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5E Players: Why Do You Want to Roll a d20?

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I still submit, as I did upthread, that this specific example is perfectly achievable with the player not asking to make a roll. The player describes what he or she wants to do. The DM considers it and asks for a roll, using a contest for some reason to come up with a DC. The player succeeds. The outcome in this case was the same. But from the player's perspective, why would I want to roll in that situation? I'd rather my action just succeed. The meaningful consequence that followed my failure on that roll might not have been good.
Speaking personally... it's because I as the DM have probably not yet determined whether the action was or wasn't succeedable in the first place. It wouldn't be until after the rolls were made and I saw what happened with the dice that I'd go with it and made it "true". So whether I ask them to make a roll or they offer to make a roll doesn't really matter, as the roll usually will occur regardless in order to figure out what the truth of the scene actually is.

This is most definitely a style of DMing that I know many other people DO NOT go along with... the idea that things just "become real" in the moment an idea is made and a die roll confirms it. I've read enough posts here on the boards to know that that is an anathema to many DMs. It's part and parcel to the "Players help shape the narrative" concept that many DMs disagree with, and the whole "it's never okay to fudge die rolls" question always reaffirms that.

So I understand why you and others wouldn't go along with the idea. But at least you can see why other people might. Because every single one of us DMs differently and there's no "right way" to do it.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I mean, the prerequisite for there being a roll at all is that there is a meaningful consequence if you fail. Certainly that is something the character may wish to avoid even if the player might think failure in a specific instance could be fun and contribute to an exciting, memorable story. In general, it seems like a reasonable player behavior to want to succeed more often than fail and that's all this is really about: Asking to roll more dice is asking for a higher chance of meaningful consequences for failure. That does not strike me as a good strategy for long-term success.

If the DM is asking for rolls when there is no meaningful consequence for failure, well, that's not really what we're supposed to be doing according to the rules. And that's fine - people can play how they want. But as my original post lays out, I am taking this position based on a rules-based approach. If there really aren't any meaningful consequences to bear, then it makes sense players are asking to roll. There's hardly any downside.
And that all works out for your particular style of DMing. So your original post makes the utmost sense-- "If you run the game by the rules in the book as I am reading and interpreting them, here is how I think player action works the best to accomplish it."

And that's absolutely correct. The only brushback you are receiving are the people who either aren't interpreting the rules in the same manner you are (and thus would come to different conclusions), or aren't using the set rules in the book at all and are just using them as guidelines for their own manner of playstyle. Which of course would also lead to different conclusions.

No way is better or worse than the other, so there's no real need for any of us to feel like we need to defend our methodology. Especially considering our methodology comes directly out of how we interpret and run our personal games in the first place.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Speaking personally... it's because I as the DM have probably not yet determined whether the action was or wasn't succeedable in the first place. It wouldn't be until after the rolls were made and I saw what happened with the dice that I'd go with it and made it "true". So whether I ask them to make a roll or they offer to make a roll doesn't really matter, as the roll usually will occur regardless in order to figure out what the truth of the scene actually is.

I don't see how this is different from what I'm saying though. If the DM determines the task has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, there's a roll. While you have not really stated any consequence here, there's definitely uncertainty and so you'd call for a roll.

This would be no different than how I would handle it, if I was uncertain as to the outcome. The only daylight between us, so far as I can tell, is that you might not have considered what failure is going to look like before the roll, whereas I would have.

Is there some difference I'm not seeing?
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Speaking personally... it's because I as the DM have probably not yet determined whether the action was or wasn't succeedable in the first place. It wouldn't be until after the rolls were made and I saw what happened with the dice that I'd go with it and made it "true". So whether I ask them to make a roll or they offer to make a roll doesn't really matter, as the roll usually will occur regardless in order to figure out what the truth of the scene actually is.

This is most definitely not a style of DMing that I know many other people DO NOT go along with... the idea that things just "become real" in the moment an idea is made and a die roll confirms it. I've read enough posts here on the boards to know that that is an anathema to many DMs. It's part and parcel to the "Players help shape the narrative" concept that many DMs disagree with, and the whole "it's never okay to fudge die rolls" question always reaffirms that.

So I understand why you and others wouldn't go along with the idea. But at least you can see why other people might. Because every single one of us DMs differently and there's no "right way" to do it.
Well, context will matter.

I mean, if the "challenge" is to get across the chasm and it's a little farther than one can safely jump - but there is a seemingly sturdy unguarded bridge or a ring of flying available - I think few players would just decide to "let's roll for the jump" instead of taking one of the "obvious sure fire" options.

Right?

Surely this whole question about rolling is not hinging on that kind of example, right?

I mean, sure, context can matter a lot - do they suspect the bridge is trapped or watched or that magic use may draw attention?

But in general, if there is a known auto-success without reason it should not be used, my players do that instead of rolling. It's just, usually, you know, we dont consider them challenges or tasks or give them much screen time.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
No way is better or worse than the other, so there's no real need for any of us to feel like we need to defend our methodology. Especially considering our methodology comes directly out of how we interpret and run our personal games in the first place.

Nobody's attacking, so there's no need for defense.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I don't see how this is different from what I'm saying though. If the DM determines the task has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure, there's a roll. While you have not really stated any consequence here, there's definitely uncertainty and so you'd call for a roll.

This would be no different than how I would handle it, if I was uncertain as to the outcome. The only daylight between us, so far as I can tell, is that you might not have considered what failure is going to look like before the roll, whereas I would have.

Is there some difference I'm not seeing?
I suspect the difference might be that for me it's not that I'm uncertain of an outcome... its that oftentimes there isn't an outcome to be uncertain of until the players actually roll. The roll is what creates the possibility of there being an outcome in the first place. Which is why I don't care if they initiate it, their request of a roll is basically their offering of something possibly truthful to which an outcome can result. Could they make an offer without asking for a roll? Sure. But as I'd be asking for a roll anyway (because that's oftentimes the only way I'll determine whether something has an outcome, and what the outcome is is based on the result)... if they speed things up by offering the roll themselves, I'm good with it.

I think for me, it basically comes down to this... the players offer up an idea to the situation that could be true. I myself have no idea if it is or isn't because I hadn't even thought of it to begin with. So making a roll both confirms what the truth is, and if they succeed in what they wanted ot do with that truth. Which means that even if they roll poorly, they often aren't "failing" to do something... its that the poor roll made the truth of the situation such that there was nothing to "fail" in the first place. You can't fail at something that doesn't exist. :)
 
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I mean, the prerequisite for there being a roll at all is that there is a meaningful consequence if you fail.
"Meaningful" doesn't have to mean "punitive," at least in my experience and in my group. It just means something changes.

Certainly that is something the character may wish to avoid even if the player might think failure in a specific instance could be fun and contribute to an exciting, memorable story.
Sure, but the character isn't asking to roll the dice; the player is.

In general, it seems like a reasonable player behavior to want to succeed more often than fail
I want a fun story. Sometimes a fun story comes about through laughing at my PC's repeated failures.

and that's all this is really about: Asking to roll more dice is asking for a higher chance of meaningful consequences for failure.
As I said in my first post, in my head, it's more like "Let fate decide!"
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Well, context will matter.

I mean, if the "challenge" is to get across the chasm and it's a little farther than one can safely jump - but there is a seemingly sturdy unguarded bridge or a ring of flying available - I think few players would just decide to "let's roll for the jump" instead of taking one of the "obvious sure fire" options.

Right?

Surely this whole question about rolling is not hinging on that kind of example, right?

I mean, sure, context can matter a lot - do they suspect the bridge is trapped or watched or that magic use may draw attention?

But in general, if there is a known auto-success without reason it should not be used, my players do that instead of rolling. It's just, usually, you know, we dont consider them challenges or tasks or give them much screen time.
Of course. But known auto-success isn't really what I was talking about. To use your example, if the party is travelling underground, I might not have any idea what is actually there except for maybe a set encounter or two that were the point of them travelling underground in the first place. Everything else I'm just improvising-- no map, nothing set, just whatever comes to my mind.

So I improvise that the tunnel they were in opens up to a chamber and that there's a crevasse to get across. Now at this point I have not thought of any way for them to get across it. Maybe they have ways already ready to go that allow them auto-success (like your Ring of Flying example). If so, then great, they use it. But if not... they will probably start asking about different things that could get them across-- things I've not even thought of yet. They might start with obvious things that don't require a roll-- "Do we see a bridge?" I'll then either say yes or no based on what I think would be most entertaining or interesting for the group (if I can already tell if this "encounter" has intrigued them or not.) If the answer was "no, there is no bridge".. someone might then ask "Can make an Investigation check to see if there was perhaps a bridge here at one point?"

And then it is at this point that the result of the check will determine the truth. If they roll high, I might very well say "Yes, there are stone pitons hammered into the ground, which makes you think there had been a bridge here at one point." Or if they roll low... "Nope, there is no indication whatsoever that there has ever been a bridge here." And both of these results will probably change how the players react to this "encounter", and what they invariable decide to do with it. If there had been pitons, then that tells them something truthful about the chamber, as does the lack of them. And then they'll choose what do to and I'll improvise what happens next then as well.

So them rolling was going to happen regardless, because that was the method I was going to use to decide what to improvise as the truth. Could I improvise something on my own without them rolling a die? Sure. But I have found we usually end up with much more interesting encounters when all of us are offering up the truths of the situation, rather than just me alone, because my players are oftentimes much more clever than I am. LOL.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Of course. But known auto-success isn't really what I was talking about. To use your example, if the party is travelling underground, I might not have any idea what is actually there except for maybe a set encounter or two that were the point of them travelling underground in the first place. Everything else I'm just improvising-- no map, nothing set, just whatever comes to my mind.

So I improvise that the tunnel they were in opens up to a chamber and that there's a crevasse to get across. Now at this point I have not thought of any way for them to get across it. Maybe they have ways already ready to go that allow them auto-success (like your Ring of Flying example). If so, then great, they use it. But if not... they will probably start asking about different things that could get them across-- things I've not even thought of yet. They might start with obvious things that don't require a roll-- "Do we see a bridge?" I'll then either say yes or no based on what I think would be most entertaining or interesting for the group (if I can already tell if this "encounter" has intrigued them or not.) If the answer was "no, there is no bridge".. someone might then ask "Can make an Investigation check to see if there was perhaps a bridge here at one point?"

And then it is at this point that the result of the check will determine the truth. If they roll high, I might very well say "Yes, there are stone pitons hammered into the ground, which makes you think there had been a bridge here at one point." Or if they roll low... "Nope, there is no indication whatsoever that there has ever been a bridge here." And both of these results will probably change how the players react to this "encounter", and what they invariable decide to do with it. If there had been pitons, then that tells them something truthful about the chamber, as does the lack of them. And then they'll choose what do to and I'll improvise what happens next then as well.

So them rolling was going to happen regardless, because that was the method I was going to use to decide what to improvise as the truth. Could I improvise something on my own without them rolling a die? Sure. But I have found we usually end up with much more interesting encounters when all of us are offering up the truths of the situation, rather than just me alone, because my players are oftentimes much more clever than I am. LOL.
Cool, but how do you set DCs? And do you communicate the DC to the players? Do you communicate what a success will look like and what a failure will look like?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
"Meaningful" doesn't have to mean "punitive," at least in my experience and in my group. It just means something changes.

Sure, but the character isn't asking to roll the dice; the player is.

Yes, but at least to some degree it means "you didn't accomplish what you set out to accomplish." Or, if the DM sometimes uses progress combined with a setback after the die indicates failure, you get what you want at a cost. I'm definitely not suggesting all consequences need be punitive. From a player's perspective though, I think it a reasonable conclusion to say that, in general, players will tend to want to accomplish what they set out to accomplish more often than not. Asking to roll is not the best way to go about that in my view.

I want a fun story. Sometimes a fun story comes about through laughing at my PC's repeated failures.

Yes, that can be true - but that can happen whether the player asks to roll or not. It's just that the player asking to roll (and the DM usually or always saying "Yes") will mean by some non-zero measure that outcome will be more common. Every time I have explained this to players, the light bulb over their heads switch on as they realize the odds of success are largely in their control.
 

(Side note, there was 0 telegraphing of the fact that there might be secret doors in the basement, apart from the DM asking us to make Perception checks when we first entered through the trapdoor, and saying nothing when we all rolled low.)

Has anybody else noticed that official WotC adventures for the most part do not seem to use skills in the way they are described in the rules? It's like the people who write the adventures didn't get the memo and are still writing as if they are playing an earlier edition.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Has anybody else noticed that official WotC adventures for the most part do not seem to use skills in the way they are described in the rules. It's like the people who write the adventures didn't get the memo and are still writing as if they are playing an earlier edition.

Yes, I have definitely noticed this. Sometimes they do it according to the rules and sometimes they don't. It's pretty inconsistent. Oftentimes though they are tying a specific task to an ability check and a DC and I think that's okay. If a player declares an action that is substantially similar to the task in the text, the adjudication is done for the DM already. If the player declares some other action, the DM will have to adjudicate that on his or her own given the context.
 

Honestly, for us, it's simply a time saver. We've gamed together long enough, and every single one of us bar one has spent time behind the DM's screen, that we know the drill. We know when those checks are going to be asked for anyway and we're right 99% of the time. So, why bother doing the hoop jumping of state goal, wait for the DM to ask for a roll that we know is coming, roll, wait for the DM to tell us what happened?

Just state and roll. It works for us because, well, we're not a new group of players who've never gamed before and never gamed together before. I imagine that if I was put into a new group, I'd probably go more the @iserith route, but, for my established group? It would drive me to distraction if I had to ask the players to make rolls every single time I thought they should roll. Just roll the damn dice and I'll let you know if you didn't have to roll.

Again, it's mostly just a result of the familiarity we have with each other.

As I said elsewhere (I can't remember if it was this thread or one of the others floating around on this topic at the moment) the belief that it's a semantic difference, that it's "six of one or half-dozen of the other" implies a fundamental misunderstanding of what we're talking about. The response above suggests to me not just that you use different language around the table, but that you fundamentally use skills and dice rolls in a different way.

Or maybe not. Maybe what you're trying to say is that given the way you play, it doesn't add anything to make the player wait for the DM to ask for the roll. That might very well be true.

Changing tack slightly, several posters have said something to the effect that "they enjoy the randomness".

Imagine you were trying to decide whether to bash a door down, or pick the lock. The DM says, "I'll tell you right now that if you try to bash it down I'll make you roll, and if you fail you're going to wake up the sleeping ogre on the other side. But if you try to pick it you'll eventually succeed so we'll just call it autosuccess."

Would those of you who say you enjoy the randomness and chaos of dice rolling choose to break it down? Just to see what happens?
 


5ekyu

Adventurer
As I said elsewhere (I can't remember if it was this thread or one of the others floating around on this topic at the moment) the belief that it's a semantic difference, that it's "six of one or half-dozen of the other" implies a fundamental misunderstanding of what we're talking about. The response above suggests to me not just that you use different language around the table, but that you fundamentally use skills and dice rolls in a different way.

Or maybe not. Maybe what you're trying to say is that given the way you play, it doesn't add anything to make the player wait for the DM to ask for the roll. That might very well be true.

Changing tack slightly, several posters have said something to the effect that "they enjoy the randomness".

Imagine you were trying to decide whether to bash a door down, or pick the lock. The DM says, "I'll tell you right now that if you try to bash it down I'll make you roll, and if you fail you're going to wake up the sleeping ogre on the other side. But if you try to pick it you'll eventually succeed so we'll just call it autosuccess."

Would those of you who say you enjoy the randomness and chaos of dice rolling choose to break it down? Just to see what happens?
I use randomness and enjoy randomness a lot.

But, no, I cannot imagine any player faced with an obvious choice between a successful auto-success option and a random may-fail-with-setback would have their character choose the latter. Obviously, there may be extenuating circumstances in fiction that shifts that - time constraints, frustrated barbarian syndrome, etc.

If the point of this topic is the perception that those not using goal and Jeopardy formatting are somehow passing on obvious suto-successes and Goal and Jropardy addresses that the it's a much smaller gain for much too much work than I even thought.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Cool, but how do you set DCs? And do you communicate the DC to the players? Do you communicate what a success will look like and what a failure will look like?
Setting DCs is pretty easy. Since I use 2d10 for ability checks, my DCs are 14, 17 and 21 (for medium, difficult and hard) and I just mentally select the most appropriate one in my estimation. I usually don't give them the DCs because more often than not the checks are asking for information and thus how much info I make up and give depends on what they rolled. And they can tell how well they succeeded or failed based on how in-depth or useful my information was. ;)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Of course. But known auto-success isn't really what I was talking about. To use your example, if the party is travelling underground, I might not have any idea what is actually there except for maybe a set encounter or two that were the point of them travelling underground in the first place. Everything else I'm just improvising-- no map, nothing set, just whatever comes to my mind.

So I improvise that the tunnel they were in opens up to a chamber and that there's a crevasse to get across. Now at this point I have not thought of any way for them to get across it. Maybe they have ways already ready to go that allow them auto-success (like your Ring of Flying example). If so, then great, they use it. But if not... they will probably start asking about different things that could get them across-- things I've not even thought of yet. They might start with obvious things that don't require a roll-- "Do we see a bridge?" I'll then either say yes or no based on what I think would be most entertaining or interesting for the group (if I can already tell if this "encounter" has intrigued them or not.) If the answer was "no, there is no bridge".. someone might then ask "Can make an Investigation check to see if there was perhaps a bridge here at one point?"

And then it is at this point that the result of the check will determine the truth. If they roll high, I might very well say "Yes, there are stone pitons hammered into the ground, which makes you think there had been a bridge here at one point." Or if they roll low... "Nope, there is no indication whatsoever that there has ever been a bridge here." And both of these results will probably change how the players react to this "encounter", and what they invariable decide to do with it. If there had been pitons, then that tells them something truthful about the chamber, as does the lack of them. And then they'll choose what do to and I'll improvise what happens next then as well.

So them rolling was going to happen regardless, because that was the method I was going to use to decide what to improvise as the truth. Could I improvise something on my own without them rolling a die? Sure. But I have found we usually end up with much more interesting encounters when all of us are offering up the truths of the situation, rather than just me alone, because my players are oftentimes much more clever than I am. LOL.

Based on my understanding of this, it approaches the "Rolling With It" method in the DMG where almost everything is rolled for. In that context, the strategy for more success than failure is not to avoid rolling - because you can't - but to create characters that have a lot of ways to increase the result of the die roll, particular as it pertains to ability checks. Help/Working together would be a go-to tactic basically all the time, if it makes sense in context. Then you'd want guidance, bardic inspiration, Inspiration, enhance ability, etc. to get the highest result possible. Mitigating the swing of the die is also true in any game, but it's really the only way to be more successful in the paradigm you offer above. Do I have that correct?

If I do, the question then is what @Ovinomancer is asking - what's the DC I'm looking for to most often get what I want? Because that would inform what character I choose.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Has anybody else noticed that official WotC adventures for the most part do not seem to use skills in the way they are described in the rules? It's like the people who write the adventures didn't get the memo and are still writing as if they are playing an earlier edition.

Yeah. It's almost like the rules are just general guidelines and not some holy text or something. :D
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Mitigating the swing of the die is also true in any game, but it's really the only way to be more successful in the paradigm you offer above. Do I have that correct?

If I do, the question then is what @Ovinomancer is asking - what's the DC I'm looking for to most often get what I want? Because that would inform what character I choose.

If your character selection was based not upon what you wanted to play from a personality point of view in the world we were playing in, but instead was in making sure you "won" every die roll you could... I suspect you might not enjoy playing in my games. I'm one of those "We're creating a story together" type of DMs, and failure is just as important to success when it comes to the story and drama of the game. Mitigation should be a very low priority for character design. ;)
 

coolAlias

Explorer
Yeah. It's almost like the rules are just general guidelines and not some holy text or something. :D
True, but they also set player expectations about what their characters can and cannot reasonably accomplish.

A shared understanding of the rules is important to me when playing, it allows me to better engage with the story.

If I want to climb to the rooftops and there are no extenuating circumstances, the rules say I can climb at half speed no check required. If the DM asks me for a check* out of the blue or is inconsistent in how they arbitrate climbing, it's going to detract from my enjoyment of the game.

* Unless this exception was previously discussed and agreed to
 

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