Friday, 2 October 2015

A Method For Secret Dice Rolls

I’ve been busy for the last two weeks considering first how best to improve skill checks, and secondly how to handle secret dice rolls. Finally I have solutions for both of these, and I’ll lead with secret dice rolls.

Now it is mostly better to resolve issues with roleplaying, that is the players play the role of the character – the referee describes the environment and they describe how they interact with it. However in many cases it is still appropriate for a random roll to resolve a situation, and a random roll where the players do not know if the roll was good or not.

If the players roll themselves then they know whether they have rolled well or not, and this is metagame knowledge. If I roll for them then they’re removed from the action. I used to hold out a box for players to roll into so they couldn’t see what they had rolled, but if you’re asking everyone to roll then this takes too long. You could roll once for the group, but I can’t work out a simple system that copes with very different abilities that gives sensible results. I also don’t like rolling and then saving that result until a check is needed – the ref has to decide when a roll is needed, but in this case the ref knows the result beforehand.

My new system (to be play tested in tonight’s session) is as follows:

I cut a number of index cards in half, put the PC initials down the LHS of each one, and ask people before the session starts to roll for their PCs and fill in results on all the cards. I create a single master card with everyone’s relevant bonuses on (perception and saves). I then shuffle the cards. At the point a roll is needed, I fan out the pack and a player chooses a card at random. I match it up to the master card so I can quickly see what the totals are. I cross out any used results and discard the card. Whenever the pile is getting low, we reroll the crossed out results and add them back into the deck.

In particular:
- I can ask for dummy rolls without it taking any time at the table. And since they’re not used they’re not crossed out, so they don’t need rerolling. Hence zero overhead.
- I will be able to get all the players to roll without letting on I actually just need the results for one of them. And since only one result would be crossed out, only one result needs rerolling.
- I’m going to use perception as a substitute for rolling for surprise. Draw a card – too bad – critical failure – a skeleton archer hiding behind that pillar shoots you with +3 for a surprise attack…

I'll let you know how it goes...

1 comment:

  1. I've always thought of pre-rolling systems like this as being a bit cumbersome (in fairness I haven't tried them in practice). I do like that you only need one card/one interaction to get rolls for potentially ALL of the players (hmm, who made their save against the vampire's domination?). A couple of thoughts: there's still a time cost at the table, it's just before play rather than during play. And you could probably speed up that initial cost by just having players fill out entire cards instead of having to pass them all around. That seems more efficient, especially since if you only have a few cards a player might know that (s)he's got a lot of high (or low) rolls coming up today. And players won't have certain knowledge of what rolls they made for themselves, only a general sense of "how lucky" the group might be tonight. Of course, if your players want to know that they physically rolled the dice that affect their character's fate...