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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

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.

Change the stakes and you don't have to fudge the dice: The berserkers knock the PCs out and take them to the Eye of Gruumsh as worthy sacrifices (especially that elf wizard). Then you don't need to ignore dice results. The story continues when the PCs awaken in the shaman's gruesome lair.
 

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Change the stakes and you don't have to fudge the dice: The berserkers knock the PCs out and take them to the Eye of Gruumsh as worthy sacrifices (especially that elf wizard). Then you don't need to ignore dice results. The story continues when the PCs awaken in the shaman's gruesome lair.
Perhaps these are ghouls or whatever things that are known for not taking prisoners. But it doesn't even matter. The GM can always adjust the world or the narrative so that the characters survive, it merely might just be more apparent and silly in some situations. Now this absolutely is my favoured method to do these things, it is more fun for me as a GM, but ultimately t doesn't matter how it was achieved, as long as the narrative works. I don't see much point making the dice some sacred instrument that shall never be questioned. They're mindless lumps of plastic, what do they know about good drama?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Perhaps these are ghouls or whatever things that are known for not taking prisoners. But it doesn't even matter. The GM can always adjust the world or the narrative so that the characters survive, it merely might just be more apparent and silly in some situations. Now this absolutely is my favoured method to do these things, it is more fun for me as a GM, but ultimately t doesn't matter how it was achieved, as long as the narrative works. I don't see much point making the dice some sacred instrument that shall never be questioned. They're mindless lumps of plastic, what do they know about good drama?

The drama comes from choosing the stakes that appeal to your group - win OR lose. The dice add tension, particularly when they are rolled in the open.
 

Hriston

Hero
Question to the tables who do all open rolling...

How do you handle the metaknowledge a player gains by knowing if they rolled high or low for a skill?

For example...there is a HUGE difference in feel at the table when Sarah rolls a 17 with a +5 perception and announces a 22 followed by the GM saying "You don't notice anything out of the ordinary" and the GM rolling for Sarah behind the screen and announcing the very same thing.
I assume that, in your example, there is something to notice and that the DC to notice it is higher than 22. Otherwise, there would be no check called for at my table. Secondly, assuming, as I have, that Sarah failed her roll, my response wouldn't be a simple "You don't notice anything." Stakes would have been set before the roll was made, including a known DC and a meaningful consequence for failure, such as inadvertently setting off the trap that Sarah was looking for.
 

The drama comes from choosing the stakes that appeal to your group - win OR lose. The dice add tension, particularly when they are rolled in the open.
And here we are talking about the situation where the GM miscalculated the stakes. I get what you're saying, I prefer to do it that way too, but the truth is that the GM can save the PCs whenever they want and doing it with fudging is just one way to do it, not inherently any more 'dirty' than the others.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Answer: because foreshadowing everything has, in the end, exactly the same effect as asking for a perception check out of the blue - it creates suspicion in the players' (and PCs') minds. Oftentimes a hidden trap is supposed to be just that - hidden - with the specific intent that anyone who wanders into it finds it the hard way.

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.
Except I want that suspense and dread all the time, which means were I to use your method I'd be constantly false-foreshadowing so as to a) keep the suspense up and b) disguise the real threats, if any are present.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
And here we are talking about the situation where the GM miscalculated the stakes. I get what you're saying, I prefer to do it that way too, but the truth is that the GM can save the PCs whenever they want and doing it with fudging is just one way to do it, not inherently any more 'dirty' than the others.

Not sure I understand what is meant by a DM “miscalculating the stakes”. Maybe I should say I understand but it’s not really a concern at our table. As a DM, I throw varied challenges at the players. Some might be above their combat pay grade and I’ll telegraph it best I can. I’m not going to grossly mis-Telegraph something tough as easy. It’s really up to the players to determine whether a particular encounter is something they want their PCs to take on as a combat, negotiation, surrender, flee, whatever. Or if, after choosing one option, they want to change their tactics midway through an encounter. If the dice don’t go their way, that’s an accepted, known element to our game.
 

Not sure I understand what is meant by a DM “miscalculating the stakes”. Maybe I should say I understand but it’s not really a concern at our table. As a DM, I throw varied challenges at the players. Some might be above their combat pay grade and I’ll telegraph it best I can. I’m not going to grossly mis-Telegraph something tough as easy. It’s really up to the players to determine whether a particular encounter is something they want their PCs to take on as a combat, negotiation, surrender, flee, whatever. Or if, after choosing one option, they want to change their tactics midway through an encounter. If the dice don’t go their way, that’s an accepted, known element to our game.
We are talking about a situation where a GM, maybe due being inexperienced, maybe due being in hurry and messing up the math or something like that, thinks that the encounter is far easier than it actually is, thus doesn't frame and telegraph it properly and realises their mistake when the combat has already commenced.

"Oh shit, there was a smudge on the module, it said five orcs, not five ogres!"
 


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.

I had a BBEG wizard fail a save and be reduced to an idiot due to 1 spell by one of the players. It was great. What kind of GM would I be if I took that victory away from them?
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
We are talking about a situation where a GM, maybe due being inexperienced, maybe due being in hurry and messing up the math or something like that, thinks that the encounter is far easier than it actually is, thus doesn't frame and telegraph it properly and realises their mistake when the combat has already commenced.

"Oh shit, there was a smudge on the module, it said five orcs, not five ogres!"

Got it. The players can still make the determination for the PCs to run. It's not all on the DM to determine "appropriate challenge". It's also on the players to determine how to handle a given challenge. An experienced DM should be able to pivot in the moment without skipping a beat (e.g. the ogres drag the PCs back to their lair to sell to the goblin boss the next day OR the owl bears drag the PCs back to their cave for their soon-to-be hatchlings first meal.) I guess when everyone, DM and players alike, is inexperienced at the table and something like the 5 ogres thing happens, the results might be an unsatisfactory TPK but it is what it is. Adventuring is a dangerous profession. Also, we play and learn. Roll up some new characters and next time the players and DM both know what's going to happen in a similar situation.

TL;DR: Fudging might work when used sparingly in the hands of a skilled DM but it isn't a necessary tool to run the game successfully.
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
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?
So the succinct answer is that at your table you rarely have a fail state, just a succeed with penalties? I can see that as a workable option.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
We play on roll20. I am sure I COULD hide my rolls, but why bother? It is more fun to roll openly and hear my players groan or cheer. We also do most rolling in the open at the table, because I am too lazy to use a screen.
 

Campbell

Legend
I personally think Perception and Knowledge checks are dumb and do not use them. I usually just refer to passive values for what characters see and know, colored by their fictional positioning. Stealth rolls are made against Passove Perception. I also generally let it ride so
 

Azzy

Newtype
Depends on what the roll is for. I typically roll attacks, damage, saving throws, etc. in front of players. If it's something I don't want to know about, I'll roll in secret (some times, I'll roll dice in secret for no purpose other that to make the players wonder what and why I was rolling—gotta keep them on their toes).
 


Coroc

Hero
Some wrote they hide when e.g.rolling for invis.mobs. But is it, that your players always can interpret your rolls? Just roll in front of them, even if you need some npc decision randomized. Just roll sometimes without purpose, they will never figure it out, don't you think?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
And here we are talking about the situation where the GM miscalculated the stakes. I get what you're saying, I prefer to do it that way too, but the truth is that the GM can save the PCs whenever they want and doing it with fudging is just one way to do it, not inherently any more 'dirty' than the others.

The situation is that the DM miscalculated the difficulty, not the stakes. And so did the players. The DM doesn't need to save the characters - that's on the players. I have not made any claim about the dirtiness of fudging the dice, only that it is entirely unnecessary and something that I don't do.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So the succinct answer is that at your table you rarely have a fail state, just a succeed with penalties? I can see that as a workable option.

"Succeeding with penalties" (or "progress combined with a setback") is a fail state for a check that did not succeed. But really this comes down to whether failure has meaningful consequences. If there are no meaningful consequences, there is no ability check in the first place. The character just succeeds or fails, no roll, depending on the approach to the goal in the given situation.
 

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