Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gaming Superstitions

If you're a gamer, odds are that over the years you've been gaming you've picked up all kinds of little rituals and superstitions about things.  It's probably unavoidable in any endeavor that involves such a great deal of randomness and uncertainty.  You try to make sense of the uncontrollable senselessness of it by perceiving patterns where there are none, and trying to apply rules to that make no sense.  In games that involve a lot of random chance, people seem to like to invent ways in which they can pretend to influence, and therefore exert some control over, the randomness.

For example, many people like to roll particular dice for certain types of rolls, or particular colors of dice for different armies.  Some people don't like others to touch their dice, since they might rub their bad luck off on them.  Some people don't like using the same set of dice for two consecutive rolls, always grabbing some "fresh" dice for a new roll.  I'm sure there are countless others.  Here are some that I've found myself believing in:
  • Never roll one single die for anything, if it can be avoided.  Out of every roll you make, there will almost always be at least one "failed" roll.  So if you roll a single die, it will almost certainly fail.  Because of this, if there is one weapon different in a squad, I roll all the dice together and use a different colored die to represent the single weapon, and I always wait until all attacks have been resolved so I can roll all the armor saves together, instead of one at a time.
  • Conversely, once you start rolling a large number of dice in a single roll, more than 15 lets say, you dramatically increase your chances of rolling really badly.  So if I have a lot of dice to roll, I'm better off rolling them in multiple smaller batches than all at once.  One of the batches may turn out to be a really bad roll, but it's unlikely to have multiple batches rolled consecutively to roll really badly.  For this same reason, anything that allows re-rolls is much more valuable in my mind than it should be.
  • Never say "anything but a one", or something similar, before making a roll.  You might as well not even bother rolling at that point, you're going to fail.
  • Models that are pointing always do well.  I have no idea why this should be, but it is.
  • Any newly painted models are going to get killed.  The more pride you have in the paint job, the more spectacularly embarrassing their battlefield performance will be.
  • For some reason, for really crucial rolls, I like to use dice that were sitting with the 5 side facing up.  This seems to come through for me pretty often.  Something about the die being used to a high number facing up, and wanting to return to that state.
None of that makes any logical sense, of course.  But it is what I have observed over the course of years of gaming.  I'd be really interested in hearing about some of the other gaming superstitions out there.  Do you only roll certain colored dice for certain things?  Do you have some lucky incantation you say or think before a particularly critical roll, or some phrase or deed that always jinxes you?  Please leave me a comment and let me know about what rituals work for you, or what superstitions you've come to observe in your own gaming.


  1. I am unbelievably right-handed, almost to the point of being unable to do much of anything with my left. The only thing I do is use my left hand to roll dice. All the time. I have no idea why; maybe I'm subconsciously feeling that if it's a good roll, fantastic, but if it isn't, it wasn't really me making the roll anyway. Makes no sense. The strange thing is, I've only started to do this very recently.


  2. Excellent post... I was just considering writing a similar themed post on my blog. I like to buy new dice for a new game/campaign and I don't let other people roll my dice. I also never roll the dice outside the game in case I use up the good rolls.

    Persistently bad rolling dice are exiled to the dice jar behind my desk. If I'm angry enough I have been known to destroy dice in a variety of cruel and inventive ways. These have included; Setting on fire; Buried Alive; Flushed down the toilet; and most recently crushed with a hammer.

  3. I've heard the one about leaving a die with a high number facing up. Someone once justified it as eventually the molecular weight of the die would shift slightly towards the lower-numbered side, thus weighting the die ever so slightly.

    And you're totally right about the "anything but a 1" rule. I've fallen victim to that a couple times.

    Not sure if I can think of any superstitions specific to myself other than the usual stuff (favoring certain dice sets over others, blowing on dice, etc.). Back in high school my friends and I did go through a phase where we'd try really elaborate contortions/arm movements in the process of rolling dice. That tended more often than not to send dice flying across the battlefield and off the table, however, so we gave it up eventually.

  4. One of our mates "warms" his dice in his trouser pockets before playing, and also sets all his dice that roll 1s aside to be disciplined later.

  5. A tip that works - if you are having really bad luck with dice rolls try standing with your back to the tableand rolling from behind you. Works for me!

    Dave K

  6. "Never say anything but a one" I have to watch that one alot! Or any other statement of a similiar nature!