Game transparency and its effects on rerolls and bonuses

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OK, there have been two threads regarding rolling that have garnered some serious debate.

One here in the DM forum about player rolls, and one (now 4 pages long) in the player forum about a DM's die rolls that i accidentally hijacked.

The issue that came up was basically "how much transparency should there be in the game."

In the past, with our gaming group, it felt like it detracted a little bit as we watched the dice.  I happen to be really really fast with numbers so i could recreate entire monster stat blocks in my head from a dice roll or two - especially using MM3 monsters, for example: "oh he rolled a 16 to hit and got a 25, so we're fighting at least one level 4 monster - watch out for him, he's going to hit harder, more often, and be tougher to take down since we're level 1 or 2"

now whether i said that quote above out loud or not hardly seemed the issue - it just happened to be very very easy for all of that to happen in my head in the span of about 2 seconds.


HERE COMES THE DISCUSSION POINT OF THE THREAD:
how does game transparency effect abilities like the essential thief's backstab or the elves' "elven reroll" or other similar powers that grant a bonus or a reroll before you technically know the result of the power.

further, how do you, as DMs, run such issues of game transparency compared with these powers?

A power like heroic effort (human essentials racial power) is only slightly changed, as you use it after the DM has said miss.  That being said, if you get a 13, and figure to boost that to a 17 with the power, and the monster AC is 18 - its a situation where game transparency would have really aided the power.

Its certainly no stretch to say that a DM who holds onto indexed versions of their players defenses and only says that the monsters "hit" or "miss" and who keeps all defenses of the monsters secret for as long as he can is diminishing the relative power level of these power choices.  After all, what wizard would choose the "Shield" utility power if your DM only ever said "hit" or "miss" on powers?  certainly some would, but the power would look much less attractive than if you always knew the number of the attack roll.

So - what do you use for player attacks? monster attacks?
Player attacks:
a) players are told the value of the defense they're swinging at before the attack
b) players are told the value of the defense they're attacking once one player has attacked that defense.
c) players are not told the defenses, but no effort is made to prevent players from comparing rolls to figure defenses out.
d) every effort is made to keep monster defenses secret, and even temp bonuses and penalties are not announced.

Monster attacks:
a) monster rolls in the open, and the rolled number and bonus is announced to the player, who tells the DM "hit" or "miss"
b) monster rolls in the open, and only the total number is announced - players are free to do match however they want to figure out bonuses.
c) monster rolls secretly, and only the total number is announced - players are left guessing what the monster's bonuses are. 
d) monster rolls secretly, and the DM checks the players relevant defense and tells the player if the attack hit or missed

THIS IS NOT A DEBATE ON WHICH LEVEL OF TRANSPARENCY IS "BETTER," BUT MERELY A SURVEY TO SEE WHICH METHOD OTHER DMS USE AND WHY!
Also, to start it out, i'll go ahead and put what my gaming group USED in the past, and what we use now.

Player attacks in the past: (C)
Monster attacks in the past: (B)

Player attacks now: (C)
Monster attacks now: (C)

as you can see, only the monster attacks have changed.  The (C) setup for player attacks means that reroll and bonus powers get more useful as the encounter wears on, as players start narrowing down defenses on monsters, but they still aren't as powerful as knowing exactly wht the defense is before the attack (which would make powers like backstab NEVER fail - with the (C) model, there is a chance of failure)

The change in the way the monsters worked, i think, was a way of reducing "metagaming" from the players in terms of combat choices based on bonuses and rolls.  Also, the (A), (B), AND (C) models for monster attacks allow powers like "Shield" to work perfectly, the player will always know if the immediate interrupt defense bonus he's getting will be enough to make the hit into a miss.

again, not that any of these methods are universally better than any others - just stating what our group uses.           
I don't announce numbers, on either side, but I do tell whether a certain power would help. For example if the Wizard has shield and I say he takes a hit (because I remembered his defenses most likely, I usually call out the number) then I will say whether or not Shield will help him.

Same with attack boosts. If a player misses and then asks "Do I hit with an extra +2?" I'll tell them. I also don't mind players deducing defenses and attack bonusses. As long as they don't forget that I'm the DM and some times things change. 
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Normally, players will guess the defense of a monster after a few attacks. 23 misses but 24 hits! AC is often guessed real fast in an encounter.
If they miss by one or two, sometime, I say "Almost". Giving them the opportunity to use a power that would help them!

For the survey, I'd say

C and C
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1 - B

2 - A
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how does game transparency effect abilities like the essential thief's backstab or the elves' "elven reroll" or other similar powers that grant a bonus or a reroll before you technically know the result of the power.

further, how do you, as DMs, run such issues of game transparency compared with these powers?

A power like heroic effort (human essentials racial power) is only slightly changed, as you use it after the DM has said miss.  That being said, if you get a 13, and figure to boost that to a 17 with the power, and the monster AC is 18 - its a situation where game transparency would have really aided the power.



It allows the player to use their cool abilities and actually have them work. This makes for happy players. That's good enough for me. 

So - what do you use for player attacks? monster attacks?
Player attacks:
a) players are told the value of the defense they're swinging at before the attack
b) players are told the value of the defense they're attacking once one player has attacked that defense.
c) players are not told the defenses, but no effort is made to prevent players from comparing rolls to figure defenses out.
d) every effort is made to keep monster defenses secret, and even temp bonuses and penalties are not announced.

Monster attacks:
a) monster rolls in the open, and the rolled number and bonus is announced to the player, who tells the DM "hit" or "miss"
b) monster rolls in the open, and only the total number is announced - players are free to do match however they want to figure out bonuses.
c) monster rolls secretly, and only the total number is announced - players are left guessing what the monster's bonuses are. 
d) monster rolls secretly, and the DM checks the players relevant defense and tells the player if the attack hit or missed



Player Attacks: C
Monster Attacks: A

Why? First, I play on GameTable online and the macros break down the results in the mechanics window. The DM has the option to make it a private roll, but I can't be bothered. We also roll our damage in the same macro as the attack, meaning the player has all sorts of information on which to base decisions regarding who to attack first, when to use immediates, etc. But then, what's good for the goose is good for the gander - my monsters can use that information just the same... and I have more monsters than they have PCs.

I have found this results in faster and more cinematic combats. When players know the boundaries, they can push against them or operate within them in the most interesting way that still has a statistical chance of success. For this same reason, I am completely transparent with skill challenges and all DCs. If you're playing D&D, you probably like to strategize. I'd rather give the players the info they need to do so with the goal of giving them the tools they need to make the most interesting choices they can.

I rather feel that these sort of transparency discussions reveal something of a DM vs. Players mentality among many DMs. Anyone who has been DMing for a long time, especially in 4e, will tell you that designing "hard" combats is, well, hard. So don't try. Design interesting encounters instead, one with lots of things going on, big story relevance, and options to choose from, one in which even if the PCs trounce every baddie on the board, they had a fun time doing it (and so did I). I don't worry about transparency making my combats "easier" or taking away the "mystery" by revealing rolls. I let my players use that information to make the combat as fun as possible and to help me tell the story I'm trying to present.

Having said all that, what works for you may differ. But I certainly encourage other DMs to take this tact. 

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C - and I announce near misses/exact hits.

B - but until recently was C.  Primarily because I've found I like not having the DM screen seperate me from the players.
A and B.

I don't usually give out all the numbers as that just bogs the players down with information that they're not going to be able to remember. Sometimes I'll write them down if there's only one set of defenses to worry about, other times I'll give a range such as "22 will hit anything they have, 17 will miss anything they have."

If they specifically ask whether a power might help them, such as our wizard's Wand of Accuracy, I'll tell them. Frankly, I don't see any reason why defenses, attack bonuses, hit points and even potential damage shouldn't be visible to the characters. I can think of ways these can all plausibly be knowable to an observer. But I guess this isn't the thread for that discussion.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Player attacks:
a) players are told the value of the defense they're swinging at before the attack
b) players are told the value of the defense they're attacking once one player has attacked that defense.
c) players are not told the defenses, but no effort is made to prevent players from comparing rolls to figure defenses out.
d) every effort is made to keep monster defenses secret, and even temp bonuses and penalties are not announced.

Monster attacks:
a) monster rolls in the open, and the rolled number and bonus is announced to the player, who tells the DM "hit" or "miss"
b) monster rolls in the open, and only the total number is announced - players are free to do match however they want to figure out bonuses.
c) monster rolls secretly, and only the total number is announced - players are left guessing what the monster's bonuses are. 
d) monster rolls secretly, and the DM checks the players relevant defense and tells the player if the attack hit or missed

However, I have no objections to any of the other methods.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
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  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Interesting side issue.

Recently one of my players asked what the highest defense was around the table (or more accurately asked "Does anyone have a defence higher than 25?") so we could all just say "it hits" if we got more than that number. Turns out the player didn't want to know when the monster got a really high result, plus he found it annoying that I even asked (28 vs will, that hit you?).

Otherwise, it's all completely in the open, Players: C (mostly*), DM: A.

* I give the players hints when they are close, and outright tell them if they hit a defence *exactly*.

Out of interest, I also run without a screen, and have print outs of the monsters right in front of me, where I mark off hit points. I do nothing to prevent players taking a look, and it doesn't bother me if they do - it's only very occasionally they do so.
Player attacks:
a) players are told the value of the defense they're swinging at before the attack
b) players are told the value of the defense they're attacking once one player has attacked that defense.
c) players are not told the defenses, but no effort is made to prevent players from comparing rolls to figure defenses out.
d) every effort is made to keep monster defenses secret, and even temp bonuses and penalties are not announced.

Monster attacks:
a) monster rolls in the open, and the rolled number and bonus is announced to the player, who tells the DM "hit" or "miss"
b) monster rolls in the open, and only the total number is announced - players are free to do match however they want to figure out bonuses.
c) monster rolls secretly, and only the total number is announced - players are left guessing what the monster's bonuses are. 
d) monster rolls secretly, and the DM checks the players relevant defense and tells the player if the attack hit or missed

However, I have no objections to any of the other methods.

Ditto.

On all accounts.
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Player attacks: C though I sometimes use B when characters are making area attacks on large groups to speed things up.
Monster attacks: B unless the monster is mysterious or hidden, in which case I might start with C until the characters are aware of what they are fighting.

In general I'm fairly obscure on handing out information on monsters. Knowledge checks won't get you the creatures exact defenses or powers, just general information and an idea of what their attacks and defenses are.

Jay
When I first started I used to hide everything from the players. It was pretty easy since most of them weren't as good at math as I was and couldn't figure out monster ACs (we were using THAC0). As time went on I gradually became more open until now I just flat out tell them the monster defenses. I still hide other stat info, but they can learn that with the right skill check.

I find it's just easier to give them a reasonable amount of information up front. That way the players know best how to use their abilities. I used to worry about metagaming, but you can't really eliminate metagaming anyway. I've found that being up front about most things makes it easier on the players. They seem to focus on what their characters are doing and not on trying to figure out the monsters. They feel better about using their abilities when they know that it's a good time to use them. Now if they don't take the time to size up their enemies and end up dropping a daily on minions, well that's their fault. But especially for reroll abilities, you can't make a good judgment about that power without understanding the implications of using it. If you only hit on a 18+, a reroll is a terrible choice.

I do roll my dice secretly though. I'm usually honest about the results, but if I want to fudge the results as the DM, I want that flexibility.
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I use, and have always used, C on both counts.


Not that I have any objection to any of the other methods, but C&C is the way I've been playing it since I first played D&D, and I see no reason to change what works.
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I play; player attack: C and monster attack: a motified B. I roll in the open, I don't declare the monster's attack total, I ask for a Pc's defense and declare hit or miss.  Maybe I just want to keep them guessing.  There are some good points about power use and greater transparency with declaring a monsters defense.  Then again I like to keep them guessing.
3E/Pathfinder game, same difference.

While not all the time, often enough my DM will tell us what DC we need to get for a saving throw. For the most part players can't do anything about it anyway, but previous game it was enough to know whether my crusader/master of nine should use a saving throw maneuver or not or this campaign whether my sorcerer should cast Protection From Evil for future saves. The cavalier took Improved Iron Will feat (Pathfinder) and can decide whether it's worth rerolling his Will save he can do once per day. Obviously it doesn't bother the DM, but I think he does it for convenience. We have six players. It's easier for us just to tell him whether we make the save or not. We're all honest about it.

Similar to knowing the bad guy's AC. That he won't tell us directly, but it's easy to figure out when you roll a 13 and hit then roll a 12 and miss. We can eventually just roll and say we hit or miss for that combat. We're all adults. Metagame distinction is important to us, but that's mostly for general roleplay. For combat mechanics, we're given more leeway.  The DM will cut in if there's abuse (Honest Unintentionally), but it's not common enough to be a bother. I suppose it helps no player knows the Monster Manual/Pathfinder Bestiary. I've only skimmed it myself. I know the DM likes this concept. It keeps some mystery.
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C, I announce near misses and exact hits sometimes
C, unless the difference is significant, then I just say "hit", although sometimes I just ask my lv3 wizard "will a 26 hit your AC?" for fun... :P
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I don't tell people what the defenses are *at first*, for most monsters,  but I don't object to them figuring it out - and I'll tell them, outright, if a power is useful or not to use.

"Shield's not going to make this miss"
"Memory Of 1000 Lifetimes is certain/almost certain/could/might/probably won't/can't help."

And sometimes, I'll tell the PCs outright after a few rounds things like "this guy's Fortitude is higher than his AC.  It's a bad defense to attack", especially if someone's targeting Fort and getting frustrated.
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C and C

I guess it is a matter of preference regarding either a more (edit: subversive  lol!) immersive or a more (table-top) game-mechanics oriented approach to battles.

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C and C

I guess it is a matter of preference regarding either a more subversive or a more (table-top) game-mechanics oriented approach to battles.

What does "subversive" mean in this case? I find that having transparent defenses augments my descriptions of creatures and speeds up the game. My players use this information, but I don't think of that as metagaming, just strategy.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

C and C

I guess it is a matter of preference regarding either a more subversive or a more (table-top) game-mechanics oriented approach to battles.

What does "subversive" mean in this case? I find that having transparent defenses augments my descriptions of creatures and speeds up the game. My players use this information, but I don't think of that as metagaming, just strategy.

Lol!! I meant 'immersive' - sorry Laughing (English is not my native language)

i use C and C, i do not tell them whether heroic effort will help, but they do tend to work out defences really fast.

i do drop hints like "anything under a 30 don't even mention" (level 22) or "if it's over 40 it's a hit on anything in this encounter"

the idea of revealing monster defences after x number of attacks is a good one though, i may do that.