View Full Version : Talking myself into leting players roll all the dice

Bad Hair Day
2016-03-15, 02:20 AM
Players Roll All The Dice

If an experienced swordsman, Art, is in a combat with another swordsman, Bill, the fight will go on for a few rounds, possibly even several rounds if both of them have a lot of hit points. During this time, if Art has a strong attack that hits Bill, but in the next round Art has a weak attack that doesn’t hit Bill, Bill is going to be able to sense which of Art’s attacks are stronger than the others. This is the first reason that I’ve always thought that the players ought to have an idea what the DM is rolling when he is rolling for attacks on the PC’s.

On the other hand, for a player to know “a 15 hits me but a 14 misses me” is a LOT of information, and that level of precision is probably beyond what a PC could know. Also, if the player sees the die rolls then that robs the chance for the DM to alter a die roll. I’ve never heard of a DM change a roll to cause the death of a PC, but I’ve heard of many DM’s change a roll to avoid the death of a PC. Players grow attached to their PC’s, and DM’s are friends with the players, so it’s only natural that DM’s act this way.

Personally, I never liked that. In order to feel a great reward one has to face a great risk. I’m happy to take on risks as a player with a PC, some that risk death more than others. But if I make a decision to risk death and then the DM “cheats” (personally I would remove the quotation marks, but they are there because that’s the way most people look at it in this situation. And I understand that- in a different situation I don’t think that a “white lie” is a lie in the moral sense.) to save the PC from the death he should have gotten by taking that risk, then what was I really risking anyways? Knowing a DM might cheat to help me cheapens all the rewards I might earn as a PC.

Furthermore, this gives me a false sense of reality. If I survive things I ought not to survive, then I am going to grow bolder as a result. Now I’m not even living in reality anymore. I know that the whole game is a fantasy game anyways, but if the internal rules of the fantasy game aren’t being adhered to, then I may as well just sit at home and read a book or write a story because without the imposition of the rules of the game then I don’t feel as if I am accomplishing anything at all.

The biggest problem I had with D&D and characters dying was that a character with 1 hit point can pick up a sword and be effective in combat, but a character with 0 hit points was dead and gone. There was no “grey area.” Once a PC got to 4th or 5th level, they could withstand a few hits in combat and they’d know when they were within one more hit of dying, so they’d know when it was time to retreat.

Nowadays, a PC isn’t dead until -10 hit points. Granted, a PC at -4 can’t do anything to save herself, but this is still a much wider “grey area” than there was in D&D 1.0. With this grey area, I think this is enough room for the players to maneuver and accept the added responsibility of rolling all the dice.

For combat, the player rolls a d20 and adds her AC to it. Her “Defense Roll” has to beat the “beater” number that the DM gives the player (the monster’s “to hit” plus 20).

The player will also roll the damage dice as appropriate.

This means that the players know how likely their attackers are to strike as well as how much damage they can dole out. This is some powerful information.

By giving the players this information, this means that I as the DM have the following expectations.

First, that the players have to recognize when they are overmatched. If a random encounter pits a Challenge Rating 8 monster against a 4th level party, I am not going to fudge any numbers to help the party out. I expect them to quickly recognize that they are overmatched in the combat and to do their best to retreat. I will make sure that a 1st level party doesn’t face the same Challenge Rating 8 monster in such a way that the monster will dole out the instant death to at least one PC before the party is able to act on their information. However, I do expect that at all times the party will be paying close attention to whether they are overmatched or not.

Also, if the party is in a “fair combat” (where the Challenge Rating is within 1 of the party’s level) but the PC’s are rolling 1’s all the time, then I expect them to be able to see for themselves where the battle has turned against them and for them to retreat accordingly. By allowing everyone to see all the dice rolls, it is simply not fair for me to change a die roll, even if doing so would help the party.

This puts the party in the position of having to be much more cautious in combat, especially in the early rounds until they have been able to ascertain the situation.

Second, when I am playing the monsters in combat, I am going to be much more careful in directing and organizing the attack upon the party. I am not going to hold back. If I have an opportunity to kill a PC, I will. I think most DM’s hesitate to kill a PC at the first opportunity they have to do so. I know I do. But by putting the dice rolling into the hands of the players, this gives them a lot of information. I’m happy to do that, but in giving that what I take back is the chance to be more bloodthirsty in attacking PC’s. I will not hesitate to kill a PC when given the chance.

This means that the players will have to be more conservative. I think this is a good thing, because it also gives them a better sense of just how far they are pushing the odds when they do so.

Also, I intend to give the PC’s more options in a combat as well. Few combats that they choose to go into will be the sort where they absolutely must win and kill all the enemies. If they want to avoid a combat, there will be options about how to achieve the goal without combat (although the “workaround” may not be easy nor quick, but it will be there). Unless, of course, they simply want the Dragon’s pile of gold. Goals like that are pretty much “combat to the death” anyways.

2016-03-15, 03:11 AM
There's an option for how to do this in 3.5 in Unearthed Arcana, where the players roll Defense checks against enemy attacks. (Each enemy's Attack Class is 10+Str/Dex according to weapon+BAB+Other bonuses) the players roll 1d20+dex+Armor Bonus+Shield Bonus+Other bonuses.

So a goblin with BAB of +1 using a bow that has a dex bonus of +2 would attack the character. (Attack check 13)
Lofnir the Fighter with a Max Dex of +1 (I think?) From plate armor, +6 Armor from the same armor, and +4 from his heavy shield would roll 1d20+11, so he needs to roll a 2 or better (good luck, Goblin.)

It functions the same mathematically, it just makes the players do all the rolling. (And you don't have to tell them the Attack Check of the monster any more than you tell them the Armor Class.)

Not sure if this fits your needs, though.

2016-03-15, 03:37 AM
One of the best things about Lost Souls as a game was it had a fair implementation of this mechanic.

Player Characters have numeric stats and skills (as in most systems).
When a character tries an action (e.g. attack, defend, climb, sing) they roll D% and reference a table based on the appropriate stat/skill.
This generates one of ten results: Catastrophic, Pathetic, Feeble, Inferior, Poor, Passable, Good, Great, Superior, Awesome.
If nothing else applies that is five levels of success and five of failure.
Now NPCs and monsters don't have numeric stats - they simply have descriptions, e.g. 'Great Strength', 'Poor Defence'.
When there is competition between a PC and an NPC the player rolls dice to get a result and the result is compared to the NPC's rating - it the player's result is better the player wins, if worse the NPC/monster wins. The number of categories difference (i.e. from 'Poor' to 'Great' is three categories) reflects how well they won - e.g. in a wrestle the loser being pinned for 3 rounds.
Most weapons have a multiplier (well all, if you count ×1 as a multiplier) and for combat the number of columns is multiplied by this to get the amount of damage done.

Simple - and actually quite good fun to play.

2016-03-15, 12:34 PM
I feel like a lot of what you're looking for can also be achieved simply by having all rolls out in the open, no other changes needed. I mean, if the GM rolls open on the table rather than behind a screen, this also ensures that the dice cannot be fudged, right?

Anyway, as a counter point I'd like to mention that many rolls are hidden from the Players in order to maintain a bit of mystery and suspense, especially if the GM is rolling the PC's saves vs traps or ambushes/surprise attacks. Not that this justifies one playstyle over another, I only mention it as a food-for-thought about some of the other areas of gameplay that may be impacted by a change such as this.

2016-03-15, 02:05 PM
In many ways as a 3.5 DM I like to roll attack rolls where the players can see them (though I don't usually do so) - it gives the PCs an idea of how easily (or not) their opponents are hitting them. Something that I think should be apparent to a trained warrior. The problem is I don't what the players to know the actual attack bonus, I think the ideal there is to know (or ask) the PC's AC and be able to say "hit" or "miss" just from the dice result. This way the players will know that they can be hit on a "2" if I roll a "2" but not if I roll a "10".
Conversely I don't like to do the same for damage, which, on thinking about it, doesn't make as much sense - the logic is the same but I take it to a different result.

The way we normally play is to roll the dice in secret and then ask 'does an "x" hit your AC?' This works, but I think if the dice were rolled openly it would give too much information away.
That said, I have tried encouraging PCs to assess an opponent's relative combat skill (Base Attack Bonus) as it relates to theirs - they never bothered to ask, not for a single opponent.

The Grue
2016-03-15, 04:52 PM
I've never understood the aversion some DMs have to letting players know basic numbers. I roll monster attacks out in the open where anyone can see them - and if my players ask I'll tell them what the total is because it's a matter of simple arithmetic to solve a monster's attack bonus if you know the roll and your AC.

"Okay, my AC is 20 and this guy hit me on a roll of 12, but missed on a 9. That means his bonus to attack is between +8 and +10".

For monster AC values, I straight up tell my players what the target number is because solving for that is just as easy, and saying "Your target AC is 15" speeds things up because the player can respond by saying hit or miss, rather than "well I rolled a 3 but with my attack bonus and all these buffs my total is 25". Same with player saving throws.

2016-03-15, 11:26 PM
many rolls are hidden from the Players in order to maintain a bit of mystery and suspense, especially if the GM is rolling the PC's saves vs traps or ambushes/surprise attacks.

Or Sense Motive checks! When the GM says "The leader is telling the truth", but the player knows a 2 was rolled on Sense Motive, what's the point of having skills in Sense Motive when the player already knows the leader is lying?

2016-03-16, 08:05 AM
Or Sense Motive checks! When the GM says "The leader is telling the truth", but the player knows a 2 was rolled on Sense Motive, what's the point of having skills in Sense Motive when the player already knows the leader is lying?
It can be how good a roll player the Player is. For some groups I would roll the Sense Motive for them for others I trust to roll play

Generally at the start of a combat I dont tell them the DC roll esp if its something they have not fought before, but will into the combat tell them as it helps speed it up. (Important NPCs/BBEG are separate from this)

If you want more options in combat and 3.5 is not realistic enough then change the system you use. GURPS allows a lot of options

2016-03-16, 08:07 AM
It can be how good a roll player the Player is. For some groups I would roll the Sense Motive for them for others I trust to roll play

Why "roll play" as opposed to "roleplay"?

2016-03-16, 12:09 PM
It is also worth noting that the rules specifically allow for the DM to make the Sense Motive check secretly. This would make it an exception to the general principle of rolling the dice openly.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that all rolls be made openly, just most. Sense Motive is a special case so not a good example to use for this discussion.

Personally as a DM if I rolled a "2" for a player's roll I would probably go with "you have no idea" rather than "you don't think they are lying".