GM Burden in PF2e - the secret checks


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


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Pathfinder 2e has so far for us been the best system we have played in the d20 family, at least for our table. To GM it is a pleasure amd improvement from 1e.

HOWEVER
Pathfinder 2e is chock full of secret checks the Gm is supposed to do. There are Stealth, Diplomacy, Illusions, all sorts of other saves...and I feel they are many more than before.

Why is this a problem (for me)?
I am already juggling a lot of variables as a GM. Specially in combat. In the past, sure, the gm always rolled secret and at some point in ancient times of dnd the players didnt really roll much at all. But it hasnt quite been like that for Pathfinder 1, and the players rolling for almost everything is a hard to break habbit. I'll go over some of the issues I am facing...

Available information:
Just how many stats of my players does this system want me to track?
I feel like I should have my players character sheets at the ready every game, but I dont think this is feasable for everyone.
We play at a table, some with paper sheets some with mobile apps and some with computers. I have a computer, the rules book and a sketch pad for quick clarifications and some fast map drawing.

Time:
This adds a lot of time to the GM side. I feel PF2e has done well in smoothing the load, except with these. Now the GM has to ask the player what their X stat is, then roll it, and compare it to his own notes. Or bring up the player sheet from whereever (if you arent juggling books, papers and search tabs simultaneously I'd like to know how you do it) and go find that.
This just adds constantly little pauses, which are not helping smooth the game.

Elegant solutions and inmersion
Why secret checks are called for is obvious; suspension of disbelief, it helps the inmersion by hiding the numbers between an unknown screen, keeping the meta peeking its head into the game a bit longer.
However as much as the theory works in practice this is not elegant, adding extra steps to the GM procedures. The GM is already the bottle neck of the session - why cram that even more?

Perhaps they should have designed is a computer simulation to go with the game. A lightweight app on brand of Paizo with character sheets and a link to GM profile that would allow us to focus on the interactions and not the little numbers (which has been the trend jumping from pf1 to pf2)

In short, I am struggling as a GM to implement secret checks. I can:
- Hand wave it and not do them, having akward situations with stealth, illusions, poisons, etc and breaking inmersion just a little more.
- Do a mix, do a secret check for when I consider it is called, say a Dominate. But then I have to ask "what is your will save, with any modifiers to "enchantment"? Breaking inmersion with a 2 tonne jackhammer.
- Do secret checks. Ask every player to write their numbers in a quicksheet I provide at the start of the session (dont play VTT but I can see that it works better there). I feel like this is adding unnecessary and tension killing pauses to an already challenging hobby attention-span wise.

So please, tell me what is it you do, how do you get around this or what is your prefered solution? And what do you think about this emphasis on secret rolls, or how they could have been implemented more robustly.

And do you think Paizo should have considered making a rules software with data entry to go with the edition?


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During the Playtest, I was hugely against the Secret tag in all forms. For the sake of testing, however, I didn't handwave it or ignore it, but ran it as written. I got to spend a lot of time pre-launch getting used to more frequent secret checks.

We're more than a year in to the full release now and I haven't even noticed the "extra book keeping." It just comes naturally, at this point. I also thought that these would interrupt my game significantly, but they don't in the least. My advice is, if you feel like they're impacting your play, I feel like the best options are simply:

1) Hand wave it and ignore it.

2) Use it until it becomes second-nature. It really shouldn't take that long, honestly. Two or three sessions was enough to break me out of old PF1 habits.

I do also keep PC stats on my side of the screen, but I tend to know my groups' stats better than themselves. That's more of a quirk of mine and I don't think any GM should be expected to know their PCs stats off-hand.


I am happy to hear that it has become a fast habit for you, some hope there then.
I have not focused on character creation since we only started playing 2e recently, and have had to focus my time on learning other aspects.
For me I am finding that I do need to add time to do the secret checks - but also because I havent gone out to have the player's stats before me.
I dont particularly like doing it either, there is a good understanding that I dont need to double check their work, but this is a minor thing and I might try the filling a small spreadsheet.

I also feel that Secret rolls do take a lot of rolling away from players. This one is a mixed one, because it is purely psychological - but players LIKE rolling, and it is indeed exciting. Having the GM roll everything makes me feel like im humouring myself more than sharing the experience.

So, what stats would you reccomend to have the players fill out? The fewer, the better, as the more I have the slower it will make me.


I would say it depends on the players. I have a group that can't go through combat without Recall Knowledge, so I keep all the skills on hand.

Beyond that, really Perception is the only one you'd actually need. If a player says, "I'd like to Hide," I don't think it's immersion breaking to say, "What's your Stealth bonus?" and the rolling it. Same for Recall Knowledge/Diplomacy skills. Perception stands out because of traps, to me. Walking into a room and asking the players what their proficiency and bonus to Perception is can definitely ruin the atmosphere when you announce "The room seems perfectly fine."


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For me Secret checks are an absolute must for any roll whose result isn't obvious to the actor in question. Even the best of players struggle to keep player knowledge and character knowledge separate especially when you roll a 5 on something. Thats why they exist, to let you tell a horror story where the player doesn't know if they've been spotted or not, to let false leads from a poor research roll send the party on an amusing wild goose chase etc.

I run on VTT mostly now. I have a little GM bot whom has all the players relevant secret skills assigned. I don't have to look anything up, I just click the Stealth button and it gives me a result for each character. This actually saves time in the long run (one button press gives me 4 stealth results when the players are advancing quietly as a group) or one button press gives me all their perception results to see if they've noticed that hidden book (and oh boy this is one that players find really hard to not meta game if they know they've failed.)

In the real life I just have a small table on a bit of paper with folks skills. Just like I have with their AC and Save DCs so I don't have to slow the game down with constant "Is a 33 a hit or crit?" I have the entries colour coded and have 4 different coloured D20s so I can roll all of them at once and save time and effort that way too.


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I personally ignore most Secret checks and tell the player to roll them. I don't like Secret checks, but the way it is written, you can do whatever you want. So, I can hardly criticize the rules on this point, they give me complete freedom.


Nearly all (maybe all?) Secret checks were ones that I'd done in secret already (and through many RPGs) so I appreciate the tag to forewarn the players. I only had a few players complain, most immediately understood that yeah, their PC wouldn't know and as MC noted, it does help them not metagame.
Even in PFS I'd found it little trouble to collect what I needed beforehand on a paper I'd pass around. Before PF2, I'd sometimes use a box which hid the results for those players that wanted to do such rolls themselves.

And I find me doing the Secret rolls speeds up gameplay a whole lot since I can roll in a batch and process much faster than checking in with each player individually for what's often a minor event.

The two players that stuck to their complaints had enough issues between them. I haven't GMed a campaign with them together. Thankfully since each had more problems than all others at their tables combined. That has made Secret rolls a good indicator of player compatibility: If the player doesn't understand the purpose of why a GM should perhaps be rolling these, maybe their play style wouldn't mesh with my GM style.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I've used initiative cards since PF1. They contain a brief rundown of saves and skills for each character. Then I print out a page of random d20 rolls for players from Excel. Add the number on the card to the number on the sheet. Line through so that I know it's been used. It takes some prep work, but it goes fast in the moment.

Similarly I pre-print a list of NPC names with a few blank lines next to each one. That way if they suddenly want to get cozy with NPCs that I had expected to be window dressing, they can be incorporated straight in to the story.

With Roll 20 and COVID, I find it easier to do the secret rolls because I just click on their sheet.


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I mainly run on Fantasy Grounds, which makes it trivial to have the PC roll a secret check that only the GM can see (there's a dice tower on screen they can drop their virtual dice into). As a result when running there I tend to use secret checks extensively -- the player still feels like they're doing something even if they can't see the result.

When I run on roll20, however, and don't have that easy option/players don't have gmrolls set up, I tend to let the players roll ~70-80% of the secret checks. Normally I'll ask for a modifier for checks where players are bad about meta knowledge -- stealth checks (especially out of combat ones), perception checks (if the party doesn't use them often .... if they roll one in every room/area there's enough true negatives that I feel the don't metagame), in a PFS setting any of the during briefing checks.

Most of the rest -- recall knowledge's, stealth in combat, object identification, etc -- I haven't had problems with people metagaming when they got bad results.

Liberty's Edge

Even in PF1 I always had an excel sheet on my computer where I put all important values (Skills, saves, HP) for PCs and key NPCs and where I noted relevant things for later use.

So, basically no change for me.

Grand Lodge

I find that most players cannot help themselves but act with meta knowledge, so I like the secret checks to limit that. Playing online with Roll20 makes secret checks especially easy with a rebuilt macro. All you have to do is select the PCs token, select the skill from a drop down list and it rolls the check in secret. If/when I ever go back to live gaming, I think secret checks will be much more distracting since I'll either have to keep a huge list of modifiers for all the players or I'll have to interrupt the action to ask for them. Neither is pleasing thought.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Errant, do you keep a computer on hand when you play? Even you don't use VTTs to game having one on hand could be used for secret checks and checking PC feats and spells quickly.

I've found that some groups need secret checks and some don't. Metagaming (intentionally or not) can be hard to avoid, but there are players who can do so.

Exploration mode can be helpful if you let your players declare what they are doing when they enter it, roll a relevant check, and let it carry forward until it actually matters. The perception check you rolled 10 minutes ago might wind up being your initiative check or it might wind up being a check to spot a trap. This is more efficient then having the players declare everytime they want to search for traps and doing pointless rolls. You just assume they were looking and if they fail to spot it they wander into it.

The only thing they are bad for is searching for treasure or hidden doors or the like. Because asking for a new roll signals they missed something. But you can control for that a bit by just delaying when you ask for the next roll. And these checks are falling out of fashion anyway. You can save time by assuming they find the thing rather than having multiple checks against a really low DC.

That mostly leave Recall Knowledge checks, can usually be done by just asking the player for their relevant bonus and rolling it. Or just ditch the secret tag if you struggle with coming up false information on a critical failure. That itself can be a struggle and enabling rhem is really the only reason recall knowledge is secret.


Keeping vital stats handy, on an index card or in a spreadsheet on the side in a VTT, is fairly common and useful practice. If you’re feeling a disconnect between GM and players when making checks alone, just ask a player to toss a d20 for the group and add the modifier yourself and keep the why a secret. You can alternate making those checks impactful or not impactful if you’re worried they’re catching on


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Liegence wrote:
Keeping vital stats handy, on an index card or in a spreadsheet on the side in a VTT, is fairly common and useful practice. If you’re feeling a disconnect between GM and players when making checks alone, just ask a player to toss a d20 for the group and add the modifier yourself and keep the why a secret. You can alternate making those checks impactful or not impactful if you’re worried they’re catching on

Ugh, I don't like being told to roll dice at random without context. That's a pet peeve.


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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I have the players roll 20d20 each time they level up and write the results on a sheet that also has space for their relevant skill modifiers (stealth, perception, etc.). I then refer to it in game as necessary. It works quite well and the players do not even know when I am using them most of the time.

To prevent possible gaming the system (not that my players would do it intentionally) I put them in two columns of ten and randomly determine which column to start with for each player and whether I go up or down the list.

The bottom of the list also has a list of the checks that could possibly be secret checks, to remind both them and me lest I forget.

You can see what it looks like here.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Another option to consider is looking for ways to offload some of your GM load in other ways, to make more room for secret checks, though its hard to make recommendations with that because I don't know what your other GMing pain points are-- for me, VTT automation is a big help, as is pre-prepared maps, and adversary rosters I can drop in at will.

Liberty's Edge

TwilightKnight wrote:
I find that most players cannot help themselves but act with meta knowledge, so I like the secret checks to limit that. Playing online with Roll20 makes secret checks especially easy with a rebuilt macro. All you have to do is select the PCs token, select the skill from a drop down list and it rolls the check in secret. If/when I ever go back to live gaming, I think secret checks will be much more distracting since I'll either have to keep a huge list of modifiers for all the players or I'll have to interrupt the action to ask for them. Neither is pleasing thought.

Or you will have their sheets on roll20 on your computer while being in the same room. Best of both worlds. I feel we are on the way to true "augmented" TTRPGs.


Fumarole wrote:

I have the players roll 20d20 each time they level up and write the results on a sheet that also has space for their relevant skill modifiers (stealth, perception, etc.). I then refer to it in game as necessary. It works quite well and the players do not even know when I am using them most of the time.

To prevent possible gaming the system (not that my players would do it intentionally) I put them in two columns of ten and randomly determine which column to start with for each player and whether I go up or down the list.

The bottom of the list also has a list of the checks that could possibly be secret checks, to remind both them and me lest I forget.

You can see what it looks like here.

I tried something like this in the past - instead of d20s each level, at the start of game I had each player roll 3d20 and I’d jot the result down for each player and reference it for secret checks or incoming saves where players were not immediately aware. It actually worked pretty well but I found there just typically weren’t that many secret checks needed. Some players would even take those results and use them to play their character accordingly - were they sharp and focused or lazy or agitate just as a general mood.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber
NielsenE wrote:

I mainly run on Fantasy Grounds, which makes it trivial to have the PC roll a secret check that only the GM can see (there's a dice tower on screen they can drop their virtual dice into). As a result when running there I tend to use secret checks extensively -- the player still feels like they're doing something even if they can't see the result.

When I run on roll20, however, and don't have that easy option/players don't have gmrolls set up, I tend to let the players roll ~70-80% of the secret checks. Normally I'll ask for a modifier for checks where players are bad about meta knowledge -- stealth checks (especially out of combat ones), perception checks (if the party doesn't use them often .... if they roll one in every room/area there's enough true negatives that I feel the don't metagame), in a PFS setting any of the during briefing checks.

I did secret checks less than I should because it slowed everything down with me having to track/find their modifiers. Then we switched from Roll20 to Foundry and among the MANY things I love about the VTT is that it makes secret rolls a) super easy & fast, and b) something the player does rather than me. Now I use secret checks a lot, and my whole group agrees that it adds a lot of fun to the game. When we're back in person, I like Fumarole's system (though we may also stay with Foundry even in person... it's that good).


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Liegence wrote:
Keeping vital stats handy, on an index card or in a spreadsheet on the side in a VTT, is fairly common and useful practice.

Would have to he a spreadsheet or something. Since stats all change at least by +1 every level. And sometimes by +3 if a proficiency marker was gained. Yikes. Making new cards by hand every level would be a nightmare.

Sovereign Court

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In roll20 when I'm GMing, I just wrote a small macro that lets me select a token and roll a secret skill check for it. Works quite easy if people have their character sheets filled out, and at least for 2E, using the character sheet is the path of least resistance for the vast majority of players. So no problem there.

In real life, I made people fill out a small card with their initiative bonuses, special senses I might need to remember, and skill bonuses for secret stuff. I used the cards as initiative deck and when I need to look up something for a secret check, which streamlines most of the lookup process.

That said, sometimes I just don't care and let people roll openly. But these little innovations made it painless enough for me.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I took similar approaches to Ascalaphus both online and offline, except that offline, I paperclip the index cards of modifiers for things that are commonly secret rolls along my GM screen,so that each list of numbers is sitting there in roughly the same part of my visual arc as the player that it goes with.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Errant, do you keep a computer on hand when you play? Even you don't use VTTs to game having one on hand could be used for secret checks and checking PC feats and spells quickly....

I do, but I rely more on a note pad. I'm a very quick sketcher and I use the screen on the side. I will try the having their stats written out before the session.

We are not sticklers for many rules (like search rules, identify magic item rules..these are secondary, we like to get to the point of things)
Lately I've been finding that Recall Knowledge is failing them too often, bad luck or biased observation, so a secret check instead might allow me to curate that experience better. We also dont use a GM screen but nobody peers at anyone's die unless they make a point of rolling it mid table for tension.

@Twilightknight I do love the fact that the secret tag is there in so many things - gives the GM the final decision and tailors to different groups. Just the juggling the extra bottlenecking that I wonder about.


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The Raven Black wrote:


Or you will have their sheets on roll20 on your computer while being in the same room. Best of both worlds. I feel we are on the way to true "augmented" TTRPGs.

Here's the issue: everyone is using a different medium, and we like it that way. Paper, phone app, computer. I will not use a spreadsheet during the games, I get enough of that dosage elsewhere.

Not trying to be difficult, just that there are some elements that clash when meshing old and new school rpg, and each group is ideosyncratic.

This is why I asked, shouldnt have Paizo come up with a good structured software to encourage unification? The 5e character sheet is amazing. I am hoping Paizo partner up with some of the amazing app creators further.

Apart, I like the "players roll some d20s and you use those for secret rolls during the session". Those rolls are their characters, and there is an intangibility to that needing to be their role, not mine. So this might help, though I may have to switch these around or drop some, these fellows have good memories and I want them to not be able to predict.

@Ascalphus, the wise-and-scowly owl, you mentioned cards as initiative, which is a fun concept, but do you also use secret rolls for their initiative? That might be a rather interesting way to amp tension sometimes.


Core Rulebook has you covered!

Secret Checks
"The GM can choose to make any check secret, even if it’s not usually rolled secretly. Conversely, the GM can let you roll any check yourself, even if that check would usually be secret. Some groups find it simpler to have players roll all secret checks and just try to avoid acting on any out-of-character knowledge, while others enjoy the mystery."

...

Personally, I am typically a fan of "This is a Secret Check - Role Play the Outcome", but will sometimes roll actual Secret Checks Behind the Screen/Screen. As you mentioned, often "pacing" is a big factor in this decision.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Personally, as DM I only roll secret checks when it is clearly important that the players not know if or how well the succeeded.

Even then, I find that it helps matters greatly if I note in advance all the important bonuses of the PCs, so I don't have to stop action to ask what their bonus is with a given skill.

Secret checks are something extra for the DM to track. The OP is right about that. But after a while, it becomes second nature. Just use the secret aspect if and when it's really important, and let the players roll when it isn't.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Here are some of the macros I've made to handle secret checks in Roll20. The first is simple: Just click on the token, run the macro, select the appropriate skill to roll from the dropdown. The second does the same thing, but doesn't require selecting a token, and rolls for the whole party. The 2nd macro will require you to replace the "NAME#" placeholders with your party's respective PC names.

Also, I'm afraid I haven't had much luck incorporating Lore skills into these just yet.

Secret Check - Individual:

?{What is @{selected|token_name} rolling?|
Perception,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Perception Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|perception}]]|
Fortitude Save,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Fortitude Save: [[1d20 + @{selected|saving_throws_fortitude}]]|
Reflex Save,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Reflex Save: [[1d20 + @{selected|saving_throws_reflex}]]|
Will Save,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Will Save: [[1d20 + @{selected|saving_throws_will}]]|
Acrobatics,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Acrobatics Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|acrobatics}]]|
Arcana,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Arcana Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|arcana}]]|
Athletics,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Athletics Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|athletics}]]|
Crafting,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Crafting Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|crafting}]]|
Deception,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Deception Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|deception}]]|
Diplomacy,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Diplomacy Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|diplomacy}]]|
Intimidation,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Intimidation Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|intimidation}]]|
Medicine,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Medicine Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|medicine}]]|
Nature,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Nature Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|nature}]]|
Occultism,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Occultism Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|occultism}]]|
Performance,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Performance Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|performance}]]|
Religion,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Religion Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|religion}]]|
Society,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Society Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|society}]]|
Stealth,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Stealth Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|stealth}]]|
Survival,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Survival Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|survival}]]|
Thievery,
/w GM @{selected|token_name} secretly rolls a Thievery Check: [[1d20 + @{selected|thievery}]]}

Secret Checks - Whole Party:

?{What is everybody rolling?|
Perception,
/w GM NAME1's Perception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|perception}]]
/w GM NAME2's Perception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|perception}]]
/w GM NAME3's Perception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|perception}]]
/w GM NAME4's Perception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|perception}]]|
Fortitude Save,
/w GM NAME1's Fort Save [[1d20 + @{NAME1|saving_throws_fortitude}]]
/w GM NAME2's Fort Save [[1d20 + @{NAME2|saving_throws_fortitude}]]
/w GM NAME3's Fort Save [[1d20 + @{NAME3|saving_throws_fortitude}]]
/w GM NAME4's Fort Save [[1d20 + @{NAME4|saving_throws_fortitude}]]|
Reflex Save,
/w GM NAME1's Reflex Save [[1d20 + @{NAME1|saving_throws_reflex}]]
/w GM NAME2's Reflex Save [[1d20 + @{NAME2|saving_throws_reflex}]]
/w GM NAME3's Reflex Save [[1d20 + @{NAME3|saving_throws_reflex}]]
/w GM NAME4's Reflex Save [[1d20 + @{NAME4|saving_throws_reflex}]]|
Will Save,
/w GM NAME1's Will Save [[1d20 + @{NAME1|saving_throws_will}]]
/w GM NAME2's Will Save [[1d20 + @{NAME2|saving_throws_will}]]
/w GM NAME3's Will Save [[1d20 + @{NAME3|saving_throws_will}]]
/w GM NAME4's Will Save [[1d20 + @{NAME4|saving_throws_will}]]|
Acrobatics,
/w GM NAME1's Acrobatics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|acrobatics}]]
/w GM NAME2's Acrobatics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|acrobatics}]]
/w GM NAME3's Acrobatics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|acrobatics}]]
/w GM NAME4's Acrobatics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|acrobatics}]]|
Arcana,
/w GM NAME1's Arcana Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|arcana}]]
/w GM NAME2's Arcana Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|arcana}]]
/w GM NAME3's Arcana Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|arcana}]]
/w GM NAME4's Arcana Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|arcana}]]|
Athletics,
/w GM NAME1's Athletics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|athletics}]]
/w GM NAME2's Athletics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|athletics}]]
/w GM NAME3's Athletics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|athletics}]]
/w GM NAME4's Athletics Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|athletics}]]|
Crafting,
/w GM NAME1's Crafting Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|crafting}]]
/w GM NAME2's Crafting Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|crafting}]]
/w GM NAME3's Crafting Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|crafting}]]
/w GM NAME4's Crafting Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|crafting}]]|
Deception,
/w GM NAME1's Deception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|deception}]]
/w GM NAME2's Deception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|deception}]]
/w GM NAME3's Deception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|deception}]]
/w GM NAME4's Deception Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|deception}]]|
Diplomacy,
/w GM NAME1's Diplomacy Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|diplomacy}]]
/w GM NAME2's Diplomacy Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|diplomacy}]]
/w GM NAME3's Diplomacy Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|diplomacy}]]
/w GM NAME4's Diplomacy Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|diplomacy}]]|
Intimidation,
/w GM NAME1's Intimidation Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|intimidation}]]
/w GM NAME2's Intimidation Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|intimidation}]]
/w GM NAME3's Intimidation Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|intimidation}]]
/w GM NAME4's Intimidation Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|intimidation}]]|
Medicine,
/w GM NAME1's Medicine Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|medicine}]]
/w GM NAME2's Medicine Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|medicine}]]
/w GM NAME3's Medicine Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|medicine}]]
/w GM NAME4's Medicine Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|medicine}]]|
Nature,
/w GM NAME1's Nature Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|nature}]]
/w GM NAME2's Nature Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|nature}]]
/w GM NAME3's Nature Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|nature}]]
/w GM NAME4's Nature Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|nature}]]|
Occultism,
/w GM NAME1's Occultism Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|occultism}]]
/w GM NAME2's Occultism Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|occultism}]]
/w GM NAME3's Occultism Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|occultism}]]
/w GM NAME4's Occultism Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|occultism}]]|
Performance,
/w GM NAME1's Performance Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|performance}]]
/w GM NAME2's Performance Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|performance}]]
/w GM NAME3's Performance Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|performance}]]
/w GM NAME4's Performance Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|performance}]]|
Religion,
/w GM NAME1's Religion Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|religion}]]
/w GM NAME2's Religion Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|religion}]]
/w GM NAME3's Religion Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|religion}]]
/w GM NAME4's Religion Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|religion}]]|
Society,
/w GM NAME1's Society Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|society}]]
/w GM NAME2's Society Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|society}]]
/w GM NAME3's Society Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|society}]]
/w GM NAME4's Society Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|society}]]|
Stealth,
/w GM NAME1's Stealth Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|stealth}]]
/w GM NAME2's Stealth Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|stealth}]]
/w GM NAME3's Stealth Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|stealth}]]
/w GM NAME4's Stealth Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|stealth}]]|
Survival,
/w GM NAME1's Survival Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|survival}]]
/w GM NAME2's Survival Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|survival}]]
/w GM NAME3's Survival Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|survival}]]
/w GM NAME4's Survival Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|survival}]]|
Thievery,
/w GM NAME1's Thievery Check [[1d20 + @{NAME1|thievery}]]
/w GM NAME2's Thievery Check [[1d20 + @{NAME2|thievery}]]
/w GM NAME3's Thievery Check [[1d20 + @{NAME3|thievery}]]
/w GM NAME4's Thievery Check [[1d20 + @{NAME4|thievery}]]}

For me, placing these macros onto the play area as a pair of quick buttons is a big boon, as it means I don't have to open up a character sheet, navigate to and click the respective stat button, then close it down to clear the play space every time. I also don't have to bother my players with a hundred rolls in advance, or bother to track (and update) their stats on a cheat sheet. These go MUCH faster and are much LESS intrusive I find.

I hope that helps!


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I just have a spreadsheet in google sheets with all my players' info. You said you don't want to use a spreadsheet because you get enough of that elsewhere, but it really is the easiest way to deal with the problem outside of having the players roll themselves or using a VTT.

Sovereign Court

Errant Mercenary wrote:
Apart, I like the "players roll some d20s and you use those for secret rolls during the session". Those rolls are their characters, and there is an intangibility to that needing to be their role, not mine. So this might help, though I may have to switch these around or drop some, these fellows have good memories and I want them to not be able to predict.

People have said absolutely absurd things about how the whole world was basically on fire because it wasn't them but the GM rolling a die for the same check.

You get bizarre claims that someone didn't have "agency" because they didn't roll the dice themselves. If you have agency in your dice rolls, does that mean you're cheating on them? Dice rolls are supposed to be random. If you have agency, doesn't that mean your dice aren't fair?

I shelve most of this under "dice superstition" and it's something I just have a very low tolerance for. My belief is that (1) most people have intense confirmation bias and see all kinds of patterns into their dice rolls that aren't statistically really significant (2) most dice on the market aren't actually fair due to low production standards, but you generally don't know exactly how they're unfair so it doesn't matter so much. Aaaaanyway...

Errant Mercenary wrote:

@Ascalphus, the wise-and-scowly owl, you mentioned cards as initiative, which is a fun concept, but do you also use secret rolls for their initiative? That might be a rather interesting way to amp tension sometimes.

I do, in fact. And I've done it even in 1E, where it went roughly like this:

Encounter 1 is done. Players are talking with each other about whose wand of cure light wounds is being used. Meanwhile I roll everyone's initiative for the next encounter.

Time passes. The party explores some areas. Then they come to encounter 2 and I can immediately start the combat. There isn't that awkward minute or two of the GM fumbling with an initiative tracker, reminding everyone to roll initiative, sorting stuff, while at the same time putting stuff on the board. I put stuff on the board and things are in motion immediately.

So in the first round of combat, players don't really know who's up first, and can't do coordination like "well I know we're both up before the next enemy, so I'll delay until after you and then we can do XYZ". It's much more on the spot.

(In roll20, it's the exact other way around: everyone can very easily see the initiative order and do advanced coordination. Which I also enjoy.)

In 2E since I started using those initiative cards, I've been seriously tempted to just ignore the initiative roll altogether and just shuffle the initiative deck. It would cut down the startup time and give that frisson of uncertainty. Just see what's on top and act on it. Considering that initiative-boosting mechanics have been drastically scaled back compared to 1E, it's pretty neutral between party and enemies who would benefit. In 1E a PC might have initiative modifiers in the double digits while monsters didn't; in 2E it's mostly based on level, mooks are a bit below PCs while bosses a bit above, but the bandwidth isn't that big, compared to the d20 random factor.

As you might notice, that one minute of setup time at the start of combat is something I care about a lot. I feel like especially the lesser fights - a couple of mooks, a guard patrol that you want to swat down before they have a chance to raise an alarm - I want to minimize the overhead of getting those encounters started. I think a lot of the "filler fight" feeling can be bought off that way.


Roll20 is super easy to roll these checks (see Ravingdork's post above for the macro solution).

For table top gaming, the pre-pandemic way, it's not hard to make up a quick sheet to track your PC's bonuses and just roll them behind the screen. Realistically, you know these things are coming well before hand (if it's a home game and not a random table of PFS players) and can roll them well ahead of your table even sitting. Use some sticky notes on the AP materials or your campaign notes to keep track of which rolls were succeeded and by whom.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ravingdork wrote:
...

Well you just made my life alot easier. Thank you!

Grand Lodge

The Raven Black wrote:
Or you will have their sheets on roll20 on your computer while being in the same room. Best of both worlds.

Perhaps. I’m sure some will take that course. Personally, I find it distracting to have digital devices on the tabletop in live play. The player winds up splitting their attention between me and the device. If I’m gonna use ROLL20 anyway, might as well stay home and play remotely. Use a video system and it’s almost like being in the room together, but you don’t have to travel which reduces/eliminates a lot of the issues that can interfere with gaming. YMMV


This is how I handle secret checks.

At the beginning of each session, I hand each player a note card with their character name at the top. I ask them to make 20 rolls of a d20 and record them on the card (my players are ones I trust not to fudge the rolls, and some of the epic 1-fests I've seen in the cards I've received backs up that trust).

I keep the cards out of sight of the players, and when I need a secret check, I look at the next number on the card, mark it off, and use that as the die roll result.

I do this for a few reasons. One, my players feel like it gives them more agency; these are their own rolls, not mine. Second, there is no tell-tale clatter of dice when a secret roll is made. Lastly, it's faster.

Ever since I started doing it, my players have really liked it. They even get a laugh out of the times that the secret check hits one of the 1's or 20's they managed to roll. There's an added tension that they know they have a couple of 1's in there that might crop up at a bad time, and a 20 or two that might pop up at exactly the right moment.

In any case, this has worked really well for our group.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

My friend that I played under for 20+ years until I finally got the courage to start running games always did it this way.
He lets players make their own rolls. But the moment your rogue decides that he wants to "double check" the door since his last roll was a nat 1, he'll take away the player rolls and do secret rolls.


I have not found a very elegant way to do this with my VTT games, though it could likely be solved by having my players fill out their online character sheets. Instead, I just ask players to tell me what their stats are when I need to roll.

However, in person, I've found a mix of various things works really well for me.

First, our initiative tracker consists of folded papers on top of the DM screen. On the players' side are just names. On the DM side are stats that need to be referenced very often, like AC, and stats that may be relevant even when the players are not aware of it, like Perception and saves. So I can quickly roll a dice when I need to and reference those little sheets.

For secret checks that players trigger with their actions, like Stealth and Recall Knowledge, I just ask them to remind me of their stat. However, I have found I need to ask it less and less, as I remember the most used stats after a while thanks to the limited number of buffs and precise "range" of possibilities for characters. I might actually ask players to add their most often used recall skills to the initiative tracker when we go back to in-person games, but I have yet to decide. It would go slightly faster and avoid any possible mistakes on my part, but it hasn't bothered me all that much so far.

There are also some occasions in which I just let the players roll for themselves, mainly if the result will be obvious very quickly anyways, like rolling Stealth to try and bypass an encounter, or if I don't intend to give false information after a Recall Knowledge anyways and just want to know how much information people get about some lore stuff.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oh, VTT is easy. At least on Fantasy Grounds. Have them roll in the dice tower.


Ascalaphus wrote:


I do, in fact. And I've done it even in 1E, where it went roughly like this:

Encounter 1 is done. Players are talking with each other about whose wand of cure light wounds is being used. Meanwhile I roll everyone's initiative for the next encounter.

Time passes. The party explores some areas. Then they come to encounter 2 and I can immediately start the combat. There isn't that awkward minute or two of the GM fumbling with an initiative tracker, reminding everyone to roll...

I really like this! That sounds like an awesome idea. I'd love to have play just seamlessly transition into a fight. I might try this out sometime. Thanks for the awesome idea!

Grand Lodge

JackieLane wrote:
I have not found a very elegant way to do this with my VTT games, though it could likely be solved by having my players fill out their online character sheets.

Yes, using an online tool like Roll20 is only as useful as the people using it. If you don't build all the maps and monster stat blocks, use handouts for visuals, etc. and your players don't keep their online character sheet updated just like they would a hand-written sheet for a live game, then its not going to be as effective. When I run on Roll20, I expect my players to complete the online character sheet. If they also want to maintain a written version, or HeroLab, or PCGen, the One Sheet, whatever, that's fine too, but since I do not have access to those and I use their sheets plus custom macros to facilitate the game, I need those sheets to be complete and up to date. YMMV


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Bluejay_Junior wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:


I do, in fact. And I've done it even in 1E, where it went roughly like this:

Encounter 1 is done. Players are talking with each other about whose wand of cure light wounds is being used. Meanwhile I roll everyone's initiative for the next encounter.

Time passes. The party explores some areas. Then they come to encounter 2 and I can immediately start the combat. There isn't that awkward minute or two of the GM fumbling with an initiative tracker, reminding everyone to roll...

I really like this! That sounds like an awesome idea. I'd love to have play just seamlessly transition into a fight. I might try this out sometime. Thanks for the awesome idea!

LOL. My players would string me up if I took their initiative rolls away from them too.


Asking people to roll initiative for the next combat at the end of an fight is an idea I've seen in several places.

It doesn't have to be done by the GM, just get them to roll as part of the end of fight cleanup and then when the next fight happens you can just go.

Grand Lodge

Ravingdork wrote:
My players would string me up if I took their initiative rolls away from them too.

Yeah, players tend to get a little sensitive about someone else rolling for them. For a live game I get it, but online it doesn’t really matter since it’s the VTT rolling virtual dice not you with your favorite set of metals or malachite or whatever.

Liberty's Edge

It is a matter of feeling you play some part in what happens to you. I would say it is essential to the human psyche.


Most of the things PF2e has the GM roll are things I've done that with in pretty much any system for years. And yeah, I've had some resistance to it on occasion and my response was "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to, effectively, give you free information just so you can be the one to roll the dice here."

Of course we don't have people who are obsessed about that sort of thing; I've used automated initiative trackers in most games for quite a long time here.


I for the first time was in a game where the GM did a lot of secret checks and it was online, which led to us mostly waiting for a while. I've always just seen people roll and give the result.

I see why it says they should be secret, and for some things they should, but if you just have them rolled openly to keep the game moving, no one will fault you for it

Scarab Sages

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Just hold people to what they said they were doing and allow no "take backsies" after a bad roll and you don't need them. I find them tedious and time consuming.

Liberty's Edge

Ched Greyfell wrote:

My friend that I played under for 20+ years until I finally got the courage to start running games always did it this way.

He lets players make their own rolls. But the moment your rogue decides that he wants to "double check" the door since his last roll was a nat 1, he'll take away the player rolls and do secret rolls.

The same thing goes for your Cleric or other Spellcaster doing this with a Recall Knowledge Check (if the GM actually takes care to make RK useful).

It may seem like more work for the GM but coming from PFRPG to PF2 it's honestly trivial since the amount of other mental bookkeeping that was reduced between editions. Saying no backsies just feels combative and bad.

Grand Lodge

This may just be a play style issue. I can only speak for myself, but I dislike much of the metagaming and my experience has taught me that most people cannot help but use meta knowledge. Sometimes it’s meh, sometimes it’s aggravating.

“personal anecdote”:
I once played a rogue and the party was happy to let me do my thing. I search for numerous traps and having rolled well, we moved one. Then I rolled poorly and suddenly another player wanted to check, “just in case.” What?!? I don’t recheck your efforts. I’ve searched for and have been 100% accurate on finding traps that were there and clearly areas where there weren’t. The only reason you are coming behind me is because I rolled poorly. That kind of play, I cannot abide.

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