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

Like S&V, you mean? Careful.
Huh? BitD cannot be characterized as collaboratively decided outcome. Players propose moves their PC will make and the GM considers the fiction and proposes a position and effect, basically the risk and reward based on factors like relative tier, scale, quality and fictional position. The players can then elaborate by using inventory, assistance, leadership, special abilities, pushing, or accepting a devil's bargain as a consequence. Dice are then tossed. This is usually repeated several times per combat. There may also be resistance rolls.
None of that counters the point that it's still a cooperative experience. The dice can't create fairness in an encounter that was designed without it. The dice are there is provide uncertainty and therefore tension in an otherwise fair encounter. That's the whole point of the thread.
I'm not sure what fair means here. D&D nowadays generally assumes combat is winnable. BitD probably does too, most of the time though exactly what that means may be a bit different.

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Satan’s Echo Chamber! Muhahahaha
Mostly the same. But I'm also not interested in games where the odds are stacked in the PCs' favor. It seems like a waste of time. Unless there's real risk, why bother?
What I mean is that we don’t pull punches once the fight starts but we are not having players happen upon lichee in early levels.

The whole idea of dungeon levels and some notion of level appropriate challenges is pulling punches!

But I revel in a ranger trying to save his friends from a ghouls’ tunnel system: the dice fell where they fell! But had I succeeded! The glory! (I could have fled but rolled the dice literally and figuratively in that instance).


Victoria Rules
And the one and only way to address that in a small group environment is to achieve actual consensus. Not fake consensus, not bullying, not deception, actual consensus,
IME there is no such thing: in non-gaming spheres "building consensus" has always involved one or more of bullying, passive-aggressiveness, deception, and (later) resentment on the part of some or even all of those involved.
as in "the group agrees." If the DM cannot get the group to agree, the group shouldn't exist.
Indeed, but consensus isn't the way to achieve this. If there's a major disagreement either a) the DM puts a foot down and says "this is how it's gonna be" or b) everyone states their position then if people's minds aren't changed it goes to a vote. Majority wins.

Around the game table I've seen both of these done many a time, and we're still playing.
And you demonstrate your adherence to that standard by giving your players actual authority. That authority comes from not doing something if your players are opposed to it. The players cannot oppose something you cover up. You can only know what they oppose by talking to them, accepting their criticism (and, hopefully, their much more common praise), and reaching a true agreement with them. Which is what we call consensus.
Historically, my players have generally opposed any rule change that would make things harder on them or their characters, and supported any changes which would do the opposite.

Does this mean I should only ever make changes that make the game easier on the players/PCs? I bloody well hope not! :) But "not doing something if your players are opposed to it" puts me in exactly that position. No thanks.
That is extremely unfortunate, I'm sorry you had to endure that. I hope, for whatever it's worth, that you were able to hold your own despite this travesty "consensus."
@DMZ2112 's experiences with consensus-based decision-making largely seem to mirror my own.
So...you avoid achieving general agreement with others? How on earth do you get anything done with anyone? How do you have relationships? Unless, of course, you don't actually mean that you avoid general agreement or concord and harmony, you just avoid the horrible mockery you witnessed at that Quaker institution. You avoid the thing which they pretended was consensus but was, literally by definition, not consensus.
Consensus with one or two others is easy. But we're talking group dynamics here, often among strangers rather than friends, which is a very different thing.


Morkus from Orkus
Or conversely, you lean into the silly-farcical-whimsical when it arises and just have a good laugh at the whole thing.

I mean, we do play the game for entertainment, after all... :)
You can, but that's not my sort of game for campaigns. If it's a one shot, Dungeonland it is!


I agree with this, in principle anyway.

However, it's not that hard a thing to fix in a lot of situations. Sure there's a few things that succeed or fail is a binary black and white thing, but in most situations the die roll can also be used to inform the degree of success or failure, with corresponding narration from the DM. For example, take the common act of picking a lock, let's say (using 5e terms) the DC is 10, and (for simplicity) we're just using the natural roll without bonuses, and there's no rerolls. My narration is going to vary based on the rolls:

2 - "That didn't go well at all. Something about that lock has you completely stumped."
8 - "Close but no cigar. Just a little brush-up next time you're at your guild and you might get ones like that."
12 - "That one almost pushed your skill to the limit, but you got it open."
19 - "Piece of cake! You could do that all day!"

So even though mechanically it's a binary pass-fail, narratively I can dress it up some to make it appear more linear.
This is all just window dressing, though. The functional result is still pass/fail. Something meatier would involve a roll of 2 indicating damage to the lockpicks, so future attempts are at a penalty until you can repair/replace them, or a roll of 19 meaning you pick the lock and disable the poisoned needle trap (assuming you didn't check for it explicitly as any good rogue ought!).

How so?

Player rolls poorly to pick a lock and I narrate it as a lock that has the character stumped. Next lock, player rolls really well and the narration points out how easy that lock was.

No bind, no contradiction. Why? Because obviously those two locks weren't the same design or manufacture; and that too is trivially easy to narrate.

And in cases where multiple locks ARE the same, e.g. a bunch of cookie-cutter dungeon cells, the results on trying to open the first one will apply a bonus or penalty on attempts at subsequent ones; as in "You got the last one with ease and this looks like the same lock again, so it shouldn't be much of a challenge - you still need to roll but you're getting a mighty bonus", or "This is the same as the lock that just completely floored you; if you want to try picking it go ahead but your odds won't be great". A second roll in line with the first probably means auto-success or auto-fail on the rest of 'em.

Edit: Now this is more like it!


Morkus from Orkus
Roll three crits against a staggering party? There's gonna be some deaths. It's part of the game. (then again, rockin' three consecutive crits - the odds of which are 1 in 8000 - isn't something that happens every day or even every campaign; sometimes a bad beat is just a bad beat)
I was a player in a 3e campaign many years ago and the group was just walking along out in the wilderness when unbeknownst to us, a white dragon was diving at the party with the sun at it's back so we couldn't look and see it. The DM rolled 2 or 3 1's in a row and we were completely surprised when the white dragon impacted the ground next to us and stunned itself for 3 rounds. It never got back up. The DM never did explain HOW it happened. Only that it did.
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B/X Known World
What I mean is that we don’t pull punches once the fight starts but we are not having players happen upon lichee in early levels.
Why not? Not every encounter has to be a fight. The lich could be a patron, a quest giver, an ancestor, etc?
The whole idea of dungeon levels and some notion of level appropriate challenges is pulling punches!
No really, no. It’s about giving the players some expectations and idea of the challenges they might face. Monsters do wander “off level” and players can venture to deeper dungeon levels than their character levels would suggest. If they find a staircase that leads to level seven when they’re level one…so be it. In no way is it up to me where they go or what fights they pick.
But I revel in a ranger trying to save his friends from a ghouls’ tunnel system: the dice fell where they fell! But had I succeeded! The glory! (I could have fled but rolled the dice literally and figuratively in that instance).
Exactly. No risk, no reward. How boring if you knew ahead of time that it would certainly work. How would that feel? You won a guaranteed victory. Huzzah? Rather it’s that tense moment between when the dice leave your hand and they come to rest that’s exhilarating. It’s Schrödinger’s Victory. You don’t know until you try and roll the dice.


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.
You don't need dice (randomness) to enforce this, though. You could build a game around a finite resource, which a player must spend to declare something to be true, and which have to be earned in a particular way. Universalis is an example of this. I once played in a bespoke rpg where each character was given cards with a single attribute, such as "fast" or "violent". You could spend each card to justify getting away with something, but once it was spent, that was it, until a refresh happened. For example, one player declared they were doing a thing, and I played "fast" and said I did it first—and so my character scooped the other player. It wasn't nice, but by the rules it was absolutely fair! And I had burned my ability to do that again for a while. (Some players did have multiples of a given card, by the way.)

I'll say it again for folks obviously not reading the whole thread: the action resolution mechanic is not the only roll in the game. There are many options and opportunity for uncertain outcomes to enhance the game.
It's the main roll and utterly dominates the rest.

You can say that re: many options, but it doesn't reverse reality and render it true. The vast majority of rolls in 5E are d20 + stat mod + proficiency (if applicable), against a DC which is going to give a fairly large failure chance on given roll most of the time. The only other dice used are used for damage, generally speaking (there are few exception-based designs where they add/subtract from rolls, but that's probably less than 5% of the rolls you make).

You haven't answered my main point which is that D&D's binary pass/fail mechanic combined with the extreme swinginess of the main roll method lends itself solely to farce.

Thus the idea that this improves the game only works if your idea of improvement is "turning the game into a farce". And let's be real - a lot of people do like Monty Python or Benny Hill or whatever, and D&D's resolution mechanic works well with those sort of shenanigans.


Because either you have uncertainty or you can choose the outcome. They can't both exist at the same time.
Strictly speaking, this is true, but any power a participant has to shift the odds certainly makes things more interesting than raw luck or full determination.

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