Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Letting The Dice Fall Where They May

When I was a young DM at the ripe age of nine, oh those many years ago, I didn't quite understand the full concept of the fantasy role-playing game. We would pick a cool monster (usually if we had a mini for it) which would battle a first level hack of a character, for example, a 5 headed hydra battling a single first level fighter.

Needless to say, our first level characters died……often.

Even with finding treasure, at times I would think oh this treasure is too much or too powerful or not enough and I would alter it.

So in those aery days the concept of 'fudging' the die rolls became the norm - at least for D&D.

Jump ahead some 30+ years and lo' your wisdom score improves.

Fudging die rolls is no longer on the table. Philosophically, the game is suppose to be an exploration in randomness. Dice determine everything within the game from the characters themselves to the dungeon encounters, treasures, weather, tattoos - whatever.

Now I embrace the entire concept of the crazy randomness of the game. Perhaps it took me these many years to finally fully comprehend the freedom that implies.

Let go…..

Let it be….

In our campaigns, I've mixed dungeons that I've created with what other folks have created. If treasures are too small, so be it. The PCs just risked their worthless lives for nothing. If an awesome treasure is guarded by a not so awesome monster, well, stranger things have happened.

I've learned to trust in the skills of other dungeon designers and let the game fall where it may.

Case in point, in one of the dungeons that I've adapted to one of the levels of our Tower of Zenopus campaign (I'll fill you in on who created that another time but it's one of my favorite finds on the interwebs), the dungeon designer emphasized the dangers of the icy blue lava. He also pointed out certain percentages of fails when trying to accomplish a very dangerous task involving this lava even giving the thief class an extra bonus. I loved his dungeon and took his 'guidelines' to heart. So when our favorite thief character attempted to do the exact task described in the dungeon key, lo and behold, the dice roll came up as a major fail, character fell in the blue lava and instant death! No saves. Just death. End of character.

Table shock!

No second guessing on my part. You play, you loose, you die.

The player took it in stride, of course as it's just a game, and even wrote up a final character explanation to his recklessness.

Another memorable game death.

And that's important. Characters need to die (at times). It keeps the game dangerous. If, as a DM, you're always trying to 'save' your PCs then what's the point? What's the risk? Death is a random thing. Let it be that in your game. There's always ways for characters to 'save' off death but in some instances death comes and there's just nothing you can do about it.

Embrace that randomness.

Anyway, my point is that do not second guess anything in the game. Let the dice fall where they may, let the treasures and monsters be what they are. Let the game be what it wants to be.


  1. You said it! Right on the money.

  2. That's why I don't like the cheating screen, as I call it. I say, let the dice be what they are and if I die, I die. Well, I always die but that's okay :-)