Vastlands Houserules – Who rolls what?

This seems to get contentious in some circles, but I have my opinions.

“Well, Shit” by Kimberly Sterling

Personally I enjoy playing games with people I trust. If you have a player that wants to be disruptive – no amount of rules will “contain” them. I also find that to get trust, I have to offer trust as well. To that end, I don’t care about “meta-gaming” (even on my end as a referee). I only ask (or allow) my players to roll when the situation will get changed by the result.

What are the rolls we make in basic D&D?
– character creation (stats – 6x 3d6 in order, HP, starting currency)
– Ability Checks (d20 roll under)
– Saving throws (d20 roll over)
– Foraging & Hunting (d6)
– Forcing Doors (d6)
– Initiative (players & enemies)
– Combat (to hit: d20roll over, damage)
– Reaction Rolls/Morale Rolls/Hiring Reactions
– Listening at Doors (d6)
– Searching (d6 – i’ve not actually used this in OSE)
– Wandering Monsters & Encounters & Surprise (d6)
I think that covers it

Most of those are obviously player rolls, but as you go down the list it becomes more likely that the ref will be doing the rolling (at least partially). But I honestly don’t see many good reasons for not letting the players roll. The first really questionable entry comes at Initiative. This is currently a roll-off every turn (side with highest d6 goes first), but basically amounts to the question: Do the players get to act first for time critical actions? This is going to lead into a whole issue of “combat awareness” and length of rounds. For the moment its fun as is.

Combat rolls are also interesting. Right now the ref rolls for enemy to-hit, damage, and saves. But why cant this be player’s rolls? A defense roll against static attacks? An “effectiveness” roll instead of saves? Mathematically the probability is the same if you just consider “armour class” as an Ability and use the same roll under system. So instead of the players watching “can the monster hit my character”, they would be engaged rolling “can my character evade the damage”. (Very tempted to implement this!)

Reactions and similar rolls I already give them as is to players. Loyalty and Morale (followers and enemies respectively) are the same roll – 2d6 under a number. Both times they are triggered by player character actions so I just give them to the players to roll. Reaction rolls are also “first impressions” and are modified by PC charisma – so I let the player make the rolls.

Listening at Doors / Searching is probably the most contentious to let the players roll, but I find that they are very rarely used anyway. So far my players have described these activities well enough that I give whatever information they would find. I offered a roll once, but after hearing the poor odds the player proceeded to describe what they did instead. In any case, even if the player rolls and fails – all they now know is that their character didn’t hear anything and is impatient enough to want to continue – so there is no option of re-rolls or multiple characters rolling. This is the case of one party member checking and saying “ok, all clear” and everyone carrying on on the assumption that it is safe.

Encounters are similar to the above. But letting the players roll is actually revealing the “impartial rules” of the world. There are things in this area, and here is how likely it will be that you meet them. Letting the players roll lets them feel the “danger” of overland travel, and shows that the ref is just adjudicating what is happening – not deciding some story. Surprise is an interesting case, as its really 3 states: PCs surprised, face off, Enemy surprised. (both surprised just leads to a face-off) It is easier to just let the players make a single roll – the odds are close to a PbtA roll with +1 (2-5: player’s surprised, 6-8: face off, 9+ enemies surprised – and give an extra +1 for Rangers and similar classes)

There is no evidence to back me up, but I feel that letting the players roll all the dice gives a small sense of “control” over the actions in the game. The dice rolls also focus the players on the results – and those results feel more meaningful given that they are “decided” by the players, rather than the ref just telling them what has happening.

Basically – the only thing I roll anymore is enemy to-hit, damage, and saves. (and honestly starting to look for some rules mods to swap those to player facing as well) What are some contenders for rules that cover this?

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