Pre-Rolling Certain Opposed Checks

MechaPilot

Explorer
Lately, I've been toying with the idea of having my players roll a D20 several times before the session, recording each of these rolls and handing them over to be beforehand. The idea is that I'd use those results as their D20 rolls when they make certain opposed checks where knowing the result beforehand might potentially alter how they behave (particularly checks like Stealth, Insight, and rolls to detect or disarm traps).

I have a couple ideas for how to execute this plan:


1) Rolling for self, in-order.

Under this method, each player would make a certain number of rolls, I'm thinking 10 or 20 of them. I would then use them in order, crossing them off as I go.


2) Rolling for self, random.

This method would be the same as the first, except that I would number the rolls on the page and have the player roll a die (d10 or d20, depending on the number of rolls before the session) to randomly choose the predetermined roll. I wouldn't cross off results under this method. This method has the benefit of mostly removing a player's ability to recall what the predetermined rolls were during play.

3) Swapped Rolls, in-order.

This is the same as method #1, but I swap the players' rolls so that Player A uses Player B's rolls, and vice-versa. I only have 2 players right now.

4) Swapped Rolls, random.

This is the same as method #2, but I swap the players' rolls so that Player A uses Player B's rolls, and vice-versa.


As a player, how would you feel about this practice? What would be your concerns if it were implemented at your table?

As a DM, what do you think of the idea?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
As a player, I'm not sure how I'd respond. Since I'm a DM primarily and can't help but see things through that lens, I'd be concerned about the kind of game the DM was running and how he or she viewed the adjudication process. But I'd have to see how it goes in practice.

As a DM, I would not see any value in this approach. This looks to be something that is intended to keep the players in the dark for reasons that I don't understand in the abstract. I'm not really into that. If I'm calling for an ability check, we're trying to resolve uncertainty as to the outcome of something right now. If I didn't want to resolve it right now, I wouldn't call for the check.
 

Satyrn

Visitor
Options 3 and 4 are an automatic no-go for me as a player. I don't want some other player rolling the dice for my character.

I guess I could go with option 1 or 2.

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As I DM, I'm wondering why you don't just compare your monster's roll against the PC's passive score. The end result is much the same, isn't it? It's at least close enough to be good enough for me, without bothering about rolling a bunch of dice rolls before the session.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
Lately, I've been toying with the idea of having my players roll a D20 several times before the session, recording each of these rolls and handing them over to be beforehand.
Create a sheet of printed d20 results and tick them off as you go. But I wouldn't use this in a situation where the player knows they have to roll. Passive perception DCs, saves for enemy mooks, monster checks, invisible effects, etc. But if the player is actively trying to have their PC sneak past a guard they get to roll. There's a certain amount of trust involved, of course, but it can allow better story-telling. For instance if one of the PCs gets Dominated or Possessed, you can do this without the others knowing - just pass the player a note - but if the players see one player rolling, they'll know that something is up.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I've tried a modified version of #2 because if a person remembers even the first couple of rolls option #1 kind of defeats the purpose. What I did was just roll once and mark the "starting" point for tracking, it kept my rolls to a minimum.

It was okay but it didn't add enough to the game for me to keep it. I also had feedback that people felt less engaged. Most of my players have fun with rolling a 1 on that insight check and then RPing their mistake. If I remember I'll probably even give them inspiration for it.

I do pre-roll sometimes for NPCs, especially if I expect to do a lot of things the PCs shouldn't be aware of. Of course I do the opposite as well, roll a D20 for no reason and pretend to look things up.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
Options 3 and 4 are an automatic no-go for me as a player. I don't want some other player rolling the dice for my character.

I guess I could go with option 1 or 2.
I suspected numbers 3 & 4 would be an issue. I just put them on the list because they did occur to me as ways to prevent a player from recalling what they rolled.


As I DM, I'm wondering why you don't just compare your monster's roll against the PC's passive score. The end result is much the same, isn't it? It's at least close enough to be good enough for me, without bothering about rolling a bunch of dice rolls before the session.
Players frequently like rolling. I was trying to preserve the players still getting to roll but without them making decisions based on their die rolls. For example, a stealthed character isn't going to know how well she's hiding before she risks being seen, and a character tying to tell if someone's lying (or has bad intentions) shouldn't act like they succeeded because the player can see he rolled a 2.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
I suspected numbers 3 & 4 would be an issue. I just put them on the list because they did occur to me as ways to prevent a player from recalling what they rolled.




Players frequently like rolling. I was trying to preserve the players still getting to roll but without them making decisions based on their die rolls. For example, a stealthed character isn't going to know how well she's hiding before she risks being seen, and a character tying to tell if someone's lying (or has bad intentions) shouldn't act like they succeeded because the player can see he rolled a 2.
I see what you're going for, but I still prefer passive checks - unless the player asks to roll (if they don't know to ask- well all the more reason for the passive check).

Ever since I've started using them, players really like the smoothness it adds to the game. Plus feats like observant, really mean something.
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
For decades I have been pinning up a series or random numbers on my DM screen. The sheet has a section with percentile dice and a section with d20s. Whenever I need a d20 roll - for any purpose, but I do not want to tip that it was necessary, I look at the next number on the sheet that I have not seen and use it for the roll.

New players often raise that they don't like that they are not rolling the dice. I point out that it is still random, and that I have a track record of it working well. Some players never like it too much, but it has never been a deal breaker and it allows me to weave a better story for the group, so I stick with it.

However, there have been times when there was a 'make or break' roll where the result of the die roll will change the campaig significantly. For those, I ask the player to roll, and always give them at least a hint as to why they are rolling. When everything is on the line, I'd rather have there be a bit too much player knowledge than see them feel like they're not part of the major moments.
 

Satyrn

Visitor
Players frequently like rolling. I was trying to preserve the players still getting to roll but without them making decisions based on their die rolls. For example, a stealthed character isn't going to know how well she's hiding before she risks being seen, and a character tying to tell if someone's lying (or has bad intentions) shouldn't act like they succeeded because the player can see he rolled a 2.
Yes, we do like to roll dice. That's actually why I don't like your OP's options 1 and 2 very much either, but would be totally fine with giving them a go because it could prove to be good enough.

But as a DM, my solution to the stealth example in your quote is to have the player wait to roll the dice until there's a moment when they are about to get spotted, not when they start hiding. This way, the player learns, his character learns, and I learn how well he's hidden at the moment it truly matters.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But as a DM, my solution to the stealth example in your quote is to have the player wait to roll the dice until there's a moment when they are about to get spotted, not when they start hiding. This way, the player learns, his character learns, and I learn how well he's hidden at the moment it truly matters.
^ This.

There is a tendency to want to go to the dice the moment an action is offered which sounds like it could be an ability check, but that's not always the best choice given the situation.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
Yes, we do like to roll dice. That's actually why I don't like your OP's options 1 and 2 very much either, but would be totally fine with giving them a go because it could prove to be good enough.

But as a DM, my solution to the stealth example in your quote is to have the player wait to roll the dice until there's a moment when they are about to get spotted, not when they start hiding. This way, the player learns, his character learns, and I learn how well he's hidden at the moment it truly matters.
I've already implemented that for Stealth; I just included it as an apt example for those who don't do it that way. Can't really do that with Insight though.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I've already implemented that for Stealth; I just included it as an apt example for those who don't do it that way. Can't really do that with Insight though.
I suppose that depends on how we think about it. In case you're not following all the posts in the concurrent thread on Insight checks to determine truthfulness, one of the things I mentioned might be useful here:

Getting back to telling truth from lies, here's how I view this as a DM: A lie in a social interaction challenge is similar to a trap in an exploration challenge. If you're telegraphing traps in an exploration challenge, you should be telegraphing lies in a social interaction challenge. Players engaging with NPCs and always trying to discern their truthfulness is the same as players searching for traps everywhere - they are trying to avoid gotchas. Consistent telegraphing takes that away since a truthful NPC will not be telegraphing lies.

So, if an NPC is lying, telegraph it by having the NPC give information that contradicts information the PCs have previously gathered. Have them change their mannerisms, display body language, or the like. The players may think, based on the DM's description, that this NPC is probably lying. Just like they may think the scorched floor in front of the dragon statue suggests that the statue is probably trapped. Rather than give away the game, all this does is invite further exploration and social interaction - searching for and figuring out the trap or trying to see what the NPC is lying about and why - to verify their assumptions. Which is what we want, right?
I would say that may blunt any concern over hiding Insight checks from players, unless you can think of other situations where it's ideal for them not to know the result.
 

Satyrn

Visitor
I've already implemented that for Stealth; I just included it as an apt example for those who don't do it that way. Can't really do that with Insight though.
There are times when it won't work for stealth, too. Like, if the DM decides that a guard who spots a hiding character is going to pretend like he doesn't, that stealth check in the moment will give away more information than you want to.

So those are the times when I'd go to the guard rolling against the character's passive Stealth, and just accept that the player doesn't get to roll the die this time. It's a corner case that shouldn't come up too often - but if it does hopefully I figure out way to make it work with the player rolling instead.

Of course, for those rare times, instead of using a passive score your options 1 or 2 will work fine, too. It's just not my preference as a DM.

As a player, now that I know that the pre-rolls would be a backup instead of your go-to, that you'll be looking to create ways for me to roll the dice, I'd be cool with either option 1 or 2.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
I suppose that depends on how we think about it. In case you're not following all the posts in the concurrent thread on Insight checks to determine truthfulness, one of the things I mentioned might be useful here. . .
I don't telegraph traps, unless they're lethal (and then, only because character death just bogs things down).
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
Ugh, all that seems not only time consuming, but too close to railroading.

I don't see how any of it a concern, I don't ask for die rolls until they actually mean something. So by the time a player is making a roll, they have already decided what they are doing or have done.

As pointed out, you don't make a stealth roll when you start acting stealthy, you make the roll when their is something to determine. 'The sneaking character has moved close enough to the orc outpost they might be heard, now you make a roll and see if they were heard.'

Again, you only make rolls when their is an uncertain outcome. And, imo, I almost always use passive perception for NPCs when characters are being stealthy, etc.
 

TallIan

Explorer
I’ve used this after another DM used it on me. He just asked for five rolls and applied them as needed.

I quickly dropped it when I was DM as it wasn’t worth the hassle.

As player I didn’t care either way that this was used. As a DM I just found this to be yet another thing to track.

If the result doesn’t have immediately obvious consequences I usually don’t see a point in the roll in the first place.
 

Springheel

Visitor
For the people suggesting there is no reason to hide rolls, how do you deal with things like searching for traps? The player thinks there is a trap, and rolls to search for it. Don't they learn some meta knowledge if they see the result of the roll? If they roll high and the DM says they don't see anything, they will trust that info far more than if they hear the same thing after rolling a 2.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
For the people suggesting there is no reason to hide rolls, how do you deal with things like searching for traps? The player thinks there is a trap, and rolls to search for it. Don't they learn some meta knowledge if they see the result of the roll? If they roll high and the DM says they don't see anything, they will trust that info far more than if they hear the same thing after rolling a 2.
First, the player can't decide to "roll to search for it." The DM's the only one who can decide if there's an ability check, after the player has described an action along those lines that has both an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence of failure.

So let's say there is no trap. The player describes the search. The DM then narrates the result that there is no trap found without a roll, perhaps noting the time it takes to search (and all that may entail).

Let's say there is a trap. The player describes the search. The DM determines the outcome of the search is uncertain and (most importantly) that there is a meaningful consequence of failure. Meaning, that if the player fails the roll, something happens. The rules suggest "progress combined with a setback" as an potential adjudication for a failed check, which might mean for example that the trap is found, but the character's foot is on the pressure plate, setting up the next complication in the scene. "What do you do?"

That is the key distinction here. Something must happen. If the player rolls poorly and the DM just says "You don't find any traps," then you are right in thinking that the player may decide the roll carries with it some information that might be useful. If you have the character's effort end up putting him or her in a spot, then now the action moves forward without any of that "metagame thinking" influencing the remainder of the interaction.

"Metagaming" as some call it is almost entirely the fault of the DM and can be prevented via the adjudication process (and by changing up monster stat blocks).
 

thorgrit

Explorer
My main concern would be, since the rolls are known ahead of time, behavior might be altered to line up certain checks with certain rolls, in order to get a more desirable result, however unintentional.

Counter example: what if a player made a bunch of rolls ahead of time, recorded them, and just had them on a sheet in front of them. They know their mission is to sneak into guarded area by a market, and convince a noble inside that they're in danger. They see their next rolls on the list are 3, 17, and 18. Given this information, they might be tempted to choose to attempt to fast-talk a merchant on the way out of a piece of fruit, knowing they'll fail and it'll be of little consequence, in order to know they'll have good rolls for their next Stealth and Persuasion checks. A good player would never intentionally do this, but the tempting option is still there, as is the possibility of feeling like they might be accused of doing so if they get particularly lucky.

A way to get around this might be to put the paper in an envelope, and slowly slide it out to reveal the next line as needed. Someone who is really good at memorizing strings of numbers might still be in danger of remembering the pattern, even if you start with the first 1d8 or so ignored to have a random starting point.

One alternative, if you want the ability for players to roll and randomly determine events, but not have enough information to know whether that passed or failed, a modification of #2 might work. Determine a random order of the numbers 1-20, then make a 1-20 table for them on an index card, then consult that when the player rolls. If you're worried about them learning that a 13 on the die is usually a failure and a 5 is usually a success, make multiple cards, flip to the next when used, and periodically shuffle. Actions are still declared and committed to before a check is made, the results are still determined randomly by the player on a fair die roll, but they can't presume how successful it was just on the number before you have a chance to narrate the outcome.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
"As a player, how would you feel about this practice? What would be your concerns if it were implemented at your table?"

I would simply tell the GM "just choose the outcome you want, saves time and hassle." if this were suggested. It seems very much designed to move more power to the GM blind-to-player-side and so let's stop pretending and just hand it over, accepting that on occasion the GM will let us make rolls that matter but the rest of the time it's the GM choosing.

"As a DM, what do you think of the idea?"

As a GM, not bringing value to my table. I see zero value in telling a player their experienced thief has no idea if they are being quiet or noisy or an investigator if they got a clear and thorough read of a scene or an experienced tracker if they are confident that a gang of orcs trekked thru here or not or an experienced guide if they are aware that they are definitely in track or if its iffy, signs unclear, landmarks vague.

In my games, I have the d20 roll itself reflected and described narratively in terms of the bits and fluff of a scene that tells you how well it seems to go. We have seen it done for ages right? Player rolls a two the attack may be described as wildly off, or slip on floor or something else which shows how it wasnt close. But a roll that misses by one we describe as glancing off Shield, clipping some fur.

I do the same for every roll for ability checks too.

A high roll gives you a narrative that sets up a hood effort and good circumstances. A low roll gets a description that shows poor circumstances unclear signs, inconclusive tests.

So you roll low on your stealth check, you hear a twig snap as you move in, or you realize the ground clutter or loose creaking floorboards are not very promising.

That moment of realization of course does not have to wait for a guard to be right there before it occurs. It's likely over much of the house or the dry ground clutter is fairly widespread - unless they swept it all up and stacked it in piles around the guards - lol.

So, having that poor result happen during the times even whrn guards are not there to hear provides info, intel description that the character can use.

Sure they can decide to press on, maybe thinking their roll of 5 plus their skill is enough. Maybe they decide instead to setup a series of fake creaks to draw the guard away from his position at a key moment. Maybe they just use fake after fake yo get the guard bored so much he starts ignoring them. Maybe they decide to switch to magic to get around the circumstance.

In other words - maybe they make informed decisions based on experience and early results rather than blind guesses only made at the risk/crisis momdens.
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Simply put - I find the more info the *characters have by dint of their aptitudes* the more engaged and considered and interactive and active the players become in the scenes and challenges.

The more I drive mechanics to blind uninformed mystery resolutions, the less they are because I have mechanically cast them in the passive participant in the scene.

All that said, knowing I rolled a 3 or 1 rolled a 17 or 1 rolled a 12 does not tell them the result... there is the matter of the DC plus all the non-DC issues. Maybe the guard has a passive 15, maybe a 7. Maybe there is an invisible imp familiar sitting guard duty with clear view - no stealth check matters. Maybe there is a spell or alarm. Maybe the orc shaman used Pass Without Trace. Maybe Hallucinatory Terrain is creating false landmarks across the valley.

I get a lot more dramatic fkavor and engagement since I removed any GM rolls and allow (require) the players to make every die roll and I describe the d20 roll narratively (and allow it to be used in decision making as a degree of confidence if they wish.)

But that's me and my group. Likely not gonna be everyone's cup of grog.
 

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