Has any one noticed Secret Checks? Taking player agency away


Running the Game

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Mats Öhrman wrote:

Note that PF2 allows the use of hero points to reroll failed rolls. With secret checks, the player can no longer make the decision to spend those hero points.

A failed stealth roll may definitely be critical enough to spend a hero point on.

Which is one of the bigger issues that secret rolls needs to address. How does this interact with reroll abilities. You can't have both without some form of transparency.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Arachnofiend wrote:
I don't particularly care either way as a player, but as a GM this rule would really annoy me. The GM already has plenty of stuff to keep track of without also needing to reference the skill modifiers of four or more characters. It's simply more convenient to have the players keep track of their own modifiers and tell me what they roll.

Agreed, which is why I was relieved to see that they outright said that it's fine to let players roll secret checks if you want to.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I spoke to my players about this aspect of the game, and the answer I got from them was:

"But I want to roll my dice..."

See, the thing is, it's also not about "but metagaming", it's also about what's fun. Rolling dice is fun.

I'd be fine with the players rolling their own dice, just as long as they don't know the result. Sometimes a character just shouldn't know how well they did at something. It should definitely be about what's fun, but for me breaking immersion and suspense is not fun.

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Also the people who are: "If I know that I rolled low on a stealth check then I'll just do something else."

I don't get that argument at all. You rolled the dice. You committed the action.

I know it's not a rule in the book, but the basic rules of make pretend are ancient and universal:

No Takesies Backsies.

Absolutely, but that still leaves the other half of the choice I don't want to force my players into. Now they have to move forward with a bad roll, knowing that they have already failed. And with Stealth or Disguise, it could require some role playing before they even get to the point where that failure is evident. That's not a fun situation to force my players into.

Arachnofiend wrote:
I don't particularly care either way as a player, but as a GM this rule would really annoy me. The GM already has plenty of stuff to keep track of without also needing to reference the skill modifiers of four or more characters. It's simply more convenient to have the players keep track of their own modifiers and tell me what they roll.

I don't keep track of any of my players modifiers. If they make a Stealth check that needs to be secret, I just ask them what their bonus is. Easy Peasy. That said, it's even easier to just ignore the rule, especially given that they call out that it's not for everyone.


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I know that I have rolled dice myself as a player for secret rolls in the past. I simply dropped my dice behind the screen and the GM handed them back to me. I wouldn't personally have had a problem with the GM having rolled for me in those cases, but was more than happy to let them know my bonus and roll where they could see it.

Actually, dealing with re-rolls isn't that hard to deal with. You have to decide if you are going to re-roll before you know the result, so simple enough... if you have an ability to force a re-roll, when you have a secret roll you are generating that needs to be rolled. You need to tell the GM what number on the die, or under you would ask for a re-roll.

If I were going to roll dice for this, myself, dropping them behind the screen, if I were willing to use a re-roll ability for the roll, I would throw two dice, specifying which color was my primary, and what number or lower on it I would spend the re-roll on.

Viola, the GM looks at the primary die, checks its value, tells you if you used your ability. Then makes a secret note of the second value, if you used your ability, or your primary if not. They then pick up the dice and hand them back to you with a smile, and tells you what you detect.

Guess what, sometimes as a GM, if the player fails a roll, I very likely will give them a clue. Might not be absolute knowledge. You might hear the snap of a twig... and that might mean you only barely made the stealth check, because the group was laughing at the time, or it might mean you just missed it, meaning the twig snap happened right as silence had otherwise set in. But unless I had a reason to feel that a critical failure was somehow caused by the belief they were doing great, I'd probably give them a decent clue that something happened, such as rocks rolling down the hill as they took a step misjudging how set it was.


Pathfinder Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I can think of two ways to address this issue:

1) You can't spend a hero point on a secret roll. This approach could be justified by the fact that (unless I am missing something) your character cannot immediately die from a fumbled secret roll.

2) Alternatively, when the GM informs a player that he is making a secret roll, the player could specify whether and for what degree of success/failure he would take a reroll. The GM then rolls twice and informs the player of how many hero points he used up if the triggering level of success/failure is met on the first roll.

By the current rules, I would probably go with the first approach.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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The hero point re-roll is listed as a fortune ability, and the Secret Checks has the following text:

Quote:


If a player doesn’t know a secret check is happening (for instance, if the GM rolls a secret Fortitude save for a player against a poison that he failed to notice), he can’t activate a fortune or misfortune ability (see the sidebar) on that check, but any such effect that would apply automatically to that type of check still applies. If a player knows the GM is attempting a secret check—as often happens with Recall Knowledge or Seek—he can activate fortune or misfortune abilities.

Not saying it's good or bad, just that it's addressed.


I think Secret Checks are great in the right situations but my point is that some Secret Checks should are fine and even good but some Secret Checks are unnecessary. If I am lvl 1 and have just been Trained in the ability to Identify Magic an item, sure do a secret check but when a character reaches lvl 20 with the skill raking of Legendary in Arcana with a high intelligence and that character identifying an item that isn’t that terribly hard to identify, at lvl 20, that character really should know exactly by how much he or she succeeded or failed to identify that item. Same for a Rogue that is at lvl 1and trying to sneak past someone then he is she shouldn’t know how they do but if that character is lvl 20 and sneaking past a room full of drunks after the wedding of the princess that character should know how much he is she succeeded or failed by and even be able to react to that success or failure. Ok maybe the character doesn’t know all of the circumstances that are happening around him or her, like one of the "drunks" was a person that was trying to hide from the Rogue, but that is what the opposed perception checks are for.

My point is that in some situations Secret Rolls are good but not all of them. I like the secret checks for certain things. If a player is going to alter what their character does in a given situation because they failed then do a secret check but at higher lvls I should know how well I do. This would be like saying that someone that has been a surgeon for many year that is good at and has done too many times to count and after performing the surgery that he not know how well he did. There are complications in surgeries that even the best of surgeons that he or she might not see coming but he or she but if he is she doe they know by the end of that surgery how well they did then he or she should not be a doctor. At every point during that surgery a Legendary Skilled doctor would know everything that is happening to the patient and be about to avoid complications. So should a Legendary skilled sneaky Rouge and a person who is a Legendary skilled Identifier of Magic. And as such they should be able to roll for themselves.


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I'm using secret rolls in one of my PF1 campaigns right now for Perception, Sense Motive, Knowledges, and some saves. It has a very different feel than having players roll it, even with an experienced roleplay-focused group.

It's like the difference in a book between an omniscient narrator and dropping into character's viewpoints. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, but they're very different experiences.

But, for my games, I really prefer the secret rolls. It gives the players something to chew on and prompts discussion between them, rather than everyone immediately knowing to follow up on the highest roll (even as they extravagantly pretend otherwise).

For some groups, though, that extravagantly pretending can be the fun part. So they might want to stick with doing things in the open or just making failed rolls hilariously obvious, which can be fun in its own way.

Cheers!
Landon


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Secret Rolls are here to stay in my game.

I ran a test with a few buddies - One of them is a hardcore optimizer.

This is a thing that actually happened:

Player: "I want to analyze it..."

Me: *Rolls - Player gets a 1.* "Shadows are vulnerable to areas of darkness. Shadows cannot exist without some form of light to create them, thus if a shadow is in a location where there are no light sources they become completely incorporeal and cannot affect the physical world."

Player: "Okay, on my first action I want to guarded step away."

Me: "It is just called step now."

Player: "Regardless. Then I am going to use my second action to move away to here." *moves miniature* "Am I still in anyone's light radius?"

Me: "Nope. Only your own."

Player: "Can I douse my light?"

Me: "Yes, as your third action."

Player: "Okay I do that."

Me: "As you douse your light you notice the shadow grins. Since you moved a total of 35 feet, it is going to spend 2 of its actions moving so it can close with you. You can't really see it, so you are flat footed to this attack. It rakes you for 5 negative damage with its shadow touch."

Player: "But I doused my light source! We're in darkness!"

Me: "Yeah. Something about that seems odd."

Player: "It... I rolled a 1 didn't I?"

Me: "Yup."

Player: "Dude. That's some bull(censored)." *laugh*
-----

This was really good and exactly what the secret checks and critical failure rules are for.


Yeah I've always done secret rolls.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Malachandra wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I spoke to my players about this aspect of the game, and the answer I got from them was:

"But I want to roll my dice..."

See, the thing is, it's also not about "but metagaming", it's also about what's fun. Rolling dice is fun.

I'd be fine with the players rolling their own dice, just as long as they don't know the result. Sometimes a character just shouldn't know how well they did at something. It should definitely be about what's fun, but for me breaking immersion and suspense is not fun.

Then the check is not secret.

”Malachandra” wrote:

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Also the people who are: "If I know that I rolled low on a stealth check then I'll just do something else."

I don't get that argument at all. You rolled the dice. You committed the action.

I know it's not a rule in the book, but the basic rules of make pretend are ancient and universal:

No Takesies Backsies.

Absolutely, but that still leaves the other half of the choice I don't want to force my players into. Now they have to move forward with a bad roll, knowing that they have already failed. And with Stealth or Disguise, it could require some role playing before they even get to the point where that failure is evident. That's not a fun situation to force my players into.

Making failure interesting is half the game. Let your players relish in failure, let them enjoy dramatic irony, give them the opportunity to describe their own failure. Giving players narrative control over their failures makes the game more fun for everyone at the table.

“Malachandra wrote:

Arachnofiend wrote:
I don't particularly care either way as a player, but as a GM this rule would really annoy me. The GM already has plenty of stuff to keep track of without also needing to reference the skill modifiers of four or more characters. It's simply more convenient to have the players keep track of their own modifiers and tell me what they roll.
I don't keep track of any of my players modifiers. If they make a Stealth check that needs to be secret, I just ask them what their bonus is. Easy Peasy. That said, it's even easier to just ignore the rule, especially given that they call out that it's not for everyone.

“Hey Jim what’s your elf’s Perception modifier?”

“+3, why?”
Rolls dice behind a screen “No reason.”
“I have Assurance in Perception if that matters.”
“It doesn’t.”
“I’m just going to go check this wall for secret doors.”
“Why?”
“No reason.”

Anyway secret rolls either force the GM to keep a copy of player sheets behind the screen or there’s no point to secret rolls to prevent metagaming.


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Having some characters modifiers at the ready is a common thing for many DMs who use secret rolls. Perception is the one they surely don't miss.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Megistone wrote:
Having some characters modifiers at the ready is a common thing for many DMs who use secret rolls. Perception is the one they surely don't miss.

Yeah I do the same thing.

Hell having their passive perception (10+Peception_ranks) noted on my side of the screen was something that I've pretty much always done.
Unless a PC has a negative rank in Perception a DC 10 Perception check is usually a gimmie.

One of the other things I used to do was have each of the players give me 20 d20 rolls on a post-it, mark their names on the post it and stick them on the other side of my screen. Whenever I need to do a secret roll I already have their modifiers (without having their entire character sheet I might add) and I have their rolls. The only thing I'd switch up is whether I'd start from using their first roll or their last.


Exactly - I always have at the Minimum the Perception and Sense Motive of all my Players on a sheet. I need it now anyway, as I need to know my DC for lying or sneaking NPC's. Because I am sure as hell not going to ask in the middle of the conversation "What's you Sense Motive DC, by the way?"

I am wondering if that shouldn't be the way to go, anyway. Instead of my Player rolling stealth, shouldn't my guards roll Perception vs. my parties Sneak DC? Just throwing this out there, would this feel better?


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
“Malachandra wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
I don't particularly care either way as a player, but as a GM this rule would really annoy me. The GM already has plenty of stuff to keep track of without also needing to reference the skill modifiers of four or more characters. It's simply more convenient to have the players keep track of their own modifiers and tell me what they roll.
I don't keep track of any of my players modifiers. If they make a Stealth check that needs to be secret, I just ask them what their bonus is. Easy Peasy. That said, it's even easier to just ignore the rule, especially given that they call out that it's not for everyone.

“Hey Jim what’s your elf’s Perception modifier?”

“+3, why?”
Rolls dice behind a screen “No reason.”
“I have Assurance in Perception if that matters.”
“It doesn’t.”
“I’m just going to go check this wall for secret doors.”
“Why?”
“No reason.”
Anyway secret rolls either force the GM to keep a copy of player sheets behind the screen or there’s no point to secret rolls to prevent metagaming.

I have a few problems with your example here. The first is the elves detect secret doors is not present in the playtest, so it doesn't really apply. Secondly since there aren't really opposed checks anymore (such checks are now rolled sgainst DCs based on the target's skill), the GM pretty much needs copies of the players major skills anyway. This is a practice that many do already.

The third and biggest one, is to do with the title of this thread. The roll you're mentioning these has nothing to do with player agency. Most of the arguements against secret rolls here don't actually address player agency. If the arguement was titled "secret rolls, Y/N?" then the example would be relevant. We're talking agency here.

None of the secret checks take away the player's ability to make a choice (that is not already addressed elsewhere in the book, i.e. no fortune abilities on secret checks). The only thing secret checks keep from the player are the knowledge of what their total was. The player still makes the decision to use the ability, and the GM still gives them whatever benefits or penalties that come with it.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Malachandra wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I spoke to my players about this aspect of the game, and the answer I got from them was:

"But I want to roll my dice..."

See, the thing is, it's also not about "but metagaming", it's also about what's fun. Rolling dice is fun.

I'd be fine with the players rolling their own dice, just as long as they don't know the result. Sometimes a character just shouldn't know how well they did at something. It should definitely be about what's fun, but for me breaking immersion and suspense is not fun.
Then the check is not secret.

If the part I bolded doesn't make it secret, I don't know what makes a check secret. We might be on very different pages here.

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Malachandra wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Also the people who are: "If I know that I rolled low on a stealth check then I'll just do something else."

I don't get that argument at all. You rolled the dice. You committed the action.

I know it's not a rule in the book, but the basic rules of make pretend are ancient and universal:

No Takesies Backsies.

Absolutely, but that still leaves the other half of the choice I don't want to force my players into. Now they have to move forward with a bad roll, knowing that they have already failed. And with Stealth or Disguise, it could require some role playing before they even get to the point where that failure is evident. That's not a fun situation to force my players into.
Making failure interesting is half the game. Let your players relish in failure, let them enjoy dramatic irony, give them the opportunity to describe their own failure. Giving players narrative control over their failures makes the game more fun for everyone at the table.

You're moving the goalposts here. I do make failure interesting. I just don't make it needlessly frustrating ;) I give them chances to describe their failures, I just don't put them in a situation where they know they have already failed, then force them to roleplay through multiple encounters/situations as though they haven't. I don't think that's fun. They don't think that's fun. Secret checks simply don't take away a player's narrative control over their failures.

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

“Hey Jim what’s your elf’s Perception modifier?”

“+3, why?”
Rolls dice behind a screen “No reason.”
“I have Assurance in Perception if that matters.”
“It doesn’t.”
“I’m just going to go check this wall for secret doors.”
“Why?”
“No reason.”
Anyway secret rolls either force the GM to keep a copy of player sheets behind the screen or there’s no point to secret rolls to prevent metagaming.

OK, so first, this situation is a moot point. I've never done perception checks in secret. They have to verbally attempt something before I make a secret check. Even if they have been afflicted with a poison they are unaware of, I don't make their save in secret. I do secret checks when they want to do something, but it doesn't make narrative sense for them to know how well they did at it. What you are thinking of is Passive Perception from 5e. Very different from what is being discussed here.

For actual secret checks, I don't have to know any of my players' stats. If they want to try to sneak into a campsite, they tell me their Stealth bonus. I roll it. That's it. They track all of their modifiers, situational or otherwise (which I trust them to track truthfully) and just tell me a number to add to the d20. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it adds to the narrative.


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Malachandra wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

“Hey Jim what’s your elf’s Perception modifier?”

“+3, why?”
Rolls dice behind a screen “No reason.”
“I have Assurance in Perception if that matters.”
“It doesn’t.”
“I’m just going to go check this wall for secret doors.”
“Why?”
“No reason.”
Anyway secret rolls either force the GM to keep a copy of player sheets behind the screen or there’s no point to secret rolls to prevent metagaming.

OK, so first, this situation is a moot point. I've never done perception checks in secret. They have to verbally attempt something before I make a secret check. Even if they have been afflicted with a poison they are unaware of, I don't make their save in secret. I do secret checks when they want to do something, but it doesn't make narrative sense for them to know how well they did at it. What you are thinking of is Passive Perception from 5e. Very different from what is being discussed here.

Additionally, Passive Perception from 5e also doesn't work that way. Passive Perception uses the same framework as the new Playtest skill DC system, it's 10 plus your modifier. This makes it something the GM generally needs to have written down to keep game flow, not a roll that gets done in secret.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Am I the only DM who asks players to make saving throws when there is nothing to save against? Sure, they don't know the roll is mechanically meaningless, but do it often enough that they're not quite sure which rolls are real and which are fake and the metagaming decreases dramatically.

Player paranoia does increase for a bit, though, especially if you just ask for their modifier and make a secret roll. This helps greatly in games where the players being paranoid is more immersive, such as in horror games/situations.


Isaac Zephyr wrote:
Malachandra wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

“Hey Jim what’s your elf’s Perception modifier?”

“+3, why?”
Rolls dice behind a screen “No reason.”
“I have Assurance in Perception if that matters.”
“It doesn’t.”
“I’m just going to go check this wall for secret doors.”
“Why?”
“No reason.”
Anyway secret rolls either force the GM to keep a copy of player sheets behind the screen or there’s no point to secret rolls to prevent metagaming.

OK, so first, this situation is a moot point. I've never done perception checks in secret. They have to verbally attempt something before I make a secret check. Even if they have been afflicted with a poison they are unaware of, I don't make their save in secret. I do secret checks when they want to do something, but it doesn't make narrative sense for them to know how well they did at it. What you are thinking of is Passive Perception from 5e. Very different from what is being discussed here.
Additionally, Passive Perception from 5e also doesn't work that way. Passive Perception uses the same framework as the new Playtest skill DC system, it's 10 plus your modifier. This makes it something the GM generally needs to have written down to keep game flow, not a roll that gets done in secret.

Gotcha, I wasn't aware of that. That makes more sense.

Either way, Dudemeister's example is moot because Pathfinder doesn't do Perception checks in secret. At my table, if a player asks to look around a room, they get a Perception check. Otherwise, they miss the secret door.


Fumarole wrote:

Am I the only DM who asks players to make saving throws when there is nothing to save against? Sure, they don't know the roll is mechanically meaningless, but do it often enough that they're not quite sure which rolls are real and which are fake and the metagaming decreases dramatically.

Player paranoia does increase for a bit, though, especially if you just ask for their modifier and make a secret roll. This helps greatly in games where the players being paranoid is more immersive, such as in horror games/situations.

That's interesting, I may have to try it sometime. How often do you ask for saving throws? I normally would tell the players what they are saving against (i.e. save against poison) so they can add any conditional modifiers. Do you have them roll randomly against poison, or mind-affects, or whatever? Do your players like this system (assuming they've played in games where the GM hasn't done this)?


Fumarole wrote:

Am I the only DM who asks players to make saving throws when there is nothing to save against? Sure, they don't know the roll is mechanically meaningless, but do it often enough that they're not quite sure which rolls are real and which are fake and the metagaming decreases dramatically.

Player paranoia does increase for a bit, though, especially if you just ask for their modifier and make a secret roll. This helps greatly in games where the players being paranoid is more immersive, such as in horror games/situations.

LMAO I had a GM in PFS do this to our group at a con during a scenario and we were so freaked out by the end of the game it was great! One of the best games I have ever played suspense wise.

On a note for secret rolls in general. I like them. I have no issues with a GM rolling for me. It makes it more immersive for me and as HWalsh has said being an experienced player, sometimes we just figure stuff out and then I loose some of that feeling when I know meta information.


Regarding rerolls of secret rolls, the GM could just go along and start to slowly describe how the failure begins to take place which can then prompt a hero/luckpoint spending from the player. Which is how I would do it personally.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Malachandra wrote:
Fumarole wrote:

Am I the only DM who asks players to make saving throws when there is nothing to save against? Sure, they don't know the roll is mechanically meaningless, but do it often enough that they're not quite sure which rolls are real and which are fake and the metagaming decreases dramatically.

Player paranoia does increase for a bit, though, especially if you just ask for their modifier and make a secret roll. This helps greatly in games where the players being paranoid is more immersive, such as in horror games/situations.

That's interesting, I may have to try it sometime. How often do you ask for saving throws? I normally would tell the players what they are saving against (i.e. save against poison) so they can add any conditional modifiers. Do you have them roll randomly against poison, or mind-affects, or whatever? Do your players like this system (assuming they've played in games where the GM hasn't done this)?

Not all the time, but often enough to keep them on their toes. For instance, if they think a door is trapped but searches reveal nothing (because there is no trap and they rolled really low when searching), when they go through it ask the first person to do so to make a Will save. When they announce the result, write down a note (meaningless of course, but handy to track how often you do this). You can then either say nothing, say "That's interesting," or "Uh-oh" or even just look at that player and smile. This freaks players out.

Of course, some players will not like this. Usually, the more roleplaying-oriented players are fine or even happy to play this way. However, some who object beforehand (if told that this will happen) end up liking it.


Fumarole wrote:
You can then either say nothing, say "That's interesting," or "Uh-oh" or even just look at that player and smile. This freaks players out.

This is my favorite. In my table's Starfinder game, I have the worst luck ever (been diseases and poisoned for like, 6 days total and we're only level 3). Whenever there's a random roll behind the screen for something that's gonna happen, you see the smallest smirk on my GM's face, cause I'm the squishy social character (but our second best melee fighter) and you know he doesn't want to single me out. The dice though, the dice! So I just smile back, give a laugh and ask "alright, how much damage do I take this time?" It's basically an in joke and the most fun we have.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Yeah Elf secret door finding is gone but here’s two secret perception checks in the ancestry section.

Halfling Ancestry Feat wrote:


ATTENTIVE FEAT 1
Your communal lifestyle causes you to notice when
those around you act out of character. You gain a +2 circumstance
bonus to Perception checks when using the Seek action to notice
enchanted or possessed characters.
If you aren’t Seeking, the GM rolls a secret check anyway, with
a –2 circumstance penalty, for you to notice the enchantment
or possession.
Dwarf Ancestry Feat wrote:


STONECUNNING FEAT 1
You have a knack for noticing inconsistencies and
craftsmanship techniques in the stonework around you. You gain
a +2 circumstance bonus to Perception checks to notice unusual
stonework. This bonus applies to checks to discover mechanical
traps made of stone or hidden inside of stone.
If you aren’t using the Seek action (see page 308) or searching,
the GM rolls a secret check without the bonus and with a –2
circumstance penalty for you to notice unusual stonework
anyway (in such cases, this feat takes on the secret trait).

So not only does a GM need to track modifiers, but individual feats that enable secret checks at a small penalty.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Oh yes, the old:
“Ask for Saves it checks for no reason bit.”

There’s one that can get thrown in a volcano. Rolling dice should only happen when it matters. A GM asking for a roll means something important is happening, if you ask for random checks for no reason it doesn’t do anything but make your narration untrustworthy.

“Roll a fortitude save?”
“Against what? Poison, disease, death, environmental effects, Magic?”
“Uhhh Magic I guess.”
“Oh no I rolled a one.”
smirk “Nothing happens.”
“But I rolled a natural one.”
“Just making you paranoid.”
“So uh what was happening in fiction to prompt this.”
“Noooothiiiing.”
“Can something actually happen in the game though? I’d prefer that.”


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
[...] if you ask for random checks for no reason it doesn’t do anything but make your narration untrustworthy.

Speak for yourself.

You'll notice at no point in my post did I say I ever tell the player "Nothing happens" as that would indeed be a mistake. The entire point of this is that the player doesn't know there is no effect. They may suspect there is an unknown effect if they rolled low, but they don't know.

It's not too different from them rolling a Fortitude save versus a poison that has a long onset time. They may not feel the effects for hours or more after they failed the save, but most importantly they don't know there is an effect, at least not immediately.

But like I said, it's definitely not a method for everyone and it certainly relies on trust in one's DM.

Silver Crusade

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Fumarole wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
[...] if you ask for random checks for no reason it doesn’t do anything but make your narration untrustworthy.

Speak for yourself.

You'll notice at no point in my post did I say I ever tell the player "Nothing happens" as that would indeed be a mistake. The entire point of this is that the player doesn't know there is no effect. They may suspect there is an unknown effect if they rolled low, but they don't know.

It's not too different from them rolling a Fortitude save versus a poison that has a long onset time. They may not feel the effects for hours or more after they failed the save, but most importantly they don't know there is an effect, at least not immediately.

But like I said, it's definitely not a method for everyone and it certainly relies on trust in one's DM.

But nothing actually happens. In the fiction of the game, from the perspective of the character, nothing was happening to necessitate a save of any kind. So you haven't justified the roll in the fiction of the game. The player just knows they rolled low. So they sit around asking for Medicine checks, or detect magic/disease/poison spells. Again, you asked for a check for no reason, so there is nothing to detect. So your players spend 5 minutes wasting time. Or the GM spins some terribleness like: "Your character wouldn't know they rolled low on a Fortitude save. No Metagaming."

Even though explicitly The GM is Metagaming and for some reason people think this is socially acceptable, while it's some manner of cardinal sin for players.

Metagaming is taking actions outside the fiction of the game (the classic: "How would your character know Trolls are weak to fire?"), but if the GM doesn't justify player rolls in the fiction of the game you're not playing the game really. You're just doing some exercise in player psychology.

"But we (I the GM) have fun."
"My players all had a good laugh" (at a player's expense)

Ugh, I hate secret rolls, unjustified rolls, secret difficulty checks, hiding mechanics from players and generally justifying GM Bullhockey. It's all ways of clipping the rough edges off the game, removing Player Agency from the mistaken belief that games like Pathfinder and D&D and the like are Storytelling games, ,hey are not, they are tactical games.

The story is what you knit together from the memories when the session is done. Removing player agency only removes player input and control over the narrative, everything you hide from the players or trick them with means they are unable to make informed decisions as characters to shape the story. It means the maximum level of fun is the GM's imagination, rather than that of the collective group and the RPG system they are running.

Because most of the examples I've seen in this thread of people fondly talking about hidden information would be ten times better with honest communication and willingness to accommodate metagaming as a useful narrative tool, rather than a cardinal sin of gaming.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Here's a challenge for all those GMs that absolutely love secret rolls.

Run a long session of Pathfinder or D&D (whatever version you like), and before the session begins have a talk with your players:


  • For this session nothing is secret. I will roll my dice in the open, and tell you the bonuses I am adding. When you make attacks I'll tell you the AC. When I ask for a skill check I'll tell you the DC.
  • You as a player must commit to any action you make. Declare intention, make a roll, and then narrate based on the roll.
  • For example: If you want to sneak into a room, I'll tell you the difficulty class, you can decide any spells, items or resources you're using to assist and then you make your roll. If you succeed then tell me how you awesomely ninja past observers. If you succeed tell me why you fail, whether it's some hilarious mishap or just an unlucky glance from a guard. Your successes and failures are in your hands. Once I've told you the difficulty class you gotta roll.
  • Don't be afraid to use investigative skills (Perception and the like) to try to figure out the difficulty of checks before you make them, examine walls for climb checks, peak into rooms for guard layouts for stealth checks etc.
  • You cannot roll dice until you justify it in fiction with an intention. Do not roll dice and then start narrating without declaring intention first.
  • Sometimes you as a player will know something your characters don't. This is dramatic irony, this is where games like this sings, because we are both audience and performer. So make sure you're paying attention when other players are rolling and speaking. Sometimes I will explicitly tell you the things your characters miss out on because of low rolls, usually as you leave an area. If the fiction justifies coming back and sweeping an area later, you'll be able to pick stuff up. You as players need to accept this. This is called metagaming, and it's not a sin.

Play the game like this, for one full session. Don't fudge a single dice roll, let the players see what you're doing on your side of the screen. Be an example for your table.

Ask your players if they felt more in control of the story. Ask your players how they felt about seeing your rolls. Ask your players how the narrative was affected by hearing the fiction justify every roll being made at the table.

Then let me know (in Private Message if you like) how the session went, how it affected the attention level of the players. How it affected your GMing. I don't expect everybody will keep to this style forever (it requires a lot more focused attention), but even the most vehement defenders of secret rolls might learn something.

As someone who for years did secret rolls, and justified my storytime tendencies. When I forced myself to be public with rolls, justify everything in the fiction and encourage players to flow with intention>roll>narrate, it truly took my games to another level. It let me actually be a player in the game as much as any other player at the table.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
The player just knows they rolled low. So they sit around asking for Medicine checks, or detect magic/disease/poison spells. Again, you asked for a check for no reason, so there is nothing to detect. So your players spend 5 minutes wasting time. Or the GM spins some terribleness like: "Your character wouldn't know they rolled low on a Fortitude save. No Metagaming."

I'm not a fan of tricking players, but it would definitely be unacceptable metagaming to cast 'detect disease' if the character isn't aware of anything having happened. If a party does this, they probably deserve to have an annoying GM who pranks them like this.


Talonhawke wrote:
Mats Öhrman wrote:

Note that PF2 allows the use of hero points to reroll failed rolls. With secret checks, the player can no longer make the decision to spend those hero points.

A failed stealth roll may definitely be critical enough to spend a hero point on.

Which is one of the bigger issues that secret rolls needs to address. How does this interact with reroll abilities. You can't have both without some form of transparency.

While I am definitely not on team "secret roll", I do think I have a possible solution for those who are.

The player can tell the GM that if the roll or total result is below <insert number> to use the reroll. That keeps the dice secret, and still allows for the reroll to happen.


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Malachandra wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Also the people who are: "If I know that I rolled low on a stealth check then I'll just do something else."

I don't get that argument at all. You rolled the dice. You committed the action.

I know it's not a rule in the book, but the basic rules of make pretend are ancient and universal:

No Takesies Backsies.

Absolutely, but that still leaves the other half of the choice I don't want to force my players into. Now they have to move forward with a bad roll, knowing that they have already failed. And with Stealth or Disguise, it could require some role playing before they even get to the point where that failure is evident. That's not a fun situation to force my players into.

I'm not seeing the difference.

Either way you're going to get the same result for the same roll.

However, since it bothers you I may have a solution.

You can have them move the mini first, and then roll the dice second. If they fail the roll then you move the mini/icon/etc back to a previous position. If they roll well they get to stay where they are.

I do the same thing with acrobatics rolls, but not for the same reason.

That removes the metagame aspect of knowing they failed, and still keeps the suspense.

As for tracking player stats and rolling for them I don't like it either. I don't know how many bonus types PF2 will have, but PF1 could have a variety of conditional modifiers. Even when players tracked their own stuff they'd forget something. If they're not doing it they're more likely to forget. I just think it's more extra work, even if PF2 has scaled back all the modifiers.

I also realize that how you see the game is different than myself and others with regard to seeing players have to take a committed action. As a player it doesn't bother me, and my players just accept the dice rolls also.

For those that would want to take it back, my idea of moving first and then rolling could work.


Fumarole wrote:

Am I the only DM who asks players to make saving throws when there is nothing to save against? Sure, they don't know the roll is mechanically meaningless, but do it often enough that they're not quite sure which rolls are real and which are fake and the metagaming decreases dramatically.

Player paranoia does increase for a bit, though, especially if you just ask for their modifier and make a secret roll. This helps greatly in games where the players being paranoid is more immersive, such as in horror games/situations.

I don't do it. When I used to roll at the table before I started using roll 20 I'd randomly roll dice behind the GM screen, and smile at the players. Sometimes the rules were actually for future events, and sometimes they were for no reason at all. :)

edit: If I had them roll a save and someone rolled a 1, and they figured it nothing was going on it would annoy them, and it would annoy me as a player also.

It's one of those things that people need to realize that may be ok for their group, but isn't necessarily good for the game as a whole.


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wraithstrike wrote:
It's one of those things that people need to realize that may be ok for their group, but isn't necessarily good for the game as a whole.

I am 100% on board with this, as I've said multiple time in this thread. I know what works for me and my table; perhaps it can work for others too. If someone tries it and it doesn't work, then hopefully they've learned something and can grow as a DM from that. DMs becoming better, whether they use this style or not, can only make our community better.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Seeing the back and forth here just reinforces my perception that secret rolls should be suggestions in the rules text, but not hard-coded into the game. Where "Secret" means the GM can make the roll if they choose, but it isn't required.

Obviously group play styles vary widely, and enforcing secret rolls in the rules text is turning off not just a certain type of player, but also a certain type of GMs. If that drives away players from the final product--and it seems enough of a turn off for some that it might--it could be cause for concern.

Yes, of course any table can always house rule stuff away... unless it's Pathfinder Society, and if the rules turn players or GMs off enough from that fewer start showing up or running tables, the marketing benefits from organized play lessen significantly.

Whereas leaving it as a suggestion leaves each table, official or at home, to do as they see fit without having to alert people to changes in the rules.

(And folks who just want THEIR style validated over somebody else's in the rules is missing the point of the fact that, no matter how comforted they may be by the idea of people agreeing with them, every table is different and the game needs to support a variety of play styles in order to be most successful.)

Silver Crusade

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Despite my personal hardline stance, I actually don't mind secret rolls and DCs existing as a thing in the game. They can be useful for new GMs who aren't confident in their abilities to homebrew a fair adventure with a reasonable amount of challenge to success ratio. Hidden rolls let you fudge the numbers (sometimes fudging is in the player's favor too after all).

I just think the current paradigm is backwards with secret rolls and secret DCs (for even mundane tasks like Crafting) hardwired into the system with GM option to make rolls public only referenced one time.

Ideally I'd prefer to see that reversed to public rolls are the norm, with secret rolls and hidden DCs being rare and specifically only for checks where players explicitly in fiction could have no way of knowing their likelihood of success. (This disqualifies Craft DCs as characters should know how likely they are to be able to make something, particularly if they're following instructions from a Formula book).

I'm sure there is a middle ground that would be a fine mix.

It just bothers me a lot, particularly with a playtest because hidden rolls add a further temptation for GM Fudging (for or against the player), which might wall-paper over actual holes in the system that will be missed in actual play.

Silver Crusade

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Here's a thing.

My ideal version of Pathfinder would not have the GM make any rolls whatsoever. Players roll for everything, attack, defense, saves, spell rolls vs enemy saves. Everything in the world would have a static DC (usually 10 or 11+Modifier) but players would roll Defense (AC) checks each turn (remove the +10 and roll any other modifiers). Roll a 20 and the enemy critically misses, roll a 1 and the enemy critically hits you.

It means the GM during combat can focus entirely on tactics and narration, nothing can be fudged because every dice is in the players' hands.

Every game I've played (or read) that takes the dice out of the GMs hands (Masks, Cypher System, 3.5 Unearthed Arcana, Powered by the Apocalypse Games), has given players a lot more control of their own destinies. I'm fully aware that this is a fairly easy house rule to implement but a GM can dream.

It also encourages players to pay attention when it's not their turn, another big bonus.


I roll in the open all monster rolls. I only roll in secret when I want to keep something secret (for example, bluff vs sense motive, so you don't know if the "you think he is saying the truth" is actually false because you know you rolled 3 in sense motive type of rolls). Beyond that, everyting is rolled in front of players, and if the Monster rolls a 2 in his will save, so be it. If he rolls a 20 in his vorpal sword, so be it.


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Hey all,

As a newer player / hopeful GM I'm astonished that there is so much variation among groups on the topic - I thought it was standard for players to roll all their own checks.

I am inclined to say that most of the time, a character should have a sense of how well they are doing - especially if they are trained in said skill. I know when I'm having a bad day and f-ing things up, but of course there should be a respectful limit to the metagame knowledge gained by seeing your rolls, and of course once it's rolled, there are no take-backs or re-dos (I believe most skills have a stipulation on re-trying, No?). I have used low rolls on certain checks to add role-playing depth to my character and to help guide character development. Yes, he really is afraid of these [insert scary thing here]. ... and maybe in the future when I roll better, I can play it as having grown past that fear.

Additionally I see value in the knowledge that a player is just rolling poorly that day if their character is dropping the ball left and right - if the checks were secret, I could see people getting upset and just thinking their character sucks.

Anyway, this is an eye-opening discussion! It's one of those things you don't realize people do differently, like sitting on the toilet facing the tank or something... FWIW, I might incorporate some secret checks in my campaign (if I ever can get it started) and try it out, particularly for certain knowledge scenarios. Stealth, though, I believe should firmly be in player hands, since there are still opposed rolls that will happen behind the screen.

Thanks for all the unique perspectives!

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

As a GM, I have always rolled Sense Motive and Perception in secret, mostly because players respond so consistently to “outside” knowledge of danger/ doubledealing when the stakes are high, but player knowledge is ambiguous at best. Today, we ran the first playtest chapter including all secrets checks marked in the new rules. The players, all five of them, shrugged and could care less. I, on the other hand, was rolling a lot more dice as a GM, which did get tedious by the fourth hour. Keeping some rolls secret does add a layer of welcomed intrigue. Rolling knowledge checks in secret, however, I can file in the diminishing returns cabinet.


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Another thought on players being able to see the results of their rolls:

If they try, for example, a knowledge check, and see that they butchered it, and get the "You know no additional information" type of answer, it doesn't exclude the players enquiring further down that same path - for example, asking a local scholar for similar information via Diplomacy (or what-have-you)

However, if said check was secret, and the players don't get any information, they have no idea whether or not that was a fruitful line of investigation that they failed at, or is just un-related to the problem at hand, and thus would be pushed out of that avenue entirely without knowing why.

I guess it's just something that comes down to play style, but I wouldn't want to miss out on important clues without an indication that there might be something I missed (provided to the player as a poor roll) - acquiring the right kind of clues to stay on track is hard enough, especially when RP factors such as "my character doesn't know anything and isn't otherwise interested" factor in - they'd probably rather just go scare up some other, more obvious use for their time.

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