D&D General Why We Love Dice in Our RPGs (Part 2) (+)

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
I always do this, and I always state target numbers and do the maths beforehand so I can say 'you need to roll a 10 to save' or whatever. It brings a genuine tension and excitement to the game.
Agreed. Set the stakes of the roll out before it happens, be transparent about what number needs to be met on the roll, and then you get the immediate increase or release of tension depending on the result, without having to wait for the DM to "confirm". It's a little thing, but it absolutely helps with keeping the table focused.
 

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Staffan

Legend
Agreed. Set the stakes of the roll out before it happens, be transparent about what number needs to be met on the roll, and then you get the immediate increase or release of tension depending on the result, without having to wait for the DM to "confirm". It's a little thing, but it absolutely helps with keeping the table focused.
It also helps greatly in games with a meta-resource management aspect, like TORG: Eternity. TE both has Possibilities that let you roll extra dice (usually giving you pretty hefty bonuses) and cards that help in various other ways, and it's nice to know what your actual targets are before spending those resources.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Absent being able to actually swing a sword or conjure a spell, I believe that rolling dice creates a mind-body connection to help bridge the gap between imagining doing something and physically doing something.

That is to say that the tactile sensation of picking up dice and tossing them is, on some level, associated with taking a physical action. Likewise, dice interact with our other senses: visually we can see them; we can hear them plonk against the table. Mentally, that replaces the clanging of a sword against a shield or the sparkle of a spell.

I believe that's also why some game mechanics can "feel" unintuitive or too dissociated when there's too much of a gap between fluff and crunch. When what we're doing physically doesn't have a good relationship with the mental/imaginative outcome, the activity becomes emotionally unsatisfactory.
Maybe? Like I stated, I would like to see a study, because it is very hard to distinguish between something that is generally true of the human species, and something that particular humans are just used to and so assume is a normal way to feel.

For example, awhile back I switched to an e-reader. This was done primarily for practical purposes - we read a ton, and all the books everywhere were a pain in the butt. Plus wasteful. Plus expensive. Plus less convenient in a zillion other ways. Keep in mind one of the subjects I teach is literature, so when my colleagues found out that I had made this switch, they were horrified and confused, like if I had casually dropped the news that I now ate babies into the conversation. Prominent among their many, many objections are various qualitative descriptions of the enticements of physical books - the look and feel of them, the smell, the touch, and so on. Frankly, they make books sound pretty sexy!

And I sort of agree - I grew up on books. I have a collection of old, leatherbound books. I still buy graphic novels. I am far from immune to the sultry temptations of those paper succubi. So I get what my friends are saying, but I also think that they and I are really just attached to what we've always known. Like, I can imagine that X centuries ago people were all like "give up the pleasures of the scroll for books, just because books are easier to store, and less expensive, and more convenient in a zillion other ways? Heresy! How could simply opening a book and flipping pages to easily find what you need ever compare to the glorious luxury of gently unrolling your scroll like a lover, tracing your finger down its curves until...just there!...you alight upon that delectable word you desired?"

I think the physical pleasures of the dice might be similar - just what we're used to. Or maybe not - maybe there is something about them that scratches an inherent itch. Lots of animals like small, shiny objects. But I would not be at all surprised if a generation or two from now, physical dice will be quaintly antiquated. Still coveted by collectors, but also kind of a curiosity.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Maybe? Like I stated, I would like to see a study, because it is very hard to distinguish between something that is generally true of the human species, and something that particular humans are just used to and so assume is a normal way to feel.

For example, awhile back I switched to an e-reader. This was done primarily for practical purposes - we read a ton, and all the books everywhere were a pain in the butt. Plus wasteful. Plus expensive. Plus less convenient in a zillion other ways. Keep in mind one of the subjects I teach is literature, so when my colleagues found out that I had made this switch, they were horrified and confused, like if I had casually dropped the news that I now ate babies into the conversation. Prominent among their many, many objections are various qualitative descriptions of the enticements of physical books - the look and feel of them, the smell, the touch, and so on. Frankly, they make books sound pretty sexy!

And I sort of agree - I grew up on books. I have a collection of old, leatherbound books. I still buy graphic novels. I am far from immune to the sultry temptations of those paper succubi. So I get what my friends are saying, but I also think that they and I are really just attached to what we've always known. Like, I can imagine that X centuries ago people were all like "give up the pleasures of the scroll for books, just because books are easier to store, and less expensive, and more convenient in a zillion other ways? Heresy! How could simply opening a book and flipping pages to easily find what you need ever compare to the glorious luxury of gently unrolling your scroll like a lover, tracing your finger down its curves until...just there!...you alight upon that delectable word you desired?"

I think the physical pleasures of the dice might be similar - just what we're used to. Or maybe not - maybe there is something about them that scratches an inherent itch. Lots of animals like small, shiny objects. But I would not be at all surprised if a generation or two from now, physical dice will be quaintly antiquated. Still coveted by collectors, but also kind of a curiosity.

Out of curiosity, does your e-reading mimic turning pages at all?

Anecdotally, I've found that I have a tougher time reading when I need to scroll vertically. I think it's because my brain was trained to learn from physical books.

I've found that newer readers which mimic going left-to-right, as if an actual book, are better for me.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I used to be a big fan of keeping the target numbers hidden, but I was eventually persuaded by the Angry GM to stop doing that.

His reasoning is that there’s a tension between rolling the dice and seeing the result, and not knowing the target messes with the pacing. Instead of going: roll dice ⇒ result meets target ⇒ woo-hoo!; it’s more like: roll dice ⇒ wait to hear success or failure ⇒ etc.

I eventually gave it a try, and I find myself agreeing with his reasoning. It’s also one of the reasons I like old-school saving throws and static targets in PbtA games.

I think that there's something to this.

I've ran FKR games with hidden targets, which has had the benefit, in that system, of keeping players grounded in the fiction. However, it's also led to a loss of something. Those experiences are what has led me to embark on this series of essays- basically a focus on the dice and dice mechanics, which I think tends to get overlooked in all of the conversations we have.

But it's not necessarily about the pacing (although maybe that's a part of it)- even with a hidden target, the GM can immediately narrate the result if the target is known to the GM. It's more the visceral WOO-HOO! or NO! that the player feels seeing the result, and, in a certain way, perhaps that agency (however mistaken) that the player has in the result. I know, it's a fallacy to think we are responsibly for the results of these random roles ... and yet, do you let other people roll your dice?
 

soviet

Hero
I think that there's something to this.

I've ran FKR games with hidden targets, which has had the benefit, in that system, of keeping players grounded in the fiction. However, it's also led to a loss of something. Those experiences are what has led me to embark on this series of essays- basically a focus on the dice and dice mechanics, which I think tends to get overlooked in all of the conversations we have.

But it's not necessarily about the pacing (although maybe that's a part of it)- even with a hidden target, the GM can immediately narrate the result if the target is known to the GM. It's more the visceral WOO-HOO! or NO! that the player feels seeing the result, and, in a certain way, perhaps that agency (however mistaken) that the player has in the result. I know, it's a fallacy to think we are responsibly for the results of these random roles ... and yet, do you let other people roll your dice?
In play it feels like the difference between being at a sporting event vs. listening to the commentators describe it on the radio.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I've ran FKR games with hidden targets, which has had the benefit, in that system, of keeping players grounded in the fiction. However, it's also led to a loss of something. Those experiences are what has led me to embark on this series of essays- basically a focus on the dice and dice mechanics, which I think tends to get overlooked in all of the conversations we have.
It’s possible some may not want that something. It’s a sentiment I’ve seen expressed here in discussions on immersion and how the game parts should be backgrounded or minimized.

But it's not necessarily about the pacing (although maybe that's a part of it)- even with a hidden target, the GM can immediately narrate the result if the target is known to the GM. It's more the visceral WOO-HOO! or NO! that the player feels seeing the result, and, in a certain way, perhaps that agency (however mistaken) that the player has in the result.
Jumping straight to narrating the result is hard to do well with combat. Or I’ve just not been lucky enough to have good DMs who could keep things flowing (or players who roll damage together with their attacks).

There’s also things like rolling a crit then minning out on damage for the critical roll. There’s probably something to be said about designing critical effects that aren’t worse than what you could do normally.

At Origins last year in a PF2 con game, I used my fighter’s ancestry feat to buff my Aid attempt, which turned the sorcerer’s hit into a crit. Yay, teamwork! He rolled a 1 on damage, which doubles to 2 on a crit in PF2. 🫠

I know, it's a fallacy to think we are responsibly for the results of these random roles ... and yet, do you let other people roll your dice?
3e has the DM roll the Disguise check to hide the result from the player (so you don’t know how well you did). I ran it as written with a new player to my group, and he was not happy about it. 😅
 

Clint_L

Hero
In play it feels like the difference between being at a sporting event vs. listening to the commentators describe it on the radio.
Yes, the performative aspect of dice rolling is another aspect to consider. Players will often take the time to choose a particular dice for an important roll, and make a show of the whole thing. Not to mention the considerable time, attention, and money that many players spend on the dice themselves (last year, Dwarven Forge even ran an entire KS just for super fancy dice holders).

I myself have a big, heavy, metal D20 that I reserve for particularly impactful rolls when I DM.

DnDBeyond animates the dice rolls, and one of their regular perks is to offer new styles of dice. So even our virtual dice rolling is given a performative aspect.
 

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