Post-session transparency of method -- best practices

I suppose I could do a random encounter check in the open and then another secret check to see if it's really a random encounter [grin]. That would achieve the desirable effect of curtailing the player meta knowledge about whether there's a real encounter here or not.

Or, we could just use random number sheets like real competitive gamers, allowing post-game review of the GM's rolls. No need to roll in the open when the players can check the accounts afterwards.

How does this work in practice? How does the GM avoid looking in advance at rolls? How is the session recorded? How is the post-game review conducted?
I've heard of this!


  • Well, the basic procedure could be something like this:

    1) Have two copies of the same random number sheet. Number the entries for best usability, so you have value #1, value #2, etc. instead of just a string of numbers. Give one copy to the players, but they don't look at it before the game's over - it's just so they'll know you aren't swapping sheets midway through.

    2) Have a running tally of how many random numbers the GM has used, and have it in public - a big fat calendar-type counter thing, perhaps, that everybody can look at. Ideally you'd want something that gives a satisfying ding every time the GM pushes a button or something, to replace the sound of rolling dice; every ding means that the GM just used a number.

    (If you're worried that the GM can't keep from looking at the random numbers in advance, you'll just need to craft some sort of a device that allows the GM to look at them one at a time. A simple paper blinder could work - a bookmark with a hole in it that the GM moves over the sheet as they go, which covers the up-coming numbers. Depends on how paranoid you want to get. The sheets could come from a trusted third party, too, of course, or the whole thing could be computerized.)

    3) The players log particularly important GM actions in their notes - they essentially keep a log book of events during the session. An entry says which random number the GM expended and what happened. "#34 random encounter occurred" or "#39 the orc hit character A's AC of 12".

    4) After the game, the players can use the random number sheet against their log to check that the GM is not fudging their secret rolls. They could find that the random number #34 was a '2', and therefore the GM cheated, because the rules say that only '1' is a random encounter. Or not, as presumably a GM willing to do this doesn't cheat.

    For the record, I'll say that it hasn't occurred to me to seriously use something like this - it would be a pretty special circumstance in which we wanted to play together but did not trust the GM not to cheat. Usually you'd either desist from playing because the GM is a cheat, or play because you trust they're not.
  • Using an app with some sorta logging + notes could be the way to go. This is easier for those who DM online and record their side of the screen. Like @skinnyghost for his Tomb of Annihilation campaign. (I wish he hadn't rolled that fall from the top of Firefinger tower offscreen, that was one extreme roll and that would've been fun to see.)

    For me, it's not just about cheating (although you've been lucky, Eero, we have lots of cheaters here. In fact, since I moved to Sth I've become paranoid af about gaming. Some games with too much hidden procedure become downright unplayable, like Roll For The Galaxy), it's also about shared experience. Together seeing that unusual roll come up.

    I've added Fire on the Velvet Horizon monsters to Tomb of Annihilation and there's a one in a thousand chance for
    the Navarch of AaXt -- a devil that rolls up the entire continent into a big blunt, starts piloting the whole tube to Stygia while his crew of imps gather bones and fight moon apes.

    So everytime that roll is made I'm on the edge of my seat. The players know which number means 'something big, from FotVH' but not what, exactly. But it's still a shared experience spinning that wheel and pulling the trigger.
  • Jeremy Crawford, my idol and creator of D&D, just wrote his followers and encouraged them to modify encounters on the fly. OMG :(

    I don't want that as a player.

    This isn't meant to gatekeep, just how D&D has the all-things-to-all-people problem. What's one person's good experience and "DM worth her salt" is another's social-contract-breach.

    Eero, the culture in D&D/Pathfinder is what it is. And it's great that they're happy but we want something else.

    This is why I have a hard time finding DMs. The local DMs who claim to be of the same mind are all on LotFP and S&S. So me seeing a cool class/background combo in 5e is useless. I have to roll up some crappy 1hp, zero-bab 'specialist' in order to play with them.

    My only option to find a game my style is to try to teach/train DMs. That includes checking. It's easy to pay lip service to complicated philosophies, and hard to grok them.

    I'm reading the Knights of the Dinner Table and one of the players (Brian) was a former DM who is sort of mentoring the current DM (BA). Checking up on rules.

    In my own group, that's the play culture I'm trying to foster. Tearing down the GM cult and instead have transparency about rules and calls and stats. Making sure everyone is on board with what the situation is. Having engagement in mechanics, not just story. Delegating looking up rules.
  • I've said before that though the downside of an 'all-things-to-all-people' game is how excrutiatingly hard it becomes to find a group that plays it the way you like it, the upside is that it's easy to find material. Classes, monsters, maps…
  • There's a thing that I've considered for hardcore D&D 4th edition "Step on up" play. Essentially I would place a full copy of all the prep for the dungeon du jour in a sealed envelope that the players mark with their signatures. That way they can verify that all the stats, trap & monster placements, monster numbers, secrets, and everything else is exactly the way I prepped it and that absolutely no GM fiat has been used. All rolls would be made in the open.

    I haven't actually done this and there are probably some kinks that would need sorting out. One problem that I foresee is that the entire dungeon would need to be fully prepped in advance, front-loading the workload immensely.
  • I use the following method to provide post-encounter transparency (rather than post-session transparency):

    At the beginning of the encounter, I roll reaction with a dice cup in view of the players, take a peek, then put the cup back in place. After the encounter, I lift the cup.
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