Roll for Defense!?! PCs roll vs Room Target for Defense?



Hello everyone! I’m reviving this thread because I’m all in for less rolls made by the DM :smiley:

I wonder if anyone has recent input on a “roll for defense” system and how it turned out for them. If so, I’d love to hear about it !


Do you come from Dungeon World, by any chance? Did you try that system? In it, the GM doesn’t roll at all! And it seems quite interesting, in my opinion. It allows for the GM to focus more on the fantasy and the narration!


I’m coming from D&D5e, but I’ll make sure to check Dungeon World, then! Focusing on narration is exactly what I’m aiming for :wink:


I am starting an Altered State game in a little while and have been thinking of doing Player Facing Rolls and defense would be exactly like you describe. An enemy makes an attack. The DM declares what stat the player must defend with. The players rolls Base Stat + Loot vs Room Target. On a failure, I roll the damage dice in the open in my dice tower. The damage is the normal effort listed in a monsters stat block.

In my game, defense would not be limited to just Strength or Dex. For example:

  • Defend melee with strength
  • Defend ranged with dexterity
  • Defend poison with Constitution
  • Defend Mind altering magic with Intelligence
  • Defend Fear effects with Wisdom
  • Defend Charming magic with Charisma

Basically everything becomes a saving throw. BUT so as not to totally invalidate defense/armor loot I would let it do either damage soaking (Probably with a hard maximum like 5, or with an actual die roll like Medium armor soaks 1d6 armor -minimum 1 damage). This also opens up more loot options like special defense stuff.

It adds a little more complexity but I think in a fun way!


Exactly, armour that soaks damage keeps it relevant.

“Everything becomes a saving throw”, you’re on that! And it’s perfectly fine for the players to roll a little more than with other systems. It keeps them engaged, but doesn’t increase the overall number of rolls at all, so you don’t show the game down.

I’m wondering though: how do we handle ongoing effects?
Let’s say an enemy has a “sickened” condition that it wants to get rid of, how do we deal with that? The DM rolls at end of turn? Does he roll against The Target? Or the player does the roll to “keep the condition active”? I think I’d go for the latter…


It’s cool, because it opens up the possibility for players to decide how they react to certain threats, which could grant them bonus or malus or even to just tank the damage like bosses or to tank the damage because they didn’t make the right choice! :smiley:


That’s a great point! I agree that I would handle it the later way.

  • The condition is on a timer (as per many ICRPG effects/spells).
  • The affected creature can take an action to try and shake it off.
  • The player rolls to “Concentrate” (Using the D&D 5e terminology). On a success the effect stays in place.

That being said, does ICRPG have any examples of a creature being able to shake off effects? I thought most were on timers. Either way it’s a great idea to keep in mind.


Haha, I don’t quite know :laughing: ! I’m thinking too much as a 5e DM, that means I’m overthinking a lot of stuff :stuck_out_tongue:


For sure! Sometimes they would not be able to choose the type of defense, but given the right circumstance I would allow it.

The biggest issue I can see for my system is that some monsters do often have a big bonus to their attempt rolls. So lets say a boss has +8 to hit in the normal rules, how do we account for the players defense abilities? You could make all attempts against the boss hard and up the room target, but even then it could be pretty easy for characters to dodge attacks. Some solutions could be:

  • A slightly higher room target in general; base of 12 perhaps, with tough fights being 14-15.
  • Giving special enemies multi-attacks or defending against all their attacks is hard (unless the players can counter that).
  • Giving special enemies higher damage so that when they do hit it is more devastating. Perhaps special enemies could have armor piercing weapons to overcome players armor soak.

Anyway, it’s something I would like to work on. Might not be a good idea but who knows?


Same! I just finished up a two year Curse of Strahd campaign. I am looking forward to finally running ICRPG and I gotta get out of that 5e headspace!


I’ve not tried it but thinking though it I would not enjoy running this way unless I was going to simply make a new game. Using player rolled defense rolls vs. the room target would seem to mean potential side consequences of complication and/or devaluation of the features of much of what’s in the ICRPG books.

Take monsters as in the book(s). They have varying stat bonuses. The monster with +8 is no stronger than the monster with +3 if players roll defense vs. the target. That squashes a LOT of what goes into the monster design. Sure you can start raising and lowering the room targets (some people’s answer to this), but now you either make everything else in the room harder (opening a chest, climbing a wall) or need to juggle multiple target numbers (one for mooks, one for the boss in regards to the power of their attacks). It gets even more convoluted if a given monster has varying stat bonuses (its INT vs. STR vs. DEX say).

That’s the big issue I see with it, but I’m pretty sure it could lead to other unforeseen issues possibly raising questions on or possibly invalidating some loot or spells.

The biggest plus . . . as GM I wouldn’t have to feel so bad if the players get lit up since I wasn’t rolling the dice to decide it. But that may be bad for me as a player. Imagine a string of failed attempt rolls coupled with a string of failed defense rolls!!! That would really cause me to pitch my dice in the trash. lol

Personally I’m a fan of the idea if players simply want to roll more. I can see how the ICRPG system would very easily support it. I just wouldn’t make the change if I am using all the great reference provided in the books. In more of a ground up homebrew setting where you’re creating everything in support of it, it would work just fine if a GM and the players are into it.


As someone who wants to try it, you definitely highlight the problems with it. Particularly dealing with the monsters bonuses to hit and what not.

My biggest thing with rolling to hit for the monsters is that suddenly my turn as the DM becomes really long and I don’t like that. Perhaps there is a simpler answer though like the DM declaring all actions at once and rolling all d20’s at once.


My recent learning for this @Arc is to have individually initiative for all enemies (previously I was doing all the monsters on one go). Then the GM turns are spread out and I avoid feeling like the GM side goes too long. It actually speeds up the game with only one or two decisions to be made at a time as GM vs all the monster at once.

Keep in mind I’m playing online which automates the initiative tracking making it simple for me. I might reconsider if I had to manually deal with sorting individual monster initiative at a table w/o VTT muscle.


I wanted to revive this post because I’ve recently started using opposed rolls for my party. They all hate AC and wanted to be able to dodge or block and I opted for opposed rolls. Now my question is if your PC’s are rolling against the target number how are you handling monster/bad guys stats? Do you just ignore stat bonuses and keep effort bonus? I’m curious to see how other have handled this.


I’ve been doing player facing rolls in a play-by-post game. I don’t really do enemy stats; PCs just roll against the room target, and stronger enemies get bonuses to damage.


I’ve written a hack for this years ago… I published it in a few hacks, like Kumite. But be warned I wrote this before Master Edition was out, so it may be outdated (it’s for 2nd edition). This is how we play:

Player-Facing Combat
For the purposes of this setting, “player-facing combat” is simply having the players make all rolls.

Unlike described in the Core book (CORE 2E, p. 24), Armor is not a Stat and characters don’t put points in it. Armor does not increase how hard it is to hit you; instead, it simply reduces the amount of damage you take and it’s called “Soak”. To avoid converting all gear, loot, spell, power, or rule that increases Armor in ICRPG (including your Armor Stat), consider those number “armor points”. Your Soak (damage reduction) equals one-half that number (round up).

The maximum Armor you can have in the basic rules is +10 (CORE 2E, p. 26), but in this system the maximum amount of Soak you can pile up from gear, loot, spells, and powers is 6 (the equivalent of +12 Armor in the Core Rules).

Penetrating Damage. Some damage simply ignores Soak, being called penetrating damage.

During combat the GM doesn’t roll for the bad guys to hit the heroes (but may still roll for damage). Instead, when a hero is attacked, the player might come up immediately with a good way to avoid damage in the narrative. If the GM considers the description valid in the narrative, a simple Check with the most appropriate stat for the situation vs. the current Target. This roll is called a Defense Roll.

The exact stat you’ll use depends on the fiction and circumstances, some classic examples being:

 Use Strength to parry, move the attack out of the way, drop something between you and the attack, and so on.
 Use Dexterity to dodge and wave out of harm’s way, throw yourself behind cover, grab a weapon thrown at you, and so on.
 Use Constitution to block with your own body or a shield, to “tough out” the damage, and so on.
 Use Intelligence to apply advanced tactics in combat or to position yourself in a smart way so that the danger misses you.
 Use Wisdom to have some sort of intuition about where the attack is going to hit, to destroy the opponent’s will, to mutter a fast prayer that keeps you safe, and so on.
 Use Charisma to stare down the enemy or even make your opponent feel empathy for you!.

Be creative on your descriptions of Defense Rolls but remember – if your choice is considered impossible by the GM or the rules, it automatically fails!

Some circumstances can make your Defense Roll Easy or Hard. For example, when attacked by a gigantic enemy, it might be a Normal or even Hard task to parry (a STR Defense Roll) or block (a CON Defense Roll), but Easy to get out of the way (a DEX Defense Roll) because it’s a very slow attack. Against an arrow shot by a skilled assassin it might be Hard to dodge or position yourself fast enough behind one of its allies (an INT Defense Roll), and impossible to charm him with your innocence (a CHA Defense Roll).

If a Defense Roll wields a natural 1 or a result at least 10 points below the current Target, the monster’s attack is considered a critical hit in favor of the attacker, so be careful! Inversely, if a player scores a natural 20 on a Defense Roll the GM should narrate some appropriate results and benefits. In combat, it mostly translates into the opponent being thrown off balance by the defender, making attacks Easy on the following turn.

You probably noticed by now that with players making Defense Rolls the game can slow down a lot when many creatures are on the table. To avoid that, here’s a few suggestions.

Ganging Up. When several weak creatures attack the same opponent, they trigger a single Defense Roll for their attacks, it being modified to Easy or Hard as necessary. A single goblin attacking with a rusty knife? Easy roll. A few goblins with spears? Normal roll. A small unit of heavily armored elite goblins protected by arrow slits raining down bolts from repeating crossbows? Hard roll.
Increased Damage. Multiple creatures will trigger a single Defense Roll but deal more damage. When these monsters attack a single target, roll the highest damage and modify it by +1 per extra monster. So, the hobgoblin leader wielding a large sword (Weapon Effort 1D6+2) is being helped by three of its goblin minions? His Weapon Effort will be 1D6+5 this turn if you don’t defend yourself.
Special Effects. Multiple opponents working together to overcome the PCs may open a window to many different scenes and stunts. Can the players intimidate them to break them up? Can they force the enemies into a funnel so only a few of them can fight at the same time? Combine these ideas with the GM INNOVATIONS chapter of ICRPG Quickstart Second Edition (p. 68-75), especially the Target Damage concept, for some really interesting encounters.


@P_Frota This stuff is SO GOOD. I use roll-to-dodge and I’ve been struggling quite a bit with how to handle armor/defence. Specially, I think Ganging Up and Increased Damage are going to help me out a lot. Reminds me of PDM’s +1 to hit and damage for running groups.

When I ran an Ogre (+8 STR), I set the target at 15, and said he’s easy to hit but hard to dodge. The were a bunch of bandits too, you could make them easy to hit and dodge, out you could just say that as long as the Big Bad is in play everyone else gets a boost.

@Delusions I think your thoughts on this topic solved most of the problems I’ve been running into regarding defense rolls. Thanks!

Another user on another thread recommended having your monsters roll under the room target. I’ve been using that idea myself and I love it. You don’t need to roll much anyway, but the odd time when you do, it’s a pretty slick way to make sure the monsters have the edge when they’re supposed to have the edge.


I’ve been doing both a DM roll to an attack, and then a PC roll for defense.

I roll, (18), “the ogre swings his club at your head, how would you like to defend against it?”

PC, “I use my STR to block the club…” roll’s 14 (target 12)

Me, “you are able to block the club”

Everyone seems to like it, I know it adds a step, and makes hits rare, but with only 10 hp, any hit will be a big deal. I think it adds flavor to the story. We have people using different types of defense based on what they are good at.

long live ICRGP!


Hey Jack,

That’s a great way to show active defense. Afterall, AC being 10+bonuses is really just the average d20 roll… :wink:

You could take that to the next level by modding their rolls based on their description. You can block an ogre’s club, but it would be easier to dodge it. Maybe some attacks have a special note “cannot be dodged”, or “cannot be parried”, making a monster’s fighting style more unique.



You can save a step by just skipping your to-hit roll, and having players roll to defend.