Most people believe that dice rolling is the biggest key to table top gaming. Without it there would be true chaos and corruption in RPGs. In order to be an informed minion player and keep your DM from going mad with power, keep informed about dice and rolling rules. I will talk about the different kinds of dice rolling and rules, and even some of the ideas behind dice rolling in this blog.
The first thing to know is the connotation for dice. Dice are talked about in terms of their number of sides. Connotation for dice is then a lower case d (standing for the word dice) and then the max number of sides. An example would be a six sided dice would be notated by d6. If you are required to roll more than one of the same dice there will be a number in front of the d indicating the number of dice necessary. So if you were required to roll two 12 sided dice it would be notated as 2d12. A typical set of dice will have 1d4 1d6 1d8 1d10 1d12 1d20, but having multiples of these would not hurt.
Understanding the notation of dice is just the beginning. Knowing why dice are used in RPGs can keep you from going crazy when the dice rolling doesn’t go your way. Dice are used because they are a fare way of deciding outcomes of decisions and encounters. If there were no dice and everything you did succeeded there would be no challenge in the game. On the other hand if people decided for themselves what succeeded or what didn’t then players would become bitter towards that person. Dice keeps things fair and helps replicate outcomes of events. It also makes the game more organized.
But people can become corrupt and cheaters when it comes to dice. This is where rules should come into play. When someone rolls a dice it needs to be out in the open and visible to others (except for the DM/GM, they roll behind a screen). In the past I have played with someone who would always roll onto their laptop which was conveniently on their lap. I rarely saw their rolls. For some reason they always tended to roll high in combat scenarios. Although I cannot say for sure they were cheating, it was incredibly suspicious when they would roll their max damage every time single time.
Cheating can really impede the game and give an unfair advantage to those who utilize it. It throws off the equilibrium the dice provides for the people. At the beginning of the RPG set up rules on dice rolls. Do they have to roll in front of everyone? If it falls on the floor does that mean you must reroll? If you roll when a roll is not needed can you keep that roll for next time or must you discard it? If the roll lands ambiguously do you just guess or reroll? If they roll the dice without declaring what they are rolling for will it count still? My personal house rules are the only rolls that count are ones that everyone can see and that are declared so everyone knows what the roll is for. Any rolls not done or are unclear must be rerolled.
When it comes to DMs and GMs they are not required to show people rolls they make. Most DMs prefer to roll behind a screen. The reason for this is that by rolling in front of the party, the party may be able to figure out crucial stats being used by the DM. At the same time I have known DMs who will fudge their rolls to make the outcome what they want. This is okay if it is to the benefit of the party and done rarely. I tend to only do this if someone is having a bad RPG day and needs a break from the merciless on slaughter of my handiwork or if there is an essential plot point that needs to work out for the story to progress.
The worst thing a DM can do get a power complex where they only want things to go their way and will fake numbers to make things go exactly how they want. At that point players lose the ability to influence the game and forge their own paths. It gets incredibly frustrating as a player when everything you try to do is thwarted by dice rolling. Don’t be a power hungry DM! If a player feels a DM is corrupting the dice roll it is entirely appropriate for the player to ask to see the DMs roll or to ask that the DM roll the dice in front of everyone. This will keep the DM honest and give some control back to the players.
Dice rolling or some way of determining outcomes is essential for all RPGs. Although dice is one of the easiest and most popular there are other forms. Some people use rock paper scissors, others have complex methods of point systems where players can influence and direct outcomes but only in specific and limited ways. The important thing is that the way of determining outcomes is fair to players and DMs and gives the game some amount of variety and chance. Dice, in this sense, represent the unknown forces of the universe in RPGs.