Friday, July 14, 2017

When To Use Dice

1. If an outcome is not in doubt, don't use dice.

"The door is locked."
"I have the key."
"The door opens."

2. If an outcome is in doubt but failure could not produce any result with interesting consequences, don't use dice.

"The door is locked and, like we said before, you're really drunk."
"I have the key but maybe I dropped it?"
"Sure, but you get in there eventually and get to bed before your phone goes off at 7 am the next morning when you hear your brother's been murdered."

3. If an outcome is in doubt, and success and failure could both result in different interesting consequences, use dice.

"The door is locked, like we said before you're really drunk, and behind the door you hear your brother--'Marty, Marty, I've been shot!"
"I open the door!"
"It's not so easy since you're drunk--roll!"

4. If an outcome is in doubt, and success and failure could both result in the same interesting consequences, use dice but only if you want to ratchet up the tension--and only do this sparingly and to point out something strange is going on.

"The door is locked, like we said before you're really drunk, and behind the door you hear your brother--'Marty, Marty, I've been shot!"
"I open the door!"
"It's not so easy since you're drunk--roll!"
"Success!"
"THE LOCK HAS BEEN CHANGED! You're too late!"
"Why has the lock been changed?
"Why indeed? That's part of the mystery."

5. If an outcome is in doubt and success could not produce any interesting consequences, the GM probably wrote the adventure wrong.

"The door is locked, like we said before you're really drunk, and behind the door you hear your brother--'Marty, Marty, someone's trying to kill me and ps this whole adventure is going to be about figuring out who killed me!'"
"I open the door. Natural 20! Door's open, who's killing my brother?"
"Oh, fuck, umm..."

6. If someone at the table thinks using dice would be more fun than just making a decision normally alotted to them, use dice

"The door is....roll roll....locked"
"I have the key, I open it."
"Behind it is...(rolls on a table)..holy hell it's your brother, he's bleeding out on the floor!"
"I...(rolls on a table)...tell him I never liked him anyway."
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p.s. Yes I know about Vincent Baker's "Say yes or roll dice". It doesn't work for all games.

"The door is locked."
"I have the key."
"Umm, no you don't you don't even know whose house this is?"
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5 comments:

Gauntlet said...

Number 4 is a no no for me I feel, if you suceed but actually fail because of GM Fiat(which is what the changing of the locks is, even if you feel there is a narrative reason for it the players will never know that) that will cause frustration more then terror in my mind.

Zak Sabbath said...

It isn't because of GM Fiat or because of a narrative reason.

It's a plot point that will come up later.

I'll note that though.

Zak Sabbath said...

It's like when you shoot an arrow only to discover you hit a forcfield.

Ant Wu said...

A preference note: I like some more precision when players roll. If the player says "I open the door" or "I shoot the enemy" in the changed lock/force field case I know that will fail.

But maybe I still want tension so I may say "you are drunk so even getting keys out is hard roll" or "roll to see how good your aim is". That way I can say "you get out the right key - you are sure of it! - but the key doesn't fit!" Or "your aim is true but the arrow just stops in midair!"

It is a small addition but it adds distance between their success and the ultimate failure of the action. I am not negating the roll since the thing they rolled for is still a true and narrated success.

Of course by the time you play with a group many many times and beer gets involved, a lot of that precision can be implied without explicit statement.

Gauntlet said...

I guess its not that the force field is there that I have a problem with its the pulling the rug you suceeded but something had gotten in the way.

In fact that means its gone to number 1 the circumstances are not in doubt. You the gm know the forcefield is there so you don't have them roll just go as you fire your arrow it hits something in the air and drops to the floor.