log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E How do you roll, DM?

When you DM, do you roll dice in front of the screen or behind it?


  • Total voters
    142
If players can't see the DM's dice, there may be reason to believe the DM is fudging.

They can believe what they want. But they'll never know the truth or be able to metagame the DM based on his rolls, or even metagame what or why he is rolling in the first place.

A player that is concerned about the DMs rolls is taking an adversarial position with the DM, and to me, that's indicative of a deeper problem at the table.

IME, truly great DM's use the dice as a tool. Bad ones let the dice dictate the reality.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

If players can't see the DM's dice, there may be reason to believe the DM is fudging. A lot of people aren't okay with that. Some people are, which may be why the DMG puts rolling in the open or rolling behind a screen at the level of table rules rather than rules of the game.

A DM can be fair, reasonable, knowledgeable, and entertaining without rolling behind a screen.
A DM can also be fair, reasonable, knowledgeable, and entertaining without rolling behind a screen as well.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
  • I almost always allow PCs to auto-succeed Perception checks except in surprise situations.
I'm not quite this permissive, but close. Tend to be leery of putting anything important behind a successful perception or investigation check. (unless there is a clear other way of discovering information).
  • Stealth is only rolled the moment (and each time) a sneaking character could be spotted and failure has immediate consequences.
  • That's how I do it too. I see stealth as a solely opposed check. If there's no one there to perceive the character, why bother with a roll (there's no chance of failure)? If there is someone to find the character then it's a contest either against an opposed active perception check or a passive perception check (there but not actively looking or similar scenario).
 



iserith

Magic Wordsmith
They can believe what they want. But they'll never know the truth or be able to metagame the DM based on his rolls, or even metagame what or why he is rolling in the first place.

A player that is concerned about the DMs rolls is taking an adversarial position with the DM, and to me, that's indicative of a deeper problem at the table.

IME, truly great DM's use the dice as a tool. Bad ones let the dice dictate the reality.

I think there are better ways to deal with "metagaming" than messing about with the dice.

As the DMG points out, if the dice are rolled where the players can see, "they know you're playing impartially and not fudging rolls." This does not suggest any adversarial relationship in my view. It simply reinforces the role of the DM as impartial arbiter between the rules and the players. This may be why, in part, the DMG suggests fudging and phantom rolls should be used sparingly if at all.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
A DM can also be fair, reasonable, knowledgeable, and entertaining without rolling behind a screen as well.

In the end, the question is whether the play experience is fair, reasonable, and entertaining. The GM being knowledgeable is merely a means to the end of a good play experience.

There are different techniques you can use to make the play experience good, with dice hidden, and dice open. They work with varying degrees of efficacy depending greatly on the details of the situation and groups involved.

We find that a great many terms that get tossed around in such discussions are not nearly so clear in definition as folks would like. Take "fair" as an example. Fair can mean "unbiased", and it can also mean, "just". It may unbiased to allow a roll of a 20 to lead to a critical hit that kills a PC. It may also be just to reward a player who has been highly engaged and engaging and an asset to the group with an end to their PC that satisfies them. But, what is unbiased may not lead to just reward for effort.

Which you should focus on will depend on your groups particular needs, not on some arbitrary precept.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This does not suggest any adversarial relationship in my view. It simply reinforces the role of the DM as impartial arbiter between the rules and the players.

1) It is not necessarily true that the GM's role is of "impartial arbiter between the rules and the players." That's one playstyle choice. Please let us leave room for other playstyles in the discussion.

2) One's need to actually see the die rolls to accept the results with aplomb measures the limits of the trust relationship between the participants. If you always must see the die rolls, for example, then you have rather little trust. We could ask why there are limits on that trust - one common reason is that the relationship is somewhat adversarial. In that sense, it is suggestive - just not determinative, as there are other possible reasons.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
1) It is not necessarily true that the GM's role is of "impartial arbiter between the rules and the players." That's one playstyle choice. Please let us leave room for other playstyles in the discussion.

That's the role the DMG defines (pg. 5) and is as a result one of my DMing principles as outlined in my second post in this thread. Stating what the DMG says and saying what I do is in no way shutting out discussion for other "playstyles."

2) One's need to actually see the die rolls to accept the results with aplomb measures the limits of the trust relationship between the participants. If you always must see the die rolls, for example, then you have rather little trust. We could ask why there are limits on that trust - one common reason is that the relationship is somewhat adversarial. In that sense, it is suggestive - just not determinative, as there are other possible reasons.

What I find is that it's more dramatic and there's a sense that nobody's going to bail you out of your own decisions which goes to a player's feeling about their agency. It has nothing to do with not trusting the DM. For some tables, they may not trust the DM. That's not me though.
 

Stormdale

Explorer
I'm another all dice rolled in the open camp. I want my pcs to feel they've earned their victories fairly and the buzz they get when overcoming the odds and succeeding is then real. I've played with a couple of poor dms who fudged badly in favour of pcs and so iIdon't do that as I don't want to cheapen my pcs victories- there are plenty of tools a dm can use in other ways to manipulate things.

You can still create tension with unexplained dice rolls, I do it all the time but the dice are usually rolled by the players- "roll me a d10 and don't get a one". Wandering monster checks, all sorts of things are now handled by pcs whether knowingly or unknowingly.

I try to have 90% of all idce rolling done by the players so even things like removing traps are done by the players. The key I've found though is asking them what they do after they have attempted to disarm a trap before BEFORE they roll.

The conversation goes something like this:
"I try to disarm the trap on the chest."
"Okay how are you going to do that?" (They then explain how they are going to try and disarm it). Once satisfied with understanding their intent I ask what they are going to do after trying to disarm the trap and then once we are clear on that they roll the dice- that way we avoid the "Oh crap I rolled do a 3, John, you'd better double check that chest for me."

Stormdale
 

I usually roll the dice so that they're at least technically visible, i.e. not intentionally hiding them, though they might not really be visible to players in practice depending on the sitting arrangement etc.

Like some other people here, I however tend to hide the rolls if the action happening is one which the characters are unaware of or even more importantly when the characters remaining ignorant of the outcome is particularly is central to the events.

I tend to not fudge rolls, unless it was some sort of 'only for inspiration' type of roll like rolling from a random encounter table for ideas or something like that. But this non-fudging is not for the benefit of the players, it doesn't really affect them. It is just for my own sake, it keeps situations more exiting for me as well when I don't know how the thigs will turn out. But this is not some immutable cosmic principle that shall never be broken under any circumstances, and I don't let it to become such in my head even though in practice I pretty much never have to fudge. But there are higher principles, such as making sure that the game is enjoyable to everyone, and that goes above all else.
 
Last edited:

Bawylie

A very OK person
I roll in front of me because that’s where my dice and arms are. That is behind a dm screen. It’s not done to conceal any result and each result is immediately announced.

One roll that’s always on the player side of the screen is the Danger Dice roll (for random encounters, etc). That one works better when it’s visible than when it isn’t.
 

Zsig

Explorer
I think there's a very important psychological aspect to rolling the dice, as it can be used not just as a tool to determine success/failure and damage but as a narrative tool to create tension and bring things that would/could otherwise be ignored into the highlight during the scenes.

So, where I roll the dice depends on the purpose of the roll.
 

Since we're all using the same bot for dice rolls, Avrae, all my rolls are out in the open with online play.

When we were still gaming in person, my dice rolls were hidden behind the screen. I felt like players would have assessed their risks differently if they knew I'm rolling with a +12 to hit, or that there's a difference between them hearing a ton of dice get rolled and knowing that it's 8d4, not 10d12, but since switching to online play, I haven't really noticed any changes from any of the players.
 

TheDelphian

Explorer
I roll in the open mainly because my luck while average achieves this average by being really high one night and next game I run be low. So much so I started rolling in the open so players could see I wasn't cheating on either side by faking low rolls to be nice or by faking high rolls to hammer them.

Since at one time I had several games in a week with the same group they would start sweating when as a player I had crap luck when they knew the next game I was GM and my luck was likely to swing back up and they would suffer.

Mostly I try to use the dice to build tension and threat. If I roll a 6 and still hit people, it puts the fear in them more so than any cool description (though I do those as well). I try to make the rolls part of the scene. I succeed often enough though could always improve.
 

It varies quite a bit how I roll.

Usually, I roll where ever is convenient to the physical act of rolling the dice. Sometimes, I definitely want to roll behind the screen. I roll behind the screen if I want the ability to fudge the die roll, or if I want to prevent the players from drawing conclusions based on the die face.

The latter of the two is actually much more common. If the PCs are trying to be deceptive or sneaky, I typically roll behind the screen. I don't want them to see a natural 18 or a natural 5 and draw conclusions that their Stealth or Persuasion roll must be a success or a failure if the players have no immediate means to garner feedback. It's not at all uncommon for me to want what I describe to the players to be what the PCs perceive, not what I rolled.

I do it like this because I hate it when I'm a player and I know what I shouldn't. I know that if I rolled a 16 on my Persuasion check and the DM rolls a natural 17 on the die for his opposed Insight, then I know my check failed even if the DM doesn't tell me that explicitly. My character doesn't know that, but I as a player do. That's a really frustrating position to be in because now I know metagame information that I never needed access to because the DM decided to tell me about it. If you're the kind of person who has a lot of the game's math stuck in your head, then you often just know what the outcomes are by seeing the die rolls. And I can't not do it; my brain just solves that equation when it has enough information to do so.

When you play and run the game a lot, you start to notice that you can make these evaluations all the time. Usually it doesn't matter, but in most campaigns where DMs always roll in the open it reveals about two or three outcomes that I shouldn't know every session. I'll even purposefully sit further away from the DM just to reduce the probability that I see something I don't want to know.

In an effort to prevent my players from enduring that, I roll behind the screen.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
They can believe what they want. But they'll never know the truth or be able to metagame the DM based on his rolls, or even metagame what or why he is rolling in the first place.

A player that is concerned about the DMs rolls is taking an adversarial position with the DM, and to me, that's indicative of a deeper problem at the table.
Thus far this thread I've agreed with you. But then you say...

IME, truly great DM's use the dice as a tool. Bad ones let the dice dictate the reality.
...this, and though it's based on your own experience it's not something I can get behind as general advice or philosophy.

I'd far rather have a DM who let her dice dictate (in-game) reality rather than one who fudged.

As for my own rolling: I voted "always hidden" as it's about 99% true: occasionally if a roll is particularly dramatic I'll roll it in the open; or if a player calls shenanigans on my rolling (particularly if I'm on a real hot streak), if the dice are still sitting there the player's welcome to look at them for confirmation.

I also use the "roll for no reason" trick, most often if-when I know there's a point coming where I'll have to disguise a real roll that would otherwise be out-of-place enough to spark metagame thinking. If there's cloak-and-dagger stuff going on among the PCs I'll occasionally send a note to a player (particularly if a player is otherwise uninvolved in what's going on) asking for a d20 roll for no reason, just to further stir the pot - and sometimes the note even says the roll is to be a fake. :) Most of the time the player takes this and runs with it, causing the other players to meta-wonder what the frack's going on...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That's the role the DMG defines....

That is A role the DMG defines. It is the third role it defines - Master of World and Master of Adventures both come before Master of Rules.

Stating what the DMG says and saying what I do is in no way shutting out discussion for other "playstyles."

I didn't say "shutting down". I said, "leaving space". There is a difference.

What I find is that it's more dramatic and there's a sense that nobody's going to bail you out of your own decisions which goes to a player's feeling about their agency. It has nothing to do with not trusting the DM.

But... you just said that the players should have no reason to doubt.... how is that not about trust?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That is A role the DMG defines. It is the third role it defines - Master of World and Master of Adventures both come before Master of Rules.

Yes, one of several roles. I was referring to the specific role that is supported by a quote from the DMG in a separate section. Did you honestly think I believe the DM only does one thing? That seems rather uncharitable.

I didn't say "shutting down". I said, "leaving space". There is a difference.

Okay. Stating what the DMG says and saying what I do leaves space for others to say what they do.

But... you just said that the players should have no reason to doubt.... how is that not about trust?

I don't understand your question.
 


Halloween Horror For 5E

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top