Tuesday, May 2, 2017

One reason I like dice rolling

So I've done roleplaying as part of job interviews in the past. In workshops practicing "people skills" and proper responses to customer questions. I've done it in language classes, too. I was never fond of it; in fact I generally hate doing that.

There are more than a few reasons for this - generally no one takes it seriously (or gets too into it). It's often too heavily weighted, as if practice tells you how you'll do in the actual situation (which is iffy.) It's actually fairly far removed from how role-playing gaming goes, even if you're a pretty immersive first-person roleplayer.

For me one of the biggest separating factors is the randomness of dice. You decide on a chance something will work, or the rules designer decides on a chance something will work, and you roll the dice and see. I don't have to convince you it'll work, just convince you it should have a chance and then take that chance and see.

I once did this roleplaying class lesson and had the feedback from the interviewer be, "This won't work at this grade level, what would you do next?" Except I just recycled a lesson I'd used at that grade level successfully repeatedly, which is why I brought it to the roleplaying portion of the interview. Nevermind the awkwardness of "pretend these adults are six year olds!" after days teaching six year olds, the arbitrary judgement felt, well, arbitrary.

Had the main interviewer said, "There is always a chance this could bomb with a particular class, let's flip a coin and if it's tails, it bombed and you need to improvise" I'd have been all over that. After all, my hobby is all about that. It's all about rolling an 18 when anything but that would have been okay. It's all about failing the easy roll and making the hard one. I've got a high built-in tolerance for "things went unpredictably wrong!" or "wildly and unpredictably right!" - if it's generated randomly.

I think that's what I love about dice. When there is a chance it might work, you can just assign that chance. If it's at all possible - which with, say, social interactions, low-percentage but physically possible stunts, or magic - putting it to the dice takes it out of the "GM decided I fail" category. Naturally, some things might just not be possible. But I find that if you can assign a chance, even a low chance, everyone seems to feel better.

"No, it just fails." "Why?" = argument at the tabletop
"Ehhh, maybe on a 3." "Aargh, I rolled a 4!" = resigned groans about that one extra pip on the dice.

So GMs, if you want to make me happy, give me a chance of it working. Players, if you try something crazy and there is a roll, know it's probably the GM trying to let the universe give you a chance of being right after all. At least this once. Nothing mind-blowing or deep here, but it was on my mind.


  1. Something I've learnt this round of GMing is (almost) always give something a chance.

    Even only on a critical success to hit will make most people happy that their (stupid) plan at least had that iota of a chance.

    1. Yeah, if it could happen, it's probably better gaming to let there be a chance at it.

      Equally, I give people a "don't roll an 18" or a "don't roll a 1" roll just to see if their fool-proof plan isn't, in the event, actually fool-proof.

  2. I only like "No" when there really is and should be zero chance of success. I'd rather hear "Roll a 3 and then make your normal roll to confirm it and it'll happen" or "On a 5 or less, and there'll be a negative consequence" instead.

    1. I like the idea of "roll, and then roll to confirm" for the truly unlikely events.

  3. I do extra rolls for crits, usually for spells-crit a second time, you get a permanent effect. The half ogre wizard in my game will always know the location of a boor they were searching for, and its illuminations color his dreams, he wakes with the smell of its pages.

  4. I roll 1's, virtual and real.


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