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Game Running philosphy: Let the players roll the dice


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#1 Ralzar

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 02:11 AM

This is a topic I have been thinking about for a while now and wanted to hear what others think.

 

I have found that the game tends to feel better and be more enjoyable to the players when they are the ones rolling the dice. When I, as the GM, do the rolling, the game feels less connected to the players. I am just playing with myself while the players watch ( :P ). I have more and more adopted a philosophy of letting the players do almost all rolls.

 

For example:

An NPC merchant is trying to convince a player character to buy his wares. In this case the GM would roll some kind of social action for the merchants Guile versus the player characters Discipline.

However, it is more fun and engaging for the player if I instead turn it around and have him roll to resist being convinced. And I find that players tend to easier accept bad outcomes when they are results of their own rolls.

 

 

The difference from a mechanical standpoint is none (as long as you make the rolls equally hard, obviously), but it can make a heap of difference for the players experience and his reaction to the outcome.

Players often tend to resist having the GM tell them how their character reacts to something but they often accept the same result if they were the ones rolling the dice.

 

In addition, the dice rolling mostly feel like a hassle for me as GM. I already have enough to do with book-keeping and making sure the rules are followed correctly. My enjoyment comes from the unfolding story and being creative on the fly. Rolling dice is just a distraction.

 

 

(If I was going to re-design WFRP, I would have changed all the NPC Action Cards into tests for the players to make. So if an orc attacks a character; the orc does not roll to hit, the character rolls to avoid. Then you reference the card to see what the result are based on what the player rolled.)

 

 

Anyway, has anyone else thought about this? I find that the more I let the players do all the dice rolling, the more engaging the game is and the more... "pliable" the players are to accepting the outcome without grumbling. It is much harder to argue against your own poor roll than it is to argue against a GMs arbitrary decision.


Edited by Ralzar, 12 May 2014 - 02:16 AM.

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#2 k7e9

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 10:06 AM

It's a good idea, there are several RPGs that let the players roll everything. Numenera (by Monte Cook) is one of them if I recall correctly and there are several other.

 

I generally let the players roll everything except in combat, where I handle NPCs.


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#3 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 10:35 AM

That's my general inclination as well. I try to limit my die-rolls as much as possible, and have the PCs make all the rolls they can.  Unfortunately, the Warhammer dice system (especially in regards to opposed checks) makes this somewhat problematic.

 

Example:

Imagine a PC (with Int 5, 2 ranks in Observation and 2 relevant specializations, and currently 2 steps into Reckless Stance) is hunting after a hidden NPC. (The NPC has Agi 5, is spending 1 Cunning and 1 Expertise on a Stealth check, and is always 2 steps deep into Conservative Stance.)

 

If the NPC rolls Stealth opposed by the PC's Observation:

  • There is a less than 40% chance the PC will find the NPC.
  • The NPC has a 36% chance of being Delayed.
  • The PC has a 0% chance of suffering stress.

 

If instead the PC rolls Observation opposed by the NPC's Stealth:

  • There is a 82% chance the PC will find the NPC.
  • The NPC has a 0% chance of being Delayed.
  • The PC has a roughly 43% chance of suffering stress.

 

Those are radically different odds and results, just based on who does rolls the dice. Which is fine, mostly, as long as the GM knows up front that letting the players roll all the time is greatly increasing their success rate in most cases (and making Fatigue/Stress jump around a little more than it would if the PCs were only half the die rolls).


Edited by r_b_bergstrom, 12 May 2014 - 10:40 AM.

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#4 valvorik

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 12:21 PM

I tend to have Players roll dice but not always.  I don't like them knowing when checking to see if NPC hiding something whether they rolled badly or NPC is really good at hiding their true feelings.  They're pretty good with the "artificial wall" of Player vs PC knowledge but on mysteries and such they themselves prefer the two to be the same (we've talked about it).



#5 Ralzar

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 01:21 AM

I tend to have Players roll dice but not always.  I don't like them knowing when checking to see if NPC hiding something whether they rolled badly or NPC is really good at hiding their true feelings.  They're pretty good with the "artificial wall" of Player vs PC knowledge but on mysteries and such they themselves prefer the two to be the same (we've talked about it).

 

This is why I have pretty much stopped running investigation adventures unless they are written so the investigation goes pretty much by itself. The adventure at the back of the Winds Of Magic rulebook was pretty decent like that. It just threw clues all over the place so the players always felt like they were making progress.

The problem with investigation adventures is that when they players get stuck they stop thinking about roleplaying because they are using all their mental capacity to solve the puzzle of the adventure.


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#6 Ralzar

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 02:12 AM

That's my general inclination as well. I try to limit my die-rolls as much as possible, and have the PCs make all the rolls they can.  Unfortunately, the Warhammer dice system (especially in regards to opposed checks) makes this somewhat problematic.

 

Yeah, it is a problem that the opposed check function is so poor. Has anyone made a house rule with more balanced odds?

At the moment I have often just gone for setting a difficulty that seems reasonable from a storytellers perspective.



#7 valvorik

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 05:43 AM

A variant opposed check rule floating around has been to use "challenge dice equal to opposing stat -2", so sneaking past Int 6 is 4 challenge dice.

 

For investigation adventures, the theory behind Gumshoe/Trail of Cthulhu is good to use.  Always have the key clues come out automatically, let the rolling be for "bonus options, rewards, better odds, less risk, less cost, less pain" or "avoid the pain that comes with that" stuff etc.


Edited by valvorik, 13 May 2014 - 05:45 AM.

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#8 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 12:30 PM

A variant opposed check rule floating around has been to use "challenge dice equal to opposing stat -2", so sneaking past Int 6 is 4 challenge dice.

 

I know a lot of GMs use that as a house-rule, but I don’t feel it improves the odds (or game experience) in most situations. After running the math on it, the only thing I particularly like about that rule is that it’s simple and requires no chart-referencing or division at the table top.

Opposed Stats    | original success rate    | house-rule success rate

2 opposed by 1    | 44%            | 75%
2 opposed by 2    | 25%            | 75%
2 opposed by 3    | 14%            | 44%
2 opposed by 4    | 8%            | 25%
2 opposed by 5    | 8%            | 14%
2 opposed by 6    | 8%            | 8%
2 opposed by 7    | 8%            | 4%

3 opposed by 1    | 88%            | 88%
3 opposed by 2    | 59%            | 88%
3 opposed by 3    | 38%            | 59%
3 opposed by 4    | 24%            | 38%
3 opposed by 5    | 24%            | 24%
3 opposed by 6    | 14%            | 14%
3 opposed by 7    | 14%            | 9%

4 opposed by 1    | 94%            | 94%
4 opposed by 2    | 72%            | 94%
4 opposed by 3    | 72%            | 72%
4 opposed by 4    | 51%            | 51%
4 opposed by 5    | 37%            | 37%
4 opposed by 6    | 37%            | 23%
4 opposed by 7    | 37%            | 14%

5 opposed by 1    | 97%            | 97%
5 opposed by 2    | 97%            | 97%
5 opposed by 3    | 81%            | 81%
5 opposed by 4    | 81%            | 63%
5 opposed by 5    | 63%            | 46%
5 opposed by 6    | 46%            | 32%
5 opposed by 7    | 46%            | 21%

6 opposed by 1    | 98%            | 98%
6 opposed by 2    | 98%            | 98%
6 opposed by 3    | 88%            | 88%
6 opposed by 4    | 88%            | 72%
6 opposed by 5    | 88%            | 56%
6 opposed by 6    | 72%            | 42%
6 opposed by 7    | 56%            | 30%

Which stats benefit from this house-rule?  I find I don't like the answers to that question.

A “2” in something is now much better at offense, and only weaker at defense when being targeted by someone with a low-to-middling stat. I think that’s overall an improvement for anyone with a “2”, especially PCs. This is because it’s rare that an NPC will target you with an opposed check using a stat that the NPC has a 3 or lower in. Sure, a soldier or goblin will often attack you with Str 3, but that will be vs Target Defense, not vs your dump stat. A hypothetical min-maxed PC with a Fellowship of 2 has a 44% chance of talking his way past the city-watch using this house-rule, where the original rules would have that success rate down at a punishing 14%. So I kinda prefer the original rules, just because they’re harder on munchkins.

At the other end of the spectrum, high stats (5 or above) become much less effective against other high-stat characters when using this house-rule. If you’ve got a 5 in something, your active/aggressive use of that stat suffers, but your passive/defensive (opposing) use of that stat gets a big bump. That might actually work really well if you’re using all “player-facing” mechanics (where the players roll instead of NPCs) or relying on a lot of mystery plots, as it protects your Black Cowls and Moriartys a bit from players just spam-Intuition-ing every NPC. Henchmen and average-or-below flunkies will still get broken or revealed by Str 5 Intimidate or Int 5 Intuition checks, but at least the Big Bad can stand in the same room as the PCs without being immediately outed by the wizard/scholar/verenean in the party. That’s a benefit to the game, but it comes at the cost of downgrading many of the best Social Actions and high-rank (non-combat) spells. “Influence the Target” just toke a nose-dive, at least when the target is a nobleman with a high Fellowship (who, I should mention, already gets numerous social-encounter benefits for being a nobleman such as increased Shame soak and improved Social initiative). While the total change isn't game-breaking, I really don't like that it only penalizes characters whose focus is outside of combat.

Average PCs, making fairly typical checks, won’t see much of a difference. They’ll be a little better at affecting people far below them in stats, and a little worse at affecting those who greatly outclass them. Neither is going to happen often enough to make a big impact.

TL;DR: Proposed House-rule (opposed checks use Purple = opposed stat -2) is a good match for Mystery plots with competent villains, and is better the more you have PCs roll instead of NPCs. The downside is that it rewards min-maxed and combat-focused characters, and devalues Social actions.

 

For investigation adventures, the theory behind Gumshoe/Trail of Cthulhu is good to use.  Always have the key clues come out automatically, let the rolling be for "bonus options, rewards, better odds, less risk, less cost, less pain" or "avoid the pain that comes with that" stuff etc.

Agreed. Gumshoe handles that really well.



#9 Emirikol

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 09:44 PM

Good points.  I never thought about "who" is making the opposed check.  I kinda always figured that the "active searcher" would make the roll, and in this game the person taking action is always at the advantage.

 

I too use the Gumshoe rule, although I tend to throw so many clues at people that they get confused about which are Red Herrings, so it becomes more of a matter of attrition following up on bad leads rather than "find-the-secret-door-or-not" syndrome."

 

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#10 DrWorm73

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 03:11 AM

Huh, I thought that is what we were supposed to do.  I roll dice in combat and that's about it. 

 

The only exception that comes to mind are things when I don't want them to know for sure if or how well they succeed, and in that case they roll all of their dice, and I roll challenge and mishap dice behind the screen.  Most of the time I will tell them what dice I am rolling though so they have an idea how hard the task is.  I generally use a dice-rolling app for this kind of think since I don't want to clutter the area behind the screen.  I try to keep these kinds of rolls rare though.

 

Other than that I kinda figured that the point of the opposed check system was to put the dice and luck into the hands of the player as much as possible.


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#11 Yepesnopes

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 01:23 AM

Hi, In SW EotE where the balance issue with the dice does not exist I always make the players roll (except for combat).

 

In Warhammer 3, we were using another proposed house rule (not so popular in the community) which makes the opposed dice pool as follows:

 

# Challenge dice = (stat + skill rank (or expertise dice) ) /2

any 0.5 resulting from the division is transformed into a misfortune die.

 

So for example someone opposing with a stat of 3 and two skill ranks will be 5 /2 = 2.5 That is 2 challenge dice and 1 misfortune die. I had the impression it yield more balanced opposition checks, in any case I leave here the comparison for you.

 

 

Opposed Stats    | original success rate    | house-rule success rate (stat -2)    | house-rule success rate ( (stat+skill) / 2)  

2 opposed by 1    | 44%            | 75%          |58%
2 opposed by 2    | 25%            | 75%          |44%
2 opposed by 3    | 14%            | 44%          |33%
2 opposed by 4    | 8%            | 25%            |25%
2 opposed by 5    | 8%            | 14%            |19%
2 opposed by 6    | 8%            | 8%              |14%
2 opposed by 7    | 8%            | 4%              |10%

3 opposed by 1    | 88%            | 88%          |75%
3 opposed by 2    | 59%            | 88%          |59%
3 opposed by 3    | 38%            | 59%          |49%
3 opposed by 4    | 24%            | 38%          |38%
3 opposed by 5    | 24%            | 24%          |31%
3 opposed by 6    | 14%            | 14%          |24%
3 opposed by 7    | 14%            | 9%            |19%

4 opposed by 1    | 94%            | 94%          |85%
4 opposed by 2    | 72%            | 94%          |72%
4 opposed by 3    | 72%            | 72%          |63%
4 opposed by 4    | 51%            | 51%          |51%
4 opposed by 5    | 37%            | 37%          |43%
4 opposed by 6    | 37%            | 23%          |35%
4 opposed by 7    | 37%            | 14%          |29%

5 opposed by 1    | 97%            | 97%          |92%
5 opposed by 2    | 97%            | 97%          |81%
5 opposed by 3    | 81%            | 81%          |73%
5 opposed by 4    | 81%            | 63%          |63%
5 opposed by 5    | 63%            | 46%          |55%
5 opposed by 6    | 46%            | 32%          |46%
5 opposed by 7    | 46%            | 21%          |39%

6 opposed by 1    | 98%            | 98%          |95%
6 opposed by 2    | 98%            | 98%          |88%
6 opposed by 3    | 88%            | 88%          |82%
6 opposed by 4    | 88%            | 72%          |72%
6 opposed by 5    | 88%            | 56%          |65%
6 opposed by 6    | 72%            | 42%          |56%
6 opposed by 7    | 56%            | 30%          |49%

 

 

 

Said that, I also used the house rule that a chaos star can be used as a failure. This lowers the success ratio appearing in the table.


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#12 k7e9

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 01:41 AM

Example:

Imagine a PC (with Int 5, 2 ranks in Observation and 2 relevant specializations, and currently 2 steps into Reckless Stance) is hunting after a hidden NPC. (The NPC has Agi 5, is spending 1 Cunning and 1 Expertise on a Stealth check, and is always 2 steps deep into Conservative Stance.)

 

If the NPC rolls Stealth opposed by the PC's Observation:

  • There is a less than 40% chance the PC will find the NPC.
  • The NPC has a 36% chance of being Delayed.
  • The PC has a 0% chance of suffering stress.

 

If instead the PC rolls Observation opposed by the NPC's Stealth:

  • There is a 82% chance the PC will find the NPC.
  • The NPC has a 0% chance of being Delayed.
  • The PC has a roughly 43% chance of suffering stress.

 

Those are radically different odds and results, just based on who does rolls the dice. Which is fine, mostly, as long as the GM knows up front that letting the players roll all the time is greatly increasing their success rate in most cases (and making Fatigue/Stress jump around a little more than it would if the PCs were only half the die rolls).

 

Yes, depending on who rolls the chance of success differ a lot. Still, I feel it's preferable that the players roll and more often than not I want the players to succeed rather than fail on their checks. Howerver, as I have "surrendered" all dice rolls to the, I generally set the difficulty a bit higher as well often with at least an additional purple and black die. Often I do not calculate how many challenge and misfortune dice should be included, instead I decide if it falls in which general category of difficulty it falls into (simple, easy, average, hard, daunting) and add misfortune based on other conditions.

 

A NPC with Agility 5, stealth etc should be at least hard with a few misfortune and so on. This makes the check interesting, while letting the players roll the dice. Also, I do not have to "calculate" the number of challenge dice depending on if which PC decides to attempt a check. Then I can have a fixed number of negative dice prepared when planning the adventure.






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