Saturday, November 30, 2013

Rolling Dice

In past campaigns I have used a GM screen to hide all of my dice rolls. I fudged the dice. This was done for a lot of different reasons; keeping the party alive, saving a PCs life, ensuring NPCs live long enough to share information, enhancing plot, minimizing poor player choices. Those days have come to an end.

When Spiderweb in the Corner finally gets kicked off next Thursday, the majority of rolls will be made in the open. No more hiding behind the GM screen. No more fudging. This will help keep the old school, adversarial feel that I am going for.

Flipping through GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 2 Dungeons I found only a half a dozen places where rolls are suggested to be made in secret. I'm sure I missed some, but they will will be addressed when they come up.

  • Watches - Here the purpose of rolling in secret is so that the PCs don't know when an attack is coming. I think this roll can be made in the open with little or no difference. If the players start taking crazy actions because they know the result of the roll, then it may need to be made in secret. In my group,  the opportunity to blame another PC for allowing the attack to happen on a failed watch roll, will just add to the fun.
  • Cartography - This one may need to stay in secret. One aspect of this game that I am looking forward to is the player's mapping. I have never gone this route before, always providing at least a stick map of the areas they have been through. With SitC, I am going to make the players map everything on their own.
  • Hidden doors - This roll can be made in the open. If a player declares that he is searching for hidden doors, he will be able to roll for himself. I will not tell the players any of the penalties or bonuses, and my standard response is and has been "You are relatively certain that there are no hidden doors in this room." this gives no indication of whether the gamer failed, or that there really are no hidden doors. If a player rolls a critical failure, I usually say "you are very certain there are no hidden doors in this room." or "You are convinced there is a hidden door somewhere in the room." and encourage the person to role play that fact to the rest of the group.
  • Traps - While DF2 assumes that the party is always looking for traps, I generally do not. If the players do not either add it to the SOP of the group, or state that they are specifically looking for traps, they will go unnoticed until sprung. If the players do state that they are looking, then the situation will be handled in the same way as a hidden door.
  • Danger sense - This one can be rolled in the open. Better to let the player know it was his own fault that he fell in the pit, with spikes, and fire ants. The problem here is that by having the player roll, he has some clue that there is danger about. This has to be handled in character.  If the player starts making crazy changes in the way the character is acting, then I will have to start rolling this in secret.
  • Recognition - Used to identify monsters, etc. in a dungeon. I think this one also can be rolled in the open. With my group, knowing that they are being lied to about the monster won't change their actions. If it starts to make a difference, then I will take this roll back behind the GM screen.
I am looking forward to all of the open rolling. In the past, fudging dice rolls always felt like cheating.  It feels more honest to roll in the open.  As a bonus, I suspect will be feeling less guilt when I kill off characters. (Note I said when, not if)

Prep work update: more monsters are ready, and the random monster encounter chart is about half finished. The big push is to get more rooms done.  I have been stocking them in an order I think the players will go, and all GMs know the PCs never do what you expect them to do.


  1. I personally don't fudge the die rolls - ever. My group had a GM like that (a player now after they nominated me the new GM). He barely even rolled the dice and when he did it never mattered because he just made up the number. On regime change one of my policies was simple "I'll roll out in the open unless there is a *very* specific reason why shouldn't and I'll tell you that reason." I've been doing that for the past 15 years and my players are very happy.

  2. Agreed on all accounts. If you can't trust your players to play right, why are you playing with them?