Earlier this week, while preparing for a tabletop role playing game, I was perusing my dice, trying to pick out a set of polyhedral dice (which consist of seven dice: a D4, D6, D8, two D10s, D12, and a D20) that would best fit my Dragonborn Monk, Teimuraz. I found a set still in its packaging — my red-and-silver Crimson Nebula dice from Dispel Dice — and immediately knew that these were exactly the vibe for Teimuraz. Choosing dice for a character is important! You have to get a good vibe. But there was a big problem. These beautiful dice were perfect… and also cursed.
I took them out of the packaging, admired them, and then started doing some dice rolls, because I really like it when the little plastic number shapes go click-clack on my desk. This is when I discovered the problem: none of the dice were rolling high. Consistently, every one of the dice were turning up values that were half of their highest value. This happens with dice sometimes. They get temperamental. You have to treat them right. And I suppose that after about a year in the packaging without touching them or really bothering with them at all, these Crimson Nebulas were pissed off.
This was not ideal. Usually, I play games that only require a couple of dice — typically a pair of six-sided dice or a few 12-sided dice, and recently I’ve stuck to a set of brass and stone D6s that are really nice to play with. Despite writing about Dungeons & Dragons like all the time, I rarely play games where I might make use of a full set of polyhedrals. And now I needed to figure out a way to appease these Nebulas, and fast.
How do you uncurse your Dungeons & Dragons dice?
I have a few theories. Maybe the dice just need to be believed in. Maybe it’s less about how the dice feel about rolling high and more about how you feel about the dice. A manifestation kind of thing. See it, dream it, roll a natural 20. I tried this method a few times to no avail, and realised that all the positive thinking in the world would never help my dice roll high. If it doesn’t work for gamblers, it’s not going to work for me.
New tactic. Motivational speeches. I laid my dice out in front of me, the faces turned to their highest value, and I really gave them everything I had. I told them they were smart, pretty, and important. I told them about Teimuraz, the ascetic monk man they were going to represent in gladiatorial battle, hoping that having a unifying leader would inspire them. I reminded them that all rolls were just chances, and there was always a chance to succeed, if you just believe in yourself. I spent about 10 minutes talking to my dice, giving them a pump-up speech that Coach Taylor would have been proud of. And still, when I tried rolling them again… low values across the board (shout out to my D8, which came back with a 5, which was nice but wasn’t the result I was looking for).
Next I decided to try some classic cleansing techniques. There’s a lot of ways to purge evil spirits from your house and home — sage, candles, exorcisms, salt circles, and blood offerings are classics. I lit up some candles and passed the dice over the flame a few times, reciting “natural 20,” over and over like an invocation. Twitter suggested I suspend them in a container of salt overnight, but I didn’t have that kind of time. I placed them in a circle of salt, lit a candle, and sent up a quick plea for high rolls. Then I tried rolling again. Mid results, but… not bad. Really, I’m hoping for the full set of polyhedrals to come up over the 50% value, at least three times. Sure, that’s a high value, but I’m trying to uncurse these dice, not get them “good enough” to play with.
At this point I think that by sheer force of will the Nebulas were finally getting the picture. It was time to bring it home. I found my set of D6 stone and brass dice and surrounded the Nebulas with this set of eight D6, hoping that through a combined peer pressure/mentorship program the polyhedrals would finally be able to turn a corner. I thought by having role models to look up to, the Nebulas would finally see the value in high value rolls.
This was a mistake. I think that when I reminded them of their inadequacies, they turned on me, like rebellious teenagers when asked by world-weary parents, “Why can’t you be more like your sibling?” They clearly saw the set of D6s as competition, and instead of stepping up to the plate decided to give me the middle finger and returned incredibly low numbers for at least five rolls. I was back to square one.
When all else fails… Dice Jail
I wasn’t giving up. But I was going to demonstrate some tough love. Some Twitter followers recommended that I throw out the dice entirely and buy new dice. I respect the people who do that but I’m not a quitter. I was going to reform these dice. First, I put them back in their packaging and placed a small resin toy on top to guard over them (a Pi-Pi, if you’re curious) and declared, in a voice loud enough to startle my dog, “Banished to dice jail!”
Now I know that the carceral state does not allow for true rehabilitation, but I was in my home office and these dice were, in my defence, being bad. I hoped that a few hours in dice jail would be enough to scare them straight, and they would re-emerge changed shapes. I even went so far as to prepare them a nice little home on my desk, lighting some candles, bringing in a few more of my resin toys, and really just cleaning the area up to be a nice place for them to roll around on.
I checked Twitter again–a lot of responses that said I should eat them. I did not take that advice; the packaging for these polyhedrals clearly say not to eat the dice. I was told to save the cursed dice to become “crit machines” for when I DM my next game. Diabolical, but not what I wanted. I could put them in the freezer, cook them, microwave them, give them little kisses, or put them in a bowl of water and place them under a full moon while surrounded by high-vibration crystals and chanting. I didn’t have that kind of time, but there was an intriguing option in my Twitter mentions: a ritual to the dice gods.
There are a couple of gods that traditionally preside over gambling, which, in the right light, could be sort of considered gods of dice. The Greek Hermes, the Aztec Macuilxochitl, Noholipi from the Navajo, and Nezha from China. There are a lot of gods of luck and wealth, but I don’t think that’s the same thing, really. At the end of the day I decided to forgo all the traditional gods and set up a small altar to the dice gods, pretty similar to the little dice home I had made.
I added some crystals. A couple dried flowers. A set of tarot cards that were doing really good things for me. I added a cute little pride flag, a compass, even a D20 that my brother made for me last year. I put up a bunch of small guardians — my green dragon Bromley, Mister Scratch oversaw from the top of the tower, A little gold-tusked Csorwe, I even added the pi-pi jailer. Lastly, I poured a little bit of rum in a tiny cup I made in a pottery class as a bit of a tribute. Here it was. My last-ditch effort to turn these Nebulas around. These were the dice for Teimuraz, and while that boy is a bit of an idiot, he doesn’t deserve to fail every roll.
I took them out of dice jail. I put them on the little dice altar, high value side up. I took a deep breath and explained to them, kindly, what I wanted. High rolls. Not perfect rolls. High rolls.
I didn’t have time to test them out; it was 6:30 pm and I needed to get in the game. I played for three hours and my rolls were… solid. Not bad, could have been better, but good enough! I hit when I wanted to hit, I didn’t dodge when I wanted to dodge (and nearly died, but didn’t die!), and I nailed a Religion check that gave me some key insight into the motivations of an NPC. All in all, a solid game. I thanked my dice and kept them on the little area I had cleared on my desk. They earned it.
Maybe it was just that the dice needed to be in a game to perform well. Maybe they had performance anxiety? Perhaps they just wanted to hang out a little, get a feel for my vibe before they decided to roll high. Perhaps the spirit haunting them got bored of torturing me with low values when they heard me and my friends laughing about my character, who was quickly nicknamed Timmy. Any number of things had happened in between my search for the perfect set of polyhedrals and game night.
So, here it is, my recommendation for uncursing a set of dice. Build a dice altar. Fill it with things of personal value and power. Handmade things are best. Also, candles and a little bit of good alcohol. Then put the dice in — highest face up — and let them sit there, basking in the glow of the altar you have created. I just rolled them again. In order, from lowest dice to highest; 4, 5, 5, 10, 5, 1, and… a natural 20. Something worked.