Players make all the rolls



So, I’m just about to run my first ICRPG mini campaign. I wondered about giving my players a defence roll, rather than an ooposed roll against the monster. I was thinking just the difficulty level of the room, plus the PC’s armour level.

That works in my head, but am I missing something super obvious, like it messes with probabilities or something?


Having Players make all the rolls totally works. Numenera/ Cypher and Black Hack make use of this very effectively. As a GM though, I like to roll dice too. :slight_smile: It all comes down to personal preferences at the table.


Brill! I’ve used it in other games, it was more the mechanical effect it has, if any. I think I’ll try and see what happens… :astonished:


This topic rears it’s head from time to time. I say, game the way you like to game. But, when you have players do all the rolling, you lose ability as a DM to challenge them. In a long running campaign, you’ll wish you had your own to-hit bonus as a DM tool that you can adjust versus having only the room target.

I also think it’s better as a DM to have the variety in your games of rolling against players AND sometimes making them save against the room target. Each has a specific feel, and doing it all one way robs you of that variance. Tanks with high AC can become really hard to challenge if there is only one avenue they can fail.

Also, I’m just not a big fan because of the limbic jab to the brain. When the game becomes all saving throws all the time, it takes a toll as a player. It’s far better to feel as if the forces of evil (and the DM’s hot dice) are against you, rather than feeling like you’re blundering your way into the jaws of the monsters all the time. While I realize good DM descriptions can mitigate this feeling some, I just can’t shake it as a player — probably because I know what’s happening from a game design standpoint.

But again, it all comes down to preference and personal taste for you and your players. You just have to understand what you’re giving up and whether it is worth it in terms of what you gain. For me, the novelty of it doesn’t compare to the versatility I lose as a DM.


Thanks Alex. That’s a really good, thorough response. I think I was reacting to the difference between the two approaches, i.e. Roll versus room and roll versus GM roll. But your point about the difference being a good thing is really helpful. Thank you! :grin:


Alex nails it as usual. :herocoin:

Yet you can do whatever floats your boat and suits your and your group’s play style. Just try to keep in mind the not-so-obvious downsides for your choices.


The reason I thought of it was that you’re rolling against the room’s difficulty to ‘hit’ a monster, so why not to defend? Or, why not also do an opposed roll to hit?

It feels like two seperate approaches to the same interaction - fighting a monster. I’ve used ‘players make all the rolls’ in other games, and it’s been great.

However, as my first ICRPG game is in a couple of weeks, I’ll probably stick to RAW for kick off, and see how it plays out. As Alex said, the different dynamics between the two ways of resolving rolls adds variety, right?



Trying the system as RAW and then adjusting it is always a sound strategy. Getting the play experience at the table beats theory crafting most of the time.


Over one year now and still we play ICRPG truly RAW. We threw in a few house rules one time, but retracted them before the session even ended.

As Leonardo da Vinci says, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ICRPG is our ultimate RPG sophistication. :wink:


Yes. For example, if my players are facing monsters with a +3 bonus to hit and the same bonus for damage, and that is all they ever see for a few sessions, they will really pucker when they go up against the demon mage with +10 to each. They will feel that difference regardless of the room target, and that enemy will feel meaningful. Characters with low armor will really pay a price, but characters with high armor have a chance.

Meanwhile, the room has these slithering snakes everywhere. Whenever one gets close, the players must make a Dex save against the room target to avoid taking automatic damage. Unless a player is the thief or the archer (because others won’t have points in Dex), these snake guys are serious trouble. The tank, with a high str and armor, will normally crush most every bad guy up close, but now he’s in trouble with these little guys. Meanwhile, the thief gets a chance to shine avoiding these attacks.

See the difference mechanically and how they feel different? Using the latter method is my favorite prized pony to challenge higher level groups, as they usually have a couple of low stats. If it’s not snakes with Dex saves, it’s mind controlling fungus with Int saves, etc. But if I used only saving throws (players rolling against the room target), I lose this variety as a DM. In that same fungus room, they may or may not be going up against a deadly basilisk with a high to-hit or damage bonus, which is separate from the fungus save.

A different different approach to Target Numbers

Excellent. Thanks Alex. Really helpful and clears up my query completely! :grin:


One other thing that may or may not bother your party is switching between rolling over and rolling under a given value to get the outcome that benefits them. Its not likely to be an issue, but you never know.


If I were going to give it a go, which I think I’ve been persuaded away from, I’d make it similar to a save roll. As in, you take this much damage unless you roll the room’s level, add your armour to the roll. But like I say, I’m pretty convinced against it now. :grin:


Hmmm, aside from tweaking the math…

  • It might rob the DM of some fun, not getting to roll.
  • But players rolling defence makes it a more active combat for them. It puts their characters fate fully in their hands in a sense.
  • It might slow down gameplay a little


Hi Jeremy. It’s an approach I’ve used in a lot of my other games, including D&D.

One of the main side effects is that it’s harder for players to get mad at the GM because it’s their ‘bad luck’ affecting the dice, not the GM’s ‘good luck’.

It also means no ‘fudging’ by the GM. Once the players realise that they can’t be ‘saved’ by a generous GM, they become a lot more circumspect, leading to more interesting games most of the time.

I’ve never been a fan of scaling encounters to the group as that means they know they can deal with any situation with violence if needs be. When that safety net is removed, and it’s combined with player-only rolls, they actually spend time assessing and evaluating situations.


Yeah it’s definitely worth a try. And the DM could still roll damage if they like [evil laughter]

(As an aside, in my group the DM rolls in the open, so it’s pretty hard to fudge things. The DM still has a little wiggle room since the players don’t see the monster stats etc, but it can make for some tense TPK fears)


This reply has just solved one huuuuuge headache I have been having battling with armour and no gm rolling. I’m purely going RAW through my sons first campaign. After that I will consider changes based on our experiences. I’m going to go give my created monsters some bonuses to hit… Muwahaha


If you want to do GM not rolling, you are better off with something like Dungeon World. One of the huge benefits of the GM not roling, is the playtime saved when the GM doesn’t have to resolve all the monster attacks. If you just change the roll over to the players, you don’t really save that time. The rolls still have to be made.
In DW, both monster actions and player actions are resolved with a single roll. The Cypher system doesn’t solve this, as the players roll both to attack and defend.
But, as Alex has pointed out, it does require a certain GM style to pull it off without the players ending up feeling reactive rather than proactive.
So you reslly have to determine what you want to achieve by the GM not rolling.
To me, the time saved with DW and the push towards more narrative thinking rather than numbers thinking is a huge payoff over me not roling dice (though the GM still rolls damage), but without that payoff, I wouldn’t really prefer the GM not roling.


I was about to suggest that! Dungeon World is amazing to create stories with your players! And the negotiation skills required by the GM to make moves is incredible! I think everyone should at least master the negotiation skills and keep the page of the GM moves next to them during a game, like I do!

Anyway, I have an alternative rule I use sometimes, if @Squalamoucho is interested?

  • I let my players do all the rolls and we use d20, and on a ‘‘1’’ it is a Critical Fail: Hard Move (from Dungeon World’s list)!
  • If the result is lower than the DC even with the modifiers, soft move from that same list. Or, if a soft move is already in play, you can continue it with a hard move as suggested in Dungeon World.
  • If the result on the die is lower than the DC but the total is higher than the DC because of the modifiers then the character succeed in his task but with a penalty of the GM’s choice. For example, if he is trying to repair a machine it might be temporary or perhaps he broke it for good when it’ll finally ‘‘die’’ or maybe he hurt himself while doing it. Up to you!
  • If the result of the die is above the DC without the modifiers: well, success. Nothing bad happens, good on him!
  • Nat. 20 is a Critical Success: he may help an ally or repair the machine for good with little materials!

What I mean by negotiation, by the way, is that I often use Failing Forward as a mechanic: it means that if a check is failed, I offer a price to pay to succeed. You might be able to repair the machine if you stick your dagger in there to remove the piece that’s in the way. The dagger breaks but at least they now have a chance to escape the dungeon!!


I’m not a huge fan of failing forward. It means players never fail, and ultimately you can just skip dice rolling altogether. Got a skill? You do it. Don’t have a skill? What will you sacrifice to succeed?

However, I am a HUGE fan of making failure meaningful and impactful. Lost opportunity is an imporatnt thing to remember. Did you fail to pick the lock? Now you need to find another way around. It pushes the story along, and makes failure meaningful.
Did you try to kick the door open? Now it’s bent and warped, and any attempt to pick it is futile.

Failing forward really came about as an attempt to deal with failure in investigation scenes. You failed your perception roll? You didn’t get the clue. Now the investigation has stalled. Too bad. Game over.
The better way to solve that problem is to just give them the clue and move on.

Failing forward is appropriate for those partial successes. You do it, but at a cost. But a failure is a failure is a failure. But make that failure have consequences that move the story along.
If you put a locked door in front of the players, and there is no alternative way forward, it’s really a bad obstacle design, as failure stops the game cold. However, if there’s a locked door, which can be picked for a stealth approach, and maybe kicked down for a loud approach, and maybe a sewer grate that can offer an alternate point of entry, but leads to all sorts of nasty alternatives? Much better.