The dice tell the Story

Last session, I took one final plunge when it comes to die rolling – I thought it would be a big one, but actually it felt completely natural.

Since about a year I’ve begun rolling almost all rolls in the open; not only does it prevent me from fudging rolls, which I had vowed to stop but found extremely hard after having done so for far too long, but it is also a godsend in a deadly game such as mine. It clearly shows the players that I’m not killing their characters; monsters, traps and a cruel world is.

I held on to three rolls, however – search rolls (which I will keep for mechanical reasons), random encounter checks and rolling to determine which random encounter occurred. All of these still make my “fudging nerve” tickle though; they have a huge effect on game play and pacing. I do everything I can, but those random encounter checks when the party is leaving a dungeon and badly beaten or when we’re close to calling it a night; too hard.

duvanku_diceThe easy solution; open them up. I now simply tell the players it’s time for a check, and have them roll. Normally, they roll one die and the chance for an encounter is 1-in-6; if anything is different, I let them know before the roll. Instead of telling them the risk is greater than 1-in-6, I have them roll more dice; I have some beautiful dice with ornamental “ones” which work great in this situation (next session, the players will learn to fear the dreaded Duvan’Ku Dead Sign since my LotFP dice arrived!). I still determine what the encounter is and how it happens, but they know something is coming (or not, as some random encounters will flee the party, or perhaps just stalk them and wait for them to make camp, which adds even more to the tension).

It felt like a weight off my back. I really can’t recommend open die rolling enough – to everyone.

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4 thoughts on “The dice tell the Story

  1. I’ve been rolling my dice in the open for such a long time, I don’t really remember when it started. I remember *why* though — playing with fire or more players on cramped tables meant the DM screen often obscured what was directly in front of me, so I stopped using it. I rolled on the table with the rest of the players.

    Sometimes I still roll something off-table, or behind a cupped hand, but it happens only rarely, and is usually a bluff — except when someone tries to call it — one of the unwritten rules of my table is that anyone calling my bluff receives no mercy. If they don’t respect that the GM has final say, why aren’t they GMing?

    –Dither

    • I do still roll for a couple of things “off-screen” – notably search rolls and the results for random encounters (not the actual dice for determining IF the encounter occurs, but what is encountered). I’ve been toying around with ways of changing this, but I’m not sure how I’d do it yet… perhaps allowing the PCs to roll Search themselves won’t really break anything? I don’t think it’s a given that the little game of not knowing if something’s there or not really contributes anything to the game.

      • The main problem I’ve found with players rolling their own search/detect/identify skills, is they’re less likely to abide by the results than with say, attack rolls. The typical response I see to a botched Spot check is, “I look again.”

        I guess some rolls are better made behind the screen?

        –Dither

  2. I don’t really mind them searching again, actually – open search rolls would mean that the time management aspect of searching becomes more important than the “did we find what’s there?” aspect. Since I run very traditional “dungeon crawls”, taking another Turn to search again will usually not be taken lightly.

    The idea that just raced through my head is to roll Search openly, and allow searching again, but to disallow searching again if a 6 is rolled; if you roll a 6, your character is utterly convinced that there’s nothing there (even if there is) and you have to stop searching. It might work… but I have to consider it some more.

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