2013-05-14 When To Roll

Recently I left a comment on Philip Watson's thread on Google+ where he wondered whether players should know when their thief failed to hide. I said:

I let them roll in the open but will delay the roll until immediate consequences are at hand. Player says their character is hiding, no roll required. Orcs are coming. Now you roll—and if you fail, they spot you.

Consequences happen right after the result of the die roll is known. As a referee, I have have no “information advantage” and thus the question of unfairness doesn’t come up.

I was reminded of Courtney Campbell’s blog post On Skill Deconstruction: Why Roll for Resolution? He lists five reasons for rolling dice.

  1. time constraints
  2. in conflict with another entity
  3. a serious consequence for failure
  4. impossible to model at the table
  5. (partial results can make the procedure more exciting)

I’m trying to have thieves succeed automatically whenever possible. I’m going to opt for dice rolling when the conditions listed above are true. If the dungeon has wandering monsters, each failed roll to open a door or unlock a chest means one check for wandering monsters. If there are no monsters, we don’t need to know how long the thief takes to unlock the chest. It will succeed eventually.

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I still struggle with this often.

Extra rolls are a fast route to a dull game. Normally I roll for opening doors just once, on a failure there is no chance of surprise. The attempt always draws a wandering monster roll.

-C 2013-05-15 08:58 UTC

Alex Schroeder
Interestingly, Arnold K. also appears to use this for Knowledge checks (Just-In-Time Compilation). Players express a plan (set this jelly bear on fire), and at some later point they throw the torch and roll their Intelligence check. If they succeed, then jelly bears do in fact catch fire. If they fail, bad things happen (“napalm bear”). In effect, the nature of the jelly bear rests in Schrödinger-like uncertainty until you are ready to do something. I feel this crosses a line, somehow. On Google+, this is articulated by James Young: “I like the knowledge check idea in theory, but I suppose it feels more Dungeon World-y in that it reveals that the entire world is basically being bullshitted together on the fly?” Yeah.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-23 09:34 UTC

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