Rolling the Dice and Control of the Game

Conducting the Game

In many situations it is correct and fun to have the players dice such things
as melee hits or saving throws. However, it is your right to control the dice
at any time and to roll dice for the players. You might wish to do this to
keep them from knowing some specific fact. You also might wish to give
them an edge in finding a particular clue, e.g. a secret door that leads to a
complex of monsters and treasures that will be especially entertaining.
You do have every right to overrule the dice at any time if there is a
particular course of events that you would like to have occur. In making
such a decision you should never seriously harm the party or a non-player
character with your actions. "ALWAYS GIVE A MONSTER AN EVEN BREAK!"

Examples of dice rolls which should always be made secretly are:

  • listening,
  • hiding in shadows,
  • detecting traps,
  • moving silently,
  • finding secret doors,
  • monster saving throws, and
  • attacks made upon the party without their possible knowledge.



    Now and then a player will die through no fault of his own. He or she will
    have done everything correctly, taken every reasonable precaution, but
    still the freakish roll of the dice will kill the character. In the long run you
    should let such things pass as the players will kill more than one opponent
    with their own freakish rolls at some later time. Yet you do have the right
    to arbitrate the situation. You can rule that the player, instead of dying, is
    knocked unconscious, loses a limb, is blinded in one eye or invoke any
    reasonably severe penalty that still takes into account what the monster
    has done. It is very demoralizing to the players to lose a cared-for-player
    character when they have played well. When they have done something
    stupid or have not taken precautions, then let the dice fall where they
    may! Again, if you have available ample means of raising characters from
    the dead, even death is not too severe; remember, however, the constitution-
    based limit to resurrections. Yet one die roll that you should NEVER
    tamper with is the SYSTEM SHOCK ROLL to be raised from the dead. If a
    character fails that roll, which he or she should make him or herself, he or
    she is FOREVER DEAD. There MUST be some final death or immortality will
    take over and again the game will become boring because the player
    characters will have 9+ lives each!

    Q: My players want to roll their own dice.
    Do I have to let them?

    A: No. The DM is free to establish whatever
    "table rules" he wishes. Most players
    will enjoy the game more, however, if they
    are allowed to make their own die rolls. If
    you are worried about cheating, you can
    still allow players to make their own rolls
    but require any roll to be witnessed by at
    least two other players.

    Originally Posted by Storm Raven
    Too true. Often I have found when I am DMing that the solution for a game session that is in danger of becoming stalled is to simply say "roll initiative".

    Okay, but...

    You neglected to add "or die!" after "roll initiative..." <paranoid>


    Originally Posted by Nikosandros
    Indeed you're far too lenient... 

    Just kidding... I agree on the second save.

    As a matter of fact I really hate to see players that are doing things well, thinking, having their PCs interact as a group, with the environment, lost their characters because of bad luck, sheer chance. I will do my best as the DM to see that does not happen, save to a PC that is better off eliminated, a new and better one then created to take his place. That is rare...


    Originally Posted by airwalkrr
    I can't restrain my morbid curiosity. Do any particular cases come to mind from your campaigns, Gary? What do you consider a PC "better off eliminated?" An overpowered one? An underpowered one? An annoying one? All of the above/other?

    The most obvious sort is the PC that had wretched stats to begin with and in the course of adventuring lost even more due primarily to chance, not bad play.

    I do indeed find over-powered and badly played PCs annoying, so if the player with such a character foolishly allows his PC to get into a situation where loss of potent magic itesm, levels, and/or life can occur, the dice are rolled in the open; whatever occurs from the result syands without and "judge fudge" to prevent it.