I have been paying Dungeons and Dragons for three years now and have noticed that, while there are the overt rolls for battle and roleplaying, there are also some hidden rolls that we, as players or sometimes as DM’s, never see. They can range from determining emotional range to saving a player from a senseless imminent death. We all do it, players and DM’s alike. I’m not saying we hide these rolls but more that they are separate from the main event and so, not often recognized.
For the player there are a few hidden types of rolls. There is the emotional quotient roll that some players make. We have a role play heaving member of the table that constantly rolls for his state of mind. He determines everything from reactions to revealed information to sanity breaks. He has come super close to losing his mind a few times when secrets got real bad in the party. His PC managed to recover but it left a noticeable mark on the party. Since then we made sure to be as honest with each other as possible and it actually helped bring our group closer together. These rolls can be both good and bad for the PC, it’s all up to the dice.
You can also roll for emotional reasons. If you aren’t really good at accents or playing a role you can use the dice to determine what the emotion is that rules your PC’s actions. This can help alleviate the stress of roleplaying or speaking with an accent. Instead of acting out a mental breakdown you can just say, “this breaks my character’s sanity and he falls into a gibbering ball on the floor.” This way you aren’t pressured to act a certain way if it isn’t something you’re comfortable with. Breaking down the emotions in a game can be helpful to relieve the stress of seeing other people really getting into roleplaying.
There are also the player on player rolls. These can be deliberately hidden from each other. When competing in something during a campaign session, I have noticed players take on what I call the “poker stance”. Suddenly, covering their dice and looking at their opponents for tells. They treat the dice like their hand and guard them fiercely. This is something that I think is mainly subconscious. When we compete, we don’t want to give an advantage to our opponents. I usually see this when we play dragon chess, dice cup games, carnival games, and also in-session card games like playing poker at the local tavern.
There are also the hidden DM rolls. There is the pump fake, where you want to keep your player’s on their toes by rolling dice for no apparent reason. This seems like a mean thing to do to your players but it actually achieves a couple of good things. It can easily increase tension, if you want to infuse some into your story. This keeps the players on their toes and on the lookout for something to happen. It can also bring back the attention of your player’s if they are in a lull or are having difficulty figuring out what they want to do. A well placed unknown roll can kick their butts back into action.
Sometimes there are situations where a mistake is made or an encounter is too strong for what the DM planned and they have to interfere. In our very first session, our rogue died because a pack of wolves got a couple of critical rolls on him and killed him. Our DM had to rectify the situation by ignoring the critical rolls and just making the attack. He still got hurt but wasn’t killed by our very first encounter. A lot of times DM’s hide rolls from players but you have to find a DM you trust to fudge the rolls when it is needed and to uphold them when they make sense.
Dungeon Masters also use these hidden rolls for actual hidden people. If your party has a tail on them, or there is something nefarious going on that is not overtly noticeable, the DM often rolls for the stealth character to stay unseen. This can create situations where the players experience the consequences of an experience without knowing what did it or why. This is really good, if you are leading a secret cabal that operates in the shadows or in plain sight but with great sleight of hand. If the party doesn’t have the sufficiently high rolls to see what is happening and miss it, it could turn into a bigger problem to present to them in the future.
For whatever reason we use them, hidden rolls are helpful and fun. As long as everyone’s goal is to work together so that everyone enjoys themselves, the hidden rolls only help make the game more interesting. I for one love using rolls to determine decisions my character would make if I’m not certain of her choice in the matter. This alleviates so much stress, especially during the middle of a session. I may love hidden rolls, but do you? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @DnDWifestories or Instagram @dndwife.