D&D General Should players be aware of their own high and low rolls?

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
This is a concept that keeps resurfacing in my head every now and then, should the players be made aware or not of their own and each other’s dice rolls in certain situations? Are there certain situations that by all logic should remain a mystery to me if I actually succeeded or not but that 19 showing on my D20 all but confirms I’ve got it well in hand, that the dice tells us more about the results than by any rights they should.

TL DR; are there situations where players shouldn’t be made aware of the results of their own dice because even just knowing they rolled high or low reveals information they shouldn’t have and might affect their decision making?

Consider the classic scenario: I’m trying to bluff a guard at the gates, “we’re just a group of humble travelers seeking refuge for the night” you roll your dice and...it’s a 3, but now you know it’s a 3 you know you flubbed, The guard is turning back inside to call someone else probably, crap! Quick get the wizard to cast charm person on them!

But should you really know that the guard wasn’t fooled in that situation, and if you didn’t know you failed why did you cast charm person? How many times would people just stand there and let the results play out?

It’s metagaming, but i think it’s such a minor and commonplace form of it that we often don’t recognise it as such, We’re so accustomed to knowing all our own rolls that the idea of not knowing them seems entirely alien.

Did we fail our investigations in this office or was there just nothing to find? Did you disarm the trap with your thieves tools or is it still active? Did you correctly identify these flowers as either medicinal or poisonous? Did the rogue just succeed their death saving throw or roll a crit 1?

So should there be more situations where players aren’t clued in to their own rolls for more natural reactions? What are your thoughts?
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I prefer the dice to resolve uncertainty, not to create it. I want players to know what the DCs are and the stakes for success and failure prior to the roll, so they can make informed decisions.

As for situations where the roll itself gives something away to the player, this is an opportunity for the DM to use what the rules call "progress combined with a setback" when narrating the result of the adventurer's action. They succeed in some sense, but not totally. To build on your example, the guard at the gates leans in close and says, "No humble traveler I've ever seen has a sword that nice - for 50 gp, I'll look the other way." Progress. Setback. "What do you do?"
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
When not cluing them in requires hoop-jumping, or other complications, then it doesn't serve the purpose of getting natural reactions.

This is where Passive Perception is a boon, in that it allows the GM to get a reasonable result, without alerting the player that there's any checking going on at all.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
This is a concept that keeps resurfacing in my head every now and then, should the players be made aware or not of their own and each other’s dice rolls in certain situations?
No. Anything the character wouldn't know the player shouldn't know. This is because it prevents metagaming.
But should you really know that the guard wasn’t fooled in that situation, and if you didn’t know you failed why did you cast charm person?
Exactly. Metagaming. Using out-of-character knowledge to make in-character decisions, i.e. not roleplaying.
How many times would people just stand there and let the results play out?
I've been playing and running D&D for almost 40 years. This comes up regularly and the player has chosen not to metagame exactly zero times. So, the players don't get to know the results of the rolls unless it would be obvious in-fiction to the character. Secret doors, nope. Bluff checks, nope. Searching for traps, nope. Because inevitably someone metagames. Suddenly the expert rogue who flubbed the role is mysteriously backed up and you get a dogpile of skill checks "just to be sure." It's tedious and lame.
It’s metagaming, but i think it’s such a minor and commonplace form of it that we often don’t recognise it as such, We’re so accustomed to knowing all our own rolls that the idea of not knowing them seems entirely alien.
That's an entirely recent phenomenon. It was standard practice in older editions for the referee to roll those kinds of things for the player or for there to simply not be any rolls associated with those things, like bluffing the guard. This is also why when rolls are involved in longer term things like sneaking into some place or climbing walls it became standard practice to not make a roll until the character was about half-way through whatever the task was. To avoid the player metagaming their way out of the consequences of a bad roll.
Did we fail our investigations in this office or was there just nothing to find? Did you disarm the trap with your thieves tools or is it still active? Did you correctly identify these flowers as either medicinal or poisonous? Did the rogue just succeed their death saving throw or roll a crit 1?

So should there be more situations where players aren’t clued in to their own rolls for more natural reactions? What are your thoughts?
Absolutely. It's a game, yes, but the point of the game is roleplaying a character. To do that you need to make decisions based on what the character knows, which is limited to the info the character would actually have in that situation, not what they couldn't possibly know (i.e. game stuff). If it's not part of the fiction it shouldn't be part of the decision making process for the player, therefore it's better to keep that game info away from the player so they don't metagame.
 
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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
So should there be more situations where players aren’t clued in to their own rolls for more natural reactions? What are your thoughts?

I have used a rule which helps this a lot and maybe you can try it?

When the player rolls something like bluffing the guard, I also roll a d6. If I roll even, the roll stands. If I roll odd, I reverse the roll. I don't do this until after I describe what is happening and the players have to choose.

To use your example:

DM: (GUARD) "What are you doing here?"
Player 1: We'll try to bluff him! "We’re just a group of humble travelers seeking refuge for the night."
DM: Ok, roll your Charisma (Deception) check.
Player 1: Ahh... hmm... well, I rolled a 3, and with my +5 bonus that is just an 8.
DM: The guard turns around and starts to call out to someone in the gatehouse. What do you do?
(At this point, I roll the d6, getting a 3, meaning I reverse the 3 on the player's roll to a 18, for a total of 23! Easily a success against the DC 10 I had applied for bluffing the guard.)
Player 1: Crap! Ok, I think I failed everyone. Wizard, cast charm person quick!
Player 2 (Wizard): Alright, I cast charm person then...

With this idea, you can give additional information without directly revealing whether their roll was a success or not.

The other option I do sometimes is just have the player roll behind my DM screen so they cannot see the roll. Using passive scores is also a good compromise if everyone is comfortable with it.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
The dice represent things, right? So a high roll represents a strong attempt to persuade the guard (or whatever action). It represents the guard’s reaction and all the other cues that the character would have, but the player does not.

The GM is never going to be able to be as thorough in their descriptions to inform the player as much as the character would be informed. Mechanics such as dice rolls can help bridge that gap.

Avoiding that is a fool’s errand.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Ah, the days of "roll behind the screen", how I miss thee.

I agree with @Umbran though - this isn't a simulator, it's a game. Hiding the results doesn't really add enough to be worth the effort. Better to let players look at the results and move on.
Keeping things behind the screen adds verisimilitude and honest roleplaying by helping the players who can't help themselves to not metagame.

I'd be fine with the players knowing 100% of the rolls if they would simply move on when they fail something. It's the bit where they think they need to win everything or mysteriously double check just to be sure (but only when they flub a roll of course), stop the forward progress of the game, and roll until they succeed that causes the problem. If they didn't do that, it wouldn't be a problem. Things like let it ride, failing forward, success with costs, and various other tricks also help with this.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I have used a rule which helps this a lot and maybe you can try it?

When the player rolls something like bluffing the guard, I also roll a d6. If I roll even, the roll stands. If I roll odd, I reverse the roll. I don't do this until after I describe what is happening and the players have to choose.

To use your example:

DM: (GUARD) "What are you doing here?"
Player 1: We'll try to bluff him! "We’re just a group of humble travelers seeking refuge for the night."
DM: Ok, roll your Charisma (Deception) check.
Player 1: Ahh... hmm... well, I rolled a 3, and with my +5 bonus that is just an 8.
DM: The guard turns around and starts to call out to someone in the gatehouse. What do you do?
(At this point, I roll the d6, getting a 3, meaning I reverse the 3 on the player's roll to a 18, for a total of 23! Easily a success against the DC 10 I had applied for bluffing the guard.)
Player 1: Crap! Ok, I think I failed everyone. Wizard, cast charm person quick!
Player 2 (Wizard): Alright, I cast charm person then...

With this idea, you can give additional information without directly revealing whether their roll was a success or not.

The other option I do sometimes is just have the player roll behind my DM screen so they cannot see the roll. Using passive scores is also a good compromise if everyone is comfortable with it.
Seems like it would be way easier to not change their result and keep the roll behind the screen. However upset the player might be because they don't get to see their result I imagine they'd get even more upset if you flip the result they saw behind the screen.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Seems like it would be way easier to not change their result and keep the roll behind the screen. However upset the player might be because they don't get to see their result I imagine they'd get even more upset if you flip the result they saw behind the screen.
Both work and I let the player choose. But I only do this if I feel they are metagaming the results before hand...
 

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