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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Do PCs and Their Adversaries Operate Under the Same Set of Rules in Your Campaigns?

Some DM's handwave based upon likely results. Some DM's have a roll for everything with success or failure depending on that roll.

Today's question is two-fold:

Do you prefer to handwave, roll or some combination of the two?


Do the PCs and their adversaries operate under the same set of rules? If not, why?


  1. Not anymore. I did in 3.x Edition and it nearly drove me mad. Today the class/race rules are for player characters only, NPCs can break them for better or worse but mostly so it is easier for me to create and run the game.
    I do use the same skill, spellcheck, to hit, damage and other base mechanics universally of course.

  2. I use a combination of both. My dice at least half the time are there just for the sound they make.

  3. It really depends. Sometimes I'll hand-wave things, especially if the dice just aren't cooperating and making the game boring ("Why can't you just roll a frigging 12 and kill the last kobold!"). But short of something like that, which is actively hurting the fun at the table, I'll generally go with the dice.

    And yes, the same goes for the NPCs as well as PCs.

  4. I definitely like a combination of the two for both PCs and NPCs. For PCs, sometimes I can't think of anything interesting about not succeeding, or not succeeding quickly, and often I will handwave through the remainder of a combat that has gotten stale. For NPCs, I tend to make decisions for things outside of combat in a general attempt to make the game more engaging and interesting for the players. Since a lack of interaction tends to be dull, I tend to have NPCs able to act with fewer rolls--unless they are attempting to do something in direct contradiction to a player's goal for his/her PC (spotting a stealthy PC, e.g., or tracking one who has made effort to pass w/o trace, so to speak).

  5. We are playing HackMaster 5th Edition. We play by the rules for both PC's and NPC's, which sometimes means differing rules, because NPC monsters have a slightly different stat block than leveled NPC classes.

    The honour mechanic prevents me from fudging any roles. Though I sometimes wish the "monsters" had honour.

  6. Fuck no.

    Way too much work, and way too much randomness in the case of DCC.

    DCC NPC spellcasters don't cast spells like PC casters do - instead they have a variety of special abilities that seem a lot like spells.

  7. To treat the second question first: Depends on the system.

    One of the great innovations of Runequest was it treated monsters and characters as the same (which also opened a great deal of potential. It also changes the overall tone of the game when both players and creatures are working under the same limitations. For one thing, characters tend to be less superheroic and the world slightly more dangerous as a result.

    D&D was originally faily symmetrical, considering it's basis in Chainmail. However D&D became more assymetrical as time went on (with probably the maximum asymmetry being in 4E. [I do actually feel that the 4E approach of handling opposition has merit, especially for very complex monster builds.]

    One of the reasons I prefer earlier variants is that they are easy to run as sandboxes with essentially the same rules governing PCs and NPCs (where the important qualifiers are Class, Level/HD and Move/AC). At that level most characters (PC and NPC) are pretty much the same. PCs have an advantage that they are more defined, but NPCs that commonly interact with the players soon gain that same level of definition as well.

    As for the first question the old saw of only rolling when you are unsure of the result applies. Dungeon World explicitly relies on doing this by only requiring a roll when things can go either way (which is why the flat probability of success works pretty well).

    Another example is if someone has a skill it is assumed that this reflects a certain competency in doing the job. The level of skill indicates both the quality of the finished job and the time it takes to finish the job. A lot of games may add specific bonuses for taking time and producing lesser quality work but I just prefer to hand-wave it. The crunch comes when it is a matter of excitement and do-and-die. When there is risk and the outcome is uncertain, probably because of distractions or limited time.

    One of the reasons I've never felt any need for the Gumshoe system is that I've always taken skills like the classic Call of Cthulhu skill Library Use as an indication of an underlying statistical distribution rather than a binary success/fail roll. Eventually the character will find what they are looking for unless they get discouraged and give up, or find the wrong information (both of which are obviously a fumble result).

    One of advantages of most games is that a probability is a slice of a statistical distribution. Swords & Spells (the tabletop wargaming rules based on D&D), used this to good effect by treating all D&D combat as statistics rather than probabilities. This means that if a fighter needs 13+ to hit then for every group of 20 fighters it means that 8 of them will hit and 12 of them will miss. This makes it a lot easier to adjudicate mass actions.

    The same also applies to BRP based games of course, Attempt to cross a river with a Swim 50% chance and half the people will make it across successfully.

    1. In BRP you could say the river is calm and no roll required as long as they have some level of swim skill. The skills are made fore tough situations, not every applicable situation.

  8. In an encounter everything is rolled as required by the rules. NPC/monsters aren't necessarily built following the same rules as the characters so an NPC "Wizaed" might not have any regular MU spells at all but instead have a small roster of powers. If I am building an MU with the same limits of PCs I don't roll to see if they can learn spells they get to have the ones I want them to have for the encounter prepped in my notes. NPC equipment is likely to be hand-waved with maybe a little pre-defined cherry picking but his isn't firm and fast either, I don't bother budgeting what equipment the NPC would have they are equipped as needed for the campaign/scenario.

  9. Yes, for everything that really matters.

    1. And yes, we roll, if the roll has interesting possibilities for success and failure. If neither matters in an interesting way, we've handwave things. Why roll if it's not adventure-impacting? It's an adventure game. It's like having bathroom breaks for the characters in an action movie - it's only cool if the bathroom break matters.

  10. I have always used a combination of the two, regardless of the game system. Some NPCs matter more to the story than others, so I bend the rules for them.

    Two things I have almost always handwaved and/or used rules of my own devising are in the case of gods, demons, and dragons. The various D&D editions have never done them to my liking.

  11. Depends on the rules. Those which I consider to be the "physics" of the game are adhered to by both sides*, while those I find to be artificial game constructs can be ignored by NPCs

    An example of an artificial construct would be skill points and rank caps in 3e. There's no in-game reason why a blacksmith must improve his fighting capabilities to excel at his craft. It's purely a means of balancing the PCs

    * For the most part. I'll make exceptions where appropriate, generally to maintain the flow of the game, though the general spirit of the rules is maintained (that is, I'd handwave based upon likely results)

  12. I run a sandbox simulation, so to me it's alway s the same rules for everyone.

  13. I handwave very little. Mostly this is because my former group bitched incessantly about how they thought I was being unfair to the detriment of the party (the exact opposite was true). So my decision/solution was to roll in plain view of the players. They then had no one to blame but themselves when my d20 went on a probability warping string of hits. It wasn't long before they realized what a terrible mistake they'd made.


  14. In combat, I roll the dice the same for monsters/enemies as I do for PCs. Even a big bad evil guy/dungeon "boss" monster can fumble or just keep missing.

    In terms of other rules, it depends on what game I'm running. In most flavors of D&D that I DM, monsters and NPCs have what they need and what's appropriate, no more and no less. Most (but not all) of the human/demihuman NPCs are ordinary folk, even the soldiers. (They might have a +1 to hit and more hp, but most soldiers are not fighters)

  15. Pretty much. Humanoid BBEGs can be built like PCs, or could be exceptions, but they basically get the same random rolls as PCs, and I often make them right out in the open.

  16. When I'm not sure of the conclusion of an issue, I usually roll 1d6: 1-2 things turn bad for the PCs, 5-6 things turn fine for the PCs, 3-4 is a tie (usually means that status quo is maintained, for good or bad.

    I usually don't treat opponents/NPCs as the PCs for one good reason: eauch PC has one player to look upon his numbers, rolls, etc; where as the DM has a plethora of people to supervise. So everything that spares book keeping is a good thing in my book.
    For instance , I tend to use the "single save" from Swords & Wizardry for NPC/Opponents, but let the PCs their five ST.