How To DM – To Roll or Not To Roll

by yourdorkmaterials

We all love our shiny math rocks what go clickety clack. And rolling dice is the core mechanic of the game. But when do you let them roll?

Not often enough, and your players might feel like they’re just observers. Too much, and the game bogs down, and your players are rolling for everything no matter how trivial or impossible. How do you strike that perfect balance because, in my opinion, every unnecessary roll bogs down the game or – dice gods forbid! – potentially derails it.

So let’s talk about tips on how to roll in this week’s How To DM!

Does the Roll Make Sense?:

I realize using the term “realistic” in an epic fantasy game might be a tad ironic, but, seriously, would a frost giant ever be faced down by a halfling, like…ever? To my mind, this isn’t even an issue of disadvantage; would you be bullied by something the size of a five year old? Some things are just impossible, nat 20’s or not. And we all have had players to roll for something ludicrous because they’re counting on that 5% chance of an autosuccess. I have no problem telling the halfling he’s not going to intimidate that frost giant no matter what he rolls.

Is success/failure Really Important?:

If it important to the story, then I usually just tell them what they want to know. “You know what? You’re a trained, experienced Fighter, you would know if those wounds on the orc were made by weapons or claws.” My players have told me that these little perks associated with their class actually helps them get into character better, and it dramatically speeds up the game.

Are You Prepared to Live With the Results?:

If they roll, then you are the one at the mercy of the RNG gods. I’ve had more than one adventure wrecked by a crit.

The $#!!&%! Guidance Spell Spam:

Most spammed spell in my games. I allow it but strictly enforce the concentration rules. It’s our only defense, unless you just want to ban it.

The Help Action Spam:

Second-most spammed thing in my games. I only allow 1 other player to “help”. For Knowledge-based skills or skills requiring training/experience (like Survival), I require both characters to be proficient in the skill. I also only allow one attempt to avoid the “Well, we’ll try it too I guess” rolling.

Group Checks:

I tend to limit these under the “realism” concept…especially when it comes to Stealth rolls when half the party is clanking around in plate armor.

You Can Always Say No:

Remember: There’s no rolling until you call for a roll. This will help fight the infamous double-rolling trick where a player says quickly “I want to do x” and rolling. Then rolling again when you call for it (if they obviously failed) or complaining because now they can’t use that nat 20 they rolled.

What tips, tricks and advice do you folks have? Put them in the comments below, so we can all share in the info.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week for another installment on How To DM!

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