Friday, January 13, 2017

Discussion: When Do You Call For Rolls?

When do you call for rolls? What guidelines do you use? This week I've broken down my own philosophy into a few points (repeated below) but what about your game? Do you do the same thing? Do you call for more rolls? Less?

For me, a GM should call for rolls when the following items are all true:

  1. The character is under some form of duress (i.e. in combat, being heckled, gun to head, very short time limit) that makes them doing the thing now important.
  2. The character has a real chance of failure (i.e. it's not a check you expect them to make 95% of the time)
  3. The success or failure of the roll has significant consequences for what is going on in the game, or the characters involved.
There is also one other rule but it is a "or" and that is:

  • The character is being directly opposed by another important (PC Level) character
So contested checks are always rolled when two PCs go at it, but otherwise the roll has to be important and the character under duress to come up. This means that the thief trying to pick the lock of a room in an empty house doesn't need to roll. If it is possible for him to succeed he will eventually because there are no consequences for failure and no real factors that could prevent him from trying until he gets it right.

At the same time, a thief trying to pick the same lock while her friends are in combat, or because a guard is walking down the hall and will find her, will have to roll because now there are other factors that are important. The limited time causes duress, the character might not be able to pick the lock. Getting caught in the place at night with lock picks in a lock is also going to be very bad.

What about you though? How does your game handle it?


  1. I find your criteria solid. However, I also try to balance it with the fact players spend XP to increase skill ranks for a specific reason: Success with (we play EotE). Handing out too many narrative "freebies" could rob the players of chances for alternative thinking. No pressure to pick the lock, but why hand out success? Even locksmiths use jimmies and coat hangers. Why let 'em just walk in the front door when a climb down the chimney is more "cinematic"? Jimmie the window nearby, sneak in, snoop around, stumble on the guard dog, beat feet to the exit, D'oh! The door's still locked! Fun stuff, that. Climbing down chimney, dog sleeping by the hearth...toss down some ration cakes, make a new friend.

    Too many freebies makes for a boring story.

    1. (I deleted your mirror comment.)

      I actually agree with you on this. However, my argument would be to add the tension that makes those checks worth having rather than just making checks. EotE is great for this because the dice are already narrative in nature so you can work things out.

      Players need to get into a building, the Scoundrel is like "I use skullduggery on the door between guard rounds" he fails with advantage. The GM comes back "Hey, you can't get through the door, but you see an open window on the third floor." Did they succeed with threat? They get through, but not everyone can get in right now - or there is someone, not a guard, on the other side.

      Too many freebies means the story has no tension. As the GM your job is to introduce the tension that makes an interesting story. At the same time, if every story and moment is max tension, your players will never feel powerful or capable. Sometimes their plans just needs to work in.

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