Sunday, November 3, 2019

Secret dice rolls

Sometimes you may not want a player to know right away (i.e. at the time the dice are rolled) whether or not a character's action is successful. Stealth and sneaking are obvious examples. Another I'm thinking of is for the prayers and rituals of my Devoted class for Goblins & Greatswords: I want to make the faith element of the class more than just a word, by keeping the rolls secret from the player until actual results are seen (or not seen.) Yet I also don't want to undermine confidence in the objectivity of my GMing.

Option 1: Roll the dice in a box dedicated to the purpose, and leave them until the players have seen the results in play, then reveal. The down side is that those particular dice are out of play for a while, so you'll need extras.

Option 2: Have a different player, whom you can trust to keep a secret, witness the dice roll. This would work best when the other players trust that player, too.

Option 3: For better or worse, we're not living in the 1980s any more, so we may as well make use of the technological advances of our age. Roll the dice in secret, but where the players can hear it, and then snap a picture of the dice with your phone. Have the players record the time and the purpose of the roll. When the time comes, show them the picture -- the time stamp will confirm its authenticity.


  1. We just defer the roll until its effect should become obvious. So no roll to make a bomb, until the fuse is lit.

    1. There are definitely situations when I prefer this way, too.

  2. One of the lessons I took from my brief exposure to risk management is where weak controls exist, abuse is inevitable. So I think that it is necessarily the case that rolling in secret must inspire less confidence in the DM's objectivity.

    As an alternative, why not delay rolling until the point at which it matters to what you're describing to the player whether they succeeded or not?

  3. I agree with the other comments. If the result of a roll I not immediately obvious, then why are you rolling. Make a roll to determine the result of an action. You know if you failed to sneak up on the stormtrooper when you step on the twig, the test comes after you've already committed to the action.