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

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Philosophically, I don't see the dice as there to introduce uncertainty; they're there to keep things fair.

Remember: Roleplaying is really just playing Pretend with rules, and the rules are there to get rid of the 'I shot you! No you didn't I used a magic shield and it bounced it back, so you're the one who is shot. Nu-huh! MOOOOOOOOM' issue that is how most good pretend games inevitably end up in.

So the dice are there to keep people from just declaring stuff against the other players' will. Which to me means that sometimes when everyone agrees, we can and should just say 'stuff the dice' and let cool stuff happen.
I don't think that is a compelling argument since 99% of play is cooperative. There isn't really a "moooooom" moment as you describe it. The GM is ultimately cooperating with the players, even when pitting monsters and other hazards against them. And if that weren't the case, no amount t of dice could make it even approach "fairness".
 

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DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
This seems to implicate some common ways of playing D&D (fudging, curated arcs/APs) more so than “story” games. I like the idea of letting the dice decide (e.g., the referee is reminded about it in my homebrew system), but I don’t think it’s a popular or common way of playing modern D&D. If the dice go the wrong way, there’s going to be am impetus to fudge or take some action (boss has drama-dependent hit points, etc) to prevent the result from messing things up. For those who like that way, the drama dice provide is more important than the randomness.
The reason why I come in so hot on these threads is because as time goes on and the D&D community gets larger and younger, I actually see the direction of dungeon mastery advice online moving away from fudging die results, dungeon master screens, and even theater of the mind play, as a sort of weird moral directive. The dialogue gets pretty ugly.

This deeply concerns me, because I think systems abstraction (or, if you prefer, fudging) is a fundamental responsibility of the dungeon master. Now that ChatGPT can walk a player through an adaptive original version of "Zork," it's become ever more important to illustrate how important an empowered dungeon master is to the rules-dice-human adjudication tripod.

I disagree that it is a question of drama vs. consequence. One doesn't fudge every die roll. One doesn't even fudge most die rolls. It's a considered, handcrafted approach that should only be used when it is the right thing to do for the enjoyment of the table, because the rules and dice do not take this factor into account. Determining when it is right, and when it is not, and what "enjoyment" means for each table, is one of the things that separates good dungeon masters from great dungeon masters.

Rolling in secret has been a part of the game since the very beginning, for exactly this reason. The dungeon master must be honest with their table upfront whether or not they fudge die rolls, and players have to come to trust their dungeon master's management of the game and understanding of their needs enough to permit it, in order for everyone to have the full experience of the game.

On occasion, the best way to honor trust is to break it.

From the 1979 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master Guide, page 110, "Conducting the Game":
It is your right to control the dice at any time and to roll dice for the players. You might wish to do this to keep them from knowing some specific fact. You also might wish to give them an edge in finding a particular clue, e.g. a secret door that leads to a complex of monsters and treasures that will be especially entertaining. You do have every right to overrule the dice at any time if there is a particular course of events that you would like to have occur. In making such a decision you should never seriously harm the party or a non-player character with your actions.
This ain't a new-school idea.
 



Reynard

Legend
Supporter
The reason why I come in so hot on these threads is because as time goes on and the D&D community gets larger and younger, I actually see the direction of dungeon mastery advice online moving away from fudging die results, dungeon master screens, and even theater of the mind play, as a sort of weird moral directive. The dialogue gets pretty ugly.

This deeply concerns me, because I think systems abstraction (or, if you prefer, fudging) is a fundamental responsibility of the dungeon master. Now that ChatGPT can walk a player through an adaptive original version of "Zork," it's become ever more important to illustrate how important an empowered dungeon master is to the rules-dice-human adjudication tripod.

I disagree that it is a question of drama vs. consequence. One doesn't fudge every die roll. One doesn't even fudge most die rolls. It's a considered, handcrafted approach that should only be used when it is the right thing to do for the enjoyment of the table, because the rules and dice do not take this factor into account. Determining when it is right, and when it is not, and what "enjoyment" means for each table, is one of the things that separates good dungeon masters from great dungeon masters.

Rolling in secret has been a part of the game since the very beginning, for exactly this reason. The dungeon master must be honest with their table upfront whether or not they fudge die rolls, and players have to come to trust their dungeon master's management of the game and understanding of their needs enough to permit it, in order for everyone to have the full experience of the game.

On occasion, the best way to honor trust is to break it.

From the 1979 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master Guide, page 110, "Conducting the Game":

This ain't a new-school idea.
All of that is true, but in my experience the net benefit of letting the dice fall where they may is greater.

That said, I do think people assume that is "old school" as opposed to simple preference, and I think it is good to disabuse them of that notion.
 



EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
For the record planning can be fun. One of the strengths of D&D with its low but not non-existent level of randomness, and its deliberately pre-chosen spell slots is that you can and should plan - and D&D enables that in ways that something more random and anarchic like Apocalypse World doesn't allow precisely because there is so much randomness and plans will inevitably go off the rails pretty fast. Also by providing things like weights and carrying capacity that add detail that isn't overwhelming. The only RPGs I can think of that are as good for planning as D&D are Fate (where part of the planning is racking up meta-currency so the final boss just gets a six inch high pile of chips dropped on them) and Leverage or Blades in the Dark where you have explicit flashback scenes to bring things back to plan. Oh, and GURPS, which can contain formulas involving squares of cube roots.

And this is why I say that randomness in the right place is good - and not having randomness is good, depending what you want.
I had assumed "plan" was referring to the DM activity, rather than the players coordinating.

I don't see how the distribution of the roll plays a major part here.
The player has (IIRC) +1 WIS (Wisdom modifier.) Wisdom is the attribute which applies to Discern Realities. As a result, a "bad" roll happens whenever the dice plus that modifier are 6-, aka when the roll is 5 or less. P(2d6≤5) = 15/36 ≈ 41.67%. Yet full success (roll+MOD is 10+) happens some 27.78% (10/36) of the time, so even though the character isn't great at Wisdom things, he still has a good shot at better results and a good chance of stumbling. With maximum ordinary modifier (+3), it becomes 16.67% chance to miss/fail, 41.67% chance of partial success, and 58.33% chance of full success.

Is that more useful?
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
But the big take away is that most d20 rolls are pretty low stakes (e.g., "I swing a sword") but there are a lot of rolls so it balances out over the course over the session: i.e., low stakes but a high volumes of d20 rolls.
Again, though, this misses the point. What sucks about swing in an TTRPG isn't that it is unfair, it's that it reduces or eliminates the impact of player choice in character design. In D&D5, you don't get bonuses high enough to outweigh the impact of utter random chance in a +/-10 point range until around 8th level.

Being your character "on statistical average" is excruciatingly lame. Players should be their characters with each and every action, from 1st level on.

Sir, I refer to you the entirety of this board and the 'DM's way or the highway' culture as my counter argument.
And I refer you to r/rpghorrorstories and the rising wave of player entitlement as the community grows.

I further refer you to the ridiculous and insulting "dungeon master shortage" phenomenon, although that is only tangentially related.

D&D is a collaborative game, it doesn't mean players naturally become masters of collaboration, or even passably mediocre at it.
 


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