Player-Facing Dice Rolls


Hi, I discovered ICRPG from the Dungeon Craft YouTube page. I am an older DM who has returned to tabletop RPGs after years on hiatus in order to game with my three 12yo sons.

I wanted to get opinions on what the community thinks of player-facing rolls as described in the recent Dungeon Craft video? At first glance, I really like the idea, since it keeps more dice rolling in the hands of the players instead of the DM. But I wanted to ask if there was some caveat or downside I may not be considering before I switch rules on my kids?


  • Players “Armor” is used to derive a “dodge/parry/defend” (take your pick) number.
  • In combat, players roll to “defend” against a monster vs the DM rolling for the monster’s attack against the player
  • 21-Armor = Base “defend”, player has to roll this number or higher on d20
  • Monster attack bonus is subtracted from defense roll (or alternatively added to the “defend” #)
  • So, a “1” would be a critical success, and a “20” would be a critical failure, given the reversed roles?

Here is a link to the video I refer to above:

PS, I check back periodically depending upon how busy I get at my day job, so please don’t be offended if I take a day or two to check back.

PPS - love this system, but it has kinda jaded/ruined me for many of the D&D rules, which seem needlessly cumbersome to me now.

  • MS



This is a timely post, as I recently switched my game to player facing rolls after picking up a copy of Dungeon World. The last two sessions I ran I used mostly player racing rolls in the Dungeon World style.

First, my take on this video. I think it’s great that professor DM set all that up so that the probabilities are identical to what you would have in standard D&D/ICRPG. But I felt that at the end of the day, this system still requires the same amount of rolls in aggregate. Part of the reason I switched to player facing rolls was to speed up game play.

Now, let me share what I’ve been doing. In addition to speeding things up, I switched to Dungeon World style rolling because I love the narrative/player choice system. How good or bad a player rolls results in either tough choices and damage or a choice of boons.

If you’re not familiar with Dungeon World, players roll two d6. On a roll of 10+, they are successful and in some cases they get to choose some cool stuff. For example, the player would be able to ask the DM specific questions on a 10+ perception roll. On a roll of 7-9, they are successful but at a cost. The DM will either deal out some damage, or offer them a difficult choice. On a 6- they fail and the DM gets to lay the hurt on in anyway they see fit.

In ICRPG I settled on a roll of 3 more or greater than the target is equivalent to 10+, 3 less than the target to the target is equivalent to 7-9, and 4 less than the target or less is equivalent to 6-.

The results were remarkable. My players loved making the choices, and combat was lightning fast. Moreover, we had some of the most deadly and dramatic encounters despite the fact that I did basically no prep. Coming up with a difficult choice for the players that makes sense narratively is super fun from a DM perspective, and because the players get to choose, I didn’t feel as bad doing things like destroying their gear or placing their beloved NPCs in danger.

One final note on probabilities. Just yesterday I was thinking about how the Dungeon World system stacked up to what I did in terms of probabilities. Unmodified, the probability of rolling 10 or above with 2 d6 is only like 16%. Rolling 7-9 or 6 or less is 42%. I think this is a great distribution, because more often then not you’re dealing damage or offering difficult choices. However, as the characters level and they start adding modifiers to those rolls, the distribution changes dramatically to favor the players. I feel that this is the biggest weakness with Dungeon World. What I would like to do is mirror those probabilities in a player facing ICRPG system. The strength here is that as players level, or as they face something really difficult, you can move the target. I still need to get around to calculating that out.


I started using player facing dice rolls back in 3.5; Dungeon World just really sold me on the idea, so I only use player facing rolls. Even when we’re playing old-school Moldvay/Cook B/X D&D, I use player facing rolls. Effectively, I don’t want to roll dice. I used to; I used to roll in the open and let what happens happen. Now, there’s some strange glee shared by the table when it’s themselves that do it. Though I typically have the player adjacent roll the damage if I don’t use fixed damage.Then the glares and accusations fly, much fun is had all around.

Like pappapetes, I also incorporated the idea of soft and hard moves from Dungeon World in games I play. It’s great when the thief “fails” to find a trap (my philosophy : if you’re checking for traps, I’m adding a trap, even if there wasn’t one because that’s a thief’s thing, right?). Oh no, my friend, you definitely found a trap; how badly do you want to disarm it, because that click you heard means the guy behind you is about to take it in the face. You’re perfectly safe, though…


ive seen this topic appear a couple of times and tried a couple of different ways myself. i found icrpg and dungeon craft and love both of their ideas. then i found dungeon world and pbta games and it introduced a new concept. ive played a few games using pbta 2d6 and run a solo game for my son using it. in the words of prof dm “the system is simple and intuitive” with concepts like armour reducing damage etc. Hank seemed to be a fan of dungeon world a while back but his group couldnt move on from the d20.

i believe if you want the whole success at cost with the dm not making rolls, but want to keep using d20s you can just keep icrpg mostly as it is, if any loot says “blah blah is EASY” just change it to a “+3 when you blah”. and make the rolls:
1-9= fail
10+= success at cost
15+= success no cost

pc “i use my new stealthy boots to sneak through the courtyard”
dm “okay roll dex + your fancy stealthy boots give you another +3”
pc “crap!!! i rolled a 6. total of 12 (+3 dex and +3 boots)”
dm “you make your way across the courtyard but a guard is suspicious and you hear him walking towards where you are to investigate further”

or in combat:
pc “i stab the orc in the face!”
dm “roll +str. however this orc is a meanie and this will be hard so -3 to your roll”
pc “i rolled a 8! so plus4 means 12”
dm “dont forget i said its hard so minus 3 takes it to a 9. you take 5 points of damage as the orc catches your blade, smiles at you as he smacks you upside the head with his shield”

i personally really like the player facing rolls but only if it actually reduces the rolls made. like above.

edit: i also find new players can understand “15+ is a success, 10+ is success at cost, lower than 10 and you fail” nice and easy. (i know this doesnt give the same odds as a pbta game but its simple, and if the game seems too easy just throw even more stuff at the players)


Hey, it’s super awesome to see someone returning to the hobby, specially if you’re playing with your kids haha. I always rp with my little sisters and it is one of the most fun things I do.

So, player facing rolls. There has been A LOT of discussion about this around the forums, and I’m one of the big supporters of this idea. Since I knew about dungeon world, I’ve been hooked with the concept, so let me tell you how I do it these days.

For D&D (5e), I found dungeon craft’s vid a lil bit too overcumbered with the actual rulings. The way I understood it, he was actually re-inventing ThAC0 in a way, which is in the right track to figure it out but I think it can still be a little bit more simplified. What I do is:

  • AC is a bonus to defend, is calculated just as normal AC but -10 (so a rogue with leather armor (11ac) and +3 DEX has a +4 bonus to defence (AC 14-10). Players roll defence against monster’s attack bonus+10. That’s it, just move that fixed 10 to the other side haha.
  • This works well if you take the time to make a sheet with all of the armor’s AC converted as bonuses instead of fixed values.
  • You still have to figure out saves for spells and such tho.

ICRPG makes everything way easier, since the only roll an enemy needs to do is an attack, and armor is ALREADY calculated as a bonus:

  • Start AC at 0 instead of 10.
  • Make players defend against attacks rolling a d20+AC, and trying to beat the TARGET as usual.
  • If you want monsters to have “attack bonuses”, just make the TARGET higher or call for EASY/HARD rolls.

To further expand this system, I’ve also implemented Damage Absorbing Armor and advantage/disadvantage dice in order to further extend player engagement in the rolls.

Aside from that, I always roll my GM damage myself cleanly, I feel bad otherwise hahaha.

Game On!


The idea of having to defend against the target number is interesting, but I might have to play-test to or give it some thought, since I think it has the effect of making encounters with low DCs easier and higher DC encounters more deadly.

Which, one could argue makes sense, as opposed to the vanilla ICRPG system where the monster’s ability to hit you is a function ONLY of “armor” rating. Although that is usually balanced out by attack bonuses in the monster description.

So if you ran using that approach, you might need to nerf the monsters a little in high difficulty encounters so as not to “double whammy” the players.

I’ve liked the idea of armor absorbing damage since I played (wait for it) Tunnels and Trolls…


I’m back and forth on it myself but I haven’t really been able to give it a try. I really like his videos and the concepts he shares normally blend very well with ICRPG.

For my students I just use room rating as AC as suggested and if I want a boss or something that has special armor I just make it HARD to hit them. With kids keeping things as constant as possible helps a lot. They can feel confident in their knowledge and form strategies backed by that knowledge. Good moral boost.

And as for your P.S. I am the same way, I was making a character for starfinder and nearly passed out mid process. ICRPG has stripped so much fat off of other systems in a way that makes so much sense it’s hard to go back. I just retool those systems to fit the ICRPG style.


I’ve been using player-side defense rolls in my current campaign.
Here is how it works :

  • Instead of 10, player characters starts with a defense of 0.

  • Defense is increased as normal by LOOT. Items cannot raise by more than 10 points the defense score (nothing new)

  • Some enemies are harder to defend against, and have a PRECISION score.

  • When attacked, the player simply make a check against the TARGET + PRECISION of the attacker (and describe how they try to avoid their demise). A natural 1 means that the monster lands a critical hit. The GM DOES NOT roll for the monster’s attack (except for the effort roll).

  • PRECISION is important, otherwise characters are hardly ever hit. Roughly translate thesum of attributes bonus and bonuses to attack to the PRECISION of a monster. +2 is good for easy opponents while +6-8 better fits harder ones.

It overally works pretty well, and my players often jokes about how ‘invicible’ some characters are because of how high they roll their defense rolls.

However, I would advice against having to roll both for the monster’s attack AND the player’s defense, as a pathological situation in those system is the ‘whiff factor’, that is, because attacks are made in a long, two-phase process to check wether or not they hit, they have a low probability of landing, making combats much longer than they should, and more frustrating because there is no fun in launching 25%-chance-to-hit attacks for half an hour.


Regarding the whiff factor, I’ve borrowed the d20 result table from Forthright for a few sessions. It works like Dungeon World but with a d20 instead of 2d6. Basically, missing the target by 3 (in my game, not Forthright Core) results in an exchange : player hits and NPC can harm or hinder in return. Which turns the fight into something more fluid, like instead of exchanging swing after swing, the opponent could take the hit as it reaches in to grapple or pin the PC.


another way to do it is:
you figure out what the to hit is,
AC of the PC 15, bonus to hit for creature is say +3, meaning the DM would need to roll a 12 or more to hit.

then just get the player to roll under this, math is the same.


Some great approaches and things to think about. I think I am going to try keeping it as simple as possible, and maybe switch back and forth between DM dice rolls and player rolls on a case by case basis.

Thanks as always to the community, you all are great!


I was just coming here to post my idea about player facing rolls in ICRPG as well! I like the professor but found his system very confusing. What I would do is this:

  • Monster attacks a player, who rolls to defend. They have to roll better than the target number for the room. This keeps it nice and easy to follow, and in line with many other rolls in ICRPG.

  • The twist is that different monster attacks might “Target” different player statistics. For example:

  • If the monster is using a regular physical weapon, the player defends with Dex. (Roll a Dex Attempt vs Target number).

  • If the monster is using a psychic mind blast, the player defends with Intelligence. (Roll a Int Attempt vs Target number).

I figure that this would achieve a few interesting things:

  • Helps expand the usefulness of all stats.

  • “Defensive rolls” could be a thing for more than just combat; In a rap battle with the local bard? You roll a Charisma attempt to “defend” your style against his sick burns and win the contest.

  • Opens up some options for loot. Perhaps the Blade finds a cool sword that lets them use Strength to defend against weapon attacks instead of Dexterity. Or perhaps the Priest finds a headband that lets them make all Wisdom defense rolls easy.

  • Adds a level to monster creation. Goblins shooting arrows? Use Dex to Defend. Giant Ogre with a crushing maul? Defend with Strength to weather the blows. Manticore uses a poison sting attack? Shrug off that poison with Con Defense.

  • Armor would just become Damage soaking. So if you have 3 armor and a creature hits you for 6 damage, you only take three damage. You always take a minimum of 1 damage even if you soak more than the damage dealt (Unless you sunder a shield or something).

  • And of course this opens up more options for monsters/loot again. That mind flayer using psychic attacks is ignoring your armor, but maybe the wizard casts a buff spell that gives you an Intelligence Defense bonus equal to your armor. Or maybe that assassin has crazy armor piercing crossbow bolts that ignore 1d4 points of your armor.

Maybe I am way off the mark here, but I think it makes sense. I might try it out sometime just to see how it goes.


I’m very interested in trying out player facing rolls. I think it may help with player engagement… using the Room Target to defend against is perfect and fits in line with Icrpg mechanics. I’m just trying to figure out damage. I’ve seen some suggestion of using the difference between what the player rolls and the Room Target or possibly static damage. Also using armor to Soak damage is something I’ve always wanted to try as well


Those you listed are the player facing rules i’m using too. One difference is that I make the armor soak with a die instead, using effort.


I would like to know more! How does the effort die tie in?


I would keep monsters rolling damage as is using the effort categories. Keeps it fair, straight forward, and less work for you.

If you do decide to change it though, stick with a d8 for all monster attacks. It’s a good all rounder. If you need higher damage output just do multi attacks or multiple die per attack (Ex: Slam attack for 3d8).


I’m thinking about having the GM have no dice rolls at all. There’s an interesting idea that the Open legend rpg system used where the damage was the difference between the npcs defence stat and what the player rolled. I know Cypher does something similar so I’ll have to theory craft it a bit and see what happens


It is very straight forward: the armor, as any item, it is considered a tool, so d6. If it is an “advanced” one, a masterwork item or a particularly heavy armor, they roll d8. If it’s magical, d10. Simple as that.


Love it! You could create some pretty fun items that way as well.

  • Leather Armor: Reduces damage as TOOL effort
  • Defense Drone: Hovers around you blocking attacks with micro lasers. Reduce Damage as WEAPON Effort
  • Shield Gem: You are surrounded by a magical energy field. Reduce Damage as MAGIC Effort.


An example system you could purchase and look at for player facing rolls is the OSR game Black Hack. Its been around for a couple years its a roll under system, where the player is either attacking or defending with one of their six core stats. It has a different way to use armor and some other interesting tools. Particularly I like the Out of Action table for when you have a defeated character. Check it out on DriveThru if you get a chance.

  • Deathbare