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5E How do you roll, DM?

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


  • Total voters
    142

nevin

Explorer
There is no "correct way to roleplay it". The player failed to find something, but the corridor is still as suspicious as before they started searching it. I did foreshadow the threat after all. I don't tell my players the corridor is safe, when it obviously is not. I tell them that they couldn't find a trap and that's it. How they act upon that knowledge is entirely up to them. They could proceed, or they could avoid the corridor. Both are valid choices.
the problem is when you get the players that spend 10 or 20 minutes on everything because you foreshadowed. I get bored though when they get like that and sometimes weird stuff happens. like the door grows arms and puts the rogue in a headlock but does no damage. Or just have random patrols, or wizards or clerics scrying the area periodically. If they go too slow sucks to be them. If they want to spend that much game time on something so boring, I should get some fun occasionally.
 

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perception rolls are a pain for one reason. If you roll them all the time to keep the players numb to you asking them then it bogs the game down. If you only ask when something is going on event the best players are going to meta game at least a little and look for more than they intended. I've flirted with rolling my players perceptions myself unless they specifically say they are looking for something, I've just never pulled the trigger because I'm not sure about it.

But why ask for a perception check at all in these situations? Just wait till the players actually take an action to search for a trap. Then you avoid this issue entirely. If the threat is foreshadowed, then the perception checks aren't random, they are motivated.

the problem is when you get the players that spend 10 or 20 minutes on everything because you foreshadowed. I get bored though when they get like that and sometimes weird stuff happens. like the door grows arms and puts the rogue in a headlock but does no damage. Or just have random patrols, or wizards or clerics scrying the area periodically. If they go too slow sucks to be them. If they want to spend that much game time on something so boring, I should get some fun occasionally.

If you foreshadowed something, then it should be worth spending some time on. If the players are engaged in the fiction, then that is anything but boring. Knowing a trap might be around, but being unable to find it, builds suspense and dread.

If the players do take too long on reaching a decision, there are other less forceful ways to speed up play. You don't need to drop a random monster patrol into the room, just because the players are taking too long to deal with a trap they can't seem to find. If the DM started improvizing the stuff you gave as an example, just because he was bored, I would get annoyed fast as a player.
 
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nevin

Explorer
This is the classic example of knowing that a trap is there, because the GM asked for a perception check. The obvious solution to this is to not ask for a perception check, unless the player declares an action first. When the players enter a corridor that contains a trap, I'll foreshadow the trap first with the description of the corridor. This is the most important part. Something may seem off to them, such as unusual drag marks on the floor, or a blood stain on the wall. This will prompt the players to be suspicious, but they don't yet know of what. It might be a trap, but it doesn't have to be. They will need to investigate to find out. It motivates the players and their characters to take an action to find whatever is there. As they declare an action to search the walls and floors, that is when I call for a perception check.

The foreshadowing is very important. It means that players never have to search every corridor they go through, because I always give them a clue when something is amiss.

Now, if they roll low, they still don't know that they missed a trap. They just know that they failed to find whatever might be there, based on my description. But they would get the same outcome if the GM rolled instead, because it would be the same description of the situation either way. The players don't have to pretend that the corridor is safe just because they didn't find anything. I already gave both the players and their characters enough reason to suspect danger and they are allowed to act on it. Meta knowledge thus becomes a none-issue.

I don't give my players false information when they fail their roll. If they are looking for a trap, and don't roll high enough, I tell them that they were unable to find anything. I don't tell them there is no trap, because there is, but they simply were unable to find it.
or if you want to see some shock let them deactivate the arrows in the wall and the pressure plate at the beginning but set off trap 3 at mid hall. good times...
 

or if you want to see some shock let them deactivate the arrows in the wall and the pressure plate at the beginning but set off trap 3 at mid hall. good times...

If there are multiple traps, hopefully the players are smart enough to check if the hall is now safe. If the hall is safe, they do not need to roll a check, since the outcome is not in doubt. If there is, then it may require another check, or you can use the roll they already made for the first trap.
 

nevin

Explorer
But why ask for a perception check at all in these situations? Just wait till the players actually take an action to search for a trap. Then you avoid this issue entirely.



If you foreshadowed something, then it should be worth spending some time on. If the players are engaged in the fiction, then that is anything but boring. Knowing a trap might be around, but being unable to find it, builds suspense and dread.

If the players do take too long on reaching a decision, there are other less forceful ways to speed up play. You don't need to drop a random monster patrol into the room, just because the players are taking too long to deal with a trap they can't seem to find.
because there are situations where I give them a chance to notice something. A bard with a high perception might notice something in court that he hasn't said he's watching for. A high level rogue not looking for a trap might roll a nat 20 and just catch it. though honestly these days i'm likely to just roll for them behind the screen. building suspense is great but I've had a group that checked every 5 square foot and every door for every thing they could think of whether or not there was any foreshadowing. I don't know what their previous DMs had done to them but it was the most boring game I've ever run for about an hour. I finally managed to get them out of that but I almost packed up and went home.
 

nevin

Explorer
If there are multiple traps, hopefully the players are smart enough to check if the hall is now safe. If the hall is safe, they do not need to roll a check, since the outcome is not in doubt. If there is, then it may require another check, or you can use the roll they already made for the first trap.
that was my point. If the traps are different difficulty levels they may find some of them and not others. in this case they found the lower level traps but not the real trap for serious threats.
 

because there are situations where I give them a chance to notice something. A bard with a high perception might notice something in court that he hasn't said he's watching for.

I'm not saying all perception checks need to be preceeded by an action declaration, but I think most of them should. Looking for traps is an action. If they're not looking, their not finding.

GM's should also be cautious that they don't abuse the perception mechanic to simply tell players something they could just straight up tell them. Don't ask for more rolls than you need to. If something interesting is happening that no player is specifically looking for, don't go through the entire party asking every single player to roll to see it. Just pick a player, and give him that info without a roll.

A high level rogue not looking for a trap might roll a nat 20 and just catch it.

Not if he isn't looking for it. And if the trap is really easy to find, then you don't need to make a roll at all.

building suspense is great but I've had a group that checked every 5 square foot and every door for every thing they could think of whether or not there was any foreshadowing.

That simply requires a change in attitude from your players. My players used to be like that, because years of 2nd and 3rd edition had gotten them into that mindset. I had to teach my players to trust the descriptions of their GM. They don't do it any more, now that they understand how I run the game.
 

nevin

Explorer
All of you who are worried about fudging the dice. One that's the point to keep the story flowing and if you have a good DM that will work in your favor.

I've saved my party from certain death that way far more often than I've used it against a player. In fact the only time I've ever fudged dice malicously was when I had a friend who went to the game store spent 3 hours rolling from the bowl of seconds dice they had and found a die that rolled 18 to 20 pretty regularly. Everytime he rolled a natural 20 I rolled a natural 20. He was exceptionally dense . his party had to wait until I went to get food and ask him if he'd noticed every 20 he rolled prompted a 20 from me. heh....

If your worried your DM is going to screw you. find another DM you shouldn't be there.
 

nevin

Explorer
"Not if he isn't looking for it. And if the trap is really easy to find, then you don't need to make a roll at all. "


We'll just have to agree to disagree on that one. People notice stuff they aren't looking for all the time.
 

Hriston

Hero
"Not if he isn't looking for it. And if the trap is really easy to find, then you don't need to make a roll at all. "


We'll just have to agree to disagree on that one. People notice stuff they aren't looking for all the time.
This is a game.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
All of you who are worried about fudging the dice. One that's the point to keep the story flowing and if you have a good DM that will work in your favor.

I've saved my party from certain death that way far more often than I've used it against a player. In fact the only time I've ever fudged dice malicously was when I had a friend who went to the game store spent 3 hours rolling from the bowl of seconds dice they had and found a die that rolled 18 to 20 pretty regularly. Everytime he rolled a natural 20 I rolled a natural 20. He was exceptionally dense . his party had to wait until I went to get food and ask him if he'd noticed every 20 he rolled prompted a 20 from me. heh....

If your worried your DM is going to screw you. find another DM you shouldn't be there.

I'm not against fudging because I think it will be used against me. I'm against fudging because I want my decisions to matter. If my reasonably informed decisions plus whatever dice I'm asked to roll as a result of those decisions (or the DM ends up rolling) indicate that my character is dead, then that's a fair outcome in my view and one that the goals of play for the game take into account. It can still be a great game where everyone has fun (including me) and contributes to the creation of an exciting, memorable story.

As well, the DM doesn't need to fudge dice since the DM sets the stakes. If the DM is rolling for life or death stakes, but isn't okay with death being an outcome of the roll, why then is the DM setting the stakes at life or death? The DM can choose something else instead and roll for that.
 

If I were to fudge the dice, I would rob my players of a chance to fail. Further more, I would rob them of the chance to rise to the occasion and squeeze out an unexpected victory in the face of imminent defeat.

I have had my players at death's door multiple times, only for them to save the day by coming up with something I had not thought of as a GM. It is fantastic to be surprised by your own players and to allow them to surprise you.

It would also undermine the suspense if I shielded my players from a party wipe. I see it as my responsibility as a GM to present my players with fun challenges of an appropriate difficulty, and to make an effort to kill them with my monsters and traps under those circumstances.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on that one. People notice stuff they aren't looking for all the time.

Traps are designed to be hidden. Unless a player is specifically looking for it (ie takes an action to find traps), he won't see the trap (with the exception of course of broken traps that are merely there for set dressing).
 

As well, the DM doesn't need to fudge dice since the DM sets the stakes. If the DM is rolling for life or death stakes, but isn't okay with death being an outcome of the roll, why then is the DM setting the stakes at life or death?
Presumably because they fucked up. For example seriously misjudged the lethality of an encounter.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
First, the DM should only call for an ability check when the task (goal and approach) described by the player has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure. If those two conditions do not exist, then there is no roll.

If the check succeeds, the goal is achieved. For example, "There is a trap on the door. What do you do?"

If the check fails, the rules provide two ways to narrate the result of a failed check: The task fails. Or the task succeeds but with a setback. For any failed check wherein there might be a disconnect between the number on the die and what the DM says, if the DM instead narrates the result as progress combined with a setback, then there is no issue. For example, "There is a trap on the door and your efforts have set it in motion. What do you do?"
This is a good summation of the basics of GMing but doesn't address my question about players acting in character based on the outcome of a real life die roll.

In story a character checking for traps is almost always doing their best effort and will proceed assuming that if their best effort didn't find a trap then there probably isn't one (barring some very obvious foreshadowing like dead bodies piled up or blood streaks).

My question is how tables that open roll keep the characters from actiing differently based on the knowledge of if a die till was high or low.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Traps are designed to be hidden. Unless a player is specifically looking for it (ie takes an action to find traps), he won't see the trap (with the exception of course of broken traps that are merely there for set dressing).
I don't agree with this statement. A characters passive perception score is considered their bar of "always notice this". Characters are constantly perceiving their environment even when not taking an action to do so.
 

Hriston

Hero
I voted with the majority, in that it depends. I'm finding that I mostly roll in the open, however, even Dex (Stealth) checks for hidden creatures which I roll right as combat begins to determine surprise. There is one notable exception, though, which is during wilderness exploration, I resolve navigation by rolling secretly for the terrain against the navigator's passive Survival which allows for traveling in an unintended direction without knowing that's what happened.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Presumably because they fucked up. For example seriously misjudged the lethality of an encounter.
Or the dragon just got lucky and recharged it's breath for the 5th round in a row. Or the 6 goblin archers all rolled 20s on their opening salvo. Or the thrilling final battle to a campaign ends with the BBEG slipping around in grease for 15 rounds.

Fudging is important to keep battles both winnable (if it was supposed to be) and also exciting. No 3 year long dramatic campaign should end with the BBEG squirming around in the muck like a Stooge.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This is a good summation of the basics of GMing but doesn't address my question about players acting in character based on the outcome of a real life die roll.

In story a character checking for traps is almost always doing their best effort and will proceed assuming that if their best effort didn't find a trap then there probably isn't one (barring some very obvious foreshadowing like dead bodies piled up or blood streaks).

My question is how tables that open roll keep the characters from actiing differently based on the knowledge of if a die till was high or low.

For one, it's none of the DM's business why a player chooses to have their own character do something. The DM doesn't need that information to adjudicate actions. If I want my character to spend time on checking for traps again, for example, that's something I can declare.

But also if you adjudicate as per the examples I gave in the post you quoted, then it doesn't matter since the situation already moved forward to another decision point. I checked for traps. I rolled low, failing the check. The DM tells me I find the trap (progress) because I set it in motion (setback). Now what do I do?
 

Players shouldn't assume they can win all fights anyway.
Sure.

To assume that they can is an example of "metagame thinking" which I would imagine you'd be against.
Yes, I would.

But the situation is that the GM accidentally did something they didn't mean to do and by fudging they're merely correcting to the situation to what they intended it to be in the first place. They might just as easily declare that orc berserkers 4 and 5 just have a sudden heart attack and die, but that would be far more jarring and negatively affect the narrative than just fudging the dice so that the berserkers miss a bit more than the dice would dictate.
 

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