Has any one noticed Secret Checks? Taking player agency away


Running the Game

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Secret checks can be interesting when used sparingly and at the right times but not all the time. This effects the Rogue in particular as all stealth checks are secret, which means that the GM rolls it.

Secret Checks
In some circumstances, you will not know whether you succeed at a skill check. If a skill use has the secret trait, the GM rolls the check for you and informs you of the effect without revealing the result of the roll or the degree of success. The GM rolls secret checks when your knowledge about the outcome is imperfect, like when you’re searching for a hidden creature or object, attempting to deceive someone, translating a tricky bit of ancient text, or remembering some piece of lore. This way, you as the player don’t know things that your character wouldn’t. More information about secret checks can be found in Chapter 9 on page 293.

In some cases the might even roll for the character and the NPC if the rules require an opposed roll. This seems excessive to me. I’m ok with a secret roll for knowledge checked or saving throws that the GM doesn’t want a player to know about but this is a lot to put in the hands of the GM. Especially when the GM can fudge things in a lot of ways, the stealth skills are something that the Rogue should be trained in enough to have a very good idea if they have, can and should be able to hide, sneak and conceal an object. It might be ok to do secret checks at level 1 but by level 3-5 the Rogue should have used these abilities enough times to have a relatively good idea f they have failed or not. And by level 10 they should know to the exact degree that they have succeeded or failed.

My real concern is that some secret checks take too much power from the players in many situations, not just for Rogues. It leaves players with, at least feeling like they have less control over what their character can do and at worst actually having less control.

This would be like if the fighter's attacks were rolled by the GM. It seems a bit unfair to me,


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i've only had one circumstance that my DM rolls openly at all: when a roll is directly tied to whether a character lives or dies (such as an enemy attack roll on a critical-hp character). otherwise, ALL gm rolls are "secret", especially things like enemy perception rolls (the same largely applies when i DM, as it builds drama and also helps mitigate any hard feelings over the death of a character)

having additional rolls added to give the players more opportunity to fail/for the DM to apparently pull the rug out from under them (such as requiring a check to enter stealth at all, and THEN a bunch of rolls each time a new creature may or may not detect them, rather than that single check being set against the enemy's passive perception, etc etc) is just bogging the DM down with work, and makes what likely should be a core part of a character (like a sneaky rogue) become increasingly unreliable.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ah, the value of making fake GM rolls behind the screen while asking players about their Perception or saves. Mmmmmmmmmm....


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I’m not talking about a GM rolling behind a screen, I’m talking about a GM rolling for the player. Skill check that have the Secret Trait are rolled by the GM not the player.


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Agency typically refers to whether or not the player can do things, or whether or not those things have an effect on the game world. This isn't the same thing.

The secret trait seems focused on removing metagame knowledge from the players. I do agree that characters should have some idea of the measure of their success, I'm not certain how much though.


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Br11741 wrote:
I’m not talking about a GM rolling behind a screen, I’m talking about a GM rolling for the player. Skill check that have the Secret Trait are rolled by the GM not the player.

ahh, that's a misunderstanding on my end. I'm not cool with putting aspects of my character at the whims of fate without my own input on it, and i'd feel pretty awful as a DM controlling a player's character when major penalties are on the line (being "cutscene-killed" is definitely among the worst of my early-tabletop experiences).


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Please remember this was in 1E with Disguise and Linguistics, and possibly some others as well.


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Cyouni wrote:
Please remember this was in 1E with Disguise and Linguistics, and possibly some others as well.

As I said I’m ok with limited uses of Secret Checks, like in a knowledge roll for linguistics or an arcana check, it bothers me sometimes when someone rolls a 4 on a roll and says, "I know nothing!" You night think you know something that isn’t important or that you do indeed know nothing, but to have the GM roll for the player every time a player uses one of their primary abilities could and likely would make them feel powerless over their character in these important moments in the game. In tough situations, ok sure, have the GM roll it in secret like in a boss battle, when trying to sneak out with a most important item of the game or at time when the character would be nervous but every single time? I think that make the player feel like they are not in full control over their character. Especially when they have always had that ability in the past even in 1E.

In 1E, which I never played but I read through the Core Rule book, Disguise has an opposed roll the player would roll for their skill and the GM would roll for anyone that has a chance to perceive the disguise. And I think this is how it should be for Stealth Checks in most situations. The Rogue that has training in sneak and stealth should know most of the time that he has succeeded or not but not always. If the Rogue is sneaking past a guard that he knows is past out drunk he would likely know if he succeeded or not but is he is sneaking past a red dragon that has a lot of treasures and he is nervous about it attacking him then he might not, so in the dragon situation do the Secret Check but not every time.


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I feel like if you don't trust the GM enough to make the right calls when it comes to things like this, you should find a GM you do trust, or run the game yourself.

Like "that this is in the GM's prerogative" is not a problem, if a specific GM is using this particular tool poorly, bring it up with them. But "some rolls are made in secret" dates back to when "Elf" was a class, so I certainly don't think "every roll is not secret" is a reasonable standard at all.


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It's odd, because this is the way I've always played. Why would a Rogue know if he was spotted BEFORE the spotting creature made it known?


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This is NOT a matter of Player Agency. The player still has full control over the character's choices.


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CraziFuzzy wrote:
This is NOT a matter of Player Agency. The player still has full control over the character's choices.

Indeed, the standard as I have always understood it is something like "you should have (almost) complete control over what your character decides to do, but you should have relatively little control over what others attempt to do to your character."

What I want to do is mine, what I *can* do is subject to the dice, which often do not cooperate.


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I see what you’re saying, but the thing is, GMs who want to make secret checks are going to make secret checks, whether the rules say to or not. I, personally, am a big proponent of all rolls being public information on both sides of the screen, and PF2 allows me to do that as a GM. (See page 294 - “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.”)

Ultimately, I think putting the “secret” keyword on certain rolls is going to have little to no impact on how most GMs run their games. Most folks will just keep making (or not making) secret rolls in exactly the same circumstances they always have. Mostly, the keyword just communicates to the players what kinds of rolls they can expect will most commonly be made in secret, and which ones they can generally expect to be public.

Grand Lodge

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I like rolling my own dice for my character's actions. I dislike anything that requires someone else rolling for my character. It's as simple as that for me.

Lantern Lodge

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Br11741 wrote:
I’m not talking about a GM rolling behind a screen, I’m talking about a GM rolling for the player. Skill check that have the Secret Trait are rolled by the GM not the player.

Solution:

Have the player roll for it, then before the dice stop rolling, cover it with the GM screen and only the GM gets to see the results.

So now, the player gets to roll and the GM gets to play out the results.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, I agree that there have been some instances where things are now unnecessarily secret and arbitrary, like crafting DC's.


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This isn't a loss of agency. This is just how the game was always supposed to work.

A player says:
"I want to look around."

The GM rolls and tells the player what their character sees. The player doesn't know if they rolled a 1 or a 20. They have no reason to know what they rolled. Why?

Unfortunately I have seen this happen in table play and society play. Though more of a society play issue as my players know I would bring the hammer down for it.

Player A:
"I look around the room."

Me:
"Roll perception."

Player A:
*rolls* "Aw man... A 3, that is a 12."

Me:
"You don't see anything out of the ordinary, the room is a bit cluttered but otherwise unremarkable."

Player B:
"I'll look around too." *rolls* "Sweet, 17 on the die, for 25. Do I see anything?"

Me:
"You notice... (insert here.)"

then... Two rooms later...

Player A:
"I search the room."

Me:
"Roll perception."

Player A:
*rolls* "15, plus my 9, 24."

Me:
"You don't see anything out of the ordinary here, the room appears to not have been cleaned in some time."

Me, noting that Player B didn't ask to search the room, and hasn't asked to search the room ever unless Player A rolled low on Perception.

-----

Even when it isn't blatant metagaming like the above...

Rogue Player:
"I'll sneak ahead."

Me:
"Roll stealth."

Rogue Player:
"Okay, ugh, that isn't great. I rolled a 3... 13."

Me:
"Okay, you sneak ahead sticking to the shadows and moving along the wall as you come across what looks like a hallway. You can hear claws click on the stones and voices speaking in a draconic bent that you don't understand but recognize as kobold in the hallway but would have to peak around the wall to see anything which could risk exposing you if whoever it is is alert."

Rogue Player:
"Can I tell how many of them there are?"

Me:
"Not really. You aren't familiar enough with Kobolds to pick them out on their vocal influxes. You can pick out at least two of them, from hearing obvious replies but might be as many as three or four."

Rogue Player:
"Ok, How far away is the rest of the party at this point?"

Me:
"They look to be around 100 feet away from you."

Rogue Player:
"Well I know I am not really stealthing that great. Can I roll again to improve my stealth?"

Me:
"No."

Rogue Player:
"Then, instead, I'll sneak back to my companions and let them know what I heard up ahead."

-----

Those kinds of situations just invite the player using knowledge their character doesn't have.

In the first example, player B knows that player A bombed a roll and that they could probably do better. So they want to try to do better to help the party. There is nothing *wrong* in wanting to search too. It is very likely that if I hide the perception rolls (I do) that if I ask the players if they all want to search or whatever that each player is going to search, or they are going to say something like, "I'll help so and so look around." So it isn't going to change a whole lot of the outcome. Thus I don't feel any need to censure the player in question.

In the second example, the Rogue knows that they aren't hiding that well and that it is reasonable that even a person with a low bonus to perception could spot them. They have a 13, even taking into account situational modifiers like dim lighting and distance (which they aren't sure of in this case) they could still be spotted, their foes might be facing a check around DC 23, and if they are then the party might be too far away to help them in time. (This is a character who is level 3, so you know +3 class skill, +4 Dex, +3 ranks - So they have a pretty good idea that even low level Kobolds tend to have a +6 to +8 in perception, and their dark vision might mess with the situational bonuses from dim lighting... And if there are 3-4 of them that is 3-4 chances to hit that 15... Not good.)

If the rogue knows, however, that they rolled a natural 19 on the die, and they have a +10, and then they add the situational modifiers for things like dim lighting, they can math it out in their head that the guys around the corner are going to be looking at at least a DC 39 even if they get NO bonus from the lighting because of the enemy's vision, even if they all have a higher than normal Perception bonus of +10 (A Kobold Rogue 2 usually has a +8 in Pathfinder) they need a natural 19 *at least* to spot them, and that isn't taking into account penalties for distance. So there is almost no chance of them being spotted. They are likely to peak around the corner. This might be seen as metagaming, but the player may not even realize they are doing it. It is just what they know.

When rolls are concealed... You don't know. It reduces the chance of metagaming, even unintentional metagaming.

And let us face it... We ALL have seen metagaming.

I have seen a VO metagame in SFS without meaning to do it just by dint of thinking out loud. Literally, I was in a game in roll 20 where an enemy rolled, we could see the raw die roll but not the modifier, and the VO mused (to himself, but didn't have push to talk on) after a full attack: "Okay, the 14 missed, but the 15 hit, that means guy has a +18 to hit bonus with the -4 from the full attack. I don't want to move and risk the AoO, I hope these things don't have step up."

This wasn't intentional, this wasn't malicious, it was simply something he could do based on the information that he had available.

If those attack rolls were concealed, all he would know is that one attack hit and one missed.

Concealing rolls doesn't take away player agency. Player agency is the player's options. It simply limits the player knowledge to what they know based on what their character knows.

Kind of like in real life... Right now, you are reading what I wrote. You also know there isn't a spider crawling across the floor toward you... Or maybe there is, but you rolled low on perception...

QUICK! ROLL INITIATIVE!

Hehe happy gaming.


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CraziFuzzy wrote:
It's odd, because this is the way I've always played. Why would a Rogue know if he was spotted BEFORE the spotting creature made it known?

Exactly. The Rogue should always believe that they're being as stealthy as possible, but if they're unaware of something that might give them away, they won't know until the jig is up.

Secret skill rolls have always been a part of D&D, but the critical failure rules for PF2 are probably why they're now formalised in the rules - especially for Recall Knowledge and the possibility of a totally wrong result.

Any experienced player in PF1 would know immediately in many situations if they failed a skill roll for Bluff, Disable Device, Disguise Self, Perception, Sense Motive or Stealth, because they know their skill level, can make a fair estimate of the opposing DC and can see that their low roll wasn't good enough. That's when you'll see players abort their attempt to sneak and find a reason to try again, assume an NPC is lying to them, search an area again (or Take 20) when they don't find anything, change a Bluff check and so on. Its metagaming, but its also human nature to try and avoid rushing into trouble. Removing the temptation maintains suspense and reduces tension at the table.

We've tried getting players to roll behind the screen so they couldn't see the result, but dice can fly off the table or mess up the DM's stuff. Easier to let them do it, but it'll never work if you can't trust the DM. If that's the case, you shouldn't be playing with them.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
ErichAD wrote:

Agency typically refers to whether or not the player can do things, or whether or not those things have an effect on the game world. This isn't the same thing.

The secret trait seems focused on removing metagame knowledge from the players. I do agree that characters should have some idea of the measure of their success, I'm not certain how much though.

You’re referring to Character Agency, not Player Agency.

Metagaming is a dumb, not real problem for people who can’t communicate or understand what’s interesting about dramatic irony.


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I have rolled perception and saves for my players since the longest of times.

Also roll other skills from time to time if i think there is a need for it.

When i GM i simply use a sheet to keep track of pretty much all my players have and can do.


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Yeah, We're not going to do this. It just isn't fun. We have no problem ignoring the rule like we did in PF1e.


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I ask my players for sense motive and perception scores before playing. If i need to make a secret check, i tell them to roll a d20. Them i add their modifier.

If a player asks to make the check, they roll it, not intervention from the gm.


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HWalsh wrote:
I have seen a VO metagame in SFS without meaning to do it just by dint of thinking out loud. Literally, I was in a game in roll 20 where an enemy rolled, we could see the raw die roll but not the modifier, and the VO mused (to himself, but didn't have push to talk on) after a full attack: "Okay, the 14 missed, but the 15 hit, that means guy has a +18 to hit bonus with the -4 from the full attack. I don't want to move and risk the AoO, I hope these things don't have step up."

I don't roll in secret for enemy actions, and I'd be happy for my players to make this kind of observation. Why shouldn't a skilled warrior be able to judge the calibre of his foe after a brief exchange of blows?


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Matthew Downie wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
I have seen a VO metagame in SFS without meaning to do it just by dint of thinking out loud. Literally, I was in a game in roll 20 where an enemy rolled, we could see the raw die roll but not the modifier, and the VO mused (to himself, but didn't have push to talk on) after a full attack: "Okay, the 14 missed, but the 15 hit, that means guy has a +18 to hit bonus with the -4 from the full attack. I don't want to move and risk the AoO, I hope these things don't have step up."
I don't roll in secret for enemy actions, and I'd be happy for my players to make this kind of observation. Why shouldn't a skilled warrior be able to judge the calibre of his foe after a brief exchange of blows?

I did Amtgard and the SCA for almost two decades.

I practiced Bok Hak Pai for almost three.

I have over 28 years of experience in martial arts, and then martial combat. I have done everything from boffer combat, to rebar simulated combat, to live steel combat, to hand to hand combat, toss in everything from MMA to point score tournaments.

I would easily be considered a skilled warrior. At the very least I'm better than the average joe.

I could not tell you how good someone is from watching them for 6 seconds.

Professional boxers can't do that.

They will watch tapes of an opponent for hours and hours and hours specifically to determine how good they are. To get an exact ratio from watching literally 6 seconds is not realistically possible.

Even in terms of genre fantasy it isn't something that is done. The only times that happens is when someone outclasses someone else so completely.

The closest I know of in fictional mediums of this was in a DC vs Marvel Comics crossover where Batman fought Captain America and it took Batman 2 minutes of sparring to find out that Captain America was a better hand to hand combatant that he was.

Note: That was BATMAN and it took him 2 minutes.


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If I switch to 2E I'm probably not doing the secret rolls. I don't see what it adds to the game. Do you(character not player) know when you rolled poorly? I think it depends on what you're doing. If you step on a branch while trying to be sneaky you know it. If you take a swing at someone and almost lose control of your weapon I'd think they knew they rolled poorly. For something like a perception check you wouldn't know you rolled poorly if it's an opposed check. If it's something with a static DC then you would know because you'd have an idea of how hard it's supposed to be.

I don't think it's objectively wrong, but I do feel like there is a deeper connection between the players and the characters the more they roll for their characters.

I think a lot of people's opinions on this are going to depend on how much they had to deal with metagaming players. I've almost never had to deal with it, but if someone has run into it a lot I can see them not trusting the player to separate game knowledge from real life knowledge.


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as a player or dm I likesecret rolls. The point of the game is to have fun through making a great story. "losing" is as fun as "winning" for rpg games so I trust whoever isdming to be fair and fun. Also, I only play with friends so not worried about unfair dming.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

It's a game. I literally tell my players what the AC of enemies are, their hit points, and the Difficulty Class of every check they make.

Without that information the player doesn't know whether or not to use spells, items or resources to improve their chances of success.

In Pathfinder 2, the use of fortune abilities can't be used on secret checks. That's right there in the rules.

In Pathfinder 2, when making Crafting checks the DC is set in secret by the GM.

There is literally one place that grants the GM permission to decide a secret check or secret DC isn't secret.

But the message that is reinforced over and over again in the rules is that many checks are hidden from the players and they aren't to roll them.

As a player I hate having any agency or control taken from me. Even if my player fails a Will Save vs Domination I prefer GMs allow players to interpret orders given.

As a GM I hate having to keep track of the player's character sheets. It's not my job to know the PC's skill bonuses. I don't want to keep copies of their sheets behind the screen (I don't even use a screen). As a GM I have more than enough things to handle (NPC motivations, monster tactics, ambient environment, tension, narrative cohesion and rules enforcement), I shouldn't also have to pilot the player characters. I don't come to the table to play solitaire.


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HWalsh wrote:


The closest I know of in fictional mediums of this was in a DC vs Marvel Comics crossover where Batman fought Captain America and it took Batman 2 minutes of sparring to find out that Captain America was a better hand to hand combatant that he was.

Note: That was BATMAN and it took him 2 minutes.

Yeah, I'll be that guy. Batman actually determined that they were reasonably equal in close combat, and that determining a victor would leave them fighting all day so they decided to find an alternative. No official ruling exist as to which is better.

Nerdy pedantry aside, I have no issues with your argument, though I can also comfortably cite many example of fiction where people can judge peoples' skill in combat just from a stance, or the callouses on their hands without even getting in to combat (pretty much anything with a katana in it). I'm fine letting my players find a middle ground between the too extremes.


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Gug on the Silver Mountain wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


The closest I know of in fictional mediums of this was in a DC vs Marvel Comics crossover where Batman fought Captain America and it took Batman 2 minutes of sparring to find out that Captain America was a better hand to hand combatant that he was.

Note: That was BATMAN and it took him 2 minutes.

Yeah, I'll be that guy. Batman actually determined that they were reasonably equal in close combat, and that determining a victor would leave them fighting all day so they decided to find an alternative. No official ruling exist as to which is better.

Nerdy pedantry aside, I have no issues with your argument, though I can also comfortably cite many example of fiction where people can judge peoples' skill in combat just from a stance, or the callouses on their hands without even getting in to combat (pretty much anything with a katana in it). I'm fine letting my players find a middle ground between the too extremes.

Because it is a nerd off:

"It's conceivable you could beat me Avenger, but it would take you a very long time."

I see that as Batman conceding that Cap would beat him, eventually.

Anyway...

The thing in fiction is that there are situations where people can tell from callouses and stance that someone has training. Yes. Heck I can do that.

If someone stands and locks their knees they are full of crap on having fighting experience. If they close their hands into a fist and tuck their thumb they are going to hurt themselves. If they stand square at you and raise both hands high, IE assuming a boxing stance, they are leaving their lower body exposed. Turning to the side knees slightly bent, facing arm dropped bent L shaped at the elbow to cover their midsection with the opposite hand raised and curled to cover the top is someone trained in karate likely shotokan - Providing they assume this stance without self adjusting, which shows muscle memory. If they don't have callouses on their knuckles or fingers they probably don't have any experience. I can also tell you if I see them turn casually to side position to face me, leaving their arms hanging loosely, with a slight sway away from me, with slightly bent knees that I am not going to fight them (well before I landed in this chair anyway, I ain't doing any more fighting at all these days) because that is a stance of someone who is so comfortable with their perceived advantage that they are casually moving to a loose probing stance and either I am going to roll right over them or I am going to get my butt handed to me and I don't like the flip of that coin.

I can't tell you, from seeing that, the literal exact precision and reaction time they are going to have. IE their exact attack bonus, from seeing them throw two jabs.


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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.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
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.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
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.


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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.


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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.

Metagame knowledge is difficult to deal with. Rarely,as a player, can I say with absolute certainty that I would have made the same decision without metagame knowledge, and I don't think anyone can say any different.

It's possible to play with no separation of player and character knowledge, but that shouldn't be the default option, and limiting metagame knowledge is never a bad thing. That's why players don't sit with copies of the GM's notes


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
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 Game Masters trusted their players rather than strictly enforcing players blindly trusting their Game Masters?

Maybe it's because players, in general, have proven themselves to be an utterly untrustworthy and inconsiderate bunch?

I've had bad GM's and YES a Bad GM is THE WORST. But I've had waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more bad players in my gaming lifetime. Both as a GM and sitting at a table as a player WITH awful players.

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.

All that being said, the GM should let the players know that this is how crafting/stealth/perception/ secret rolls are going to work at the table. So the players can make a choice if they want to play that way or not. I know that that isn't feasible under Society play, so I kinda get people being upset by it.

There are two reasons why Society Play is a no go and always will be a no go for me. The inability to have rule flexibility and the garbage players who might show up at a table.


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I am in Dudemeister's camp. Usually, only my monsters' rolls are secret. I trust my players to not metagame too much. When one of my players rolls a 5 on a Stealth roll, they say "ok, my character thinks he is stealthy, so he will continue trying to sneak attack this goblin".

[Edit : It creates pretty fun or dramatic situations. I remember this dumb barbarian who charged at the ennemy while the ranger, who was supposed to be their backup, did not success at their Climb roll to follow the barbarian... This group's players talk about this scene quite a bit nowadays.]

I don't see the issue in my players trying to guess the enemy's attack modifier or AC, since it won't change a thing in how they play (knowing you need a 15 to hit doesn't really change your chances of hitting, and even when you don't know the exact roll you need to do, if your character doesn't hit 3 times out of 4, they will end up trying to help the party another way).

My players know I trust them to not cheat or to use metagame datas to make their characters be omniscient. In return, they trust me for telling the truth when I say "the monster strikes you for 35" or "your 19 is not enough to hit the monster".

Plus, I tried once to roll secret rolls (with save rolls, Disguise, Bluff, Stealth and Perception). It was a nightmare : I had to check my players' mods at every level, with their conditionnal mods. Finally I ditched this rule and only roll secret rolls for players when this can add tension to the scene.


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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 themselve, 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.


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I approve of Secret Checks, used in moderation. I'm so sick of rolling poorly being a joke and an invitation to metagame: "Hold on friends, I just failed a perception check." or "Lets kill the Merchant, I failed a Sense Motive check when he said something ominous earlier".

Younger generations are more than genre savvy enough to guess what they might have percieved, and thanks to years of reading tongue-in-cheek MMO and Fantasy Anime dialogs where fantasy characters talk seriously about their "level" (or the other unrealistic mechanics of their world) metagaming has become somewhat subconsious for me.

Wanting to roleplay properly shouldn't involve throwing my character under a bus; thus the game shouldn't give me any information I'm not supposed to have as a character.

On the other hand it gives players a sense of responsability for the result when they rolled the dice. So I generally only roll as secret things the PCs shouldn't know the result of right away.


ErichAD wrote:

Agency typically refers to whether or not the player can do things, or whether or not those things have an effect on the game world. This isn't the same thing.

The secret trait seems focused on removing metagame knowledge from the players. I do agree that characters should have some idea of the measure of their success, I'm not certain how much though.

I'd argue that players should usually know how well they rolled on any physical activity. They still don't know what the perception rolls were after all.

Sense Motive-type checks or knowledge checks I could see having a little more benefit being secret, but even then, that should probably be used sparingly. I've had occasion to roll secret checks very few times over my game mastering history.


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I was recently given a GM screen as a gift for when I needed to roll in secret.

I'm still figuring out how to attach it to a wall as a poster, because I don't need it as a screen. (the info on the GM side isn't actually for a system I play in)


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.

It does say to feel free to ignore this in a sidebar though. I probably will. Secret rolls were neat in the horror game of pathfinder I played, but I have enough to track as a GM without needing to cover up DCs and results from players. I won't ignore secret checks for the playtest to keep as little bias in my feedback as possible, but I will ignore secret rolls entirely unless later content gives a reason not to.


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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.

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


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Malachandra wrote:

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

Player: I swing my mace at the enemy.

GM: OK, make an attack roll.
Player: I rolled a 1... I guess I'll cast Cure Light Wounds instead.
GM: Um... Nope.

Or:

Player: I'm going to sneak into the campsite!
GM: OK, show me on the map the route you're taking, then make a stealth check.
Player: I rolled a 1...
GM: You make it as far as the big tree, then tread on a dry branch. There is a loud snap. "Who's there?" shouts a voice in the darkness.
Player: I run for it.
GM: Roll initiative. The rest of the party heard you too, so they can also get involved...

No metagaming needed. Just don't have the player roll the dice too early.


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

It was the default for PF1e, doesn't seem to have stopped anyone from ignoring it though.


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.

I've seen it many times when someone rolls low and suddenly someone else rolls the same check without their character having any reason to if they trusted their allies abilities.

On the other hand, the kinds of players who do the above will also just roll on everything someone else does (that they're skilled at) if dice are hidden.

Considering the rules say you can show or hide as many rolls as you want as a GM I think each group will continue to go as they have previously, although it might empower some GM's to to take rolls back from players who demand open rolls because the rules don't state it's hidden.


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They do sell dice towers for this exact kind of situation. If you are a player that really likes rolling your own dice, you might want to invest in one and have it where you can roll your dice and only the GM can see it.

Personally, as a player, I always have more fun when the GM rolls all the dice that my character wouldn't have any idea about. Stuff like seeing my own sense motive roll is the worst because it absolutely breaks my fun of trying to figure out how trust worthy an NPC is. I had a GM who would roll for the party and then tell us which characters believed things to be true and it was a blast when the rogue with the +12 to perception was convinced the path a head was clear, and the barbarian with a +3 thought it was trapped (nobody else thought one way or another). The Barbarian decided to stand 20 feet back and and was rewarded for his paranoia by having to spend a whole extra round to get into combat when the path was clear, except for skeletons hanging around behind the waterfall at the tunnel's end.


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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."

"One of the guards was absentmindedly staring at the log you just stepped over and saw your shadow against it."

Not all natural 1s are something that you did.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The only issue I have with secret checks is that the system seems to assume that the players can actually see the number on the die roll. Rerolls don't really work otherwise. You see similar problems in 1e with rerolls from various sources--not just on the player side, but also things like the dual-cursed oracle's misfortune revelation.

Removing metagame-y knowledge is okay, but when the system assumes you not only have that metagame knowledge but that you're also expected to use it to make certain types of decisions, then you've got a conflict.


I don't think that having another roll for you takes any agency away. It's random; and if it is not, then someone is cheating.
Besides, it's cool to roll for your character, but sometimes it really doesn't make sense to know if you performed well or not.


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I'm really not a fan of secret checks, as a GM or player. That said, secret checks are fine with some groups. I just don't like that to be the default.

I would prefer that the game endeavor to put the PCs and GM on largely equal footing, mechanically. Assume that everyone at the table is a functional human and let them make their own rolls. Secret things are a bandaid to social interaction.

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