Saturday, July 25, 2020

What Are Your Character's Superstitions?

Arlon carefully wound the small, silk favor round his sword arm. It was a strange thing to see a man so large, and wearing so much steel, banded by a soft red ribbon edged with lace, and smelling of a lady's perfume.

"Why do you do that?" Durgon asked, drawing his whetstone across the head of his ax.

"It's tradition," Arlon said, snugging the knot into the hollow of his elbow. "Death is scared of a warrior favored, because it means he's already been claimed."

"Drek," Durgon said, shaking his shaggy head. "But if it makes you happy, who am I to stop you?"

Arlon smiled, and shook his head. Whether at his own foolishness, his friend's lack of faith, or simply thinking of his lady, it was hard to say.

You always make your mark. Stops the fey from laying their wiles on your blade.

What Superstitions Does Your Character Believe?

For those who didn't catch it recently, my supplement 100 Superstitions For a Fantasy Setting from Azukail Games dropped this month, and it's a topic that's been on my mind a lot of late. Because with all of the forces and powers that run rampant through our fantasy settings, all the different gods great and small that fill the world, and all the cultures spread out over it, one would think that we would have more little tics and quirks than we do. But often times these odd little beliefs don't show up until long into a campaign, if they're ever present at all.

Never harm a goat, or bad luck will cross your path.
Take a moment and think about what superstitions you have. Where did you pick them up? Can you even remember? Because whether you avoid cracks on the sidewalk, you always throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder, or you skip the thirteenth step on your staircase, we've all got our odd little habits. And they say something about us, our culture, and the things we believe.

Where Do Superstitions Come From?

Superstitions are, generally speaking, a way for us to feel like we're exerting control over the chaos of the world. Small rituals or beliefs that let us feel like we can predict a pattern, or manipulate things to our advantage in some minor way. Whether that means wearing your team's jersey without washing it every game day for a season, blowing on your dice before you roll, or putting your girlfriend's pantyhose around your neck to protect yourself from sniper fire like we saw in The Things They Carried, people will latch onto all kinds of things if they feel it gives them even a little control.

Sometimes these superstitions take the form of hedge magic charms, such as little sayings or hand gestures like throwing up the first and last fingers to ward off the evil eye. Sometimes it's a religious quirk, such as blessing someone when they sneeze to prevent a demon from getting inside them while they're undefended. Other times it's spun up whole cloth, or sparked by some random coincidence like how you always roll your dice after three shakes in the dice cup because of that one time you got a triple crit that way.

Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.
The question you need to ask is what views, beliefs, etc. has your character picked up from their culture, their family, their friends, and their experiences?

As an example, did your character name their weapon because it's believed that such names grant power and spirit to a blade, spear, or hammer? And did they do that because it's tradition in their culture, or did they once adventure with a companion who insisted their sword had to be named after spilling so much blood carving their way through an ambush in the mountains?

That's just one possible instance that might be common among those who experience the rougher side of the adventurer's life. But everything from wearing a certain flower, to carrying a playing card, to getting a particular tattoo, to just meeting certain creatures in the world could easily become a superstition. Whether it's rubbing a tiefling's horns for luck, or wearing a blessed vial of holy water around your neck to ward off bad spirits, superstitions can take all sorts of strange and bizarre forms.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when it comes to our fantasy settings, though, is that superstitions don't have to be fake. With all of the magic and gods inherent to these settings, your character's superstitions could very well manifest through their class features. An evoker who believes orc or infernal is a more potent language might prepare all their metamagic spells using said language. Leaving out offerings for fey might actually draw their attention in certain parts of the map, and get them to do a character a good turn as thanks. A flawed magic item that requires blood to maintain its magic will, in fact, need to taste blood at least once a day if it is to maintain its killing edge.

So remember, just because a superstition might be silly, that doesn't mean it isn't doing something.

Additional Reading and Inspiration

If you enjoyed this week's thoughts, as well as the supplement that inspired them, you might want to check out the following as well:

- 13 Fiends: A Baker's Dozen of Devils: If you want unique fiends to tie to your superstitions, as well as a few rituals to go with them, then the in-depth coverage of these 13 infernal figures will be right up your alley!

- 100 Cults To Encounter: Whether your character was raised by a cult, or simply chose to be a member for a time, sometimes the lessons you learn in these faiths are hard to shake.

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That's all for this week's Fluff post! If you've used this in your games, share a story down in the comments!

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