Sailors have a reputation for being superstitious but I am convinced that they have nothing on D&D players. You don’t have to watch or listen to many episodes of Critical Role to come face to face with Laura Bailey’s dice rituals. And a quick google search to cure “bad luck dice” can turn up a lot of strategies about banishing bad dice mojo everything from hitting a bad dice with a hammer in front of others (to teach them a lesson) to sage smudging your dice. It becomes obvious that there are a lot of routines and rituals in setting up for a game of D&D.
I am a player who enjoys rituals and routines. Maybe they are silly but they are also fun and help me get into a D&D headspace. My husband, Epic Fred, claims he doesn’t believe in these rituals but I rolled his dice one day (he had a fancy D4 and I wanted to roll it) and his reaction sure sounded superstitious to me.
I never considered my pre-game preparations a “routine” until it became obvious that it was one. Over the years it has become more involved. Half an hour before a game I read over my private notes for my character (jot notes that help me get back into that character’s headspace), I read over the group notes to make sure I know where we are, and then I finish it off looking at my character wall and taking some deep even breaths. When all that is done my mental space is prepared and I am ready to step into the mind of someone else for however long we inhabit that world.
My character wall is my favourite part of that routine. A wall of art work dedicated to my current characters that helps me visualize them and provide quick reminders while playing. A quick glance at their portrait during the game can help me figure out what that character would do next or remind me that in that moment I am not “me” but them. The art shown on my cork board is from a number of artists and I will list their names at the bottom of this article for those of you who are interested.
As far as physical preparation. I look for a clear (I get so easily distracted) and comfortable place (blankets and pillows) where I can sit. Sometimes I have food but I ALWAYS have a mug of tea. Tea is key.
As far as rituals go. Mine are all dice based. I carry upon my narrow shoulders Wil Wheaton’s dice curse. My dice rolls defy mathematical probability. It is very rare for me to see the middle numbers on a die. I either roll high or low unfortunately for me the vast majority of the time it is low. I have actually graphed my dice rolls peeps. They are so bad it’s comical. I once rolled so many bad athletic checks in a row that my character was eventually hauled up a cliff by a rope around the middle. I still managed to roll painfully low and my character took damage from bouncing off the cliff face. I botch so many rolls that consistent bungling is actually a character trait OF ALL MY CHARACTERS.
Despite this I still have rituals. Maybe my rolls would be even worse without them. I have a special set of dice for boss fights. I only use my prized amethyst dice (a gift from Epic Fred). They don’t make my character any more impressive but the weight and attached significance make them FEEL more impressive.
Also, a friend suggested that instead of shaming my dice when they fail me I should give them pep talks. My friends have all heard me talk to my dice and encourage them to do better. One friend even convinced me that maybe dice jail isn’t the way to go. And the advice of another is to put all my dice with their high number up so they can learn which faces I want to see. So all my dice sit with their highest face up. Another friend also said that I shouldn’t cycle through my dice in a session. I should pick one set and use it the whole time so it gains confidence. I also do that now too. AND I have a tendency to use dice sets that people give me instead of ones I buy for myself in hopes that those dice have that person’s luck and fondness for me. Epic Fred finds my quirks endearing. Even when I have a specific advantage dice (it’s a lucky cat inspired dice) and disadvantage dice (it has a skull inclusion and a skull as its 20).
My rituals and routines have grown over the years. Sometimes they just feel silly but they give me a sense of comfort, control (even though my rolls prove I have none) and joy when sitting down to prepare for a game. I think more than anything they increase my anticipation of what is about to come and help my brain switch from real life to the amazing adventure before me.
What kinds of rituals/routines do you have? How do they help you prepare for a game session?
Artists featured on my character wall: