“Are…are you sure it’s okay to play here?” Jared Bowen, one of the usual players in Blaine Saunders’ Ruins and Rogues roleplaying group, shifted nervously in his chair. They were set up in the Frontier Books store that had once dominated downtown Hopewell, MI, surrounded by empty shelves and torn-up displays and walled off from the remaining functional parts of the store by still more empty shelves and torn-up displays.

“This place is going out of business in a month,” said Blaine irritably. “The fixtures are for sale. I bought this table and chairs that used to be in the Stubb’s coffee upstairs for fifty bucks, and until I con borrow my cousin Jimmy’s truck it stays here. Also, I’m assistant manager and about to lose my job after firing everyone who worked under me.” He tapped his soon-to-be-turned-in maroon vest for added effect.

“But still…I dunno…” squirmed Jared.

“Okay, look. There’s a shelf of gaming books by the exit. The Ruins and Rogues Adventurer’s Guidebook, the Creature Compendium, even the Interverse Guide, all 5th edition, all 40% off. Please buy one to support your local failing Frontier Books location. There, I even made a sales pitch. Are we cool now?”

“We’re cool,” said Neal Tate, Blaine’s other Ruins & Rogues veteran. “But just so you know, the 5th edition is the Antichrist. 2nd edition for life.”

“Of course.” Blaine rolled his eyes. Before he could continue setting up the gameboard and Adventure Master screen, he squawked at the sight of Neal placing a small–and bright international orange–bag of dice on the ex-Stubb’s table. “Whoa-whoa-whoa! What are you bringing out the Unholy Rollers for?”

Neal shrugged and dumped out the dice onto the table. “It’s supposed to be a fun game, right?”

The Unholy Rollers were dice that had become indisputably jinxed, a fact which all the players in Blaine’s group believed unquestionably. The Unholy Rollers would unerringly roll a low number when a high one was called for, or a low number when a high one was ideal–unless you anticipated the jinx, in which case it would refuse to work. Worst of all, the effect was contagious. There had been only one Unholy Roller to begin with, a bone-white d20 that had been given out as a tchotchke at a long-ago WyvernCon, but every dice it had come into contact with had acquired the curse. It was a cherished in-joke and a source of much humor among the players.

“Listen, Neal,” said Blaine. “I was able to get Rosetta McFadden to join us as our noob this campaign, okay? I have been working on turning her mild interest in boardgames into actually showing up for months, literally months. I held the game here specifically so she wouldn’t see my apartment–or, gods forbid, my parents’ place, which is where I’m headed when I get laid off and my rent check bounces. You’re not going to jinx me, or her, with the Unholy Rollers. Not this time.”

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