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12/13/2017 1:31 am  #1

Pre-emptive die rolling

I'd like my fellow Hyperboreans to weigh in on players self assigning die rolls. Here's an example: 

DM: You pry open the crypt door and foul, damp air rushes out. It's very dark inside and your torchlight barely pierces the gloom. 
Player: I rolled a 1 to detect traps, what do I find? 

Pre-emptive die rolling is something I see a lot of veteran gamers do and I don’t care for it.  Here's why: 

  • The way I'm used to roleplaying is 1) DM describes an environment, 2) the players declare actions, and 3) the DM adjudicates the result, which may or may not call for a dice roll. Players self-assigning their rolls short cuts the process and steps on the role of the DM.
  • In my games, it's in a player's best interests to describe their action and wait for the DM to adjudicate. The player's choice of action can increase their odds or eliminate their chance of failure entirely.
  • If the players don't bother to describe their actions when they roll, the DM might make assumptions they don’t like.
  • Pre-emptive die rolls are very "gamey" and more akin to a video game where a player selects from a list of proscribed actions with no need for DM interpretation. 
  • In the interests of pacing and immersion, I try to limit dice rolls to circumstances where the consequences are interesting and meaningful.
  • I've seen people use self-assigned rolls as a soft way of cheating by gaming the system. They don’t bother to explain what they’re doing, they just announce a good result and expect the DM to let them succeed. If they get a low roll they don’t say anything. These are often the same people I have to constantly remind to roll dice in the open and not to scoop up their dice immediately after rolling.

Obviously there are cases where self-assigned die rolls are perfectly fine (like combat) and I think everyone hates it when a DM makes you play a minigame of "mother may I?" This thread wasn't created to criticize anyone's style of play as badwrongfun but to hear other perspectives and become a better DM myself.  What do you think of self-assigning die rolls?

Last edited by Brock Savage (12/13/2017 1:31 am)


12/13/2017 8:12 am  #2

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

I admit I've never heard of self-assigning rolls, and your first three bullets capture the way I play. So, IMHO, you'd be better off establishing that as the Rules of Play, and not allow self-assigning rolls. 

"My own concepts in this regard are easy and clear, and I am sure that the word 'simplistic' will be used by my critics. These folk are callow and turgid of intellect; I am reassured by their howls and yelps."
Jack Vance, The Face

12/13/2017 8:51 am  #3

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

Many times if they have the class skill a roll is not needed unless there is a reason for the character to miss the piece of information. If they preemptively roll (with explanation) then the roll stands and they could miss something I would have "given" them without a roll.

They are in charge of their action but I let them know if and what to roll. 

Have you ever had one of these preemptive players (rolling before any explanation) say "I rolled a 10 on my move silently roll, I guess I was spotted"? For whatever reason the majority of preemptive rolls are successes or they never get brought up!

That being said I have a great bunch of players at home so it never happens.  At cons very infrequently.


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 

12/13/2017 9:20 am  #4

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

In game where listen rolls, detect rolls are required, the people playing in the games I was part of agreed that it best if GM does those rolls. A little more work for GM though, but it better that way!

I only played in one game,"Hackmaster," where GM rolled  every dice, was unusual, but it not bother me to much, but I would prefer to roll my own combat dice for good or bad!

The immature player does try to ruin a game by making their action seem only to work for them if they succeed and maybe they think it is fun to spoil others fun by aggravating them for their own personal amusement. As a GM I would tell them to show more consideration to others, but it also would/has ruined my fun as I get angry; and I was at the game to enjoy myself also, but if things go really bad, GM (and I pardon myself for those few times) forgets any moderation and kills offender's character and any poor bystanders that might get in the way! Hmm, I sure there is a happy balance, but I not found that yet.

The main problem is your not GMing a game to psychoanalyse other players and it very difficult find the right cure to problem, when you never were looking for a problem in the first place. So, I sympathies with you if it happens and would suggest explaining yourself to these people in a quiet place and hopefully give them time to mature (though this might take years), but it better than, well it better that, in fact I not know what it better than.

Better that strangling them to death.
Getting 15 years in jail...
Loosing control of your angelic form and turning in to a beast as part of nature!!!
Etc. etc.


12/13/2017 11:09 am  #5

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

Thanks for the replies. I don't currently have this sort of player but it's been an issue in the past.

     Thread Starter

12/13/2017 4:42 pm  #6

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

I tell my players not to roll without a roll being called for.  It hasn't been an issue in a while.  In the past, when I had a player preemptively roll, I've ignored the roll and asked the rest of the group what they're doing while Sir-Jumps-the-Gun was screwing around.  Losing their action for the round seems to be a good lesson.


12/14/2017 7:55 am  #7

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

Brock Savage wrote:

Thanks for the replies. I don't currently have this sort of player but it's been an issue in the past.



12/14/2017 6:55 pm  #8

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

There are instances in which I don't mind a preemptive roll, but generally, I will ask they wait the next time for <insert reason here>. If they do it again, then I make them re-roll.
Never had to go past that 2nd time at either a con or in a home game. 


12/15/2017 4:49 am  #9

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

I think my players learnt it rather quickly that rolling the dice is always a gamble and that I often hand out auto-successes (unless there is a reasonable chance of failure with meaningful consequences). Granted, I don't often attend cons.

On the other hand, I do enjoy the "game" part of it very much. I play for the interesting procedures and the crazy plans to circumvent them.


12/21/2017 1:04 pm  #10

Re: Pre-emptive die rolling

I love letting players roll everything - sometimes I even ask for dice rolls (usually without explanation) for random encounters etc.  makes my job easier.  Check for Traps is one that I don’t allow because there’s no way for a character to know what a failure means unless they trigger a trap, same with secret doors, stealth type rolls and the Augury spell.  I think in the first case I’d just say “that’s great but I’ll roll that one.”


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