Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Little Rituals

More years ago than I like to admit, I took an anthropology course that covered the role of religion in primitive societies. The thrust of one lesson was that in those societies (and in our own to a lesser extent) rituals were enacted as a means of “winding the world clock.” Unless those rites were performed at the proper times in the correct manner, the world would come to an end. Needless to say, in these societies, the role of rituals is an important one.

In yesterday’s post, I briefly mentioned that I enjoy a cup of tea and a cookie after I come home from running my Sunday afternoon game sessions. It’s not a superstition or a nervous habit, just a tiny reward to myself for having a good game. It certainly isn’t done to keep the world from crashing to a halt.

Nevertheless, one has to admit that this hobby has its fair share of superstitions and rituals, whether we truly believe in them or not. Just look at the way some of us regard our dice: if that’s not a talismanic believe system in action, I don’t know what is. With that in mind, I thought it might be both enlightening and entertaining to open up the comments section to you all in order to learn what sort of strange game-related habits, superstitions, quirks, and rituals you have accumulated around the gaming table over the years. Since this is my proverbial house, I’ll fess up first.

I really have no hardcore quirks or habits anymore. My post-game tea and cookie ritual is the weirdest one I still have. I’ll sometimes listen to the local radio station’s Sunday chamber music program on the way to the game, especially if I was rushing my way out the door and need to calm my head a bit before I reach where ever it is we’re playing that week, but that’s it for pre-game bugaboos. I’m also mostly free of dice phobias nowadays. The closest I come to strange dice habits is that I own two sets of Gamescience precision dice and I alternate between the sets each week to ensure maximum Zocchi-brand randomness.

Back in college, when I was still a smokin’ and drinkin’ man, I did have a little ritual I’d enact each week before my regular Vampire: The Masquerade game. Luckily, it wasn’t anything too geeky. There was no wearing of a velour cape and drinking a draught of absinthe from a skull goblet or anything like that. Instead, I’d drink one of the few remaining beers left over from Saturday night’s bacchanalia and light up a Camel Filter while listening to a Bauhaus track or two (OK, the Bauhaus thing is a little geeky). That was a fun little practice because even the players got into it. They knew that when that beer was cracked open and the lighter sparked, the role-playing magic was getting ready to begin. Just witnessing that got everybody into “Let’s play pretend mode” and some of those sessions were so much the better for it.

I don’t know if it’s age or simple lack of time, but most of my ritual baggage has long been discarded. That doesn’t necessarily mean I miss it from time to time.That’s my hang-up, baby.

What’s yours?

EDIT: I forgot one other game-related quirk my group has. That mini, the one on the left. It's cursed, you see. So far, every character that has used that miniature as a marker has died. I think the current tally is three or four slain characters. Right now, Rob is using it for Kaldar and seems determined to break the curse. I'm sure I'll get blamed for drawing the gaming gods' attention his way should Kaldar die after this post. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for him. It be good to break the curse.


Unknown said...

I hear you on the Bauhaus thing. Listening to Sisters, Bauhaus, Thrill Kill Kult, and similar tunes were also a ritual for pre-Vampire play. Same for techno/industrial music before cyberpunk games.

These days, I have little time for pre-game rituals. I'm lucky to hand of the kids to wife for some get last minute review of my notes before heading to a session.

As for dice rituals: I'm not remotely superstitious. I simply pick the color of dice based on my mood of the day or which set I haven't used in a while.

One more thing...

During sessions, we seem to always order Thai food. It has become so common as to be weird when it doesn't happen.

Unknown said...

My favorite quirk is from another player at the table. We play Pendragon. This player is well known for fumbling his passion roles; which almost inevitably leads to a string of visions, madness and disappearance of his character for a while. For his passion rolls he has a humongous d20. The player tosses his big d20 across the room and everyone jumps up to see the result.

Its quite hilarious when he fumbles - but, I'm the GM so I love fumbled rolls from players.

Welcome to Dungeon! said...

I'm not much of a creature of habit, but, I just want to say that Bauhaus is a great band. Roll out Hollow Hills for D&D maybe to get that VTM bad taste out of the mouth!

Kevin Mac said...

Studying that stuff back in the day really taught me a lot about folk magic and Sympathetic magic. Salt of the earth stuff!

1d30 said...

We slash open a bag of Cheetos, hunched over its corpse and stuffing our faces with both hands. We glare at each other as cheese-flavored dust cakes our clawlike fingers and gaping, ruminating maws.

Well we used to.

It's not the same since we made the switch to Pringles.

Anonymous said...

We used to put on the Conan soundtrack during any big battle.

I have a fetish for arranging my dice with the highest numbers facing up.

We have a whiteboard on a tripod which we use for initiative & such, and it also houses a death count for the players. Going back to the establishment of the group back in 2002, I think, we have a tally of how many times each of us has had a character die. I'm in second place with eight or nine, IIRC.