GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

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spudeus
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GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by spudeus »

Probably as old a discussion as RPGing itself, but Troll Lord's recent GM Tips got me thinking about it again. To quote:

"The dice don’t run the game. You do. Roll dice behind a screen to allow yourself the option of fudging a dice for or against the party/character in order to keep momentum going or control the outcome a little better."

To an extent, I disagree. If players pick up on the fact the GM is ensuring that opponents 'whiff' when their characters are low on HP or what have you, the danger factor disappears - and with it the excitement. Monster attack/damage roles, IMO, should generally be out in the open. Hero points, generous use of healing, etc. can be used to mitigate swinginess.

Maybe I'm off-base, what do folks here lean toward?

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Buttmonkey »

I am deeply committed to rolling in the open as GM. I temper that by using hero points and luck points. My players decide when to fudge through their use of the hero/luck points. My game is much, much better for rolling in the open. The excitement and tension ratchet up remarkably when you roll in the open. It also lets the GM play a game rather than just controlling a story narrative. I think I am a significantly better GM when I am riffing off of the dice rolls rather than imposing a narrative and fudging dice rolls to make sure my narrative vision is brought to life.

In terms of controlling the outcome better through fudging, I'd argue there are plenty of opportunities to do that without hiding dice rolls. The players don't know how many hit points a monster has. That can be adjusted on the fly invisibly if the GM wants. The GM controls when monsters decide to run or surrender. The GM can also decide when monster reinforcements arrive in the event an encounter is too weak.

It's also important not to be afraid of a TPK. If it happens, it happens. TPKs demonstrate that the PCs aren't safe and make the game exciting. If you're TPKing a lot, you're probably doing something wrong that has nothing to do with not fudging often enough.

If a failed SIEGE check would cause an adventure to grind to a halt, you're probably experiencing bad adventure design. Vital information and items should never be hidden behind a secret door. That's where you put cool goodies that the PCs might be lucky enough to find. If the One Ring is hidden behind a secret door that the PCs don't find, the adventure is going to suck. Another example would be the approach to Castle Zagyg. PCs have to make fear saves in order to approach. If the PCs fail badly enough, they can never approach the Castle. That's a pretty crappy adventure design (that is also easily fixed). More abstractly, there are usually ways to work with a failed SIEGE check to keep an adventure moving (Steve talks about some of them, in fact). If a PC fails a swimming check and having the PC drown seems like a bad outcome, GM fiat can easily save the day by having a branch float down stream for the PC to catch, etc. You don't want the failed SIEGE check to be toothless, so maybe the PC is pulled downstream and now the party has to cope with regrouping with the floating PC.

So, yeah, I'm firmly in the roll in the open camp.
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Captain_K »

I do both, not so much out of desire to something one way or the other. When the dice roll not going to kill anyone and the moment is significant to plans or simply drama I can get out the big foam dice or just roll it in the open OR have the player roll their own fates. I do that a great deal. But I have the screen up and just roll there out of simplicity.

You bring up the point of fate points.. I don't mind adding luck to or from rolls.. but the "I know I can get an auto critical when I need it".. I'm starting to not like. I don't mind extra to hit bonus or even an automatic hit.. but getting it to be a critical... just not sure anymore. Thoughts?
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Go0gleplex »

Hidden Dice. Always.


edit: Sometimes the players have done everything right but their dice do not let them capitalize on that. I reserve the right to avoid consistent TPK's in such situations. There are also times that I roll dice for things not necessarily known to the players or just to raise their paranoia and have them paying more attention to in game happenings. Conversely, if the players are screwing around and playing grab-arse style I reserve the right to bring a bit more pain to their characters as a hint to them to resolve their period of cranial rectosis and get in the game at hand.

Seeing the numbers on the dice also takes a little away from narrative action. Hard to really think of a raking wound to the shoulder as serious when you see the die result of 4 on a d6. I want the players to focus on the story and information, not my dice.
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Buttmonkey »

Captain_K wrote:I do both, not so much out of desire to something one way or the other. When the dice roll not going to kill anyone and the moment is significant to plans or simply drama I can get out the big foam dice or just roll it in the open OR have the player roll their own fates. I do that a great deal. But I have the screen up and just roll there out of simplicity.
I got rid of my screen when I started rolling (almost) everything in the open. I keep my notes on a clipboard with a few pages of blank notebook paper on top for security.
Captain_K wrote:You bring up the point of fate points.. I don't mind adding luck to or from rolls.. but the "I know I can get an auto critical when I need it".. I'm starting to not like. I don't mind extra to hit bonus or even an automatic hit.. but getting it to be a critical... just not sure anymore. Thoughts?
I'm very sparing with hero points (which basically guarantee success at anything a PC attempts that it could theoretically be successful at performing). I give out maybe 1 per PC per level or less. I've never had a player manage to stockpile 2 of them at once. In terms of a hit being "critical," in my game that would at most be max damage. I typically would allow a hero point to guarantee a hit and then make the player roll damage separately. I'm pretty sure I've allowed a hero point to be used to auto-hit with max damage where it felt fun narratively.
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Lurker »

Go0gleplex wrote:Hidden Dice. Always.

Rgr that. It is more out of habit though than purposely.
Buttmonkey wrote:
... The excitement and tension ratchet up remarkably when you roll in the open. It also lets the GM play a game rather than just controlling a story narrative. I think I am a significantly better GM when I am riffing off of the dice rolls rather than imposing a narrative and fudging dice rolls to make sure my narrative vision is brought to life.

In terms of controlling the outcome better through fudging, I'd argue there are plenty of opportunities to do that without hiding dice rolls. The players don't know how many hit points a monster has. That can be adjusted on the fly invisibly if the GM wants. The GM controls when monsters decide to run or surrender. The GM can also decide when monster reinforcements arrive in the event an encounter is too weak.

It's also important not to be afraid of a TPK. If it happens, it happens. TPKs demonstrate that the PCs aren't safe and make the game exciting. If you're TPKing a lot, you're probably doing something wrong that has nothing to do with not fudging often enough.

If a failed SIEGE check would cause an adventure to grind to a halt, you're probably experiencing bad adventure design. Vital information and items should never be hidden behind a secret door. That's where you put cool goodies that the PCs might be lucky enough to find. If the One Ring is hidden behind a secret door that the PCs don't find, the adventure is going to suck. Another example would be the approach to Castle Zagyg. PCs have to make fear saves in order to approach. If the PCs fail badly enough, they can never approach the Castle. That's a pretty crappy adventure design (that is also easily fixed). More abstractly, there are usually ways to work with a failed SIEGE check to keep an adventure moving (Steve talks about some of them, in fact). If a PC fails a swimming check and having the PC drown seems like a bad outcome, GM fiat can easily save the day by having a branch float down stream for the PC to catch, etc. You don't want the failed SIEGE check to be toothless, so maybe the PC is pulled downstream and now the party has to cope with regrouping with the floating PC.

So, yeah, I'm firmly in the roll in the open camp.
I will agree though that I can see how open rolling can heighten the tension.

Open roll or not, I agree there are more ways to control a game than just hidden rolls ... Those 10 hobgoblins that the party should have waded through with no sweat, but a series of bad rolls (or good rolls by the DM) has changed the tide and the players are fighting for their life - long before ever seeing the real big bad guy. A good DM will drop the 18 hp he had planned on the monsters down to less than 12 each, have 2 or3 elven archers/ranges appear and lose a volley of arrows into the hobs' side and back - an narrate they had been tracking the hobs since they had raided the elf village/ambushed their caravan etc, or ignore the note that says after 3 min of fighting, a second group of hobs arrive to aid the ones that are giving the players a fight for their money.

Of course that is all if the players weren't playing/doing stupidly. If they have been stupid, then I let fate (and dice rolls) decide it and don't pull any punches.
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by finarvyn »

It's a tough balance. You want characters to survive, but you don't want players to think that you cheat to have them survive. Sometimes I roll behind the screen, other times in the open -- it all comes down to how lethal I want that particular game/campaign to be at the time.
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Greyblade »

Rolling in the open. Since I do that, my games have gotten more tense and exciting!
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Giant2005 »

This question is more "fudge or don't fudge" and the answer is a big hell no to fudging. Fudging is cheating and perhaps more importantly, it is the pinnacle of railroading. It is the GM refusing to let the players even keep the consequences of their own rolls. Don't do it.
So yeah, you may as well roll in the open if you are choosing not to fudge (and seriously you should choose not to fudge - a game isn't a game if the rules are optional) as rolling in the open doesn't test the group's trust unnecessarily.

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by T1Hound »

I will roll dice behind the screen. If it’s a dire combat, both the party are coming down to the final blows, I’ll roll the dice right out across the table. For me, the referee, there has been epic fails against the party and some humbling wins.

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by spudeus »

Interesting reactions so far! No real consensus, but it's not either/or for many folks - sometimes it's situational. Even as an 'open roller', I admit that this may make it more difficult to avoid unsatisfying TPKs (which I consider to be 'allowable' fudging since you don't want to discourage new players).

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Rhuvein »

No, no consensus - because there are too many ways to roll.

Behind the screen, with no explanation (you know, when the players are taking too much time at the dungeon corridor crossroad).

Behind the screen with explanation.

In front of the screen with no explanation (I do this online).

In front w/explanation.

It all depends on the situation and what the CK is looking to do.

"Fudging" a roll is not a bad thing, depending on how it's deployed by the CK.

I don't fudge, but I do in another way. Divine intervention. Gods and roaming clerics are always a factor in my games to temper a possible TPK or a players death.

Others use luck and fate points - these can be interpreted as fudging ~ but I think these are excellent CK tools that help the players.

My thinking is - keep the game moving and close to death, but don't let the dice rule over the CK. The CK rules all and the dice keep it close, but feel free to use any method that suits the players and the CK.

:)
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Lurker »

Rhuvein wrote:No, no consensus - because there are too many ways to roll.

...

My thinking is - keep the game moving and close to death, but don't let the dice rule over the CK. The CK rules all and the dice keep it close, but feel free to use any method that suits the players and the CK.

:)
Perfect way to put it !

By the way ... I never thought of your "in the open but with no explanation" .... I like it.

I do the behind the screen with out explanation all the time, but that could have a good effect too!
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by serleran »

Depends what it is.

I may not even be the one rolling.

Sometimes, for example, I might have another player roll the find traps check for the rogue and then have that rogue roll the damage dice for an attack against the first player.

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Captain_K »

love the "let you roll your own fate or critical against you...." better still let one player roll against the other PC... wicked!
Wow, Another Natural One! You guys are a sink hole for luck. Stay away from my dice.

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Balamoor »

Hidden always and forever.
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Captain_K »

Balamoor, Welcome!
Wow, Another Natural One! You guys are a sink hole for luck. Stay away from my dice.

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by Lurker »

Captain_K wrote:Balamoor, Welcome!
Rgr, welcome to the board.

Great quote by the way !
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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by spudeus »

Lurker wrote:Great quote by the way !
Great because it's true!! Barbarians aren't much in they way of passive-aggressive. . .

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Re: GM Hidden or Open Dice [Old Topic]?

Post by JohnD »

I run all my games on Fantasy Grounds so all my rolls are hidden. I want my players to focus on their surroundings and the in-game situation they're presented with, not what pluses a foe has or a specific number that one person got and was successful and use that to meta game some kind of difficulty assessment.

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