Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four
UNLUCKY GM SYNDROME:
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU'RE ROLLING HORRIBLY
Here's The Original Question From Lythurienne SunHawk:
"Okay, this is probably a little bit of an odd question to
come up, but how would you deal with an unlucky GM?
Basically, here it is. As a player, my luck seems to be
perfectly normal. If I have a 75% chance of succeeding at
something, then 75% of the time I will succeed. As a GM,
however, if I have, say, a 50% chance of succeeding, I will
succeed closer to 5% of the time.
Example 1. (AD&D) I had a Level 1 party (average AC: 8)
fighting about 6 zombies (THAC0 20) [Johnn: for all the non-
AD&D players out there, Lythurienne is saying each Zombie
had a 15% chance of a successful attack.] My players still
remember how, for 3 rounds straight, every single one of the
zombies' attacks missed.
Example 2. (AD&D) I had a Level 2 party (average AC: 7)
fighting 5 hobgoblins (THAC0 19) [Johnn: 25% chance of
successfully attacking.] In one round I made 3 critical
misses (10% chance each) and 2 normal misses. Next round all
the hobgoblins missed again (not critically, though). (These
examples are from combat because, out of combat, I don't
find very many situations which can be resolved using AD&D's
system.) Those were extreme cases of unluckiness, but I've
also been known to roll...the pattern: 5, 7, 5, 7, 5, 7.
None of which were nearly high enough to hit the players
[Johnn: hopefully Lythurienne means the players' characters
here ;-) ]. Oh yeah, and this seems to happen no matter what
dice I've tried, so I don't think it's the dice.
So, how would you deal with this? My players' "assurance"
that I'd never kill them in combat was the fact that I
continually roll low. I tried disregarding any critical
misses on the parts of the opponents, but the PCs would
still get by practically unscathed. Combat was no challenge
to them. (Okay, I'll admit that this tendency to roll low is
one of the reasons I don't like combat so much.) Obviously,
running a diceless game would solve the problem, but other
than that solution, (ie, without completely changing the
rules system) what would you do?"
Here Are Some Great Responses To Lythurienne Predicament:
From Emperor Mad Max [ICQ UIN 1912619]:
"My first solution would be to change the game system, but
that is my advice to anyone that wants more out of RPG than
If you are set on sticking with AD&D, then the solution is
to upgrade the bad guys some. This can be done by either
making some of the normal people more exceptional, or just
using more powerful foes. The first way is better as it
catches the characters by surprise. Imagine having one or
two hobgoblins from your example with a Thaco of 12.
Outside of that, the idea that "if the NPCs miss hitting the
characters [therefore] it is bad for the GM" is not a good
idea, at least not to my opinion. The challenge to me is to
create an interesting story full of good things and bad. So
in your story, perhaps the heroes always beat the
hobgoblins. Either the hobgoblins will get better, or they
will be exterminated from the realm. So this removes the
challenges from the players? Nope, see, while they were out
fighting the baddies, the tavern wench discovers she is
pregnant with the child of one of the heroes. She tells her
mother [who] is the servant of the local Baron. He feels
that a little bit of settling down would be good for the
realm, so he demands the hero marry and take care of the
family in addition to being a hero. Now they may be used to
swinging swords at the bad guys, but how do they react to
the claims of the tavern girl? Maybe she is not telling the
truth, but the Baron believes her.
Anyway, the chances are that you have just had some bad
rolls with your dice. Chance works that way, and the larger
number of rolls you make, the better the chance of getting a
better average. In the games I run, I make and require a
large number of rolls, with the largest portion of them
being Observation. My biggest problem is when the players
roll bad when I want them to see or experience something.
In the end, don't worry about the characters coasting
through the hardships you create. As a GM, you win when
everyone leaves the game with a feeling of having a good
time and enjoying the story you have put together."
From Johnn Four:
"What an unusual situation. Personally, I've had many
sessions with bizarre luck streaks. However, I know that my
rolls will always "wash out" in the end. If I have an
unlucky streak, my players know I'll be rolling critical
hits again eventually.
If I were DMing and felt I was having a really horrible bad-
karma night with the dice, I'd consider the following:
* Fudge results.
* Increase power levels of monsters and NPCs. Who cares if
you keep rolling 7's when the bad guys' THACOs are 3? :)
Just watch out when your good luck returns--the PCs will
have to learn to flee or they could have very short lives.
* Give the bad guys attacks that don't require dice rolls
from you. For example, give the hobgoblins a paralyzation
wand with 5 charges left. The wand doesn't require targeting
or to-hit rolls from you so now it's up to the PCs to do the
dice rolling and let's see how their luck runs! Also, if the
PCs win, the wand will burn out soon and game balance is
* How about rolling your dice differently? I know when I
play Risk and my rolls start to really suck I stand up and
swing the arms wildly, touch the board, adjust my glasses,
touch the board again and roll into the box lid. Remember
though, if this technique is to work you've got to touch the
board, then the glasses, then the board. If you screw up the
sequence it won't work. Oh, did I mention this method starts
you on the long road down superstition?
* Finally--and this method may earn you the enmity of all
players within a 5 mile radius--if you really do suffer from
on-going bad luck, then to be fair you should roll for your
From Brad Robertson:
"In this situation, I would say you have a couple of
choices. One would be to upgrade your enemies and make them
more powerful so that they have a better chance of hitting.
The downside of this is that if your dice suddenly start
rolling well, then the PC's will get slaughtered.
Your next option would be to start bringing in spellcasters.
Your 6 PC's may [be] insulted getting attacked by 6 orcs,
but when 4 of the PC's suddenly fall asleep, the other two
will start worrying.
The last (and what I consider to be the most obvious) option
is to *lie*. (gasp! a GM lie??!?). Don't let them see your
rolls, and tell them that they got hit. The PC's will
probably like combat a lot more as well if they feel that
they're getting in danger. This way you can also control
combat a bit more easier."
From Eric Nolan:
"Yup, I agree with the suggestion raised by some of the
One of your jobs as the GM is to provide entertainment for
the players. The occasional walk over fight can be good,
especially if the players were sweating the result before
they engaged. If fights are always too easy the players may
get bored and, even more dangerous, they may get complacent
If I was you I would just fudge the dice rolls to make
things more interesting. It is quite unusual to have to
fudge the rolls in the NPCs favour but this is a situation
where you should. Make the players feel that they were in
at least some danger.
A key skill to develop as a GM is to know when the dice need
to be overruled or not used at all. In a game I was playing
the plot demanded that all the characters be shanghai'ed and
that we would meet up as prisoners in a mining installation.
The referee took three attempts to get my character all of
which failed (partly due to his somewhat inept method of
going about it and partly due to bad dice rolls). This
resulted in him having a hushed conversation with the
resident 'evil gm' in the room. The 'evil gm' then sat down
in the seat of power and asked me what my character was
doing. 'working at his station on the assembly line' was my
answer, 'you are working away when without warning something
hits you hard in the back of the head, there is an intense
and painful flash of white light and everything goes dark.
You wake up with a painful, throbbing headache and you seem
to by lying on a metal floor'. He didn't roll dice and he
didn't give me a chance, which was great. This was the
scenario set up, the other referee essentially wasted 30
minutes of everyones time in successive attempts to
accomplish something he should have gotten done in 3
Have more fun at every game!