Saturday, June 21, 2014
TSR Classics and DMing dice conventions
One thing you might not know if you began playing after 1985 or thereabouts is that when we first started playing the 20 sided die only had the numbers zero through nine repeated on the die twice. No die manufactured during the early days of dungeons and dragons were numbered one to twenty.
The tradition then was to take the white twenty sided die and use some means to color one half of the numbers to reflect the 10 - 20 range. I was already into painting plastic models and soldiers at the time and so I had plenty of good ole testers model paint to achieve this. I know guys that used markers or crayons or all kinds of ways to create their 20 sider. I miss this little tradition as there was something creative and maybe a little mojo involved in choosing what color to use and how you'd paint your personal 20 sider up.
There were no 10 sided die at the time and you just picked one color of unpainted 20 sider as the tens die and rolled two 20 sided numbered 0-9 to determine your percentile rolls.
This leads me to dice roll conventions in my own homebrew game. Gronards might want to cover your ears now although I can testify that I've mostly gone with these dice conventions since the early 90's when playing D&D. Not always, but mostly.
I never liked the all over the map dice conventions where you wanted to roll high for some things and low for other things. Mainly because it was difficult for new players at my table to remember when to roll high or low and often more casual adult players like girlfriends or wives of players who we did want to play, never really put in the energy to learn the game and what to roll because the dice mechanics were so totally wonk and all over the place.
Sure there is a camp that says if you can't bother to learn the game then don't play. I get that. I happen to like it when I can get someone who is fun to roleplay with at the table though and gaming for me is more a mix of fun time with friends and the hobby itself.
Anyway. Here are the dice rolling conventions I use in my own homebrew game whenever I play dungeons and dragons.
High rolls are good. Always. If the dice mechanic in the rules states otherwise, rolling low is better, I change the rule to fit the golden rule that high rolls are always good.
d6 for skill checks or any time someone is trying to figure something out in character other than the thief oriented skills which require percentile dice. d6 might be rolled for finding something. d6 might be rolled to determine if the player character knows something that they reasonably should know having lived in the campaign world all their lives but the player does not. d6 roll to determine if the character's hooked grapple secures itself successfully when thrown.
d6 rolls follow the house rule that high is good, low is bad. d6 rolls I always allow the player characters to roll on the table.
d6 rolls for initiative. I use party versus monsters initiative and character order of action simply goes around the table. The exception to this is when a character is especially fast from some spell or magical item. Then they go first out of the player characters and we just go around the table from them.
Percentile dice checks for thief skills are rolled by the DM most of the time and likely I should roll these behind the DM screen. I hate doing this to some extent because I dislike taking the fun of rolling the dice away from the player. However, most of the percentile dice rolls made by a thief are for things that they reasonably should not know whether they succeeded at or not until things play out. Check for traps is an obvious one but so is hide in shadows or move silently. Listening at doors is one where the true result should be more mysterious. Now I recently came up with a compromise and that is having the thief player sit close to where I sit as the DM so they can drop their percentile dice roll down a dice tower that faces me behind the DM screen. That way they get to still have the fun of doing the rolling themselves while the results of the roll remain hidden until the action plays out. I really like this newer idea and I am certainly going to adopt it into my home D&D game as soon as possible.
That's about it for this Saturday post. Thought I'd tackle this one early so I can keep up with my goal of posting something daily on this blog. Hope all of you get to enjoy your D&D campaigns this weekend. Please drop my a hello in the comments section below. My two biggest goals in this blog is to share my ideas with other players and DM's and also to make as many gamer friends as possible.
Player and DM since 1978 or thereabouts.