Got some food in be before this one, so I should be significantly less bitchy, right?
Today, I’m going to do a sort of anthology of mini rants with a common theme: Rolling. Hope you have as much fun reading as I do ranting.
Unnecessary rolls: Don’t you love to waste time?
Something I notice way too often is GMs making players take the time to roll dice or rolling dice themselves to determine things in the narrative that can be assumed or even handwaved to improve game flow. If it’s just once or twice, who cares? That is rarely the case from my experience. I often see several of these rolls per game, bogging down game flow and interrupting the narrative. Who wants their game to be bogged down with unnecessary procedures? Just assume general competency and make the narrative react in a logical (or dramatic) way without a roll determining the results. Don’t bother with those useless dice rolls and save that dice rolling for the exciting moments.
Fudge at the Table: Fudging dice rolls is lame.
We have all been there, that moment when your boss mob crits and would liquify a beloved character. What can you do? Fudge the roll, of course, by making the damage dealt lower and letting the party survive, preserving the fun of the group rather than wiping them harshly. It is usually the right decision; I still believe it today. I can’t stop thinking though, “why do we even bother rolling the dice then?”
Instead of fudging the dice results in those moments, don’t. Tell the player what happened and make it a heroic moment or twist the drama in another way to push the narrative forward in an unexpected direction rather than popping their character like a balloon unceremoniously. Still have the character take damage, but also use the moment as an excuse to put the party in a dramatic position or to show how bad things are for them. Maybe the character’s injury puts them in a dangerous situation, requiring another to intervene to save them.
Never be afraid to override the rules and make a narrative move as a GM, as it is your job to make sure the flow of the game is smooth. Another thing you could do is related to the following rant: just let your players roll the dice, so it feels like they are more in control of their fates.
Possession is 9/10ths the blame: GM’s should never touch dice.
Want a quick and easy way to make you seem like the bad guy? Roll the dice that decide the result of another.
The players should never see the GM as the decider of a players fate. A player’s decision is how a character ends up in a position, for better or worse, not the GM. The GM should only ever describe how the narrative is reacting to a player’s decisions, as this takes the decision of what happens out of the GM’s hands and puts that responsibility into the hands of the whole table through the narrative that they have told. If the GM is rolling the dice that determine the result of an action, it makes it seem like the GM is in control when they genuinely are not. Give those dice to the players and make them roll to see the result of their decisions, making them, in a way, feel like they are taking responsibility for their fate. Anything that makes the GM less adversarial is essential to the health of a group.
Quit wasting time rolling: Repeated rolls are boring.
Two players should never roll to do the same thing twice. This means that if you fail to pick the lock on the door, no one else may take the same approach that the previous player did. It’s also a good idea to remove the option of trying again through a narrative move or twist. For example: To remove the option to pick the lock option because a player attempted to stealthily pick a lock and failed, make the narrative take action so that while picking the lock, an alarm was tripped which will bring the guards their way fast, forcing the party to find another solution quick!
That’s it for today, though I have quite a few more dice related mini rants in the queue left. Maybe I’ll make a part two in the future, but for now, thanks for reading and I hope you got something out of this.
-Rusty, the DM