Has any one noticed Secret Checks? Taking player agency away


Running the Game

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My group has a pretty effective way of dealing with rolls behind the DM screen: We don't use one.


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Secret checks are important for game integrity. They keep the game from being a solved question for the players. Trying to figure things out with limited information is part of the game. It's just more interesting when your players don't know the optimal choice.

And honestly, I think the biggest argument for secret checks isn't preventing metagaming: I think it's keeping the game from getting bogged down. A lot of perception checks, for example, just end in you telling people nothing. The game moves faster if you do them behind the screen. It also stops the whole "I want to roll to see if I notice anything," which is common at tables that don't do secret rolls for perception.

However, you can adjust what checks are secret based on your players. I'll let my Tuesday players roll stealth themselves, since I trust them to do the same thing regardless of success or failure, but I wouldn't do it with every table. I'll tell them to roll perception, more for suspense than anything, knowing my Tuesday players will carry on the same either way. In general, players feel more satisfied when they see their rolls and see the results that are happening. A lot of my players like narrating their results and feel happier when they have a hand in what their results feel like, which isn't possible with secret checks. I prefer to let them have that until they've shown they can't handle it.

All that being said, I think rolls for NPCs and monsters should always be kept behind the screen. It's just better for the GM, both from a gameplay and narrative standpoint. When the roll is behind the screen it lets you dramatize the rolls without letting them metagame. "He only missed by 1 -- that was close." And it also keeps players from nitpicking if you do bungle some math on your sixth cup of coffee (something I'm pretty sure every GM has been guilty of at one point or another). Even more importantly, it gives you a chance to show off the rolls that really matter: when you roll the enemy's save and they nat 1, when the enemy confirms their crit with a 20, that's when you show the players. When someone lives or dies based on your crit confirm, maybe you even roll it in front of all of them so they have the suspense as the die slows to a stop. You just lose these options if you keep rolls in front of the PCs.


I use to do the roll behind a screen thing. I do not allow people to roll for other characters so I felt I should keep to that myself. Now I roll in front of everyone and if there is a secret roll if at all possible I won't allow the roll until it matters. Does not work lots of times, but for stealth, it sure can. You want to sneak up on someone, ok. Move your character. Now that you are there lets roll and see if it was unseen or not. For searches and stuff, I ask if anyone is going to help before the roll is made if you are not willing to help you don't get to roll afterward. If you are willing to help, you can do a roll on your own or do some type of aid action. Just the way I have been doing it.

With that being said, when we play new games, the very first game is strictly by the rules as written with changes being made for any other games after the first. So with this playtest I will be having to make those dang secret rolls.

I do have to agree though that secret rolls do not take away player agency. If secret rolls are a known thing, then the Players decided to do that action that requires the roll.

K-Ray


I like some guidance on what rolls should be secret, I am always free to ignore it if I feel better about it. But I do agree that some of the secret rolls are strange, like the crafting DC's. They do not add anything interesting that I could perceive.

What I do miss is the clear statement that all other rolls/results should be open. Because that has major implications on a lot of abilities now. Shield Block, Dodge, etc. become way more powerful if I know the number I have been hit with.


Witch of Miracles wrote:
All that being said, I think rolls for NPCs and monsters should always be kept behind the screen.

That's not the point. Of course monster and NPCs rolls should be kept secret. The problem here is that PC rolls (like Craft or Stealth) are now secret as RAW and made behind the screen.

I too roll my NPCs and monsters' rolls secretly. But I don't like doing it for my PCs' rolls.


Almarane wrote:
Witch of Miracles wrote:
All that being said, I think rolls for NPCs and monsters should always be kept behind the screen.

That's not the point. Of course monster and NPCs rolls should be kept secret. The problem here is that PC rolls (like Craft or Stealth) are now secret as RAW and made behind the screen.

I too roll my NPCs and monsters' rolls secretly. But I don't like doing it for my PCs' rolls.

I know, but a lot of people were talking about no screen in the thread, so I brought it up.

IMO, secret checks are a party trust thing. And the default, from a rules perspective, should always be for the GM to not trust the party not to metagame. So secret checks should be the default.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Witch of Miracles wrote:
And the default, from a rules perspective, should always be for the GM to not trust the party not to metagame.

I... what?!? How can you play with people if you don't trust them? This line of thinking literally makes no sense to me.

Silver Crusade

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I Don’t Use A GM Screen And My Players Trust Me More For It.


Witch of Miracles wrote:
Almarane wrote:
Witch of Miracles wrote:
All that being said, I think rolls for NPCs and monsters should always be kept behind the screen.

That's not the point. Of course monster and NPCs rolls should be kept secret. The problem here is that PC rolls (like Craft or Stealth) are now secret as RAW and made behind the screen.

I too roll my NPCs and monsters' rolls secretly. But I don't like doing it for my PCs' rolls.

I know, but a lot of people were talking about no screen in the thread, so I brought it up.

IMO, secret checks are a party trust thing. And the default, from a rules perspective, should always be for the GM to not trust the party not to metagame. So secret checks should be the default.

Look at it this way. In a system where you have three equal actions, you are not locked in a Standard, Move, Swift framework. If say my first action is Distract, that is a player agent roll, so my success is obvious. Did the target look away?

From there, I want to palm an object or hide we'll say, both instances of Stealth. From a realistic standpoint I know how good I am at hiding stuff, I've practiced (representative of whether I'm trained or expert). However from the game's standpoint, if I as the player roll that, and say get a 1, I now have that third action to try again because I know, despite the check is still uncontested, my result is low.

Most of the GM secret rolls are ones like this, where it makes logical sense the player, and therefore the PC, should not know the outcome, and have to trust in their skills.


Saleem Halabi wrote:
Witch of Miracles wrote:
And the default, from a rules perspective, should always be for the GM to not trust the party not to metagame.
I... what?!? How can you play with people if you don't trust them? This line of thinking literally makes no sense to me.

Game rules are written assuming the worst case scenario, wherein you are playing with human beings that understand the rules to the letter and play to the letter but care nothing for intent and will attempt to gain every advantage. You don't want to support a$**&~@s doing things that they can "technically" do but are unintended.

It has nothing to do with me or my tables (I trust my players and wouldn't play with them otherwise). It's just the general philosophy required when writing rules. You need to provide innocent people ammunition against jackasses in the case it comes up -- and with the large amount of people playing the game, it probably will.

If you want, you can think of it as PFS-proofing.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Do you wanna know how to best handle failed checks: Make Something Interesting Happen Immediately.
“You failed your stealth check. The guard hears you and says: Who goes there!?”
You can’t backtrack once you roll, the roll was commitment to an action.

“You fail your perception check. Your characters do not learn about the secret door in this room, they must chosen one of the viable exits to continue their exploration. With luck they may find it via a more circuitous route. Or perhaps they’ll never find it at all. In either case, you move on.”

“You put together your disguise looking over yourself in the mirror. You’ve done a fine job. However tell us the small detail your character has forgotten to include in their disguise..”

The player should know they failed and should have the opportunity to own the failure. Let their character suffer the consequences, maybe earn a hero point for suffering such a set back.

It’s hard to feel ownership over something you had no control or oversight over.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Almarane wrote:
ShinHakkaider wrote:
Players are more than often willing to ignore rules when it doesn't benefit them and call out those same rules vs. the GM when it comes to NPC's and Monsters. Players will metagame the hell out of things to the point where under any other observation it would break immersion but as long as the players get their advantage IT'S FINE.

That's funny. One of my players regularly reminds me when I GM about rules I forgot and give advantages to ennemies. He also regularly reminds other players of rules that could advantage them as well. My other players tend to follow his exemple, but since he knows most of the rules like the back of his hand, they speak out less often than him. [Edit : My only problem player forget rules because he doesn't know them to start with. But as soon as we tell him how the rules work, he plays with them correctly.]

I'm sorry that you can't trust your players. My group understands that I put the emphasis on roleplaying, and they do their best not to metagame. If they can't understand it by themselves, you just have to tell your players that metagaming is forbidden. And if they metagame too much, take actions. And if they still can't understand, well.... they forgot what "R" means in "RPG", and should probably stick to dungeon crawling.

It's taken me a long while to find a good group that I DO trust and even then they still can't help but metagame. At least this group doesn't have an issue with the use of secret rolls because they understand WHY it's necessary. When I made my statement about players I was talking about over my over 30-year history of running and playing in games. Not specifically any one group including my group at present.


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Saleem Halabi wrote:
Witch of Miracles wrote:
And the default, from a rules perspective, should always be for the GM to not trust the party not to metagame.
I... what?!? How can you play with people if you don't trust them? This line of thinking literally makes no sense to me.

I think that a more honest question for this thread (and not you specifically as I understand what YOU are saying) is: Why is the trust only demanded in ONE direction (players HAVE to be able to trust the GM. Otherwise, the implication is that the GM is BAD) and not the other (The expectation of the players not to cheat or metagame)?

Because trust should swing both ways here.


I did something like this for a couple of games once, except I would have my players roll their own dice in-advance. At the start of each session, I would ask my players to roll 3 each of a perception check and each saving throw, then record every character's results, in order, and use those results as needed for checks they would not be aware (non-active percepion, a hidden enemy trying mind control, etc...)


magnuskn wrote:
Claxon wrote:

Nope, I like it.

Those checks should be secret and players shouldn't know the results.

Trust your GM to play fairly. If you don't, you should probably find a new GM.

This misses the point in the case of secret and arbitrary crafting DC's. First off, what is the point of keeping crafting DC's suddenly secret? Secondly, this has potential to screw over players who have GM's who are not malignant, but either inexperienced or have some fetish for making things difficult for their players, because they feel it enhances roleplaying that way. Same goes with access to spells suddenly being restricted by being uncommon for many hitherto commonly known utility spells.

Crafting DCs should probably be static, but that is a separate issue from "Should GMs have the right to hide certain rolls from players?"

To me that's an unequivocal yes. Even not knowing what you rolled (in the case of potentially cursed items, not sure if that's in PF2 or not) is valid to me. Although players should be aware of what their DC is and what their static bonus to the roll is. The spells and such are a completely separate issue from hiding rolls. I'm not commenting on the problem or lack thereof with that particular issue here. It just isn't facet of this topic.

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Claxon wrote:

Nope, I like it.

Those checks should be secret and players shouldn't know the results.

Trust your GM to play fairly. If you don't, you should probably find a new GM.

What if you're a GM and you hate this?

What if you're a player looking to GM and are intimidated by the lack of transparency on the other side of the screen?

What if Game Masters trusted their players rather than strictly enforcing players blindly trusting their Game Masters?

It's just such a frustrating backwards step.

Secrecy and hidden rolls should be the optional rule, not the default assumption.

I had a much better post that was lost when I tried to submit it. The short version is, it's easier to get players to accept a relaxation of the rules than to accept the rules getting more difficult. The default should be hidden rules, and GMs can ease that restriction on their own personal basis if they want.


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While I have see the poorly rolled stealth check change the actions of a player, I have long since used an alternative.

You simply don't roll stealth right away. You just declare you are in fact stealthing, then you only roll your actual stealth check the moment it is being opposed by perception. While it may have the downside of getting a little extra knowledge when something *might* notice you even if your unaware of them, but that often leads to positive tension building if anything.

Some other things though i don't even see the point of being secret, like crafting rolls.

Silver Crusade

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Why should a player trust a GM if the GM won’t trust the player?

The GM could be making a secret roll but thinks the player failing spectacularly is more interesting for “the story” no matter the roll. That sucks.
The GM could be making a secret roll and fail the check and just move the story onward. Accomplishing nothing but slowing the game down to roll for no reason. That sucks.

Fudging dice, and hiding rolls and difficulty is a great way to wallpaper over flaws in a game system, but terrible way to keep interest in a game as player have agency removed from their characters actions.

“Legolas! You find a secret door.”
“Why, I wasn’t looking for secret doors.”
“Your elf senses tingled.”
“Okay. Thanks for telling me. That was a thing that happened.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Additional information from page 293, the one referenced:

Quote:


The GM can make any check secret, even if it’s not
usually secret. Conversely, the GM can let the players
roll any or all of their checks even if they would usually
be secret, trusting players not to make choices based on
information their characters don’t have.

Personally, I don't care, but the game says that both ways are fine.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Why should a player trust a GM if the GM won’t trust the player?

The GM could be making a secret roll but thinks the player failing spectacularly is more interesting for “the story” no matter the roll. That sucks.
The GM could be making a secret roll and fail the check and just move the story onward. Accomplishing nothing but slowing the game down to roll for no reason. That sucks.

Fudging dice, and hiding rolls and difficulty is a great way to wallpaper over flaws in a game system, but terrible way to keep interest in a game as player have agency removed from their characters actions.

“Legolas! You find a secret door.”
“Why, I wasn’t looking for secret doors.”
“Your elf senses tingled.”
“Okay. Thanks for telling me. That was a thing that happened.

It's an eternal two way street. All games with hidden information require trust and a fundamental agreement to play by the rules. It's a social contract of sorts. If people find out you're breaking the contract, you get censured.

It's no different than trusting someone not to cheat at -any- game.

Silver Crusade

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Cydeth wrote:

Additional information from page 293, the one referenced:

Quote:


The GM can make any check secret, even if it’s not
usually secret. Conversely, the GM can let the players
roll any or all of their checks even if they would usually
be secret, trusting players not to make choices based on
information their characters don’t have.
Personally, I don't care, but the game says that both ways are fine.

Well the game says transparency is acceptable once but secret checks and DCs are mentioned multiple times and even when transparency is mentioned as acceptable it’s even in the same paragraph that says the GM can decide any check can be taken out of a player’s hands.

That’s a problem.

Silver Crusade

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Witch of Miracles wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Why should a player trust a GM if the GM won’t trust the player?

The GM could be making a secret roll but thinks the player failing spectacularly is more interesting for “the story” no matter the roll. That sucks.
The GM could be making a secret roll and fail the check and just move the story onward. Accomplishing nothing but slowing the game down to roll for no reason. That sucks.

Fudging dice, and hiding rolls and difficulty is a great way to wallpaper over flaws in a game system, but terrible way to keep interest in a game as player have agency removed from their characters actions.

“Legolas! You find a secret door.”
“Why, I wasn’t looking for secret doors.”
“Your elf senses tingled.”
“Okay. Thanks for telling me. That was a thing that happened.

It's an eternal two way street. All games with hidden information require trust and a fundamental agreement to play by the rules. It's a social contract of sorts. If people find out you're breaking the contract, you get censured.

It's no different than trusting someone not to cheat at -any- game.

There’s no consequence for a GM fudging die rolls except the players learning the stakes and difficulty are arbitrary and I didn’t come to Pathfinder for more OD&D Bull Hockey.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Well the game says transparency is acceptable once but secret checks and DCs are mentioned multiple times and even when transparency is mentioned as acceptable it’s even in the same paragraph that says the GM can decide any check can be taken out of a player’s hands.

That’s a problem.

I fail to see why that's a problem. Many tables have the GM doing every roll anyway, to the point it's the standard anytime D&D or another such game are mentioned in television. Pay attention, 9 out of 10 times the GM is doing all of he rolls that happen and the players are just narrating their actions.

Rolls in general has always been a table preference thing. The game isn't about the skill needed to throw some pieces of plastic across a table and get to the goal, it's the storytelling. Who throws the dice really doesn't have an effect on that premise. It can just feel good and raise tension for some people to do it themselves.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:


There’s no consequence for a GM fudging die rolls except the players learning the stakes and difficulty are arbitrary and I didn’t come to Pathfinder for more OD&D Bull Hockey.

There's as much consequences for it as cheating at any game where cheating isn't immediately obvious.

Perhaps you cheat at poker a few times. You aren't caught. Nothing happens. If you get caught, howewer, very awful things happen and people won't play with you.

PF is much the same. The GM needs players as much as the players need a GM. It is a relationship of mutual benefit. Acting in bad faith either way results in censure if discovered.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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My players are the motherf~+~ing BEST. They roleplay well, usually don't metagame, and have all too frequently corrected me on a rules call to their detriment. Also, when we play in person, they bring me oreos.

My GMs are the motherf$&%ing BEST too. They are communicative, reasonably transparent, and tell great stories, and I trust them to make good rules calls (and they respect my knowledge of the rules enough to listen to me when something is questionable, and have good acceptable rationales for whatever they decide to do, even if it's not what I would do.

I have absolutely over the last few decades played with s+@&ty GMs and players and know how they can wreck a game. I don't play with them--indeed, rarely associate with them, because nasty cheaty diva players and GMs usually also have negative qualities outside the table--any more. I only play with people I trust, and walk away when that trust isn't there anymore.

There is no rule or lack thereof that will ever, EVER fix s%*~ty GMs or players. No matter how much we want that to be different. Don't look to the rules to fix your player problems. RPG books have no cure for poor social skills or personality disorders.

Some rules can certainly add or increase tension--and underlying problems can come to light faster under this tension. That's why such rules are often best left optional.

That's why I think one problem with the Secret descriptor isn't so much that it's there at all, but it further codifies a style of play many aren't comfortable with. Yes, secret rolls aren't new. They are also frequently house ruled away. I've noticed over the years they show up less and less in most rules systems. So it's odd to see them now feel more codified than less. I'm cool with it as a suggestion. As a hard coded game mechanic, I feel the urge--as a GM, mind--to rebel. (Plus, as a GM, I rarely hide my rolls. For me transparency is much more important and frankly it keeps me honest).

There's also another problem, to a degree, with secret checks, which is flow of play in Play by Post and some other digital formats. I have started running PBP as it's become a more reliable way I and my aging, busy players can play together. If a player wants to be stealthy, I'd rather have him make the roll when he is posting than wait for me to roll -- it is easier for me to just react than initiate the whole process. It's not impossible to do it differently, I'd just rather not. Sometimes I roll checks for players when it makes sense; sometimes they roll my NPCs' saving throws because it makes online play much, much faster and smoother than to always be waiting for a response to move things forward or know what just happened. Secret checks or always GM checks are more inconvenient than useful storytelling devices, in my experience.

I know the rules are designed mainly for at table play, but the devs need to bear in mind PBP and digital play as they become increasingly typical mediums for gameplay and how rules will be enacted in the digital realm, especially with regards to flow and pacing, which become an extremely high priority.

Dark Archive

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My only issue is that some abilities activate on successful checks, like the Ranger's Monster Hunter. Since the Recall Knowledge check is secret the GM can't tell the player when their ability activates, since that would reveal they had critically succeeded. That means the GM has to track their ability for the player, and in turn the player never knows whether it was helpful or not. That interaction is just awkward.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Why should a player trust a GM if the GM won’t trust the player?

Why should a GM trust a player if a player won't trust the GM?

See, I can do that too!

Trust isn't a one-way street. It's a two-way street. IT GOES BOTH WAYS.


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sherlock1701 wrote:
Malachandra wrote:

The problem is that if you roll a natural 1 on Stealth, the natural inclination is to change your mind about sneaking in the first place.

Player: I'm going to sneak into the campsite!
GM: OK, make a stealth check
Player: I rolled a 1... I guess I just won't go

But you've already decided to sneak, so to change now because you had a bad roll is metagaming, and in my opinion not fun. So to play it right you have to sneak knowing you have absolutely no chance of success, which is a bummer.

Player: I'm going to sneak into the campsite!
GM: OK, make a stealth check
Player: I rolled a 1... but you guys have to be ready to come save me when they see me in like 5 seconds.

Neither option is appealing to me. The GM rolling for Stealth in secret takes away the "metagame or suck" choice, while also keeping an element of risk in sneaking. If the player doesn't know what their Stealth check was, it's much more suspenseful.

"Hearing the twig snap under my foot, I back off and lay low for a while."

That's exactly the kind of shenanigans I want to avoid. Once a player makes up their mind to do something, they should do it, not wait to see how the dice turn out.

Mathew Downie had a good way of handling it, but even that restricts my ability to tell the story. What if they make their stealth check a ways away from the campsite? Do I have to tell my player their character suddenly yelled at the top of their lungs and the guards came running? When using stealth, delays between making the check and actually sneaking around happen frequently. Same with being disguised. And then there's bluffing. If a player suspects an NPC is lying, then rolls a 1 on the sense motive check, then the check is meaningless. They still suspect the NPC, they just know that their character... doesn't. Secret checks add suspense and immersion.

Now, I'm not saying secret checks should be used a lot. And I'm certainly not saying all rolls should be made behind a screen, since that's come up in this thread for some reason. But secret checks, when used sparingly, are a valuable resource.

Also, I do trust my players. I don't expect them to metagame. But I don't want them in the position where they either have to metagame or plow ahead knowing they will fail.

Again, not saying everyone should use them or you're doing it wrong; just that they need to be called out in the rulebook for those of us who like them.


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Malachandra wrote:

The problem is that if you roll a natural 1 on Stealth, the natural inclination is to change your mind about sneaking in the first place.

Player: I'm going to sneak into the campsite!
GM: OK, make a stealth check
Player: I rolled a 1... I guess I just won't go

But you've already decided to sneak, so to change now because you had a bad roll is metagaming, and in my opinion not fun. So to play it right you have to sneak knowing you have absolutely no chance of success, which is a bummer.

Player: I'm going to sneak into the campsite!
GM: OK, make a stealth check
Player: I rolled a 1... but you guys have to be ready to come save me when they see me in like 5 seconds.

Neither option is appealing to me. The GM rolling for Stealth in secret takes away the "metagame or suck" choice, while also keeping an element of risk in sneaking. If the player doesn't know what their Stealth check was, it's much more suspenseful.

If they make the roll they're taking the action. Allowing takebacks is a corner case, such as when a player forgets how a rule works.


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I mean, it's a lot easier to act as though your character does not know something, when the player in fact does not know what that thing is.

So that's my standard for secret rolls- if it's something the character should not know, barring a certain result, (stealth and perception are like this) they don't need to see the dice.

Sure this hurts the players in the sense that they are super-beings who win all the time, but it helps the players be characters.


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Turelus wrote:

Personally I am okay with a few more secret rolls, because no matter how good a roleplayer you are knowing you've rolled <5 on a d20 makes you act or think differently about a situation.

I find it can also add some suspense not knowing if you're being good at your stealth or not.

Speak for yourself. I've walked into situations that me(player) knew was a terrible idea because as someone who GMs I had a good idea of what might happen, but my character wouldn't know.

It's caused me to gain the dying condition more than once.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

I mean, it's a lot easier to act as though your character does not know something, when the player in fact does not know what that thing.

So that's my standard for secret rolls- if it's something the character should not know, barring a certain result, (stealth and perception are like this) they don't need to see the dice.

Sure this hurts the players in the sense that they are super-beings who win all the time, but it helps the players be characters.

Absolutely agree, and for me this isn't a PF2 thing, I've been doing it for years. A big one for me is detecting traps. It should always be, "you find a trap" or "you detect no traps", without the player knowing what they rolled.

Besides, I don't get how this is removing agency. Its a random dice roll - what does it matter who rolls the dice? The PCs actions are not in any way controlled or directed. Unless somebody is cheating, how is player agency removed?


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Malachandra wrote:
Matthew Downie had a good way of handling it, but even that restricts my ability to tell the story. What if they make their stealth check a ways away from the campsite?

Then they have to make another roll when they get close enough to the campsite to be heard, I guess? To me it's a non-issue, like "What if the player rolls to hit before meeting the enemy?"

Malachandra wrote:
Same with being disguised.

If, for some reason, I didn't want the PC to have a chance to fix a bad disguise, then I'd make them wait to roll Disguise until the first chance they could be recognised.

Similarly, if they're walking around a dungeon and they've declared they're searching for traps, I have them roll Perception when they say they're going to open the trapped door. Roll badly? It's too late. Roll well? You stop just in time.

Malachandra wrote:
If a player suspects an NPC is lying, then rolls a 1 on the sense motive check, then the check is meaningless. They still suspect the NPC, they just know that their character... doesn't.

I handle it like this:

NPC: "Please, free me from these chains! The guards are cannibals! Soon they will eat me!"
Player: "Sense Motive. 14."
Me: "You have no idea if you can trust her or not."

I don't think any of this kills suspense.


Malachandra wrote:

The problem is that if you roll a natural 1 on Stealth, the natural inclination is to change your mind about sneaking in the first place.

Player: I'm going to sneak into the campsite!
GM: OK, make a stealth check
Player: I rolled a 1... I guess I just won't go

But you've already decided to sneak, so to change now because you had a bad roll is metagaming, and in my opinion not fun. So to play it right you have to sneak knowing you have absolutely no chance of success, which is a bummer.

Player: I'm going to sneak into the campsite!
GM: OK, make a stealth check
Player: I rolled a 1... but you guys have to be ready to come save me when they see me in like 5 seconds.

Neither option is appealing to me. The GM rolling for Stealth in secret takes away the "metagame or suck" choice, while also keeping an element of risk in sneaking. If the player doesn't know what their Stealth check was, it's much more suspenseful.

This isn’t an issue if you only call for rolls when there is both a risk of and a consequence for failure. Instead of having the player make the stealth check as soon as they say they are sneaking, wait until they are actually within sensory range of something that might spot them. Then it makes sense for them to know they failed, because the creature will be attentive to the PC’s presence.

Scarab Sages

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Ngai M'katu wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:

I mean, it's a lot easier to act as though your character does not know something, when the player in fact does not know what that thing.

So that's my standard for secret rolls- if it's something the character should not know, barring a certain result, (stealth and perception are like this) they don't need to see the dice.

Sure this hurts the players in the sense that they are super-beings who win all the time, but it helps the players be characters.

Absolutely agree, and for me this isn't a PF2 thing, I've been doing it for years. A big one for me is detecting traps. It should always be, "you find a trap" or "you detect no traps", without the player knowing what they rolled.

Besides, I don't get how this is removing agency. Its a random dice roll - what does it matter who rolls the dice? The PCs actions are not in any way controlled or directed. Unless somebody is cheating, how is player agency removed?

according to most of my players, they bought dice to roll so they want to do the roll. it gives them "something to do" and if there are too many secret rolls they feel like I might as well just tell them a story - and that's before we get into reroll mechanics .

Dark Archive

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Secret checks in specific instances to thwart metagaming, heighten tension, or for dramatic effect have been pretty common at many tables for years now. The results of some checks are more obvious than others and I'm not certain it's all that contentious of an issue. Game Masters or groups who don't favor them, probably should not use them.


Should players see the results of their die rolls is a different question than whether or not players should have dice rolls made for them. So it seems like some of the debate here is going in two different directions because it seems like there are some players who just hate the idea of not having the dice leave their own hand when determining the outcome of an action, and then there are other players that want to always be able to have a strong sense of their own odds of success with any action they have just done, before they follow up on it.

The difference is big. IF we were playing a game with cards and everyone was dealt one card, and we were betting on the outcome. Whether we put in an ante and bid up before looking or after looking would matter. A lot of players hate the idea of playing without knowing, some love it.

Neither one is really a question of agency as long as everyone knows going into the game knows what the rules are and when their decision making affects the outcome and when it doesn't. Each game is different. One is game of mitigating

Personally, I want the GM to have the power to determine what my character actually sees or experiences when I make a perception or a sense motive check. If I search a room and there is nothing there, it is a lot easier to tell myself, ok, lets move on, then when I search the room, roll a 1 and then find out their is nothing there. For me, it also doesn't matter if I roll that dice in a tower, or the GM does it behind a screen, but I know it does for some, and I think that if I did care, I would be upset if my GM didn't give me some way to roll the dice even if I didn't see the outcome.

If my GM demanded that I roll the dice visibly, I would make it clear that my character is going to be acting on the knowledge of what number I rolled on the dice, because I don't believe in making deliberately bad decisions as a player, that could cause other characters harm, just because it is possible that my character would make that decision if they didn't know the measure of their own success.


LuniasM wrote:
My only issue is that some abilities activate on successful checks, like the Ranger's Monster Hunter. Since the Recall Knowledge check is secret the GM can't tell the player when their ability activates, since that would reveal they had critically succeeded. That means the GM has to track their ability for the player, and in turn the player never knows whether it was helpful or not. That interaction is just awkward.

This is its own issue and one that comes from developers not factoring the mechanics of secret rolls when creating powers that grant rerolls.

There are a couple of play arounds with it but especially when making a new game, it would be better to decide up front whether secret rolls are a part of the game or not and design the powers around the basic assumption that it works one way or another, with the option of having sidebars for handling the rules if you chose to play it the other way.


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In my home games, I don't...and won't...use secret rolls. I have enough to do as gamemaster without rolling stealth rolls and perception checks myself for the 5-6 players I have plus the monsters/bad guys.

But my group is pretty good about metagaming, and if I make a whole bunch of dice rolls, I feel like I'm playing by myself. I'm not a fan of running NPCs either for that reason.


magnuskn wrote:
Secondly, this has potential to screw over players who have GM's who are not malignant, but either inexperienced or have some fetish for making things difficult for their players, because they feel it enhances roleplaying that way. Same goes with access to spells suddenly being restricted by being uncommon for many hitherto commonly known utility spells.

This is not "playing fairly." It comes right back to the thing being said, which is if you don't trust your GM to play fairly, find a new one. If players don't want things made extra difficult in spite of the rolls, and the GM does that, it isn't fair. (If the players want that, on the other hand, full speed ahead.)


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Malachandra wrote:
Matthew Downie had a good way of handling it, but even that restricts my ability to tell the story. What if they make their stealth check a ways away from the campsite?

Then they have to make another roll when they get close enough to the campsite to be heard, I guess? To me it's a non-issue, like "What if the player rolls to hit before meeting the enemy?"

Malachandra wrote:
Same with being disguised.

If, for some reason, I didn't want the PC to have a chance to fix a bad disguise, then I'd make them wait to roll Disguise until the first chance they could be recognised.

Similarly, if they're walking around a dungeon and they've declared they're searching for traps, I have them roll Perception when they say they're going to open the trapped door. Roll badly? It's too late. Roll well? You stop just in time.

Malachandra wrote:
If a player suspects an NPC is lying, then rolls a 1 on the sense motive check, then the check is meaningless. They still suspect the NPC, they just know that their character... doesn't.

I handle it like this:

NPC: "Please, free me from these chains! The guards are cannibals! Soon they will eat me!"
Player: "Sense Motive. 14."
Me: "You have no idea if you can trust her or not."

I don't think any of this kills suspense.

It might not kill suspense or immersion for you, and the good news is removing secret rolls is about as easy as it gets, but it does kill both for me to have a player make a roll for an action their character did ten minutes to an hour ago, especially when there may be events between then and now. It's not exactly the same as swinging a sword, as sneaking and being disguised is not something you do in the span of a single round...

And it's not that I don't want to give my players the chance to fix a bad disguise (I don't hate my players!), it's that their characters wouldn't know the disguise is bad. I guess you could just hand wave it and have them roll the first chance they might be recognized, but now you have the same problem with the second chance. If they roll poorly but aren't immediately called on it (for whatever reason), they now have to choose between metagaming by redoing the disguise when they wouldn't otherwise, or go ahead and move forward with the poor disguise. I don't want to force my players to make that choice. I don't think it makes sense for them to make that choice. So I roll in secret.

For the bluffing, I don't think that's how bluffing is supposed to work. At least in real life, it's not "I bluff to make people confused and unsure" it's "I bluff to make people believe me". If you make the roll in secret and they roll a 1, that NPC has successfully bluffed the character. If you do it openly, the NPC has bluffed the character, but when you say "You believe they are telling the truth", that's kind of meaningless to the player. They rolled poorly. They know that. The knowledge is useless. Now they have the "metagame or suck" scenario. I don't like forcing my players into that scenario.


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Malachandra wrote:

It might not kill suspense or immersion for you, and the good news is removing secret rolls is about as easy as it gets, but it does kill both for me to have a player make a roll for an action their character did ten minutes to an hour ago, especially when there may be events between then and now. It's not exactly the same as swinging a sword, as sneaking and being disguised is not something you do in the span of a single round...

And it's not that I don't want to give my players the chance to fix a bad disguise (I don't hate my players!), it's that their characters wouldn't know the disguise is bad. I guess you could just hand wave it and have them roll the first chance they might be recognized, but now you have the same problem with the second chance. If they roll poorly but aren't immediately called on it (for whatever reason), they now have to choose between metagaming by redoing the disguise when they wouldn't otherwise, or go ahead and move forward with the poor disguise. I don't want to force my players to make that choice. I don't think it makes sense for them to make that choice. So I roll in secret.

For the bluffing, I don't think that's how bluffing is supposed to work. At least in real life, it's not "I bluff to make people confused and unsure" it's "I bluff to make people believe me". If you make the roll in secret and they roll a 1, that NPC has successfully bluffed the character. If you do it openly, the NPC has bluffed the character, but when you say "You believe they are telling the truth", that's kind of meaningless to the player. They rolled poorly. They know that. The knowledge is useless. Now they have the "metagame or suck" scenario. I don't like forcing my players into that scenario.

I agree completely. I did want to add to it though since there's more scenarios.

I have a good Starfinder table. I am our face character who does most of the Charisma stuff, and I totally own my natty ones. I'm also used to GMing tables though, so it pretty much comes second nature to roleplay a scenario and do the fun thing. I am not every player though.

We have had a problem on our table with a player who cheats rolls. I and a few others have caught him and we're confronting it, but essentially he rolls toward himself, and if he sees he rolled between the 4-9 range, he will just lie. Now most of our table wear glasses, so rolling close to read isn't that odd all things considered, but he is using it as cover to buffer his own low rolls.

Those are the highs and lows of the table. What is always interesting though is when the lot of us search a room. It doesn't even need to be the one who rolled low to be tempted to metagame. When one person rolls low, suddenly if the result was low, or nothing was found, everyone wants to roll Perception. Or if I fail a Diplomacy, the Mystic might step over my shoulder and take over.

While those are both technical thing (searching the room together, or seeing one person floundering an investigation and helping) the decision to do them is made because of a desire to not miss out. If the rolls are secret for those things we shouldn't know how well we did on, then we can all try, and it still gives the chance of mystery we may have failed. None of us know who did the best job, we only know the non-numerical result, and that means we know we did all we could.

Some might complain at that. Did they fail because their roll was too low? Was the DC too high? Did they succeed and there was just nothing?

That's better left a mystery. The Critical Failures for Recall Knowledge checks in particular are important that the player not know, since the knowledge they gain needs to be false. The DC being too high is a huge point of contention on tables "why make us do something it was impossible to succeed at?" And of course roll metagaming.


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Seem more like an 'illusion of control' issue to me, but that can be a legitimate problem for many players. Would it help if you were to, say, roll the dice under a cup so only the GM could see the results?


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Ngai M'katu wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:

I mean, it's a lot easier to act as though your character does not know something, when the player in fact does not know what that thing.

So that's my standard for secret rolls- if it's something the character should not know, barring a certain result, (stealth and perception are like this) they don't need to see the dice.

Sure this hurts the players in the sense that they are super-beings who win all the time, but it helps the players be characters.

Absolutely agree, and for me this isn't a PF2 thing, I've been doing it for years. A big one for me is detecting traps. It should always be, "you find a trap" or "you detect no traps", without the player knowing what they rolled.

Besides, I don't get how this is removing agency. Its a random dice roll - what does it matter who rolls the dice? The PCs actions are not in any way controlled or directed. Unless somebody is cheating, how is player agency removed?

I don't think it really removes player agency. I do think it feels like a loss of control for many people including myself. If my character drops the ball I want it to be as much on me as possible, even the rolling of the dice.

There's a connection between "me rolling the dice", and the outcome that gives me ownership of the result, good or bad.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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.


One thing I've done before is for things like stealth and perception checks where asymmetrical knowledge is important, is have players roll a bunch (like 20) of checks in advance, write them on scraps of paper, put them in a paper cup with their name on it, then give it to me. When a player makes a check, I randomly pull a piece of paper out of that player's cup, and when the results of the roll are clear from circumstances, I give the player back their scrap of paper so they know which roll they used.

Like I've had problems with players sometimes hamming it up too much when they roll badly; I appreciate some of that, but sometimes people take it a bit far.


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I asked my players about this today and they all seem excited to try it. We'll see how it goes. I'm curious how it shapes the feel of the mechanics and narrative of how scenes play out. In my other group the GM already does secret rolls for things like will saves for illusions and what not, and it works out fine.


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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.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

I don't mind the secret checks. Sometimes I've used them myself, but as I don't use GM screen, it's hard to get away with. Mostly it is stealth or perception of the enemy, and not my player's rolls.

The biggest problem with me rolling for my players, would be that I'm notorious for rolling bad. I imagine if I told my players I would roll for them, they'd refuse, not on account of secret roll and trust. More like they would trust me to roll real low.


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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.

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