Interpreting Dungeons and Dragons Dice Rolls

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When it comes to Dungeons and Dragons dice here at Nerdarchy I have to say I’m the collector on the team. When it comes to rolling and interpreting them there are a lot of random possibilities that can come out. I will admit, in the early days of being a Dungeon Master, I rolled behind a screen and cared much more about the lives of my NPCs and monsters. I fudged rolls and gave extra hit points to make the monsters more challenging.

I have grown as a Dungeon Master over the years, and since starting Nerdarchy I have learned an awful lot over the last 5 years. I learned that sometimes in the heat of combat as a DM you want to preserve the level of the challenge. You want the players to feel threatened. I understand this. It is something I struggle with every time I run a combat. Now, when I roll I almost always roll out where the players can see and if I don’t I still leave the dice as they lie.

I am not here to convince you that Dungeon and Dragons dice rolls need to held on a pedestal but to show how even the bad rolls can be something great.

Why rolling bad can be a good thing

Bad rolls have the ability to create a challenge.

Whether it be the DM or the player, a bad roll can put them in a position that is better for the other. Since there is always a give and take in the challenge of D&D, embrace your bad rolls.

Bad rolls can create funny and fantastic memories.

We have shared many stories over the years about our gaming experiences. These memories start off with poor rolls as often as they do high rolls — if not more. One such encounter had me throw my sword into the mage, dropping him to 0 hit points, which caught him on fire, to then be promptly rolled burning and unconscious into the water. This lead him to be unconscious and drowning as opposed to be burning. The player this happened to probably does not look fondly back on this memory, but the rest of us do. Sorry, Jim. None of this would have happened had a poor roll not happened. And this is only just 1 story because of a bad roll.

Bad rolls have the ability to create humor.

As in the story above, retelling our tales allows for much joy and laughter. If you allow the ridiculous at your table, great things have the chance to come out of those rolls and this collective gathering of friends and gamers builds memories and allows us to enjoy this social experience together. In essence we bond over a great shared memory.

Interpreting D&D dice rolls

When you call for a die roll, it leads people into saying what they are doing. As a DM it is your responsibility to interpret what actually happens based on what the dice rolls show. Remember: what is attempted versus what happened can be two very different things!

You want to allow the dice to dictate the randomness. Looking back over the years I know there are many times I have rolled poorly, besides the example above. In one such time I was in a game and the DM had me make a roll to Intimidate. I rolled bad. At the time I was angry, as I did not think it needed a roll, but the DM did. It is their job to decide, since I had no clue exactly who the NPC was. When I threatened to eat their children (I was playing a monstrous race) I could have screwed up the translation and said instead, “I will eat your chicken,” which would have been ridiculous. So this falls into coming up with clever reasons why the dice went bad and how it effects the game.

I am going to leave you with one final thought and advice. We have said it on the channel many times: if you want something to happen, do not let it hinge on a die roll. If you do, prepare for the possibility of poor rolls from the player. Rolling the Dungeons and Dragons dice means the outcome is uncertain and the dice roll will decide. If you want to avoid failure at a course of action, tell the story narratively with the players instead.

So how do you roll Dungeons and Dragons dice? How do you interpret those rolls?

Thanks for reading! Until next time, stay nerdy!

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Follow Ted Adams:
The nerd is strong in this one. I received my bachelors degree in communication with a specialization in Radio/TV/Film. I have been a table op role player for about 20 years 17 of which with the current group. I have played several itterations of D&D, Mutants and Masterminds 2nd and 3rd editions, Star wars RPG, Shadowrun and World of Darkness. I am an avid fan of books and follow a few authors reading all they write. Favorite author is Jim Butcher I have been an on/off larper for around 15 years even doing a stretch of running my own for a while. I have played a number of Miniature games including Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy, Heroscape, Mage Knight, Dreamblade and D&D Miniatures. I have practiced with the art of the German long sword with an ARMA group for over 7 years studying the German long sword, sword and buckler, dagger, axe and polearm. By no strecth of the imagination am I an expert but good enough to last longer than the average person if the Zombie apocalypse ever happens. I am an avid fan of board games and dice games with my current favorite being Quarrios.

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