosen topic for the month is superstitions. The Of Dice and Dragons site outlines the topic like this:
This time around we’re going to talk superstitions!
We’ve all heard that finding a four leaf clover is good luck, as is a horseshoe hanging in a ‘U’ shape. Of course, crossing the path of a black cat or walking under a ladder all lead to bad luck (and don’t get me started on that whole breaking a mirror thing!). You’ve probably heard and have taken part of many over your lifetime, now’s your chance to share them with the world.
What to participate? Take a few minutes and write up a blog post about a superstition in your campaign world, or, one that your players follow to try and bring the characters a bit of luck. If you don’t have one of either type, make one up and be sure to include its origin.
GM Dice Swap
Many gamers have a range of dice superstitions and everyone has heard stories about “lucky dice”. However, these superstitions are not just for Players. As a GM, I roll dice often enough to build up a dice superstition of my own. My beloved HeroQuest only uses d20s, but my assorted house rules bring d6, d12 and d16 to my folding dice tray.
Like many GMs, I roll my dice out in the open where the Players can see the outcomes. I have slowly built up a habit surrounding the d20 rolls. In HeroQuest there are special outcomes for rolling a natural 1, a critical, and a natural 20, a fumble. Whenever I roll either of those numbers, then the offending d20 is banished back to my All Rolled Up. I swap this dice for a fresh d20 and continue the game.
I <3 d20s
As regular readers of Tales of a GM know, I like my dice. Every time I visit a games convention, I try to buy at least one new d20. One of my first ports of call at Dragonmeet is the rainbow of dice at the Chessex stand, where I buy another ten new d20s. Many of these are given away to the Players as presents, but my collection continues to grow.
Thus, my dice superstition also ensures a healthy rotation of d20s through the session. In turn, this means I roll more of my dice. There is no point in having an All Rolled Up full of beautiful dice if I cannot roll many of them in a session. I like swapping out the dice, as it means I can then play with a new pretty d20.
For all the obsession in my superstition, there is a real benefit to the game from my behaviour. The original impetus for this dice swap was to protect the fairness of the game. I know switching dice makes no difference in the odds of rolling consecutive criticals. Yet, the appearance of these repeated criticals would be different if I continue to use the same die.
Trust between Players and the GM is crucial to a good campaign. I am sure the Players trust me, but it does not help to take small actions to reinforce this belief. A critical roll in HeroQuest could have a major effect in the game. We all know there is a 5% chance of rolling a second critical immediately after the first one. Yet the assumption of lucky or weighted dice is strong in the face of basic probability.
I feel the trust levels around the table are enhanced by my habit of swapping out the dice. Should a second critical be rolled, then I have the easy defence of having done all I can to keep the dice fair. In a sense, this perception of fairness is more important than any minor quirk of probability affecting my dice.
I lean into my natural affection for my dice collection by superstitiously swapping out any d20 which rolls a fumble or a critical. This behaviour is also intended to reinforce the Players’ perception of my fairness. We all know the odds of rolling consecutive special results is unchanged, but I feel better for swapping the dice.
Do you have any GM superstitions? Do you swap out your dice? Are there any dice rituals in your game? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.
- See my dedicated page for a full list of all my RPG Blog Carnival contributions.
- The November Carnival essay revisited betrayal
- Do you need more Tales?
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