GM-ing To Screen or Not to Screen


GM Discussion

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Grand Lodge

I have been running home games with various rule-sets for almost 20 years now. About two years ago, I got into Pathfinder, and have been quite happy with the products and system as a whole. Recently, I joined the PFS as a player, since I really have not been able to "Play" anything for quite some time.

I played in my first game last night, and it was interesting to say the least. Throughout the game, there several skill tests and combat tests, and all the while, the GM rolled every roll right in front of us. This seemed quite foreign to me, as I look at the game somewhat different than most I think. At one point, due to the luck of the dice on the GM's part, one of our party was almost instantly killed via a critical attack. Now, I understand death is part of the game. I don't, however, think that killing a level 1 character - run by a brand new player mind you- is a very effective way of getting people involved in the campaign. It can take several hours to build a character, and to lose that character in your very fist combat because of a Die Roll seems a bit much to me.

That brings me to my question, for all of you who GM, do you prefer to use a screen or not? Why one way or the other?

I mentioned this at the game, and was lead to believe that PFS prefers GMs not to use a screen. I can't seem to find anywhere that this is stated, but then again I am fairly new to this type of play.

I had planned on running a few scenarios, but I wasn't sure use of my screen would be very appreciated. Certainly, as characters become more powerful, more hit points, better armor, more experienced, etc. the need for "fudging" rolls becomes less and less. At lower levels, when a single strike can kill you, I think it advances the story much more to give the PC's a fighting chance by making the story the focus over the mechanics. So, that d10 damage roll may have ended up a 10, but the damage dealt... well maybe it was only about 4pts.


There is no requirement that GMs use a screen and I think for the most part it is left up to the individual GM as to if they use one or not. Paizo does provide a GM screen if we want to use one specific for the game.

My personal preference is two-fold.

1. I'm short .. seriously... and the combination of sitting and a GM screen means that I don't have a visual on the play field/map and I like to see what people are doing.

2. I try to be a fairly open and honest GM, you know when I'm having a good dice day, you know when I'm having a bad dice day -- bad dice happen. While there are times that I would have like to have rolled that crit behind a screen at the same time; we expect the players to have an "honest dice game" so therefore we should as well. Where they fall is where they fall, that is the randomness of the game.

That is not to say that I haven't called back a dice roll, or tried to make a way for a player to still save his character (pm me I can tell you one such story that is too long for here). But in the end I personally believe that if the GM is open and honest about the dice rolls, then the GM should need to worry about the player being less than honest about theirs. To me, the screen says that I can't necessarily trust the GM (I know that probably isn't the intent and the air that most GMs don't want but that is my general feeling).

I can appreciate that a lot of times goes into creating characters, I've sat for an entire evening myself and poured over all the books trying to find the best combination for the idea I have in my head. I can also appreciate those that say it is just a game and that death in the game can and will happen.

So that begs the question back to you... is it better to experience the first death at level 1 or 2 because the GM was honest with you about the dice rolls, or to experience is later in "life" when you're level 7 or 8 and have invested even more time in the character and have developed a closer relationship.

**Keep in mind that at level 1 (any level really tho higher there would be some adjustments) it is fairly easy to just file of the -# and re-enter the character as a new -# character if you truly like it.

5/5 Venture-Captain, Massachusetts—Central & West aka Harley Quinn X

Every place is different.

I've played with GMs in my area that roll openly and others that use a screen. I personally haven't been too annoyed by it, but I could see how some people might. A lot of GMs prefer players to have open rolls to prevent fudging on their part. It seems almost hypocritical to make the players roll openly and not do so yourself.

When I'm feeling very into the story, I try to roll the checks where the values might be best kept secret from the players (like Appraise). Most days I let them roll their own.

One thing using a screen prevents is the subtle metagame. If you roll openly for a monster and it lands on a 6 and it still hits your tank, everyone looks at each other in fear. If you're rolling behind a screen, they don't know if the monster got lucky or if it has a high attack bonus. Also, they don't know if you're lying just to see the tank get hit.

The PFS does not mention "screens" per se, but it does mention fudging in the Guide to Organized Play.

Quote:

Consider, however, that for players new to Pathfinder Society Organized Play, or to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game in general, a violent death in a first experience can turn them off to the campaign and the game altogether. While we do not advocate fudging die rolls, consider the experience of the player when deciding whether to use especially lethal tactics or if a character is in extreme danger of death, especially when such a player is new to the game. Most players whose first experience in a campaign results in a character death do not return to the campaign.

Similarly, if the entire party is killed and can’t be brought back to life, then the slot is over for everyone in the party. This means those players may have a substantial span of time before their next event at a convention with no game to play. Obviously, we hope that such total party kills never happen (and strive to balance the scenarios to make it unlikely)—but, sometimes, the dice just aren’t with you and everyone passes into the Great Beyond. Keep in mind that a group of friends is likely to find something entirely different to do if given several hours of dead time at a convention, rather than wait around for another slot of a campaign that just wiped them all out in one fell swoop.

Grand Lodge

Purple Fluffy CatBunnyGnome wrote:

So that begs the question back to you... is it better to experience the first death at level 1 or 2 because the GM was honest with you about the dice rolls, or to experience is later in "life" when you're level 7 or 8 and have invested even more time in the character and have developed a closer relationship.

I see your point. I have two new players thinking about joining PFS. Neither of them have ever played an RPG - tabletop that is - in their entire history of gaming. After checking out the PFS group here, I was thinking about trying to get them to come to the game with me. I am, however, a little worried about doing such with the possibility of character loss outright in their fist session. Maybe I am just a little too nice.

You see, I know these guys well, and they both work hard. They get very little time for themselves, but they have decided that they wanted to start playing an RPG. They have heard me talking at dinners and such about games I have run with a small group I had for a while. The PFS thing sounded perfect to me for them. That was one of the reasons I decided to check it out. But, knowing them they way I do; if they spend all day making a character only to have him/her slain by a die roll in the first combat ever, it would end the RPG possibility for them instantly.

I guess I need to be around PFS a lot more before I decide to commit to it as a GM and player. To me, the story is always more important than a mechanic. If the players are immersed in the story and having a great time, then it is all worth it.

I got way off what I wanted to say. :) Basically, as first level I think its a time for development. As a character progresses, the threats increase, as does the possibility for death. For me personally, losing a character I have not yet been able to develop is much worse that losing a character that has 5-7 levels under his or her belt. At least by that point, I have abilities, gear, and even experience to help keep him/her alive.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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I bought the PDF of the Pathfinder GM screen, and copied the inside panels onto cardstock, which I keep in my GM binder.

There are some rolls I need to make privately: Some skill checks for the PVs, for example, or some rolls for hidden opponents. I tend to make those behind my folder, where some (other) PC can witness them.

As for GM cheating (sorry, "fudging") no. If you don't want to listen to the dice, don't ask them questions.


Bael Hefthammer wrote:
Purple Fluffy CatBunnyGnome wrote:

So that begs the question back to you... is it better to experience the first death at level 1 or 2 because the GM was honest with you about the dice rolls, or to experience is later in "life" when you're level 7 or 8 and have invested even more time in the character and have developed a closer relationship.

I see your point. I have two new players thinking about joining PFS. Neither of them have ever played an RPG - tabletop that is - in their entire history of gaming. After checking out the PFS group here, I was thinking about trying to get them to come to the game with me. I am, however, a little worried about doing such with the possibility of character loss outright in their fist session. Maybe I am just a little too nice.

You see, I know these guys well, and they both work hard. They get very little time for themselves, but they have decided that they wanted to start playing an RPG. They have heard me talking at dinners and such about games I have run with a small group I had for a while. The PFS thing sounded perfect to me for them. That was one of the reasons I decided to check it out. But, knowing them they way I do; if they spend all day making a character only to have him/her slain by a die roll in the first combat ever, it would end the RPG possibility for them instantly.

I guess I need to be around PFS a lot more before I decide to commit to it as a GM and player. To me, the story is always more important than a mechanic. If the players are immersed in the story and having a great time, then it is all worth it.

I got way off what I wanted to say. :) Basically, as first level I think its a time for development. As a character progresses, the threats increase, as does the possibility for death. For me personally, losing a character I have not yet been able to develop is much worse that losing a character that has 5-7 levels under his or her belt. At least by that point, I have abilities, gear, and even experience to...

And that is understandable .... when it's a group that rarely gets time to play that adds an element that, at conventions, I rarely have to deal with.

Perhaps prepare them and let them know that sometimes the dice just aren't in their favor and that character death is a real possibility, but also for their first couple of levels use a screen (especially if that is what you are comfortable with) so that you can adjust if need be, however, don't adjust so much that when you take the kid gloves off they suffer from shock -- that is almost worse than fudging to begin with.

I also urge you to spend some time as a player in PFS before starting to GM. Having the player side of the equation always helps from the GM side (in my opinion)

Liberty's Edge

For over 30 years I've used some sort of a screen. Maybe it's just my generation. However, I've never thought of the screen as being there to hide dice rolls. For me it's there as a very convenient way to have reference charts without taking up a lot of room. That is, If I keep my charts in a binder, then that's just one more book lying flat in front of me to unbury when I need a quick reference - by standing up on a screen, it's really taking up very little room.

I personally roll my dice behind the screen. However, a game I play in regularly, the GM also uses a screen, but he makes all his rolls in front of the screen in full view of the players.

So, I think the use of the screen is not necessarily tied to the question of secret rolls. That said, it is there for those times when you do need to make a secret roll (disable traps comes to mind).

Grand Lodge

There are good sides to the screen and there are bad. I personally like rolling in the open because it shows the players your not lying to them. But, what they see is a die roll not the math going on behind it.

There are subtle tricks to fudging rolls when rolling in the open.
- dont tell them the final total on the attack roll. Ask for their AC value instead and then tell them if it hit or not. If you have to fudge, this is your chance to lower it so you actually miss.
- damage is more difficult because you have to give a total. But mistakes are made in math all the time. When its in the players favor, they usually will not say anything thinking they got lucky.
- use dice that are hard to read. Theres lots of color combinations out there that make it difficult to read at a distance.
- roll the die and pick it as quickly as possible to read it. You rolled in front of everyone to give the appearance of honesty, they couldnt read the die, and you gave the appearance you couldnt either until you picked it up. This means you can make up whatever number you need. Just in case they saw the roll, never give it a higher value.
- the more experienced players may realize what your doing. But again, your working in their favor so they arent going to say anything.

I have also seen where people using the screen will confirm the crit rolls to the players by lifting the screen to give the appearance of honesty too. This goes a long way to gain the appreciation of the group.

Grand Lodge

From the Paizo Doc GMing 101

Gming 101 wrote:

When do you fudge rolls?

Fudging dice rolls should never be commonplace, but there is
a time and place for adjusting tactics: helping a low level and/
or inexperienced table group that has fallen on a streak of bad
luck. One of the fastest ways to lose a new player is to kill off
his character, so as a GM you have some leeway to help these
fresh faces succeed, have fun, and have a reason to come back
to play again.

This is all I meant by using the screen to hide rolls. It would be the exception, not the rule. I apologize if people were under the impression I prefer to cheat to make the game move in a certain way or make the game more fun. This is pretty much all I was thinking about when I posed the initial question.

Thank you everyone for your insights, and for not flaming me for asking questions. Seems a pretty decent community here. Thanks again.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

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As an "old skool" gamer, prior to PFS I always used a screen. I had never experienced an RPG without the GM using one. It was as ingrained as much as dice. After starting to play PFS, I noticed quite a few GMs not using one. It felt odd to me at first, but I got used to it. One thing that "felt" different was that there wasn't a barrier between the players and the GM. Maybe I was imagining it, but it felt less adversarial, less "us against the GM." I started running without a screen as well and it was fine. I can count on one hand the number of GMs I see using a screen in PFS and that is against a dataset of over 300 sessions as both player and GM.

Over time, I have started to think that it is not as good as I originally thought. I think it was G Gygax that once said something to the effect of "Don't let the dice decide your game." I've always taken that to mean that the enjoyment of the game stems from the story and is more about what the PCs are doing, not the dice rolls that resolve their actions. I feel I lost the ability to fudge, call it cheat if you want, to give the players the best experience. I don't want to kill a brand-new character with an untimely x3 crit. OTOH, there are times when you don't want an entire night's session to be settled by a single save-or-suck against the BBEG that has been built up for 4+ hours. It just cheapens the game kinda like a bad ending does to an otherwise good movie.

Not to mention the meta-gaming that regularly occurs based on the players being able to see the results in comparison to the announced result. They can determine modifiers and such and make decisions based on statistics instead of epic/heroic gameplay.

Rolling in the open is nice, but I wonder if its really in the best interest of the game. I have been largely a non-screen user for my time in PFS, but I am considering reverting back. The question you have to ask is, "Is using/not using a screen making my game better?" Sure, it is more "fair" to roll in the open, but does fair really equate to better gaming? I leave it to *you* to decide.

Explore! Report! Cooperate!


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I sometimes use a screen, sometimes not. The Pathfinder Screen is a pretty nice one (product plug) because it has a lot of useful DCs for skills on it and it's pretty durable. It's not the cheaper heavy card stock from other editions.

But I don't always use it to obscure what I'm doing. Many games I run, I just leave it laying flat on the table for quick reference rather than to hide either my notes or my dice. But then, I'm also running with a whole long side of the dining room table open to me and nobody trying to peek. Yes, I like to run from the long side of the table because I can reach the whole battle map that way and it keeps me a closer focal point of attention than running from the end.

Even though I haven't been hiding my dice rolls, that doesn't mean I won't fudge a result if I think it's best. I'll just use my GM editorial powers on the modifiers being applied to the roll if I feel a change is warranted.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

Angra Mainyu wrote:
- dont tell them the final total on the attack roll. Ask for their AC value instead and then tell them if it hit or not. If you have to fudge, this is your chance to lower it so you actually miss.

This is a good idea but can be tricky. You have to be aware of players watching your rolls. If you roll a 6 on the d20 and hit the tank with an AC of 25, someone is going to call "shenanigans" if you roll a 16 and miss the squishy sitting on 2 HP. Or I have also seen the bad guy rolling a single die for damage and doing a lot against a target with a lot of HP, but then get a much lower result against a squishy. For example, if he rolls a d8 and does 20+ damage, it is hard to justify him rolling the same d8 and doing less than 10 the next time, especially it it goes back to "normal" on the next successful hit.

Angra Mainyu wrote:
- use dice that are hard to read. Theres lots of color combinations out there that make it difficult to read at a distance.

I have to disagree with this one. If you are going to roll in the open for purposes of fairness or whatever, then do so. As a GM I really dislike unreadable dice. I have encountered a few players in my time that, IMO, clearly use dark dice with unpainted numbers so they can cheat. Can I prove it? No, but there are only so many 15+ consecutive d20 rolls that I can get before I call BS.

Angra Mainyu wrote:
- roll the die and pick it as quickly as possible to read it. You rolled in front of everyone to give the appearance of honesty, they couldnt read the die, and you gave the appearance you couldnt either until you picked it up. This means you can make up whatever number you need. Just in case they saw the roll, never give it a higher value.

Again, this "feel" wrong. If you want to fudge die rolls, why not just do it behind the screen so it doesn't look like you are doing what some players would call cheating.

I find it interesting that you say, "I personally like rolling in the open because it shows the players your not lying to them," but that is what you advocate with your dice tactics. I don't take issue with your intentions, I just think the methodology is odd.

Angra Mainyu wrote:
I have also seen where people using the screen will confirm the crit rolls to the players by lifting the screen to give the appearance of honesty too. This goes a long way to gain the appreciation of the group.

I don't necessarily agree. I have played with a few GMs that have occasionally revealed die rolls from behind the screen. It only seems to happen when something bad is happening to the player/s. It feels like the the GM is showing off that s/he is "winning."

There has to be a certain level of respect for the other people at the table, especially so between the GM and players. They have to believe that the GM is honest, runs a rules-legal game, and is truly there to provide them a fun game experience, despite what the dice do at times. The GM has to believe that the players are also honest, tracking expendables, not changing spells in the middle of play because the ones they decided to prepare are not effective, don't lie about their modifiers or where they came from, and do not actively try to "break the adventure". I mean we all gathered wanting to play right? Why do things that can disrupt the game and cause it to end prematurely. You cheat yourself and others out of the story. But, now I'm drifting off-topic.

In the end, this is a game. Sure, as players, we want to "win," but it should be more about the journey than the destination. A good GM wants the players to win as well, but has to tailor that with providing a challenging experience. Otherwise, what's the point.
[/soapbox]

Explore! Report! Cooperate!

Dark Archive

Bael Hefthammer wrote:

You see, I know these guys well, and they both work hard. They get very little time for themselves, but they have decided that they wanted to start playing an RPG. They have heard me talking at dinners and such about games I have run with a small group I had for a while. The PFS thing sounded perfect to me for them. That was one of the reasons I decided to check it out. But, knowing them they way I do; if they spend all day making a character only to have him/her slain by a die roll in the first combat ever, it would end the RPG possibility for them instantly.

On a bit of a side note, I would running these new players on a short adventure with just the 3 of you. This way it can be ran at a slower pace, they can get comfortable with playing the game without a clock over their heads. By also controlling the environment, they won't feel overwhelmed by the other more "experienced" players. This removes the sense that they could be "playing it wrong."

I find people who have never played before then jump into public game with no RPG experience have a poor rate of return. I find RPGs need to be eased into, baby steps.

If that first game is a lot of fun, they your players will want to learn more about the game and thus play more. Keep them coming back for more, I say. ;)

Sovereign Court 5/5 Venture-Captain, West Virginia—Charleston aka Netopalis

I generally use a screen. 3 of my first 4 scenarios nearly killed me off, and I was rather upset by it - had one of those actually killed me, I don't know that I would have been back to play on a more permanent basis. (For examples of this, see my early forum posts. :P ) Because of that, I feel that the occasional fudging of dice is a necessary evil.

That being said, I have thought about rolling in the open. I toy with the idea, but it seems that every time I do, something weird happens in the game to make me reconsider it. In the end, I decided that open rolls make the game much more swingy. People feel better about their character death if it doesn't feel too much like random luck. They feel worse about it if it happens to be a crit from an enemy that they should have easily dispatched. Also, in one particular scenario, there is a die roll that I will almost always fudge.

Severing Ties:
In this 1-5 scenario, there is a basilisk, which turns characters to stone. Basilisk blood revives PCs who have been turned to stone, but the one basilisk only yields 1d3 doses of blood. I really can't see myself ever saying that the roll was less than 3 if 3 PCs were turned to stone. Doing anything else turns this scenario into a Sophie's Choice, which is no fun for anybody and which breeds bad blood. (Pardon the pun.)

In the end, I feel as if it's a matter of personal choice. My choice is to screen. A good GM's goal is to keep things on the edge of success and failure - to make it seem important, even if the characters have no possible chance of dying. The best way to do that is to roll behind a screen.

(As a side note, PFCBG, you might be interested in something I'm putting together. It's a custom Society screen. It's going to be four pages in landscape, rather than portrait orientation, and it's designed to be laminated and taped together. On the inside, you can keep track of stuff like faction missions using dry erase markers. Due to the orientation, it's shorter than your average screen. I haven't tried this, though, and I worry that it might be a bit too easy to knock over.)

Grand Lodge

Bob Jonquet wrote:


I find it interesting that you say, "I personally like rolling in the open because it shows the players your not lying to them," but that is what you advocate with your dice tactics. I don't take issue with your intentions, I just think the methodology is odd.

I probably should have been more clear. This is something that is very uncommonly used. Perhaps once per a low level game. It is also done for the benefit of the player being attacked so they dont die. I have no problem knocking a player out, but I really don't want to kill one at low levels unless they are clearly being stupid about things.

Silver Crusade 2/5

I am about to GM my first game in a few days, and I am still very new as a player.

My preference speaking primarily as a player is a screen. Especially with new players such as myself there is enough meta-gaming already with trying to learn new rules and discussing how this or that mechanic functions. Even if you never ever fudge a roll on principle, your players should trust that you are not cheating against them.

I do appreciate a GM's willingness to pull back the screen to show a particularly unfortunate roll, but the use of the hidden die rolls give the player less of an opportunity to play the mechanics and instead allows them to role play.

Along the same vein I also dislike when the GM announces the attack total, I would much rather give my AC a find out if it's a hit or miss.

"He is attacking with a short sword...what is your AC?... he hits you."
is much more engaging for me as a player than:

"He is attacking, does 18 hit you?"

It's not a matter of fudging anything, but about the immersion into the story.


Good point. I play with some players who see your roll and will know how tough your monster is. Some rolls mean something, others don't, and some should be secret. I'm old school, too, but I see a lot of GMs who don't use one, and I'm fine with it.

I don't fudge, but what I roll is still my business alone.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

If you are going to roll in the open but want to mitigate the players meta-gaming the results, maybe roll multiple d20s and only you know which one is being actually used. Course that is almost the same as just rolling behind the screen. But, seeing the player's looks when you drop a handful of d20s can be fun for the GM. :-D


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I do not fudge rolls ever. If an encounter is looking like it could be a problem for the party I usually pull punches on the tactics side of things.

For some reason I also roll very badly whenever I gm.


I have seen too many gms cheat to ever use a screen myself. One of my characters in another campaign was a defensive rock but some gms would pummel him senseless. They needed something like a 17 or higher to hit and they would rarely miss. I understand some lucky dice but they would pummel him each and every time at about the same rate as everyone else at the table. It literally was like they took anything over a 10 as a hit regardless of what they were attacking.

It was tiresome to not know what your character was capable of. Most people using a screen do not do this sort of thing but I want the players to know I am being above board with them.

Most of what separates a killer gm from a challenging one is tactics. Do they focus fire? Do they finish full attacks when the character is down? This doesn't require a screen. The only time you really need a screen is for a suspense filled campaign. Even then I go around the screen and roll in front of the players.

Dark Archive

I personally dont use a screen because in the end I feel that the whole point of using a dice based system is that the dice determine what happens. The most fudging I have ever done is to remove 3 hp from a single monster once to prevent a TPK at tier 1-2 (if it had survived the max damage crossbow hit it would have killed the only remaining pc on its next round).

If a PC invests alot of resources into his save or lose spells and he casts it on the BBEG then if I fail the save I fail the save and the fight ends. Anything else is unfair to the player who spent those resources (commonly reducing his capabilities in other areas to achieve this).

It also means if I roll nothing lower than a 15 for a session the PCs are going to get beat up, but at least they can see why and go "oh the GM was just lucky this time around", and not think its because I am an adversarial GM, as honestly I want the players to win the scenario and have fun, but at the same time I want to be fair to everyone who plays it.

Silver Crusade

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I have been GMing for 30 years. I used to always use a screen. Now I never do. I gave it up about 10 years ago and haven't looked back. If I need to, I adjust things on the fly for tactics and resources instead of changing dice rolls.

As a player, I don't mind if the GM is using a screen as long as I feel he isn't fudging the dice one way or the other.

In both roles, player and GM, I always use highly visible dice.

Grand Lodge

After reading the posts here, and speaking with several of my gaming friends, I have decided to run my next session with no screen. I am going to roll in front of the players, and see where things land. I think it will change the way combat works for me, since I have a very tactical mind. I am probably going to have to adjust the tactics of my monsters if they are pummeling the PCs too badly. If you are interested in how it worked out, I will post to this thread after the session so you can find out. :D

Cheers

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

It depends on what I need for the session. If there is no secrecy required I roll in the open. My players rarely look at my dice anyway, so sometimes I just roll a die and keep quiet.

5/5

I've played RPGs for many years. Before Pathfinder Society, I always used a screen. After seeing many GMs not using one, I decided to try it.* To my surprise, I quite liked rolling in the open and I think the players prefer it as well. I still use a smaller screen to conceal the maps, etc, but that's it. A screen is also handy for tacking up notes of things I need to remember for that session.

*To me, this is one of the greatest things about Pathfinder Society—seeing different play styles, and learning new tricks and styles of play.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

heh, it can be a lot of fun when the players are into a serious discussion about whatever, just drop a few d20s and watch their gaze switch to you with the inquisitive "what the hell just happened" look on their faces. muahahahaha

Sovereign Court

Angra,

"- use dice that are hard to read. Theres lots of color combinations out there that make it difficult to read at a distance.
- roll the die and pick it as quickly as possible to read it. You rolled in front of everyone to give the appearance of honesty, they couldnt read the die, and you gave the appearance you couldnt either until you picked it up. This means you can make up whatever number you need. Just in case they saw the roll, never give it a higher value. "

What you are proposing here has a name - it is called cheating. Using dice that are hard to read is a favorite trick of individuals who want to "make up" results. That is simply wrong. Whatever one calls it, the PFS guide specifically renders a consistent verdict - cheating and it is not allowed.

Being a GM is a creative process, your job is to make an enjoyable game for all concerned. Part of the game is PC death. The rules are designed to give the players loads of chances to survive. "0" Hit points means unconscious, not dead. You start making rolls to survive for several rounds until someone can heal you,only then - after a few missed rolls does the PC die. It even works to our a healing potion down the throat of an unconscious character (This is NEVER acceptable in real life, BTW). There is also the option of making a Healing skill check to stabilize a PC until that character can be healed by magical or other means.

In short, there are numerous alternatives to a PC dying. A GM working with new players needs to mentor them into working together to keep characters alive. In each adventure there are at least 4 PC's in a party. Certainly one of them can assist a critically wounded character before they expire. Even if the heal check is tried untrained.

It is no fun to be the PC at zero HP the first time you play; there are alternatives and no detriment to a PC healed from zero HP. They can return from their brush with death and continue to play. Use the tools in a DM's arsenal to assist the players rather than be in opposition to them.

Sovereign Court 5/5 Venture-Captain, West Virginia—Charleston aka Netopalis

Erosthenes wrote:

Angra,

"- use dice that are hard to read. Theres lots of color combinations out there that make it difficult to read at a distance.
- roll the die and pick it as quickly as possible to read it. You rolled in front of everyone to give the appearance of honesty, they couldnt read the die, and you gave the appearance you couldnt either until you picked it up. This means you can make up whatever number you need. Just in case they saw the roll, never give it a higher value. "

What you are proposing here has a name - it is called cheating. Using dice that are hard to read is a favorite trick of individuals who want to "make up" results. That is simply wrong. Whatever one calls it, the PFS guide specifically renders a consistent verdict - cheating and it is not allowed.

Being a GM is a creative process, your job is to make an enjoyable game for all concerned. Part of the game is PC death. The rules are designed to give the players loads of chances to survive. "0" Hit points means unconscious, not dead. You start making rolls to survive for several rounds until someone can heal you,only then - after a few missed rolls does the PC die. It even works to our a healing potion down the throat of an unconscious character (This is NEVER acceptable in real life, BTW). There is also the option of making a Healing skill check to stabilize a PC until that character can be healed by magical or other means.

In short, there are numerous alternatives to a PC dying. A GM working with new players needs to mentor them into working together to keep characters alive. In each adventure there are at least 4 PC's in a party. Certainly one of them can assist a critically wounded character before they expire. Even if the heal check is tried untrained.

It is no fun to be the PC at zero HP the first time you play; there are alternatives and no detriment to a PC healed from zero HP. They can return from their brush with death and continue to play. Use the tools in a DM's arsenal to assist the players rather than be...

While I appreciate your optimism, sometimes stupid things happen with the dice. Creatures that shouldn't be able to kill sometimes kill, and that's a remarkably unsatisfying death.

I also don't appreciate the implication that fudging a GM's roll is cheating. It's not. The rules explicitly say to do it, and it has been advocated since the beginning of RPGs. For an example, see Role-Playing Mastery by Gary Gygax.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

I used to use a GM screen mainly so that I could fudge dice rolls in the player's favor if I felt the situation warranted it. I would NEVER fudge in my favor as a GM though.

Over the last year or so, though, I've taken to not using a screen at all, mainly because I feel it is a barrier between me and the players, and I like the game to be a collaborative effort in having fun. I feel a screen sometimes hinders that. Creates more of a GM vs. Players atmosphere, and I don't like that/try to avoid it at all costs.

One thing I have done, though, is if there is room, I will set up a screen to my side, which I can roll certain rolls behind if necessary. This still allows me full visual access to the players and the battle map (and them to me), while still having the ability to make some private rolls when necessary.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Captain, Ireland—Belfast aka heretic

I used a screen for decades and still do frequently when I'm GMing. Sometimes though I roll in the open for dramatic effect. This on one occasion resulted in what I think of as The Ledford Problem. However I am 100% sure that the two TPKs that were barely avoided in The Blackros museums climactic fight would not have had the the whole room watching if GM dice rolls had been hidden.

W

Sovereign Court

Netopalis,

I read the book you mentioned many years ago, still have it in fact. "Fudging" is still cheating. Altering the die result to effect the outcome of the game; no matter what euphemism one uses - it is still cheating. At least be honest with yourself about what you are doing. Now should a DM cheat - sometimes, one has to. But it is still cheating. Whether one does it in front of or behind a shield does not matter.

The question was should one use a shield or not. The answer is a matter of personal taste. The conversation has altered to the subject of a DM altering die rolls. If you want players to be honest, you have to provide the environment. I use a screen to obfuscate the materials I am using for the module I am running. It is a dramatic device. I also roll on both sides of the screen depending upon the situation. If I need to keep play going and I am attacking a character, I will roll behind the screen. If the PC is on his last couple of HP, then I will cheat and miss. If I am running against veteran players who are running higher level characters, then they will probably take the hit; unless it will derail the story. What I am espousing is what "Role Playing Mastery" promotes.........but it is still cheating. I would never tell a player I am cheating. (That would be lying!) LOL

I guess I am more literal than optimistic, but it works for me.

Sovereign Court

Bob Jonquet wrote:
heh, it can be a lot of fun when the players are into a serious discussion about whatever, just drop a few d20s and watch their gaze switch to you with the inquisitive "what the hell just happened" look on their faces. muahahahaha

Roll randomly for effect. It really keeps them guessing. It is loads of fun, and adds to the suspense.......Or you could just jot down the roll to use at a later time when you don't want to break the spontaneity of the swashbuckling moment. It would suck for Porthos if he had to stop grabbing the rope to roll for success before he swings across the room on the chandelier to save the queen! On the other hand it would be funny as hell if the rope broke and he fell onto a table edge, toppling it into the face of the Cardinals Guard about to skewer Aramis......... Gawd I love this game!

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

Erosthenes wrote:
Fudging is still cheating

I have not read the book in question, but I am NOT cheating when I alter a die roll as a GM. I take offense to the use of that term. IMO, cheating implies intentionally working outside the rules of the game to gain an unearned advantage over your adversary. As GM, I am not the player's opponent. My role in the relationship is to provide a fun, challenging game for my players. NOTHING, including the randomness of the dice will be permitted to interfere with that. Death can occur, but it is not going to be something as lame as the randomness of a single die roll. If you allow characters to die during your game, make it epic, or at least memorable. And, at all costs, avoid killing the character of the brand-new player. Most n00bs judge RPG like any other game. You cannot "win" if you're dead.

I quote from the Pathdfinder bible, AKA the Core Rulebook...

"CRB p.402 wrote:
Cheating and Fudging: We all know that cheating is bad. But sometimes, as a GM, you might find yourself in a situation where cheating might improve the game. We prefer to call this “fudging” rather than cheating, and while you should try to avoid it when you can, you are the law in your world, and you shouldn’t feel bound by the dice*. A GM should be impartial and fair, and in theory, that’s what random dice results help support. Some players have trouble putting trust in their GM, but dice offer something that’s irrefutable and truly non-partisan (as long as the dice aren’t doctored or loaded, of course). Still, it’s no good if a single roll of the dice would result in a premature end to your campaign, or a character’s death when they did everything right.

*emphasis mine

5/5

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Cease and desist this tangent citizens. The fudging argument is not authorized in this forum and should only be discussed in its proper place.

Silver Crusade 5/5

I'm surprised to see experienced GMs advocating fudging, given that the Guide clearly discourages it:

PFSGtOP wrote:
While we do not advocate fudging die rolls, consider the experience of the player when deciding whether to use especially lethal tactics or if a character is in extreme danger of death, especially when such a player is new to the game.

I never fudge die rolls, and while on the short term that might lead to a lame PC death, on the long term it builds player confidence on getting a fair treatment, and the existence of real risk adds suspense to the game. I also would feel cheated to have the GM in my table fudging, even if it was to save my own PC. I do adjust tactics to player experience and tactics, though, and that seems to me like a much fairer way to give new players a good experience.

I stopped using a screen some time ago when I realized it made the players hear me worse and made it harder for me to see the middle of the table. I now keep it opened on the table in front of me, text side up, to be able to see the reference. I would appreciate a handy way to keep some material out of sight of the players while visible to me, though - any hints on how to do that with something less massive than the GM screen?

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Seattle aka The Great Rinaldo!

I keep a screen up primarily to hide my maps, scenario script, and NPC stat blocks from the players. I'll roll behind the screen for things the players shouldn't be aware of (NPC stealth and bluff, for example), but in the open for others. It seems to work pretty well that way.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Jussi Leinonen wrote:
I would appreciate a handy way to keep some material out of sight of the players while visible to me, though - any hints on how to do that with something less massive than the GM screen?

Maybe a clipboard with a cover? Depending on how much you need to keep hidden.

Sovereign Court

I actually have an ancient 3 ring notebook that folds out and stands up. I have hundreds of pages of articles, charts and other such lovely stuff. I don't know if they can still be had, but I love my (Dungeon Delvers or something like that) notebook.

EDIT: They are still available, they are called "Easel back"! Gonna order one now.........

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Seattle aka The Great Rinaldo!

PFCBG (and other correctly sized people, as opposed to the rest of you giants) ...

You may be interested in "The World's Greatest Screen" from Hammerdog. I have the standard portrait version, but have been considering ordering their landscape version to improve visibility.


I've honestly gotten used to not using a screen and don't really intend to start using one, no matter what height it becomes :) thanks for all the options guys ... but I don't think I'm going to change.


Never used one, never wanted one. I have the players preroll a few things before the game and I preroll a few things for the NPCs.

I roll in the open and I expect the same from my players.

Of course the down side is that it's harder to pull punches, like today when I almost killed a character with a chair..

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

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Jussi Leinonen wrote:
I'm surprised to see experienced GMs advocating fudging

I can understand that sentiment given the push for RAW and such, the quote clearly leaves it open for some interpretation. It is far from a definitive "you cannot do this" rule.

All I am saying is that I believe my #1 responsibility above everything else is to provide a fun experience. I just don't feel that the randomness of the dice can be 100% relied upon to support that effort. If you need to fudge a die roll or two, or run behind a screen to ensure you meet that lofty goal, so be it. And I believe the core rules support that position. A good GM can fudge dice results without the players being the wiser, just as much as adjusting tactics. They can be used in tandem and along with other techniques to provide the best game possible. In my experience, I have seen many more occurrences of GMs using obvious "softball" tactics than fudging of dice rolls and that can be just as "offensive."

But, this is not a discussion that is going to be solved in this thread, so I will bow out. I encourage GMs to do what *you* feel is appropriate for your table to maximize their GoodRightFun.

Explore! Report! Cooperate!

Sovereign Court 5/5 Venture-Captain, West Virginia—Charleston aka Netopalis

Kyle Baird wrote:

Never used one, never wanted one. I have the players preroll a few things before the game and I preroll a few things for the NPCs.

I roll in the open and I expect the same from my players.

Of course the down side is that it's harder to pull punches, like today when I almost killed a character with a chair..

Ironic. I was nearly killed with a chair today.

BAAAIIIIIRDDDDD!!!!

(Nah, just kidding, I know it wasn't you. :P )

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Erosthenes wrote:

Netopalis,

I read the book you mentioned many years ago, still have it in fact. "Fudging" is still cheating. Altering the die result to effect the outcome of the game; no matter what euphemism one uses - it is still cheating. At least be honest with yourself about what you are doing. Now should a DM cheat - sometimes, one has to. But it is still cheating. Whether one does it in front of or behind a shield does not matter.

The question was should one use a shield or not. The answer is a matter of personal taste. The conversation has altered to the subject of a DM altering die rolls. If you want players to be honest, you have to provide the environment. I use a screen to obfuscate the materials I am using for the module I am running. It is a dramatic device. I also roll on both sides of the screen depending upon the situation. If I need to keep play going and I am attacking a character, I will roll behind the screen. If the PC is on his last couple of HP, then I will cheat and miss. If I am running against veteran players who are running higher level characters, then they will probably take the hit; unless it will derail the story. What I am espousing is what "Role Playing Mastery" promotes.........but it is still cheating. I would never tell a player I am cheating. (That would be lying!) LOL

I guess I am more literal than optimistic, but it works for me.

Actually, there is a section in the core rule book, and the Guide to Organized Play, that suggest that fudging dice roles is within the rules of the GM purview. As such, if it is within the rules, it is not cheating for the GM to do so.

4/5 Venture-Agent, United Kingdom—England—Gloucester aka Findas

I’ve always used a GM screen, for many reasons that have nothing to do with fudging dice:

• Regardless of how fair a player wants to be, if they see something they shouldn’t it is difficult not to meta-game to some extent, if even subconsciously. And I think that takes away from some of the fun and surprise. With the scenario on the table in front of me, I don’t want a player looking over at me and accidently seeing some text or picture that is going to clue them in to something.

• At a convention, every minute is valuable. A screen allows me to have all my monster minis set up and ready to put out as needed, without having to root through a box or bag. Having those plainly visible to the players would certainly spoil some of the fun, and with the limited room at a convention table it’s not always practical to put them somewhere else that’s quick to reach.

• I always print out pictures of the NPCs and other bits to show players. A screen allows me to hang them where they can be seen by the players and looked at throughout an encounter. I think this is much nicer and more immersive than just flashing a picture once and having it disappear.

• I can clip important notes and pages to my side of the screen, where they won’t get lost under the sheets of paper on the table.

And frankly, my attitude towards GMing is that we’re all there to have fun and play a game. I believe that the vast majority of players are honest and fair. When they roll a die out in the open I usually don’t look to see what it is, and if they’re at the far end of the table I probably can’t see it anyway. I rely on them to tell me what they rolled, and I believe them.

I also believe the best game, the most fun, and yes even the “fairest” game, is one in which everyone is cooperating in order to create the best shared experience possible. Such a game is not contingent on me rolling every die out in the open. And there are enough other reasons for having a screen that I will continue to use one.

This post is long enough that I’ll avoid the “fudging” rolls debate, except to say I agree with most of what Bob Jonquet has said above.

Grand Lodge

I believe there are many reasons in favour and disfavour of having a screen in front of you.

As GM I openly admit that I meta-game when rolling dice in the open.

A big hand full of dice thrown all at once can add immensly to the exitement as players are afraid to die. I do this as it speeds up combat. Three attacks, 3 damage dice - all they go at once.

BUT

I tend only to do this when I'm pretty certain I don't do an outright kill (and it works to scare the players as my math seems to be ahead of them). I always reserve the option to roll individually.

Has it ever gone wrong?

The OP relates to a situation where a new player was critted and nearly killed. Well - this can happen if you roll openly. One of my worst experiences with the open dice rolling was a 20, 6,6. This was
a) suprise round from invisibility
b) the attacker was doing 2d6 + 4(?) damage
c) the attacker was under the effect of true strike
d) it was a new first level character with a player in his very first game

I admit I rolled the second 2d6 hidden - but that felt wrong - especially as a roll of 1,2 resulted in the player to survive thanks to intervention of the dice gods (anything more and it would have been fatal).

I got 'lucky' that time.

But rolling in the open also allows great moments of cheer. In my last game we where running out of time, the BBE had the option to just teleport away (she was down on <10% of her full HP) - and I only needed a 4 to get the defensive casting off (the group knew I didn't need a lot).

So in the dice goes - and comes up with - a 1.

Cheering around the table - BBE tries to fly away instead - so two last AOO and the last attempt takes her down. More cheering - and all of that was enhanced because the group knew they had won against the odds.

The dice couldn't have done it better - and they left a story to be told. But yes - dice can be fickle and don't roll what they should.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I originally didn't use a screen, as I wanted to engender trust. (Also, like PFCBG, I'm short.) Eventually though (and I don't even remember when or why) I started using a screen (and standing up to GM "over" it) and have actually come to like it. Why do I like it? It helps me visually organize my table-space real estate, making my brain feel better. ;) Also keeps my dice from rolling all over the table and hides maps and things.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Dice trays. They are a wonderful thing.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Captain, Washington D.C. aka Grolick

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Don't let Paizo know this, but I don't even own a screen. I do everything out in the open. for those few times I need to roll in secret, like for a stealth or perception check, I will often just roll behind my hand.

Shadow Lodge

I don't use one, but I keep one availible to look up things quickly. Seems to me, people do what they feel like.

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