GM's: Do you do the secret rolls?


Advice

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Or do you let your players do their rolls to avoid arguments?


I do them secret, there haven't been many arguments. It's an adjustment, but it also means there aren't as many cases of players needing to ignore information they have because their characters don't know they rolled a nat 1. I usually need to remind them that they don't roll that check, but they haven't complained that they should roll and see the die.


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Depends. I like letting my players roll when it's reasonable (even when they might get info from the results), but sometimes I decide it's important enough to do it myself, or that it would really influence decisions they would have to make in character.

I actually like that they made this more clear what's secret and what's not, as when I do want to roll something myself, there's rules to back it up and I don't typically get complaints. That being said, some of the fun for the players is lost if they can't roll in the moment, in my opinion, so I try to let my players do it when possible.


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So far I've found secret rolls to be problematic in my group, as half the players hate them, and the other half loves them.

What's more, it's not immediately obvious what rolls should be secret, and more often then not, by the time somebody spots the SECRET tag, everyone has already rolled. :/


Already did, though not on Knowledge rolls. With the critical failure results of PF2, I would have done so. As a player, I appreciate not having to compartmentalize that meta-knowledge.

Like Tivadar, I appreciate that the rules back me up. Few players have had problems with it. Sometimes I would have a box they could roll into and not see the outcome. Thankfully, it was just a need to touch/control the dice, not gain the meta-knowledge, so each were okay with that.


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Castilliano wrote:
Sometimes I would have a box they could roll into and not see the outcome. Thankfully, it was just a need to touch/control the dice, not gain the meta-knowledge, so each were okay with that.

Hah. That's awesome.

At the very least, I like the concept of having the secret checks explicitly called out as secret. Even if the GM lets the players roll them and get the results, it means that the player should absolutely be role-playing the character without the meta-knowledge gained.

No one will have any logical ground to stand on when they get called out for using the result of the roll to influence their character's decisions.


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I love them, the only issue is that sometimes I forget, and that I don't have all of the player's bonuses in front of me, which I could remedy fairly easily


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The-Magic-Sword wrote:
I love them, the only issue is that sometimes I forget, and that I don't have all of the player's bonuses in front of me, which I could remedy fairly easily

I use this sheet

Skill Mods


Actually the one issue I've had is players saying "I roll knowledge" and then simply rolling. Then again.... this was an issue I had with PF1 as well :-P. I try to tell my tables to wait for me to *call* for a roll, but you know... that doesn't always stick.

Liberty's Edge

When I run PFS I do the secret rolls. When I run my home game I rarely bother with it.

Sovereign Court

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I do secret rolls and they have led to much mirth and merriment. If it is a skill everyone has I let them all roll and just tell them the conflicting information they have assembled rather than who knows it.

Smart players are declining the rolls when they have garbage modifiers and letting the skilled characters advise them.


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I've been using secret rolls, but not all the time. Like if everyone in the party declared they are going to search a room, I just tell them all to roll perception together. Or sometimes I just tell everyone to roll to see if someone notices something. It is easier on me that way.

But if a single person is making a roll? I'll often roll it myself so the party doesn't know if they should trust the info.


I don't do secret checks because I roll dice in the open anyways, so whether I'm rolling and not saying what it was for or the player is rolling the die, context makes it plenty clear what just got rolled.


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As many who have posted, I don't always use secret checks. Rarely, in fact. I also don't play behind a screen, so all my rolls for critters are out in the open.

When it seems really critical for the player not to know the result (like detecting for traps on a lock they're going to pick) I use one of two methods:
1) I make the roll behind my cupped hand, but leave the die so playerrs can see it later; or
2) I have the player roll their die towards me and I cover it with an opaque cup before they see what result they got. I peek, then leave the cup and die where they lie.

So there is no margin for "fudging" die rolls, or as other folks might call it, DM cheating.

Silver Crusade

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Given the crit succes/fail paradigm of PF2, I roll in secret everything where players can't be sure whether the result they get is true or false - knowledges, sense motive etc etc.

Anybody who has a problem with trusting me to be always fair with the rolls - which I am, except for the times where I cheat - gets the boot.

So far, nobody has gotten the boot on this count.


I really hate to roll my player's checks.
So, what I do when I want to make critical failures secret is using the critical failure die. As most critical failures happen on only one result on the d20 (natural 1, if the player is properly skilled), I secretly roll a d20 on my side, which is the critical failure value.
When a player announces me a result which is equal to the critical failure die or 20 more than it, I consider his roll to be a critical failure.

It makes critical failures absolutely invisible and very nasty as the player is g## d&%n sure he rolled high enough. So, it's very close to having someone g$# d+*n sure White Dragons are fire resistant.

Silver Crusade

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SuperBidi wrote:

I really hate to roll my player's checks.

So, what I do when I want to make critical failures secret is using the critical failure die. As most critical failures happen on only one result on the d20 (natural 1, if the player is properly skilled), I secretly roll a d20 on my side, which is the critical failure value.
When a player announces me a result which is equal to the critical failure die or 20 more than it, I consider his roll to be a critical failure.

It makes critical failures absolutely invisible and very nasty as the player is g@+ d$@n sure he rolled high enough. So, it's very close to having someone g@& d%+n sure White Dragons are fire resistant.

Turning people's 19 and 20s into critical failures just because you don't like to roll in secret sounds like something I'd walk away from.


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Gorbacz wrote:
Given the crit succes/fail paradigm of PF2, I roll in secret everything where players can't be sure whether the result they get is true or false - knowledges, sense motive etc etc.

How are you finding the “false information on a critical failure” mechanic?

To me it sounds like “let’s play a game where there’s no common language” or “let’s use hilarious critical fumble cards every time someone rolls a one” - ideas that sound like they’d be fun variants but end up being a royal pain in the bum.

For me, players researching backstory or plot is golden. I’d be really leery about introducing random disincentives to trust what they’ve learned.

Silver Crusade

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Given the crit succes/fail paradigm of PF2, I roll in secret everything where players can't be sure whether the result they get is true or false - knowledges, sense motive etc etc.

How are you finding the “false information on a critical failure” mechanic?

To me it sounds like “let’s play a game where there’s no common language” or “let’s use hilarious critical fumble cards every time someone rolls a one” - ideas that sound like they’d be fun variants but end up being a royal pain in the bum.

For me, players researching backstory or plot is golden. I’d be really leery about introducing random disincentives to trust what they’ve learned.

Look, I know you're kind of a different view on Pathfinder, but from my and my players' perspective it's a tactical wargame where players don't do research by poring over encrusted tomes prepared as props by the GM, they just roll Lore (basketweaving) and just as in real life you can goof that up by having read the wrong books or followed a teacher who was fundamentally incorrect, so can you goof it up in Pathfinder. In PF1 that wasn't an issue, because there was no crit fail/crit success on skills, but with PF2 things work differently. And the tension of whether the info the GM gives you is correct or incorrect is worth the secrecy. Sure, with a skill high enough you can be pretty sure that your info is correct or super correct, but there's always the element of uncertainty - even Nobel laureates have made mistakes while researching or reasoning, after all.

And in PF1, honestly, there was no way not to succeed at that, because the way character optimization worked you could stack your bonuses to a skill so high that you would autosuceed every time. Which is exciting for some people, but not for my players and not for me.


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I’m more into the story but not my players - they’re definitely from a wargame-with-a-bit-of-story school.

It’s pretty rare that they ever bother doing anything more than kicking in the door, killing all the monsters and then looking for a journal telling them where to go next. I’m over the moon when they get into the backstory or do some research. I’m worried that this will act to cut down even that.


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To be clear. I really like the four degrees of success nuance (even with lore skills, in theory). I’m just curious how it actually plays. I’ve been tricked into “try and make languages mean something” mirage before and this seems to come with a similar risk, to me.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In that case, you can slightly adjust the framework and assume, Gumshoe/Trail of Cthulhu style, that basic clues/information are obtained automatically, while rolling (representing researching, interviews or trying to remember what prof. Hoogle said during the lecture) is for more advanced knowledge - with the associated risk of fumbling it if you read a bogus book or misremembered the lecture.

So if you really want to paint some, say, Magnimar lore around, you can tell them the basics without having to roll (or just rolling some dice behind the screen to give the impression that there's some mechanics involved, they'll never know that there isn't) and if they ask for some details, like, what is the origin of Irespan or are there any dark cults in the town, you roll for reals - but then, the result matters and a crti fail will give them false info.

Silver Crusade

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Steve Geddes wrote:

How are you finding the “false information on a critical failure” mechanic?

...
For me, players researching backstory or plot is golden. I’d be really leery about introducing random disincentives to trust what they’ve learned.

(Not the one the question was pointed at, but here's my point of view nonetheless)

I'm on the fence... If my player's were to recall knowledge on a fire giant and get a crit fail, would a "they have a minor resistance to acid, they don't feel the burn" be okay?

It strikes me as something the characters (if not the players) can believe and it's not too out there. Characters working off that misleading info might still use acid attacks.

In the end (much like secret rolls) it falls down to the GM knowing their players.

Silver Crusade

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Franz Lunzer wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:

How are you finding the “false information on a critical failure” mechanic?

...
For me, players researching backstory or plot is golden. I’d be really leery about introducing random disincentives to trust what they’ve learned.

(Not the one the question was pointed at, but here's my point of view nonetheless)

I'm on the fence... If my player's were to recall knowledge on a fire giant and get a crit fail, would a "they have a minor resistance to acid, they don't feel the burn" be okay?

It strikes me as something the characters (if not the players) can believe and it's not too out there. Characters working off that misleading info might still use acid attacks.

In the end (much like secret rolls) it falls down to the GM knowing their players.

"Fire giants greatly fear magical cold. A frost spell will likely send them running for the hills."

A-ha! Vile flame hulk, taste the heightened snowball!

*plonk*

Errr ... you were supposed to flee in terror? WAIT I DIDN'T CAST MIRROR IMAGE YE*thunk* dying 1...

Sovereign Court

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Franz Lunzer wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:

How are you finding the “false information on a critical failure” mechanic?

...
For me, players researching backstory or plot is golden. I’d be really leery about introducing random disincentives to trust what they’ve learned.

(Not the one the question was pointed at, but here's my point of view nonetheless)

I'm on the fence... If my player's were to recall knowledge on a fire giant and get a crit fail, would a "they have a minor resistance to acid, they don't feel the burn" be okay?

It strikes me as something the characters (if not the players) can believe and it's not too out there. Characters working off that misleading info might still use acid attacks.

In the end (much like secret rolls) it falls down to the GM knowing their players.

Suppose you have an ooze that splits into two (bad!) when attacked with piercing or slashing weapons, and that does a bit of acid damage to wooden and metal weapons. The party does have wooden clubs though.

Critfail could even be the truth, but incomplete, and sets you on the wrong path: "Attacking this ooze with wooden weapons can damage and possibly destroy them".

Even if someone else does succeed at the roll and knows they shouldn't use piercing/slashing, now the party will be agonizing over whether to risk their clubs. And the bad information sounds plausible because it's true, just misleading.


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Gorbacz wrote:

In that case, you can slightly adjust the framework and assume, Gumshoe/Trail of Cthulhu style, that basic clues/information are obtained automatically, while rolling (representing researching, interviews or trying to remember what prof. Hoogle said during the lecture) is for more advanced knowledge - with the associated risk of fumbling it if you read a bogus book or misremembered the lecture.

So if you really want to paint some, say, Magnimar lore around, you can tell them the basics without having to roll (or just rolling some dice behind the screen to give the impression that there's some mechanics involved, they'll never know that there isn't) and if they ask for some details, like, what is the origin of Irespan or are there any dark cults in the town, you roll for reals - but then, the result matters and a crti fail will give them false info.

Cheers. I think I might also treat a critical fail as giving some of the “easy stuff” in addition to the wrong information. I can always just drop it if it annoys them too much.


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Franz Lunzer wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:

How are you finding the “false information on a critical failure” mechanic?

...
For me, players researching backstory or plot is golden. I’d be really leery about introducing random disincentives to trust what they’ve learned.

(Not the one the question was pointed at, but here's my point of view nonetheless)

I'm on the fence... If my player's were to recall knowledge on a fire giant and get a crit fail, would a "they have a minor resistance to acid, they don't feel the burn" be okay?

It strikes me as something the characters (if not the players) can believe and it's not too out there. Characters working off that misleading info might still use acid attacks.

In the end (much like secret rolls) it falls down to the GM knowing their players.

Yeah, I like the idea. I’m just worried that it’s another of those “realistic but frustrating” mechanics.

I think a way to occasionally get false or misleading rumours into the game naturally is a good thing in principle.


False knowledge doesn't have to be frustrating for the players.

So long as they aren't being forced to do completely ineffective things because a roll went badly, the things they get wrong can actually enhance the fun of an encounter. For example, if a creature is immune or heavily resistant to a damage type and the false info is that using that damage type is the best thing to do, that's going to be frustrating - especially if accompanied by the ridiculous thought process of "you have to act on that info or else you are meta-gaming" forcing one failure to turn into more failures.

If instead the false info leads to engaging with a unique trait of the creature, or using something only slightly less effective (like the kind of thing where a player might choose to use it even if they knew the right details because that choice -5 or so points of damage seems preferable to them over a choice of something else and not a penalty), or the information just serves as an injection of humor (not at the party's expense, I mean), then you're on what I believe is the intended path of there being false knowledge results included.

I also think giving false information that can't be acted on at the moment is a good way to resolve this. For example, say a character Recalled Knowledge about an ooze and got a false result. If there were no large quantities of salt nearby to try and use, I might say "A heavy dose of salt is instantly fatal to this kind of creature." There can be some role-play built off that, and the information has plenty of opportunity to be corrected naturally before the player ever actually tries dumping a bag of salt on an ooze. And it's not that frustrating for the player because all that happened was their character momentarily confused oozes for slugs.


I Use secret rolls quite often in my online games and it was mostly positive experience and some critical fails on recall knowledge had already lead to some interesting consequences. So yeah - I like them, and most of my players do as well.


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As a player and GM I actually prefer the rolls be done in secret.

In my opinion, the rolls marked secret should have always been rolled by the GM, now we simply have rules that outright say it.

Presumably, some players are very salty about it.


The only time I've ever seen any player "salty" about a secret roll it was because the GM was using the roll being secret as an excuse to be a garbage GM. And while I'm sure some people do like the idea of not having secret rolls be a thing so that garbage GMs aren't able to try to hide behind them... I do not believe there is anyone actually mad that the rule book included secret checks as a thing.

So maybe don't try to make the discussion into a fight?


Our GM started doing secret rolls then almost quit as he disliked the idea of either memorizing (our having a copy of) our character sheets / profiles and/or using the question "what's your modifier on skill xyz" all over.

And while we are at it, how do you handle knowledge checks using skills that don't apply, e.g. if somebody is using recall knowledge on undead using nature? Some basic information (no natural beings), automatic failure or can it get even worse?


Ubertron_X wrote:
And while we are at it, how do you handle knowledge checks using skills that don't apply, e.g. if somebody is using recall knowledge on undead using nature? Some basic information (no natural beings), automatic failure or can it get even worse?

Players shouldn't be saying "I'm rolling X skill", especially in this circumstance. They should be saying what they are trying to do and letting the GM call for, make, or deny (if for whatever reason that's what they want to do) a check.

So at my table at least, someone saying "I'm going to Recall Knowledge about these creatures" is going to get told which skill(s) to roll... which I guess is still Religion in the case of undead because "reasons"

Sovereign Court

I think now that creature type is less all-informative (undead aren't by default immune to mind-affecting etc.), it's less of a big deal to tell players the creature type, at least if the monster isn't disguised. This matches well with Recall Knowledge costing an action, giving only 1-2 pieces of information, and critical failures being bad. It gives players enough information to decide whether they want to Recall Knowledge.

I made MtG-sized cards listing players' secret skill scores, and since both perception and stealth are on them, I can easily also use them for initiative order. I add a couple of cards ("boss", "lieutenant", "mooks", "environment", "allies") and I can just cycle through that pile to do combat turn order.

It takes a little bit of preparation, but afterwards it really speeds things up.


thenobledrake wrote:

The only time I've ever seen any player "salty" about a secret roll it was because the GM was using the roll being secret as an excuse to be a garbage GM. And while I'm sure some people do like the idea of not having secret rolls be a thing so that garbage GMs aren't able to try to hide behind them... I do not believe there is anyone actually mad that the rule book included secret checks as a thing.

So maybe don't try to make the discussion into a fight?

It's not a fight. Some people being very salty is just an observation.

I'm salty about other things regarding PF2, just not this particular issue. I'm still giving the game a second chance despite not being a fan during the play test, but this topic of secret rolls isn't the source of my ire.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I would also point out that there isn't always only one applicable knowledge check, so it definitely works to allow alternate skills, but only give information appropriate to them (like allowing a nature roll on an undead animsl, but only giving information abut animal abilities, not about undead/supernatural abilities on success).


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Both. My players roll 20d20 and record the results on a sheet that I keep. Also on this sheet are their modifiers for things like stealth, perception, etc. I refer to this sheet when a secret roll is called for and tell them the result. I then cross off the die roll used and use the next number in line for the next secret roll. They record their numbers in two columns of ten and I roll a d4 for each player to determine which column I start with and whether it goes up or down, so the players don't know which of their rolls will come up first if they happened to memorize their first few rolls. One player is really into secret rolls and asked me to roll the 20d20 for him and record them to better align his character knowledge and his player knowledge.

One nice thing about using the system this way is that I can make a secret roll against one of their skills without their knowledge that a check is even happening, such as when they approach a hazard, so that they are not tipped off that something may be about to happen.

You can see what the sheet looks like here.


Fumarole wrote:
One nice thing about using the system this way is that I can make a secret roll against one of their skills without their knowledge that a check is even happening, such as when they approach a hazard, so that they are not tipped off that something may be about to happen.

How do you handle conditional and temporal bonuses (and penalties)?

It's always what annoys me (as a player) with secret checks. I have to remind the GM all bonuses and penalties I have. And if he does them completely secretly, I'm certainly screwed of a part of them.


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SuperBidi wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
One nice thing about using the system this way is that I can make a secret roll against one of their skills without their knowledge that a check is even happening, such as when they approach a hazard, so that they are not tipped off that something may be about to happen.

How do you handle conditional and temporal bonuses (and penalties)?

It's always what annoys me (as a player) with secret checks. I have to remind the GM all bonuses and penalties I have. And if he does them completely secretly, I'm certainly screwed of a part of them.

This hasn't come up yet in my game but I imagine I could write such bonuses/penalties down on the same sheet as they occur and cross them off as they expire.


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After messing up and letting my players roll all the secret checks in our first Second Edition game, this weekend I talked to them about secret checks and enforced them to the best of my ability.

When the PCs attempted to identify a coat of arms with Recall Knowledge (Society) to determine if it was the one they came for, the only person to succeed happened to be the party druid, who also happened to be the only person in the party who wasn't trained in Society.

Being a largely chaotic lot, I ended up explaining it away as none of them having paid any attention to their benefactor when he showed them an illustration of the coat of arms--except for the druid who who was incensed at the dead tree being thrust into his face. XD

Not a great start for winning them over to a secret roll system. Watcha gonna do?

Grand Lodge

I have the players roll 5 times secretly (in a dice tower behind my GM screen), and I write down what they roll for when I need their results. :)


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Varun Creed wrote:
I have the players roll 5 times secretly (in a dice tower behind my GM screen), and I write down what they roll for when I need their results. :)

That's an interesting idea. Though I've heard of players gaming that system. If you can remember that you 4th roll was 20, you might make a take a useless Seek action on your third roll just so the real secret check you want to succeed is that natural 20.


Ravingdork wrote:
Varun Creed wrote:
I have the players roll 5 times secretly (in a dice tower behind my GM screen), and I write down what they roll for when I need their results. :)
That's an interesting idea. Though I've heard of players gaming that system. If you can remember that you 4th roll was 20, you might make a take a useless Seek action on your third roll just so the real secret check you want to succeed is that natural 20.

I'm honestly not a big fan of this. Yeah, it lets the player roll, but for me, rolling in the moment is a big part of the excitement of the game, even if it is the GM doing it. Obviously to each their own, but I'd rather hear the clink of the dice when my fate is being decided :).


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SuperBidi wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
One nice thing about using the system this way is that I can make a secret roll against one of their skills without their knowledge that a check is even happening, such as when they approach a hazard, so that they are not tipped off that something may be about to happen.

How do you handle conditional and temporal bonuses (and penalties)?

It's always what annoys me (as a player) with secret checks. I have to remind the GM all bonuses and penalties I have. And if he does them completely secretly, I'm certainly screwed of a part of them.

I give people a card to write down special bonuses and penalties, along with base modifiers for the skills most likely to have a reason to bother with secret rolls, and paperclip them to the top of my screen so I won't forget them.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I have no experience from the other side of the screen, but so far as a player I love the secret rolls. I am a real big fan of the sort of fog of war it creates where you have to work on uncertain information. It just feels more real to me.

Sovereign Court

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I consider the whole "roll me dice that I'll then secretly interpret for you", either with prerolling or with some kind of obfuscated dice tower, to be verging on superstition. I'm not a fan.

Just say "I want to recall knowledge on the shambling corpse" and I'll look up your skill on your initiative card, roll, and tell you what you think you know.

Sovereign Court

SuperBidi wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
One nice thing about using the system this way is that I can make a secret roll against one of their skills without their knowledge that a check is even happening, such as when they approach a hazard, so that they are not tipped off that something may be about to happen.

How do you handle conditional and temporal bonuses (and penalties)?

It's always what annoys me (as a player) with secret checks. I have to remind the GM all bonuses and penalties I have. And if he does them completely secretly, I'm certainly screwed of a part of them.

It seems there aren't as many of these. I rather hope it stays that way, but probably writers can't resist the urge to fill books with circumstantial crunch.


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Ravingdork wrote:
Varun Creed wrote:
I have the players roll 5 times secretly (in a dice tower behind my GM screen), and I write down what they roll for when I need their results. :)
That's an interesting idea. Though I've heard of players gaming that system. If you can remember that you 4th roll was 20, you might make a take a useless Seek action on your third roll just so the real secret check you want to succeed is that natural 20.

See my method above for how to remedy this.


Ravingdork wrote:

After messing up and letting my players roll all the secret checks in our first Second Edition game, this weekend I talked to them about secret checks and enforced them to the best of my ability.

When the PCs attempted to identify a coat of arms with Recall Knowledge (Society) to determine if it was the one they came for, the only person to succeed happened to be the party druid, who also happened to be the only person in the party who wasn't trained in Society.

Being a largely chaotic lot, I ended up explaining it away as none of them having paid any attention to their benefactor when he showed them an illustration of the coat of arms--except for the druid who who was incensed at the dead tree being thrust into his face. XD

Not a great start for winning them over to a secret roll system. Watcha gonna do?

I'd point out to your players that this has nothing to do with secret checks and everything to do with the variance of the d20. They could have all made their own rolls and gotten exactly the same results, and still had to justify why the druid got it in fiction.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
SuperBidi wrote:
I really hate to roll my player's checks.

well, you can always roll a traps hide check against their perception DC if that makes you feel better. :P

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