D&D General Disclaiming Decisions: Why We Roll Dice


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niklinna

satisfied?
I have a strong quibble with "Disclaim Decisions". I feel moreso that they are neutral arbitrators. When two parties are in conflict, rolling the dice accounts for unseen factors and helps to determine outcomes in a non-biased manner. You inputed the chance, and the dice computed the outcome without emotion or further diagnosis of logic.
If you have two parties in conflict, having either party decide the outcome clearly has certain issues. Even then, though, there are games that do have rules for assigning/winning/negotiating that authority, such as one person gets to decide who wins, but the other person narrates how that happens.

Anyhow, giving odds and randomly determining the outcome of a conflict is widely regarded as a neutral way of handling it. But who decides the odds? In practice decisions at that level are rarely disclaimed or put to randomization (as prompts). Depending on the nature of the factor and its place in the narrative, it could be the GM or the player. The numeric value of the factor can also be determined by rules, or by either GM or player.

I am also reminded, from another thread going on, about how GM and player negotatie position & effect in Blades in the Dark (including narration in advance of possible outcomes), and how the player can garner extra dice.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
As usual, I have my...issues...with dice as Props, but I will leave those aside for the good of the thread.

I do think there's space for one more area wherein dice matter, which doesn't fit well into any of the existing categories: Dice (or other RNG sources) as Gradients. That is, dice give us the possibility of having more than a binary outcome, more than just yes/no, win/lose, etc. Damage dice are obviously one of the most common examples of gradient dice, but PbtA games have their three grades of success (which I personally have extended to a fourth grade), and Pathfinder 2e has a more clear, direct form of fumble/fail/pass/crit than is typical in d20 systems. Those are both examples that combine some form of prompt (success vs failure) with gradient (degrees of success.) In most cases like this, the tone and focus of the action is already defined, but exactly how it cashes out remains in question, unlike a usual "prompt"-style role, where there are numerous completely disparate possible results (e.g. rolling up an NPC with various quirks or rolling up a random treasure.)

Gradient stuff doesn't see as much presence in D20 games, but is rather more significant in, say, White Wolf's Storyteller games or in the various editions of Shadowrun, where you have dice pools, and usually need to hit a certain number of successes (and may get more benefits for more successes.)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I’m not sure there is disagreement (at least on my end).

I don’t think there would ever be an occasion when a “to hit” (as in an zoomed-in move using actual task resolution) roll would fall under Disclaim Decisions. That would definitely be Prompt. Now you may (or not) go to a randomizer to decide which of 3 moves to make before the “to hit” roll (whereby you’ve got a relatively atomized interaction in the gamestate vs zoomed out conflict resolution - like resolving the weekly or monthly change in a Faction War in Blades).

Disclaim Decisions is procedural content generation. Which thing is employed or how does this thing manifest (perhaps not at all)? When you don’t know and system or GM principles tells you “stay out of it”, you go to dice to find out.
Of course it's disclaiming a decision. We need to know if Bob's fighter hits the troll. Unless everyone is cool with either the GM or Bob or Suzy just saying what happens, we need some way to not decide and let something else tell us what happens. That's disclaiming a decision -- literally denying claim or authority over it.

It's also, in D&D and lots of other systems, a prompt, in that the result is pretty light on detail and so it prompts us to fill it in. It's both -- we disclaim the decision to say if Bob's fighter hits, and we also get a prompt to narrate some more fiction -- Bob's fighter hits, but how?

@prabe, @Stormonu, I hope this helps you understand what I'm saying.
 



niklinna

satisfied?
Of course it's disclaiming a decision. We need to know if Bob's fighter hits the troll. Unless everyone is cool with either the GM or Bob or Suzy just saying what happens, we need some way to not decide and let something else tell us what happens. That's disclaiming a decision -- literally denying claim or authority over it.
And there are some decisions—like to-hit rolls—where tradition is very, very strongly on the side of rolling the dice in many games. Again, Bladesin the Dark is a notable exception there! You could go blow-by-blow with it, but it's usually not done that way, when combat even comes up in that game.

It's also, in D&D and lots of other systems, a prompt, in that the result is pretty light on detail and so it prompts us to fill it in. It's both -- we disclaim the decision to say if Bob's fighter hits, and we also get a prompt to narrate some more fiction -- Bob's fighter hits, but how?
Ah, this helps clarify the difference between prompt & disclaim decision a bit.

Edit: Fixed a typo.
 
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prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
So, what sorts of things do you base such decisions on?
My understanding of reality, my understanding of the narrative needs of the scene, and my understanding of how those relate to the rules of the game.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Choosing to introduce uncertainty is itself a decision.
Okay. There's nothing here that says there aren't choices made by people. This is talking about using dice or a game mechanic. So unless the choice is through dice... not the topic.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Ok, obviously some people are taking issue with the terminology “disclaim decisions.” Personally, I don’t take issue with the term, but if I learned one thing from the jargon thread it’s that the wrong choice of terminology can completely ruin an otherwise useful theoretical framework for people. And I think that would be a shame to happen here because I think you’ve got something really interesting here and I would hate to see it dismissed over word choice.

All that said, I adore this framework.

One thing that immediately strikes me is that I think this speaks to one of the major sources of disagreement on these boards: player-initiated rolls. Under this lens, we could frame player-initiated rolls as players wanting to use the dice to (for want of a better term) “disclaim a decision” - letting the result of the roll stand-in for a description of what specifically their character is doing to search the room or whatever. On the flip side, when the GM calls for a roll in response to a player-described action, the GM is “disclaiming the decision” of what the result of that action will be.

Something I wonder about is where random tables lie in this framework. By that I mean things like random encounter tables, treasure horde tables, random event tables, weather tables, etc, etc. They seem to combine elements of prompting for the DM with “disclaiming the decision” of what monster shows up, or what treasure the PCs find, or what have you.
 
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