When most people think of luck in D&D, they think of rerolling dice. As discussed in 5e’s luckiest character in the world, you can manipulate your luck by rerolls and adding more rolls. However, what if as a DM you want to add luck without rolls? It may seem that the only way to do is with dice rolls, but that is not the case. In this article, I will go over how to add luck to your campaign.

What Is Luck?

Luck is not just winning the lottery; it saves us from a worse fate. Guessing the right answer on a multiple-choice question to pass a test, or stopping to tie your shoe as a baseball flies by your head are both examples of luck. If you have ever played elder scrolls oblivion, you would know about the luck stat. It does not have a stat line but affects everything you do. This could be winning bets in the arena or avoiding disease. The point of these examples is that luck has many different forms from obvious to not so much.

Lucky Forms

As shown in the examples above, luck has many different forms and severity. Of the many various types of luck, I categorize them into premonition, network, chance, happenstance, and timing. When thinking about how to add luck to your campaign, consider these forms. Remember, you can use one or all of these in varying amounts.

I created these five categories to help organize my when I am giving luck. When I add luck to my games, I use a mix to be attributed to a lucky star, while others are more subtle.

Lucky Premonition

This was the last of my categories added, but I consider one of the most influential since it shows players that they are lucky the most. As the name states, you get a sense of what is going on. For example

 “Your group is in a dungeon, and there are two paths. After some perception checks, your lucky character gets a glimpse of light reflecting off an object. Out of all the metal that can reflect the light, you see a pauldron consistent with full plate.”

Any regular character can see that piece of metal glimmering, but the lucky character could see what it was. This luck gives you a premonition of what you could face when you go down that path.

Another example is seeing a shadow coming from a room down the hall. You notice that it may be an elf due to when you were looking, it turned its head, and you saw the shadows of a pointy ear. 

This whole category is about what piece of information a character sees at the perfect moment. It is used in dungeons or exploration. This is used when your characters come across am impasse and need a push to go next.

Intimidating cat

Networking Takes More Luck Than Skill

This form of luck is used in interactions between people and can be very obvious or extremely subtle. Basically, if you say something stupid and it rolls off or accidentally aligns with the character’s personality, then this the category it is under. These interactions can vary drastically due to the character being insulted to breaking out into a fit of laughter. However, this category can also be diminished, just like in real life, if you understand the person you are dealing with. For example 

“You head into a small village in hopes of working out a way to stop the destruction of the nearby forest. You meet the chief who won’t budge. The druid decides to intimidate him and transforms into a tiger. The chief instantly agrees and runs back inside.” 

The players did not know that the chief had a bad experience with cats and was terrified of them. A normal intimidate may have not worked, but threatening as a cat worked out well.

When adding luck in this form, you don’t need to have a developed character. The chief does not have to be afraid of cats before the druid tries to intimidate but is a great character quirk afterward. A few of you may have noticed is that this category of luck is also reactionary. Unlike with premonition, you already know what is there, network is based on what the players try to do. Suppose you want to add this category to your campaign. In that case, the trick is to add it when you feel thematically correct, or a do or die situation. 

Chance Is The Luck Everyone Wants.

As everyone suspects’ chance is the odds going in your favor. Whether it is a game of cards to betting on a drinking game with a dwarf, anything with foreseeable odds counts. While gambling as the two examples above is the primary use of this category, it is not all. 

“Your journey takes you across a frozen bridge when about halfway there, you discover that part of it has collapsed. It is far enough that you can barely make it but one wrong move and you are made for. You can try to backtrack, but it will take you a few weeks.” 

This is another example that comes up quite a bit. If the players take the chance, and luck is with them, they will be safe, but they could all die. 

When using this category, remember that unlike the other groups, rolls are usually involved. Still, luck comes into play outside the rolls. This can be with an intentionally lowered DC for a specific character, or an event happens where they auto succeed. 

What’s Happening With Happenstance

Happenstance can also be called a coincidence. These are events where things just “happen” one way or another. These events can happen everywhere and are things that don’t work out the way people expect, whether it be good or bad. Here is an example. 

“Your group is traveling down an empty mine shaft looking for a legendary pickaxe when your paladin spots a series of pressure plates. You can identify that if triggered, they will bring down an ax cleaving anyone in their path. The rogue goes to disarm in knowing that if everything goes wrong, they will lose their head. Unfortunately, the rogue fails and waits for the inevitable, but it doesn’t happen. Upon inspection, you see that the ax’s opening is covered in roots stopping the ax.” 

As you can see, everything was set the go the way players expect, but by luck, nature got in the way.

This is a reliable category to use, even if you do not want to use all the rest. Because you can subvert expectations, your players may think something terrible will happen when there was no chance. This always gets a good reaction. In addition to subverting expectations, I would use this if you want to give players a sense of failing badly without any risk.

Inexplicable Timing

The right place at the right time, whether it is lucky for you is another story. As you can guess, this is when the universe aligns for the most fortunate or unfortunate moment. As an example. 

“Your party spent weeks studying the mansion’s layout, guard routes, blind spots, the works. It is decided that the best bet on the east wall is to wait until the owner has their harvest party to sneak in and steal his ID card. All you have to do is knock out the guard that is stationed there and hid them. They will be in one of three spots, and you have a plan on what to do for each one. The day arrives, and you get to the wall, the first one over realizes that the guard is nowhere to be seen. You take this opportunity to sneak in and grab the card. On your way out, the last one sees the guard dealing with a disorderly guest and escorts them off the premise. With him distracted, you have an easy time sneaking over the wall with the bonus of not knowing the guard.”

The timing was perfect. If the group had started an hour earlier, the guard would have been there, and if he was called and didn’t respond, it would have raised alarms. However, the guard was called away, leaving no evidence that they were there since they did not attack the guard.

This is the luck many of us experience, walking down a street and see the wind blow money towards you, hitting every green light when in a rush. When adding this, remember that timing can cut both ways. If they started earlier, the heist would have gone worse than expected; however, they got the inverse because of when they started.

How To Incorporate The Categories Into Your Campaign

We covered each category and what I use it for, but it’s important to remember being lucky can happen anywhere. I initially created them for a game where luck can be power (picture Domino from Marvel) but can be used with any system. These groups may not seem important; however, I created them to help organize my thoughts and ideas on luck. If you got the organization down pat, then feel free to not use it. I personally use them to help with mixing up the types of luck players run into.

When I want to add luck, I make sure that I haven’t used it for a while, so players don’t get used to it (I usually have a minimum five-session gap between them). Unless a category works really well in a situation, I will alternate between them to keep the instances of luck fresh.

Remember, most of the time, it is up to you when you want to add a bit of luck. While some of it can be preplanned like premonition and happenstance, it will often be off the cuff. I would avoid using it as a crutch to let the players escape a lousy moment. Instead, you should use it more as a story point, like with the intimidate example earlier. 

Most of these do not use rolls; it is just something that happens and is up to the DM’s discretion on when and what happens.

Luck is a relatively easy concept to add. If you are having trouble coming up with examples, just look at things that happen in your life and incorporate them into your campaign. It can be significant events, or minor convinces that help push the characters in a direction.

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