Bad Dice in Dungeons and Dragons
It seems like in every Dungeons and Dragons game, there is one person in the group who the dice roll worse for. Whether it’s true or not, it seems like in every big situation where they chuck some dice, it is a single digit and it just doesn’t work. This can lead to one or two things, frustration, or leaning into it for fun.
This is kind of the basic response that most people will have. They will grab their dice and roll, fail, possibly again, and get annoyed at the dice. They will complain how they can’t hit anything. It is bad luck, their dice just hate them. And while rolling poorly isn’t fun for them, the complaining and frustration takes everyone else to their mood. As the RPG Academy says: “If you’re having fun you’re doing it right.” And frustration can remove the fun.
It’s hard and not always possible, actually, to not get frustrated. And while I tend to roll okay, I do know how it goes when you have a series of bad rolls. And they always seem to come at the worst time. But, I think, there is a responsibility at the table, from all players, to make bad rolls less of a big deal.
How Do You Lean Into It?
- Make it a joke
- Help action
- Give advantage
- Fail forward
Make It A Joke
This one is really something that needs to be led by the player who is failing at their roll. Lean into the fact you roll poorly. Joke about how you’re going to fail in the big situations above the table. But also in the game, this is happening to your character. Make it a joke for them as well. Turn the bad dice roll into a role playing opportunity.
The character you play should be aware of the fact they aren’t doing well. When you miss three attacks on the big boss in a row but can kill a random rat like no ones business, you’d know. Or when you can’t find the obvious clue in the room. Lean into it, lean into the fact that you don’t know or can’t hit. Tell the other characters that you can’t see anything but point out how poorly you’ve done at it before.
The Help Action
This goes for the players who roll poorly and those who are playing with them. Use the help action. Help basically gives the player advantage on whatever they are trying to do. And I say that this is something almost anyone at the table can do, and most people forget about. It isn’t a flashy action, but when someone helps, your rolls on average should improve by 5, I believe that’s the math anyways.
If you are the other players, give up an action to help that rogue who can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn. Or help them look for clues in a room. Don’t make the roll yourself, but give them advantage.
And for that player who rolls poorly, help out in key situations in battle. This ties into the first one, make it a joke. If your character is aware that they fail in key situations, then use the help action for the next character instead. Create that distraction in the boss fight. Or narrate how when there’s an investigation going on, you’re handing things to the person investigating to help them. Use that help action as an aware move of your character.
Give Out Advantage/Inspiration
This one is for the Dungeon Master. And it comes down to giving out inspiration. That gives that player who rolls poorly a way to get advantage whenever. And give out inspiration when they do something cool, but also give out some when they mess it up and narrate how it goes poorly. If they are owning a bad roll, that is worthy of inspiration.
Now, I have this one last, but generally, this one is extremely important. In the big boss fight, failing forward might not be an option, because combat has more rules in place. But for an important check, fail forward somehow. Really, most rolls can fail forward.
The example for this is that players are looking for a trapdoor in a room. They know someone came into the room and when they come in there is no one there. Player 1 rolls, they fail miserable, player 2 fails, and now it’s down to player 3. If player 3 fails, that means no one has found the trapdoor and the person gets away. Well, person 3, in a fail forward, rolls and fails. Does that mean that that ends that encounter?
With failing forward, player 3, or the group, finds the trapdoor. But the person getting away has done two things. They have had time to put in a small trap on the trapdoor. And they’ve gotten more of a head start they had player 1 found the trapdoor on the first roll. It gives the player consequences for rolling poorly, but it keeps the story moving. You never want the story to just die.
The Dice Might Hate You
So yes, the dice, they might hate you. But there are things that as the person whom the dice hate, the players at the table, and the Dungeon Master running the game that you can do to make it better. This is a game after all. And we want people to have fun when playing the game. Not get everything they want, but to have fun, and a bunch of poor rolls can certainly hurt that. So figure out ways, behind what I’ve suggested, to be flexible with your character and have fun at the table.