No GM Rolling

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Bret

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No GM Rolling
« on: September 02, 2010, 09:05:46 AM »
So what does removing the ability of the GM to roll do for a game? I've seen it in a few games - Lacuna, Don't Rest Your Head, and Apocalypse World. I mean, the GM can call for rolls ("Okay, sounds like you're going aggro") but there's something about the dice being in the hands of the player and the rolls being solely about PC actions and that affects the way the game runs?

Non-PC actions become more about how the PCs react to them, rather than how the PCs are affected by them.

The game world seems to spin around what the PCs decide and often be summoned or created as consequences of player rolls, giving them more agency or emphasizing their effect on the world.

Hindrance to GMs to run the game based on their pronouncements. It's still possible! I think that GMs that don't want to do this become more aware of their interactions with the game when they can only describe fiction.

The one problem I've run into in other games, though, is that when players realize they can turtle and you do not have a stick to poke or wack them with. Apocalypse World gets around this by allowing you to inflict Harm as long as you've set it up in earlier moves. In games like DRYH and Lacuna, when some players discovered that I couldn't hurt them if they didn't roll, getting them to act when their characters were in danger was difficult.
Tupacalypse World

Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2010, 10:56:56 AM »
I don't recall the specifics of those systems, but I think there's a certain point at which you can say "Okay, he's trying to kill you. Want to do anything to try to stop him?" And if they actually say "No", you don't really need to rely on the system to say "Okay, seriously? Fine, he kills you," do you? Or instead of PC death, threaten the things their characters love, or their wealth and reputation and such, or whatever.

I ran into this problem myself with Ghost/Echo, actually: a player actually deliberately passed his turn when shit was flying and I was just going around in order saying "Okay, what do you do?" because he felt that doing anything and rolling the dice was more likely to make things worse than it was to make things better. It was a bit disheartening as a GM, honestly.

I will admit, I like rolling the dice as a GM. I occasionally wonder, and this seems as good a place as any to ask: are there any games out there that have the opposite of this trend, so ONLY the GM rolls the dice? It'd be easy to invert the "Players Roll All The Dice" variant for D&D 3.5, but I'm be curious if there's any that have been deliberately designed as such.

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Bret

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Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2010, 11:11:46 AM »
Oh I actually had a real question here: what does moving the action of rolling completely over the players add or take away from an RPG?

ben, in those games there was no real instruction from the games on what you could do if the players did that. It was one of the major problems I ran into - as far as I could tell PCs could only die from the result of rolling the dice, and if they chose not to roll the dice they were invulnerablel. That's not necessarily a problem of moving die-rolling to players though, it was a problem with those specific games and/or their text. AW has no such problem.
Tupacalypse World

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Judd

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Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2010, 11:29:09 AM »
Its funny, in all of those games, I feel like the GM is called upon to make up really strange shit with some regularity and link it to the players.  Not that Burning Wheel or D&D GM's don't make up shit...but...its different. 

For some reason, not having dice helps me to feel unencumbered.

Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2010, 11:42:36 AM »
I don't think, honestly, it's a matter of dice.

I mean, look at the D&D variant I linked to.

"The monster makes an attack roll versus the PC's defense score" is more or less completely isomorphic to "The PC makes a defense roll versus the monster's attack score." There's the same odds of the monster hitting the PC in either case. Whose hand is the one that picks up the die and casts it onto the table makes no difference.

Can the GM still initiate a conflict, even if the players are the ones who roll the dice to resolve that conflict? That pretty much kills the "turtling" thing you mentioned in the bud. It's when the GM can't do that, that you have to rely on the players saying "I do this!" that it can become a problem (especially if the mechanic is especially punishing

The only thing I can think of that you really change giving up rolling (and not giving up anything else), as a GM, is the ability to disguise the results of rolls. To use the classic example, when you say "You don't see anything!" and the players don't know if that's because they rolled poorly on their perception check, or because there's nothing interesting to see. And, of course, fudging.

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Bret

  • 285
Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2010, 12:36:37 PM »
Judd, I know exactly what you're talking about. I feel the same way.

Ben, I know mechanically they are different, but I do think that having the player be the initiator of die rolls does have an effect on the way the game is run. I'm curious about the design decisions behind it, and I'm tempted to experiment with it. If I had more time I'd see how the D&D thing you linked ran, and how it ran differently than regular D&D (if at all).
Tupacalypse World

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DannyK

  • 157
Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2010, 03:38:16 PM »
Its funny, in all of those games, I feel like the GM is called upon to make up really strange shit with some regularity and link it to the players.  Not that Burning Wheel or D&D GM's don't make up shit...but...its different. 

For some reason, not having dice helps me to feel unencumbered.

Word.  I think it's the cognitive load -- rolling and checking pips against target numbers sucks up a lot of brainpower. 

Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2010, 04:09:41 PM »
It's a ping-pong thing. Stay with me.

In AW, the person who rolls isn't the person who's responsible for integrating the outcome back into the ongoing fiction. So the responsibility for who talks and who answers always ping-pongs back and forth between people. You don't ever have one person establishing, rolling, resolving, and moving the fiction forward by themselves.

Re: No GM Rolling
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2010, 05:33:47 PM »
I think it makes for more responsible GMing, in terms of introducing fictional elements.

When I run Lacuna or Apocalypse World, I am specifically and immediately responsible for everything I narrate, as I am narrating it.

In Burning Wheel, I create an NPC beforehand with stats. When the PCs go up against him, the capabilities of all characters are set, and dice and player choice determine how things shake out. But if that NPC sneaks up on the PCs and murders one of them, we roll dice for it, and what happens happens.

In Apocalypse World, before I introduce something or make a move, I have to ask myself if it works in the fiction. Like, I can totally kill a PC for a flubbed roll, or a bad decision. But is that what would happen?

In BW (to use one example), I can be true to the stats and the predetermined capabilities of my NPCs, and when the PCs come into conflict with them, we see how it shakes out. I can go into a conflict with an over-arching goal, and play through it, and see the results at the end.

In AW, I have to be true to the fiction, and refer back to it, every single moment. If you jump out in front of Jimenez and unload your assault rifle at him, and roll snake eyes, what happens? I can't say "he rolled better than you, you lose 3 from your disposition" and then describe how he does that. I could say any of the following:
* Your gun jams. Jimenez just laughs at you, and you are paralyzed with fear.
* Your gun jams. Jimenez cuts your face in half with his machete. Take 3-harm.
* You empty the clip but the recoil sends every bullet high. Jimenez tackles you to the ground.
* You empty the clip... into Joe's Girl, who's standing next to Jimenez (player: "oh shit!")
* You're about to open fire when a mortar round hits the building next to you and explodes all over (player: "...wait, what?")

So which one do I say? I have to evaluate, in that moment,
a) which one is the kind of thing that happens in the world I'm describing,
b) how would my characters react, according to my conception of them,
c) AND what will happen because of what I say.

This last one is important, because I could just say "Jimenez cuts your head off, take 11-harm (ap)," right? I mean, if my BW villain does grey shade damage and he hits the PC, guy's dead. He knew the risks. But when I decide what move to make because of a flubbed go aggro roll, I have to be responsible for results of what I say.

Added on to that, and most importantly: I can say all those things I wrote above without waiting for a roll. It's not the failed roll that lets me say them, it's my role as MC.

In BW, you have to be very mindful when you set up a conflict. Once you set it up, it goes, like a machine (and if you set it up wrong, it sucks). In AW (and Lacuna), you have to be mindful of everything you say, as you say it, but not as much as when you set up that BW conflict, because the situation can change moment-to-moment.

BW will teach you how to set up good conflicts, or keep your skills honed. AW and Lacuna (and like Ghost/Echo, too) will teach you to umm I ran out of words keep what you say consistent with the fiction you're building, to your own conception of the fictional world and the story/narrative. Something like that okay bye.