D&D General Hot Take: Uncertainty Makes D&D Better

Reynard

Legend
Specifically, uncertainty in potential results. Swinginess. Random happenings because the dice get a mind of their own. That sort of thing.

I have played and like some "story" games, but one thing many of them lack is uncertainty. Their mechanics tend to favor participants being able to say things that become true in the fiction (even if they don't call it that).

I prefer when participants in D&D (and similar "trad" games) say what they would like to be the case, and then the dice decide how that turns out. That goes for the GM, too, btw -- the GM being subject to the same uncertainty is equally important in creating a truly surprising and novel experience.

This isn't to say that no participants should have certain choices. I think players should get to design their characters without having to deal with dice, and GMs should be able to build the initial conditions of play (the "situations") with as much or as little random information as they desire. But once play starts, I say roll those bones in the open and stick by what they say, whether it's a random encounter with an ancient wyrm (don't forget to roll reaction!) or the BBEG gets one shotted by the torch bearer.
 

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Pedantic

Legend
I'm gonna go with a tentative "yes, but..." take here.

Yes, it's good to have a random mediator for results and risk in the game, but players should be expected to try and mitigate it, and allowed to be rewarded for doing so. It's okay that you cast spider climb and don't have to make an Athletics check now, because you made an evaluation about the value of that spell slot and spent a resource to eliminate a risk, or even it's okay that your specialist rogue can't fail that climb check, because they're good at climbing.
 

Exactly! And that's why the success/failure should be determined by a d20, i.e. a single die. Damage however doesn't need to be as swingy and can be done with a bunch of dice.
 



Reynard

Legend
I need ways to slay the dice when it actually matters. The illusion of randomness is all well and good, but actual randomness? Not so much. Or at all.
Could you define "when it actually matters" please? I don't want to respond when I don't know exactly what you are saying.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Specifically, uncertainty in potential results. Swinginess. Random happenings because the dice get a mind of their own. That sort of thing.

I have played and like some "story" games, but one thing many of them lack is uncertainty. Their mechanics tend to favor participants being able to say things that become true in the fiction (even if they don't call it that).

I prefer when participants in D&D (and similar "trad" games) say what they would like to be the case, and then the dice decide how that turns out. That goes for the GM, too, btw -- the GM being subject to the same uncertainty is equally important in creating a truly surprising and novel experience.
I'm with you up to here.
This isn't to say that no participants should have certain choices. I think players should get to design their characters without having to deal with dice,
But you lose me here. IMO there needs to be some (or a lot of?) randomness in character generation to avoid a) all the characters ending up mechanically the same (balance can be taken too far) and-or b) players gaming the system to overpower their characters.
and GMs should be able to build the initial conditions of play (the "situations") with as much or as little random information as they desire. But once play starts, I say roll those bones in the open and stick by what they say, whether it's a random encounter with an ancient wyrm (don't forget to roll reaction!) or the BBEG gets one shotted by the torch bearer.
And now I'm back in agreement with you. :)
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Specifically, uncertainty in potential results. Swinginess. Random happenings because the dice get a mind of their own. That sort of thing.

I have played and like some "story" games, but one thing many of them lack is uncertainty. Their mechanics tend to favor participants being able to say things that become true in the fiction (even if they don't call it that).

I prefer when participants in D&D (and similar "trad" games) say what they would like to be the case, and then the dice decide how that turns out. That goes for the GM, too, btw -- the GM being subject to the same uncertainty is equally important in creating a truly surprising and novel experience.

This isn't to say that no participants should have certain choices. I think players should get to design their characters without having to deal with dice, and GMs should be able to build the initial conditions of play (the "situations") with as much or as little random information as they desire. But once play starts, I say roll those bones in the open and stick by what they say, whether it's a random encounter with an ancient wyrm (don't forget to roll reaction!) or the BBEG gets one shotted by the torch bearer.
Generally agree as long as the DM is reasonably trying to balance calling for automatic success/failure and calling for checks. The smart play on the player's side is to avoid the d20 as much as possible because given half the chance it will kill you and everyone you've ever loved. If they can, the DM should let them proceed without a roll.

Fully agree on randomizing more things in the DM space. Give me more tables and whatnot for encounters, reactions, weather, the works. That's way more engaging as a DM to me than canned prep as I have to put on my thinking cap to figure out how it fits the immediate situation. This sort of improvisation results in outcomes I probably couldn't have prepared for.
 

Reynard

Legend
But you lose me here. IMO there needs to be some (or a lot of?) randomness in character generation to avoid a) all the characters ending up mechanically the same (balance can be taken too far) and-or b) players gaming the system to overpower their characters.
I think the only kind of PC balance that matters in lateral (ie between PCs) and random stats etc exacerbate balance problems of that sort. A PC can't be unbalanced for my game -- because I am running it. The power imbalance is so extreme in RPGs that it isn't a worry.

You do suggest an important point though: if the core game system is easily broken, then intended uncertainty can be eliminated by leveraging poorly designed elements of play -- +40 to a d20 roll in a game where 35 is "nigh impossible" for example.
 

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