2020-04-07 Opposed 2d6 rolls

I got an interesting question on Reddit the other day:

Why use opposed 2d6?

Firstly, I think I like rolling dice as a referee so designs where the referee rolls no dice weren’t appealing, e.g. Dungeon World. Second, in systems where the referee sets difficulty levels I feel continuously stressed out by having to determine all these things, maybe even defend my assessment against players, e.g. Traveller. When I saw the opposed roll in the Blackmoor documentary, I saw that rolling for circumstances was best: I can always interpret the oracle of the dice.

That is, instead of wondering “how difficult is this computer to hack, exactly?” I can simply decide “it’s probably a bit harder than normal” and roll 2d6+1, and then we’ll all know whether this computer has decent ICE installed...

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Funny you should mention Traveller. There used to be a thing in classic Traveller called a “situation throw” which was just as you describe: I in my 20th century ignorance have no idea how hard it is to repair the air scrubber in the derelict vessel, so I roll 2d6 to determine the difficulty.

Traveller dice modifiers can be tacked on with a simple ±1 for each beneficial or unfortunate circumstance that is established before the roll, and the DM’s job of rationalizing why the scrubber is in such poor shape that it requires a 10 or better is a bit easier than figuring out what it “should” be.

– Christopher Jahnke 2020-04-08 00:12 UTC


Absolutely. I saw that in Chris Kubasik’s wonderful blog posts in 2017/2018: What “The Traveller” Adventure had to Say About Situation Throws and part 2 with Randomized Situation Numbers. I approve. 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-08 05:44 UTC


This! Feeling stressed about determining the difficulty of a task I absolutely didn’t think of while prepping the game. That’s probably the one thing I find most irritating when GM’ing.

I’m now thinking of doing opposed rolls with the usual d20 roll high on the players side (because that’s what they’re used to), and a bell curve Nd6 roll on the GMs side.

Wanderer Bill 2020-04-09 18:42 UTC


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