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Dice Rolling: To Screen or Not to Screen?
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Should rolls be made behind a GM screen or in the open?
Behind a screen, always.
2%
 2%  [ 2 ]
Behind the screen most of the time, unless dramatically appropriate.
23%
 23%  [ 16 ]
Out in the open most of the time except for "secret" rolls, like notice checks.
51%
 51%  [ 35 ]
Out in the open every time. Let the chips fall where they may.
20%
 20%  [ 14 ]
I use a program, not actual dice, so the point is moot.
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Not sure
1%
 1%  [ 1 ]
Total Votes : 68

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HawaiianBrian
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:30 pm    Post subject: Dice Rolling: To Screen or Not to Screen? Reply with quote

In my last campaign, I rolled all the dice behind a GM screen where I could fudge the results, if necessary. But it seemed more dramatic (and fair) when I rolled the dice right in front of the players, for good or ill.

I'm getting ready for a new campaign and have been wondering about which approach to take. What do you all do?
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Lord Skudley
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I chose "Out in the open most of the time except for "secret" rolls, like notice checks." becaust that fits best. But I'll roll out in the open half of the time, and behind the screen when it's dramatically appropriate, ie I really need to sock it to 'em to keep them humble...

Mooks are always out in the open.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think both are valid approaches.

- Rolling out-in-the-open: You are stuck with the results, which can sometimes torpedo a game in a way that is not fun.

- Fudging results: This requires a lot of skill on the part of the GM. You need to know when and what to fudge to produce maximum fun, and also how to make the players feel like they are in control of their fates even though you are fudging.


One approach I've used is to roll in the open for the results of actions (attacks and damage and so forth, even for villains) but to roll in secret for purely random or environmental things (like random encounter chance, the weather, the modular-adventure-table, etc.). Those things are not really in the player's control anyway; the players react to them. So player's destinies are still in their own hands.

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Dylan S
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My GM screen is too tall! When we pull out the minis, I have to put it away or I can't see anything. Therefore, all my combat rolls are visible. I need to make a new screen. Oh, well...
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mongo
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always roll out in the open. It tends to reduce a GM vs. the Players syndrome. Sometimes the results aren't what you expected or wanted, but I've found that to be a good thing. It makes me think and adjust on the fly.
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Adam Baulderstone
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mongo wrote:
I always roll out in the open. It tends to reduce a GM vs. the Players syndrome. Sometimes the results aren't what you expected or wanted, but I've found that to be a good thing. It makes me think and adjust on the fly.


I agree with this completely. If you roll a die behind a screen, then announce a player took three wounds, then you did it. If you roll a die in the open where everyone sees it, they will blame the die and the NPC. Another advantage is that information is that players can help process the results. They see the damage they took and can start translating it into wounds/shaken the second the die stops rolling. Over the course of a session it can be a real time saver.

I'm also of the opinion that fudging is always railroading, and always a mistake. If you are doing it to keep an adventure on course, maybe you should have sat down and written a story instead of running an RPG. The appeal of RPG's is being in a story you can affect. If the GM is working behind the scenes to prevent that, he is betraying the spirit of what roleplaying is all about. It's also a road to boredom. As a GM, if everything is going exactly the way a foresaw it during a session, I get bored. Having the players throw a wrench into my plans, or suffer an unexpected setback really makes a session much more exciting for me.

It's also a mistake to fudge to save characters from harm. It's an easy trap to fall into, as you tell yourself you are helping the players, so what can be wrong with that? Aside from the problem of sucking any sense of suspense out of a game if the players catch on, you have a bigger problem with fairness. Once you have fudged to save one characters life, aren't you obliged to save every PC who comes to harm? If you don't, you are playing favorites. The only fair thing to do is to cheat every time a character might die. Otherwise, you are in the same category as one of those GM's who always lets their SO win. Nobody wants to be a player in their games.

That's not to say that it entirely wrong to run a campaign where nobody dies. It can be appropriate for a lot of genres. Just be open about it. Modify the incapacitation rules so that death can't happen. Then you don't have to kill anyone, and you don't have to keep lying to your players.

Besides, Savage Worlds has legalized fudging in the form of bennies. If you feel you have put the players in a tighter spot than you intended, give them bennies left an right. And if they are cruising through a fight too easily, you have your own bennies.
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HawaiianBrian
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One other thing to consider, though: Rolling out in the open basically broadcasts to the players what your opponent's stats are... Is that something you all care about?

Thanks for the feedback btw...
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FoxBlue
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like rolling in the open. If I roll from behind a screen and kill a character the players tend to see it as my fault, if the dice are rolled in the open, the death was caused by objective chance.

Anyways the highest damage roll we've had to far was "friendly fire" caused by the innocent bystander rule (killed the poor drakin outright). I've never seen so 1s followed by so many 6s. Currently the players are more wary of that characters rolls than they are of mine.

Drew!
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Thunderforge
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dylan S wrote:
My GM screen is too tall! When we pull out the minis, I have to put it away or I can't see anything. Therefore, all my combat rolls are visible. I need to make a new screen. Oh, well...

You might consider getting the Savage Worlds Customizable GM Screen. It sounds like just what you need, you can use it for all your games, and you'll be supporting Pinnacle all at the same time!

Edit: Oh, and I typically roll out in the open, but use the "behind the hand" technique to give a second or two of suspense or if I think I might want to fudge the roll.
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pjrake
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i got rid of my GM screen a few months ago, and now do all my rolls out in the open. the best thing i've ever done!

-PJ
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Pariah74
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dice are tools to help the GM decide what happens. They do not replace a GM.

The idea that fudging dice is railroading is nonsense IMHO...sorry, it just is and I feel strongly about it. I started role playing in a tent, after dark, at Civil War reenactments and our parents didn't allow D&D so we simply did it without dice. The GM decided if we lived or died. Those were some of the best games I ever played. We had a hoot, and the dice were not a factor. It was 100% off the cuff from the GM.

The way you keep your players satisfied is by entertaining them. Sometimes death is a part of that, and sometimes it isn't. If it isn't fun for a character to die by a lucky shot from a mook with a slingshot, then he doesn't die...because I say so. Not because I am "railroading."


All this assumes that I am running a story/character driven RPG campaign.
If all I am doing is a sandbox game, or a series of dungeon crawls...well then you're boned.

So I roll my dice behind a screen when I need to, but it has nothing to do with when I decide to fudge the dice. I do that for fun considerations only.
It's funny how many times I have run into GM's who refuse to fudge dice, but then they will house rule things without hesitation.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pariah74 wrote:
It's funny how many times I have run into GM's who refuse to fudge dice, but then they will house rule things without hesitation.


Actually, I'm one of those GMs, but there's a reason for it.

Once upon a time, I started GMing with a GM screen. The GM who mentored me was big on fudging die rolls and making stuff up (brilliantly, I believe) as he went, and just stringing people along to believe it was all part of his elaborate master plan. I wasn't so good at following his lead. I had players who would call me on any freakish die rolls - and it's one thing for me to "fudge a die roll," but quite another for me to LIE about it, outside of the confines of the fiction of a game's story, to a player. "He hit you" is a declaration of the GM. "I rolled a perfect success on the die roll, which was the only possible result that could have even scratched you in this imbalanced system with your cheesed-up character" is quite another if it wasn't actually true.

Anyway, there are plenty of ways, even without fudging die rolls, that a GM can manipulate the game. However, the number that comes up on a die is something more concrete and measurable. Did the GM really think ahead of time to have a trap in that corridor, or was he just being ornery, and no matter which way Joe the Barbarian went, THAT would be where the trap was? The players seem to have a much easier time of demanding to see my dice than to demand to see my game notes, for whatever reason.

My main reason for fudging die rolls, really, once upon a time, was because I was playing in systems where players could suffer freakish and plot-unfriendly deaths due to the random whimsy of the dice. Eventually I moved on to systems that introduced mechanics such as Hero Points or Fate Chips and finally bennies - and now that concern is almost obsolete. So, I'm more comfortable now to do away with the GM screen, and let the dice roll as they may.

(I also use certain setting house rules, such as the "Damage from Extras doesn't Ace against heroes" pulp setting rule borrowed from TAG's Daring Tales of Adventure, to further minimize the chance for heroes being anticlimactically one-shotted by mere minions.)

I still reserve SOME room for secrecy. I hide my notes, and if there's an opposed Notice-vs.-Stealth check, the players can't see the Stealth check. I let them see their own Notice roll, because it's up to them to decide whether to spend bennies or not. (They just have no idea whether that "2" needs to be rerolled, whether the NPC botched or was suffering penalties, or whether it was just a red-herring roll, and the only thing to "Notice" is something inconsequential to the heroes' safety or the success of their mission.)
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Adam Baulderstone
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HawaiianBrian wrote:
One other thing to consider, though: Rolling out in the open basically broadcasts to the players what your opponent's stats are... Is that something you all care about?

Thanks for the feedback btw...


I don't really find that a problem. It can even be an advantage. When a player is in melee with an NPC and I pull out a d12 for their fighting roll, it gets a real reaction. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to fo PC's to be able to gauge the ability of their opponents.
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Adam Baulderstone
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pariah74 wrote:

The way you keep your players satisfied is by entertaining them. Sometimes death is a part of that, and sometimes it isn't. If it isn't fun for a character to die by a lucky shot from a mook with a slingshot, then he doesn't die...because I say so. Not because I am "railroading."


As far as I'm concerned, if a fight is essentially meaningless, and not worthy of the PC's it doesn't really have a place in the adventure. Don;t point a mook at a player if you aren't prepared to let him kill the player. Too many games are loaded down with battle that mainly serve the purpose of padding out an adventure. These serve more of a purpose in game like D&D where you get XP per fight, but are just a waste of time in Savage Worlds. There is little benefit to grinding.

Quote:
It's funny how many times I have run into GM's who refuse to fudge dice, but then they will house rule things without hesitation.


I see those as two very different issues. House rules are stated up front at the beginning of an adventure. It's no different than the specific rules unique to the various Savage Settings. The players know what to expect before the game begins. Fudging is deciding that sometimes the rules apply and sometimes they don't, while pretending you are playing by the book. It's also something very different than the game you played as a kid. In that, their where no dice rules, and the game was openly in the hands of the GM. I wouldn't consider that fudging at all.
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Pariah74
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam Baulderstone wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, if a fight is essentially meaningless, and not worthy of the PC's it doesn't really have a place in the adventure. Don;t point a mook at a player if you aren't prepared to let him kill the player. Too many games are loaded down with battle that mainly serve the purpose of padding out an adventure. These serve more of a purpose in game like D&D where you get XP per fight, but are just a waste of time in Savage Worlds. There is little benefit to grinding.


So when your PC's pick a fight you say, "Nope." or do you just populate every part of your campaign with epic level characters?

Quote:
It's funny how many times I have run into GM's who refuse to fudge dice, but then they will house rule things without hesitation.


Adam Baulderstone wrote:
I see those as two very different issues. House rules are stated up front at the beginning of an adventure. It's no different than the specific rules unique to the various Savage Settings. The players know what to expect before the game begins. Fudging is deciding that sometimes the rules apply and sometimes they don't, while pretending you are playing by the book. It's also something very different than the game you played as a kid. In that, their where no dice rules, and the game was openly in the hands of the GM. I wouldn't consider that fudging at all.


The game is always in the hands of the GM. Dice are tools. Being slaves to what the dice roll only invites strange circumstance to foil what would otherwise be a fun time.

The dice do not have more control over my game than I do.

Take any game where you have to set a difficulty target number (D20, D6 etc). A player comes up with a superbly entertaining and creative idea for getting past the challenge you have presented and he rolls and misses by one. His failure would simply mean that they must try some other less entertaining route.

That's a failure of the GM. Not the dice. The GM set the challenge rating too high by a factor of 1. Therefore fudging is the appropriate response.
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Pariah74
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Peacock wrote:
I had players who would call me on any freakish die rolls - and it's one thing for me to "fudge a die roll," but quite another for me to LIE about it, outside of the confines of the fiction of a game's story, to a player.


Then don't lie. Point them to the page that says the GM is always right. All rpg's have one (except for SW EX).
If players feel they are being treated unfairly they can take it up after the game is over. If they still aren't happy you'll run out of players and realize you're not doing it right. Laughing
I tell my players flat out if I fudged a dice roll...but only if they ask, which they rarely do. But maybe you don't realize that I not only fudge my own, but theirs as well?
It's only fair.
And entertaining fair play keeps them coming back.


Jordan Peacock wrote:
"He hit you" is a declaration of the GM. "I rolled a perfect success on the die roll, which was the only possible result that could have even scratched you in this imbalanced system with your cheesed-up character" is quite another if it wasn't actually true.


If a GM allows "cheesed-up" character's then he got what he deserved. Likewise, if he has players wanting to min/max and munchkin up characters...entertaining role play that is character and story driven is not likely to follow. It will be hack and slash combat stuff...which is when I will not fudge dice rolls. No need to, because it's unlikely anyone will be attempting something creative.
"He hit you" is not a creative description...so the only excitement you're gonna get in that game is watching dice bounce around.


Jordan Peacock wrote:
Anyway, there are plenty of ways, even without fudging die rolls, that a GM can manipulate the game. However, the number that comes up on a die is something more concrete and measurable. Did the GM really think ahead of time to have a trap in that corridor, or was he just being ornery, and no matter which way Joe the Barbarian went, THAT would be where the trap was? The players seem to have a much easier time of demanding to see my dice than to demand to see my game notes, for whatever reason.


Good players don't make demands on the Game Master.

The only possible reason to demand to see what he rolled is to argue the outcome. Allowing that is just inviting anarchy. It's YOUR game, and you declared that something happened. What the d20 says is irrelevant.
Any player that wants to argue against what GM has declared is not playing correctly and needs to be talked to.


Jordan Peacock wrote:
My main reason for fudging die rolls, really, once upon a time, was because I was playing in systems where players could suffer freakish and plot-unfriendly deaths due to the random whimsy of the dice. Eventually I moved on to systems that introduced mechanics such as Hero Points or Fate Chips and finally bennies - and now that concern is almost obsolete. So, I'm more comfortable now to do away with the GM screen, and let the dice roll as they may.


This is absolutely true. I find myself less likely to fudge dice in games like Savage Worlds, Unisystem, HEX and others.
However, if needs be I won't hesitate to let something cool happen regardless of the dice.

Jordan Peacock wrote:
(I also use certain setting house rules, such as the "Damage from Extras doesn't Ace against heroes" pulp setting rule borrowed from TAG's Daring Tales of Adventure, to further minimize the chance for heroes being anticlimactically one-shotted by mere minions.)

I still reserve SOME room for secrecy. I hide my notes, and if there's an opposed Notice-vs.-Stealth check, the players can't see the Stealth check. I let them see their own Notice roll, because it's up to them to decide whether to spend bennies or not. (They just have no idea whether that "2" needs to be rerolled, whether the NPC botched or was suffering penalties, or whether it was just a red-herring roll, and the only thing to "Notice" is something inconsequential to the heroes' safety or the success of their mission.)


This is one problem with bennies and fate chips and the like. In the past I rolled lots of things for my characters. Things like Knowledge checks. They shouldn't know if they failed those. The only solution I have is to just tell them they couldn't remember if they roll a fail.
IMO it's far more entertaining to feed them false info.
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ron blessing
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've gone other ways, but this is the default.

It should be noted that this isn't necessarily for secrecy so much as I like to have a screen in front of me.
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Thasmodious
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use a screen, but don't fudge. Fudging is cheating on the players. Trusting that the GM is applying the rules and the dice results fairly is, imo, an important part of the GM-player relationship. They need to trust that you are applying the rules and the agreed upon vagaries of chance to adjudicate the game. If your players know you fudge, they never really know if a dire result or a positive moment of awesome came from their own decision making and luck or because you tweaked the dice to get the outcome you thought was best for the story.
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Adam Baulderstone
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pariah74 wrote:
So when your PC's pick a fight you say, "Nope." or do you just populate every part of your campaign with epic level characters?


If the players picked the fight themselves, then it obviously has importance to them. I certainly don;t feel obliged to bail them out of trouble that they started.

Quote:
The dice do not have more control over my game than I do.


I agree with that point. Sometimes the dice shouldn't come into play. If a player comes up with a foolproof plan, then it works. I only roll the dice when failure is on the table. I don't mind it when the GM openly uses his power to overrule the book. I just don't like it when the GM is putting things to the dice and then ignoring the result.

Just to be clear, I don't want to suggest people who do fudge the dice are bad gamers. It just doesn't fit my style. If my initial post came off as antagonistic, I apologize. That was not my intent. I'm just someone that fudged dice for years, and when I stopped doing it, it was like a weight lifted of my chest.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used to be an "always behind the screen, the dice roll what I want them to roll" type of judge. In the last year or so, however, that's flipped almost 180 degrees. Three reasons come to mind.

First is that many games nowadays don't require much of the stuff which typically goes on a screen. Most of the tables and charts of olden days have gone the way of the dodo. Screens I've seen recently basically are covered with filler that comes up maybe once every session or two.

Second is that more and more of my GMing is done from a laptop computer rather than reams of paper. With all my maps and notes on the computer, I don't need a screen to hide them.

Third is the overall improvement in game design. D&D in its original incarnations required a certain amount of dice fudging in order to work properly. The science of RPG design has since progressed to the point where that is seldom necessary.

I still roll the occasional die behind my computer screen, but with the games I'm playing these days (SvgW, 4E, Trail of Cthulhu), I trust the game system itself to be robust enough to handle whatever I roll over the course of a fight. The exception is my original-version Metamorphosis Alpha game -- that one still calls for a screen for the reason mentioned above.

Steve
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