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GMs and secret dice pools


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#1 whafrog

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:30 AM

In the Beginner game everything is wide open, players get to form their dice pools and have full knowledge of what the opposition is.  Is that the expectation with this game going forward, eg if I find a local playing group is that what I'll expect to see?  As a longtime GM I only sometimes let the players see what the opposition dice rolls are, and usually only when it's down to a climactic finale or important plot point.  Otherwise, a) there is no reason for the players to know what exact set of skills an opponent might have; and b) sometimes the results need fudging, like when an outcome threatens to derail the plot.

Anybody have an opinion on this?

 



#2 Kallabecca

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 06:10 AM

whafrog said:

In the Beginner game everything is wide open, players get to form their dice pools and have full knowledge of what the opposition is.  Is that the expectation with this game going forward, eg if I find a local playing group is that what I'll expect to see?  As a longtime GM I only sometimes let the players see what the opposition dice rolls are, and usually only when it's down to a climactic finale or important plot point.  Otherwise, a) there is no reason for the players to know what exact set of skills an opponent might have; and b) sometimes the results need fudging, like when an outcome threatens to derail the plot.

Anybody have an opinion on this?

 

With this system you have to let them see the whole pool, or why is the player doing any rolling? Since symbols on dice cancel and can have story impacts (threat vs advantage, Despair and Triumph) it just makes sense to keep it all in the open. Lately I've been finding the secret rolls to be a waste of time at a table and more of the style of Antagonistic playstyle (old school GM vs the Players).



#3 New Zombie

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 06:59 AM

 

as a narrative system you and you players can control the context of the dice rolls to degree.

i've found the narrative dice to be liberating as a GM, i feel much more comfortable with derails or even no rails, because i know the dice and the players will help me tell the emergent story.



#4 riplikash

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 08:54 AM

I'm with the previous two posters. EotE is fundamentally different from old school, antagonistic D&D style games, and this is represented in the dice and combat mechanics. In a narrativistic (that is now a word) game content creation and meta knowledge is more evenly distributed between the GM and the players. Rather than the GM being responsible for the world/story and the players merely for their actions, the story-telling duties are spread between the GM and the players.

I find the more my group embraces that perspective, the more fun we have. We've had a blast allowing more and more of the story get dictated by the players. For example, rather than narrating a successful "knowledge: underworld" roll our group will most often allow the player to dictate some new aspect that assists them. Similarly, the reults of a "triumph" are almost always left to the pervue of the PC's, rather than the GM.

The dice mechanics are built with those assumptions built in. I find it to be a fun change up from traditional RPG's, which simeltaneously decreases the creative load/prep time for the GM, and increases the players investment in the game world.

I'm not saying secret rolls are BAD, or even that GM antagonistic RPG's are bad. They are great, and have their place. I'm just encouraging people to try letting go of many of their preconceptions of how an RPG is played, and to really give the narrativistic/group generated paradigm a try.



#5 LethalDose

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 09:12 AM

I still use secret dice pools in this game, because there are times where I don't want the characters to know that they don't know something.  If I say "Roll perception", they players know there's something going on even if they characters don't.  Disconnects like this reduce immersion 

The two biggest places I use this are knowledge checks and checks to notice something.  For knowledge skills (and several others), you can generate great roleplaying situations by giving the players bad or wrong information when that they have no reason to believe is anything other than accurate.  An example by contrasts:

 

With full disclosure:

Player: "I want to use my Xenology skill to determine how to impress this alien"

Player rolls: Fail with threats

GM: "You're not sure how to impress him, but you think that offering him money may improve his attitude"

Player: "Well, I sure as hell don't offer him money then."

Character: "…"

Alien: "…"

 

With a secret roll:

 

Player: "I want to use my Xenology skill to determine how to impress him"

GM rolls: Fail with threats

GM: "You're not sure how to impress him, but you think that offering him money may improve his attitude"

Player: "hmmm, well, okay"

Character: "Excuse me sir, but you're doing an excellent job, here's a tip"

Alien: "HOW DARE YOU INSUATE I CAN'T PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY!!!"

 

In terms of perception, if you ask the player to make a roll, which he fails, he knows there's something he didn't notice, which may lead the players to have the characters either be on alert, or stop and search the area for whatever they missed, which leads to more unneccesary rolling, and slows down the game.  So, I respectfully disagree with Kal when he says:

Kallabecca said:

With this system you have to let them see the whole pool, or why is the player doing any rolling? Since symbols on dice cancel and can have story impacts (threat vs advantage, Despair and Triumph) it just makes sense to keep it all in the open. Lately I've been finding the secret rolls to be a waste of time at a table and more of the style of Antagonistic playstyle (old school GM vs the Players).

I don't think the secret rolls are antagonistic at all.  I think they can add to the players' experience of the game, provided they're used properly, and I prefer appropriately used secret rolls on both sides of the screen.  It's really just about preferred play styles, and I prefer more immersive styles, which I think the secret rolls can assist.

-WJL


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#6 riplikash

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 09:48 AM

Nothing you are saying is incorrect, but I would argue is the examples you gave are more in the vein of the old school antagonistic style gameplay; antagonistic meaning GM creates the story, players react to it. Hiding the fact that the player failed a roll in order to trick them into making a mistake is a perfect example of GM antagonist style game play. Again, it isn't a BAD thing. Just not the core of this game. And changing that core isn't a bad thing either. There are benefits to that style of game. An antagonistic style game encourages power plays, caution, and trying to figure out the meta-game of the GM. It rewards careful planning and paranoia. It makes for a tense, immersive game. That works great for many games.

But there are benefits to a more narrative style game too, which I think more people should try out. In the narrativist games I have run, not only do my players not attempt to meta-game out of rolls as the one you described ("Well, I sure as hell don't offer him money then."), they actively come up with many of the most interesting consequences, because the entire core feel of the game is different. It's not about beating the GM, it's about coming up with the coolest outcome, which is often NOT in their best interests. They even look for ways for the GM to use dark side points against them (as that gets them more light side points). It encourages them to help creat the world, to make encounters more dramatic, and to role-play.

Where antagonistic games encourage immersion via simulation, narrativistic games encourage immersion via player investment. Player's aren't just invested in their character, but the world and the story, which they have helped create. Many narrativistic games (FATE for example) actively provide bonuses to players for making bad things happen to their characters, and as a result the stories are much more interesting. And, as New Zombie noted, it makes running the game much easier on the GM, as they no longer have to run the whole show against the players, but can instead allow the players and dice to help generate the story.  Moving power and rolls away from the players and to the GM, while not a bad thing, of necessity also shifts the players mindset into a more antagonistic, simulationist, and less narrativistic one. They can't help come up with negative events and story impacts because they have to stay on guard against the GM who is actively trying to trick them.

Again, this is not a bad thing. But just as an artist benefits from trying multiple styles, I think gamers benefit playing multiple RPG styles. 

So I'm just encouraging people to try a full on collaborative, narrativistic campaign. There is a bit of a learning curve, but it can be a very rewarding and refreshing when you have only ever played traditional, D&D style, GM vs PCs games. It's fine if you then go back to a more simulationist style game, but I would bet you will find yourself--and your players--approaching campaigns a bit differently. At the very least you would have a better idea of why you enjoy a more simulationist game.



#7 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:02 PM

I find hiding die rolls is a patch to the real problem of gaming with people you don't trust to roleplay a situation appropriately.


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#8 whafrog

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:42 PM

I resent the word "antagonistic" :)  I've never been an antagonistic GM, or try to "trick" players, I set up a world, the outlines of a plot, and let the players ramble through it as they like (within limits…I can't be expect to stock every little village they come across).  However, I have been a player for a few antagonistic GMs…which is why I'm not.  I think LethalDose nicely summed up how I'd use it.

Kallabecca asked:  why is the player doing any rolling?

They would be rolling their own dice, and probably setback dice from obvious effects (weather, etc), just not the difficulty and challenge dice.  If someone is picking a lock, it doesn't make sense to me that they automatically know how easy it should be to pick.  If they're facing a nemesis NPC, they shouldn't necessarily know their stats.

That said, I do appreciate what everyone else is saying about the players helping with the narrative.  Indeed, that would be new to me and my group, and probably very refreshing if it could happen.  Doc, the Weasel suggested I don't trust the players to roleplay properly, and unfortunately that is somewhat true.  I have one player who has to be cajoled into doing something heroic even though he usually plays a noble-paladin-type.  I have another who is an antagonistic player in that he tries to derail whatever plot he thinks the GM is up to (he does this to all GMs).  We've been playing this way since we left high school 30 years ago.

But maybe it's worth a gamble.  Or at least I can try it out with my son.



#9 Kallabecca

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 03:15 PM

whafrog said:

I resent the word "antagonistic" :)  I've never been an antagonistic GM, or try to "trick" players, I set up a world, the outlines of a plot, and let the players ramble through it as they like (within limits…I can't be expect to stock every little village they come across).  However, I have been a player for a few antagonistic GMs…which is why I'm not.  I think LethalDose nicely summed up how I'd use it.

Kallabecca asked:  why is the player doing any rolling?

They would be rolling their own dice, and probably setback dice from obvious effects (weather, etc), just not the difficulty and challenge dice.  If someone is picking a lock, it doesn't make sense to me that they automatically know how easy it should be to pick.  If they're facing a nemesis NPC, they shouldn't necessarily know their stats.

That said, I do appreciate what everyone else is saying about the players helping with the narrative.  Indeed, that would be new to me and my group, and probably very refreshing if it could happen.  Doc, the Weasel suggested I don't trust the players to roleplay properly, and unfortunately that is somewhat true.  I have one player who has to be cajoled into doing something heroic even though he usually plays a noble-paladin-type.  I have another who is an antagonistic player in that he tries to derail whatever plot he thinks the GM is up to (he does this to all GMs).  We've been playing this way since we left high school 30 years ago.

But maybe it's worth a gamble.  Or at least I can try it out with my son.

Actually, what I said was "With this system you have to let them see the whole pool, or why is the player doing any rolling?"

Don't chop a sentence in half as it loses it's context. And since this isn't D&D with the single die vs single die, the average player will know just from the sound how many and what type of dice you're rolling anyways. And it is far faster for one person to roll all the dice in the pool and do the quick cancellation of symbols to get to the final tally. Much better than them rolling, telling you what they got, then you figuring out what to remove and what remains. Or more annoying for the GM, you having to roll the entire pool for the player.

You can resent the word all you like, but that is the style of play that rolling in secret comes from. As it allows for a few things with "single die systems" that you can't pull off in systems like this. Things like hiding all the flat bonuses a given NPC has in D&D. Fudging the results to get what one wants (either by changing the die result or the bonuses applied to a given roll).



#10 Aazlain

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 03:37 PM

Hi whafrog.

Go with what feels right for you and your players. I'm pretty sure it il work either way. 

I personally use a screen most of the time, mainly to hide my game notes and hang some rule references and notes on NPC personalities. I roll the dices behind the screen as it's easier for me than reaching over the screen. No problem so far.


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#11 riplikash

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 04:56 PM

whafrog said:

I resent the word "antagonistic" :)  I've never been an antagonistic GM, or try to "trick" players, I set up a world, the outlines of a plot, and let the players ramble through it as they like (within limits…I can't be expect to stock every little village they come across).  However, I have been a player for a few antagonistic GMs…which is why I'm not.  I think LethalDose nicely summed up how I'd use it.

Kallabecca asked:  why is the player doing any rolling?

They would be rolling their own dice, and probably setback dice from obvious effects (weather, etc), just not the difficulty and challenge dice.  If someone is picking a lock, it doesn't make sense to me that they automatically know how easy it should be to pick.  If they're facing a nemesis NPC, they shouldn't necessarily know their stats.

That said, I do appreciate what everyone else is saying about the players helping with the narrative.  Indeed, that would be new to me and my group, and probably very refreshing if it could happen.  Doc, the Weasel suggested I don't trust the players to roleplay properly, and unfortunately that is somewhat true.  I have one player who has to be cajoled into doing something heroic even though he usually plays a noble-paladin-type.  I have another who is an antagonistic player in that he tries to derail whatever plot he thinks the GM is up to (he does this to all GMs).  We've been playing this way since we left high school 30 years ago.

But maybe it's worth a gamble.  Or at least I can try it out with my son.

I understand where your coming form, but hope I've made it clear that I mean "antagonistic" as a neutral description of play style, not as in the classic "antagonistic GM" negative stereo type.

I too have had several "antagonistic" players over the years, and have found the huge mental shake up involved in learning and playing a narrative game to be the best way to break them of those habits.

I might even suggest going so far as trying one of the full on narrativistic systems out there. FATE and it's varients (I particularly enjoyed Dresden Files) will force most any gamer to re-think their approach to RPGs. In the FATE style RPGs cautious power gaming is synonomous with excellent roll playing. Paladins taking one for the team, detectives being too drunk to shoot strait, and hot-heads rushing into combat ill-prepared ARE the most mechanically sound decisions you can make. Derailing the GM is pretty much not a thing as a) the players are hugely involved in story creation and b) avoiding dramatic or cinematic conflicts results in being the players being underpowered in the big fights. Long story short, the dramatic, cinematic, role playing route is ALSO the route to power and success. It's a cool paradigm shift, and one that Edge of the Empire has largely, if not completely, embraced.



#12 riplikash

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:00 PM

One more thought. I've noticed that "fudging the roll" is largely not a necessity in this (or any other narrativist) system. Failing moves the story along just as surely as succeeding. Getting killed by a single bad roll is largely not a thing. Fudging rolls is more the purvue of single dice, simulationist systems. It's a method of adding narrative control to a system that is not concerned with narratives. 

A narrativist system already handles the kinds of situations you would need to "fudge a roll" for.



#13 LethalDose

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:57 PM

@riplikash

Right, my way's not bad, but yours is just better, and if I would just put in the effort in i'd see that my style doesn't respect what the designers intended to be the core of this game.

Are you serious?  I can take condescension as well as I give it but try to have actual facts on my side when I do it.  This is purely a question of style.  And if your trying to lean on GNS theory (Gamist-Narativist-Simulationist) to support what you're saying, you need to re-read Edwards' essay.

If you think secret rolls an antagonistic GM make, then I'm guessing you've been lucky, nay blessed, with accomodating GMs and players during your gaming career.  Which brings me to…

@Doc, the Weasel

In the most explicit sense, sure, what you said is true: I don't trust the players with the temptation of meta-gaming roll results.  I prefer a method where I can to simply remove the temptation and completely avoid placing the burden on them.  I've actually caught players cheating by changing dice faces on rolls, so yeah, there are trust issues.

This is where you have to realize that the "Players should be invested in their characters and the story" argument cuts both ways.  If the players are invested in what's best for their characters, it directly leads to a conflict of interest on their part: Use the metagame information to improve the character's position OR respect the nature of the rules and take the hit.  In fact, I think forcing a player to act the way the dice rolls go (or "just being disappointed in them" when they don't) is more antagonistic than using secret rolls, which I assure you, are possible and fair.  It's perfectly allowable for the GM to make decisions about how symbols get spent.  You see it as a lack of trust, I see it as removing a burden.

Addressing both issues: I prefer to GM impartially.  Impartiality (acting equally towards all parties) is, by definition, exlusionary to being antagonistic (acting against one or more parties).  

whafrog said:

 

I resent the word "antagonistic" :)  I've never been an antagonistic GM, or try to "trick" players, I set up a world, the outlines of a plot, and let the players ramble through it as they like (within limits…I can't be expect to stock every little village they come across).  However, I have been a player for a few antagonistic GMs…which is why I'm not.  I think LethalDose nicely summed up how I'd use it.

 

 

This is exactly how I feel. 

This play style simply isn't antagonistic.  And when used appropriately (which means everyone finds it to be fair), it adds tension and enhances my games.  I'm not "encouraging" that anyone try it, nor am I saying, either explicitly or implicitly, that one style is better, or more rewarding, or collaborative, or whatever, than any other method.

It's just an alternative point of view, which doesn't include poorly veiled value judgements about other groups' play styles.

-WJL


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#14 New Zombie

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:05 AM

come on lethaldose, surely you can get through a thread without confrontation. i often enjoy reading your posts, as they are articulate and intelligent. but sometimes i just skip your contributions (likely missing some worthwhile content) as you inject too much venom into them.

to the OP there is no right way or wrong way to approach this. do what works for you. i'd encourage you trying the dice rolls openly to see if it works for you. if not you can revert to your previous method and not have lost anything.

for me, hiding the dice pool or a portion of the dice pool reduces the collaboration, reduces the narration.

in the beginners box, one player tried to deceive the female overseer in the spaceport control. he was playing the smuggler pash and he suggested that he would have known her through his comings and goings for teemo the hutt. i gave him a boost dice to his pool because he knew her, i also added a setback dice because she knew him. he succeeded, but focussing on the boost (no result) and setback (1 failure), we saw that he succeeded because he was a good liar and that his history with her had a negative impact on the lie. from that we speculated that he had dated her and things didn't end well.

if the dice pool, or a portion of it, had been hidden from the players we wouldn't have been able to mine the pool for so rich a narrative.



#15 whafrog

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 10:25 AM

Interesting example New Zombie, thanks.  I will try it out I think, I mentioned something similar to a couple of the more open players when I had been looking at the WW "Adventure!" RPG, which uses the terminology of "dramatic editing" for the narrative approach.  They thought it was "interesting"…lol.  It does sound like I'd have to go all-in though…partial weaning would probably just keep the players in the same old mode.

 



#16 Voice

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 12:34 PM

whafrog said:

They would be rolling their own dice, and probably setback dice from obvious effects (weather, etc), just not the difficulty and challenge dice.  If someone is picking a lock, it doesn't make sense to me that they automatically know how easy it should be to pick.  If they're facing a nemesis NPC, they shouldn't necessarily know their stats.

Here's the thing.  The character isn't rolling any dice, the player is.  The character picking the lock doesn't know how difficult it is in advance (except to the point that their own analytical skills might allow them to 'ballpark' the complexity of the mechanism), but in any system where the player rolls any dice to decide the outcome, it's simple enough to determine at least a rough range of difficulty given a die roll or two.

Aside from that, the player invariably has access to more information than the character does*, so pretending otherwise doesn't make any sense.  Acknowledge it, and expect your players to deal with the difference.  Also, players are equally capable of meta-gaming against the results of a hidden roll.  Fortunately, most moderately experienced gamers have gotten past the point where they see/hear the GM roll something behind the screen, and draw their weapons.

* If the character has access to information that the player doesn't, then someone isn't doing their job correctly, because the player needs to have access to all character-accessible information in order to be able to role-play their character accurately.



#17 Voice

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 12:37 PM

LethalDose said:

 

@riplikash

Right, my way's not bad, but yours is just better, and if I would just put in the effort in i'd see that my style doesn't respect what the designers intended to be the core of this game.

Are you serious?  I can take condescension as well as I give it but try to have actual facts on my side when I do it.  This is purely a question of style.  And if your trying to lean on GNS theory (Gamist-Narativist-Simulationist) to support what you're saying, you need to re-read Edwards' essay.

If you think secret rolls an antagonistic GM make, then I'm guessing you've been lucky, nay blessed, with accomodating GMs and players during your gaming career.  Which brings me to…

 

 

And this is why some of us try to avoid talking to LethalDose.  When you disagree with him, he's right, anyone else is wrong *and* insulting.



#18 aramis

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 01:37 PM

Doc, the Weasel said:

I find hiding die rolls is a patch to the real problem of gaming with people you don't trust to roleplay a situation appropriately.

I tend to agree. And further, I've learned that  a GM hiding difficulties is often a GM who hasn't actually set one. I've been guilty of it, and I've watched other GM's do it, and/or lie about their rolls.

And, you could, as I noted in discussions of WFRP3E, roll the difficulty dice  separately, but that is in fact set up to be seen as needlessly antagonistic.

The system explicitly has you roll everything in the open, and tell the players the difficulty (either by voice or by handing them the dice).

 



#19 LethalDose

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 01:54 PM

Voice said:

whafrog said:

They would be rolling their own dice, and probably setback dice from obvious effects (weather, etc), just not the difficulty and challenge dice.  If someone is picking a lock, it doesn't make sense to me that they automatically know how easy it should be to pick.  If they're facing a nemesis NPC, they shouldn't necessarily know their stats.

 

Here's the thing.  The character isn't rolling any dice, the player is.  The character picking the lock doesn't know how difficult it is in advance (except to the point that their own analytical skills might allow them to 'ballpark' the complexity of the mechanism), but in any system where the player rolls any dice to decide the outcome, it's simple enough to determine at least a rough range of difficulty given a die roll or two.

Aside from that, the player invariably has access to more information than the character does*, so pretending otherwise doesn't make any sense.  Acknowledge it, and expect your players to deal with the difference.  Also, players are equally capable of meta-gaming against the results of a hidden roll.  Fortunately, most moderately experienced gamers have gotten past the point where they see/hear the GM roll something behind the screen, and draw their weapons.

* If the character has access to information that the player doesn't, then someone isn't doing their job correctly, because the player needs to have access to all character-accessible information in order to be able to role-play their character accurately.

I may have missed something, but it seems like there are two points here:

  1. The player knows more than character regardless
  2. The GM can't make secret rolls without giving away to players he's making secret rolls.

On the first point, yes the player will invariably know more than the character, and nothing can be done about this, but no one on this thread ever said that we should pretend that's not true, unless I missed that part.

The issue is how much more the player knows than the character.  Just because they know more than the character doesn't mean that the GM is must/should/needs to give them more still.  Besides that, you wouldn't show the characters your story script/outline/module/etc, would you? I hope not.  According to descriptions, the Beginners box has parts that say "PLAYERS SHOULD NOT READ!!!", so the game is meant to be played with the players ignorant of some things.  The issue is where to draw the line, and that's up to the GM to decide.

Next, the veracity of the second point requires 2 assumptions:

  1. The only reason for the GM to be rolling dice behind the screen was to make secret checks
  2. The GM can't hide the fact that he's rollsing from the players

These are both false.  When running Saga edition, I would, occassionally rolls some sice behind the screen for no reason other than to roll dice.  The players learned that everytime I rolled, it didn't neccesarily mean something.  Now, this was easier with a d20 and few d6, it doesn't work as well with handful of dice EotE/WFRP3 need.  But, the point remains it IS possible.  

Second, rolling that handful of dice behind a screen makes a whole lotta noise.  If only there were away to get dice results without making noise or gestures…

oh wait, there is.

And, I don't think your wrong because you disagreed with me, I just thing your wrong because of facts.

-WJL



#20 LethalDose

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 02:02 PM

aramis said:

Doc, the Weasel said:

 

I find hiding die rolls is a patch to the real problem of gaming with people you don't trust to roleplay a situation appropriately.

 

I tend to agree. And further, I've learned that  a GM hiding difficulties is often a GM who hasn't actually set one. I've been guilty of it, and I've watched other GM's do it, and/or lie about their rolls.

 

And, you could, as I noted in discussions of WFRP3E, roll the difficulty dice  separately, but that is in fact set up to be seen as needlessly antagonistic.

The system explicitly has you roll everything in the open, and tell the players the difficulty (either by voice or by handing them the dice).

 

I think I've made it clear that there are reasons I use hidden rules other than the fact that I'm trying to hide diffculty.  In fact, I never invoked that as a reason to do it.  I do it to hide the either the need for the check or the result.

And I'd really like to hear why people think using these hidden rolls is synonymous with the GM being out to get (i.e. antagonistic towards) the players.  Explicitly, how does this practice hurt the players? Having been on both sides of this on different games, I've never had a problem with it.

-WJL






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