Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ask Jetpack Jack! - Dice Rolling With Authority!

Here at long last is our first installment of the Ask Jetpack Jack advice column on the CVG!

Remember, you can submit your own questions for the man by emailing with "Ask Jetpack Jack" in the subject line!


Welcome to the very first installment of Ask Jetpack Jack, where I will try to answer your questions about life, the universe, and everything. Except, you know, about games and the gamers who play them. I can already hear you, dear reader in the comments, saying “But JJ, why would we want to get advice from you? You can’t even stop yourself from singing about montages!” I’ll tell you why.

I have been an avid tabletop gamer for over a decade, a video game fan for over 25, and a Dungeon Master for almost 10 years. I have run dozens of games over the years and have done so with a very diverse group of people. During this time, I have found that some things just aren’t seen as good etiquette when it comes to gaming in general and tabletop gaming in particular.

One of these contentious things is at the core of most games – dice rolling. It’s almost as ubiquitous as books and pencils for games today, and so many people just seem to do it wrong. Whether it’s palming dice to try and get a higher number on the drop, or tossing dice like they’re at the craps table, there are a lot of wrong ways to roll these little polyhedrals. With my help, you will be gaming faster, more efficiently, and with less arguments at the table.

The #1 problem when it comes to dice rolling is taking forever with your dice rolls.  Combat in games is by far the slowest time for a game, taking up over half the time of every session. When it is your time to roll, try and do so quickly. You don’t need to shake your dice for a long time to get a result, and doing so will take up more time, making the combat drag on even longer, so keep it brief. For most people, the modifiers for their dice rolls do not change much from roll to roll, if at all. In order to make the game flow better, take the time beforehand to write down your total modifiers for your rolls. Your DM, and the other players, will thank you.

This does not mean, however, that you should roll your dice ahead of time. While you might be tempted to do so, rolling ahead of time does two things that will cause problems – it distracts the DM when he is trying to resolve actions made by the other players at the table, and it ends up interrupting the playtime of the other players. It’s as bad as interrupting the DM or players in the middle of describing a situation or location, and can be even more distracting.  Planning your move in advance, however, is a good idea. You show to the DM that you are engaged in the game, and it also keeps lag to a minimum.

Unfortunately, whenever you talk about gaming and rolling dice, you also have to talk about cheating. Some people (and you know who you are) will ‘fudge’ dice rolls, or obscure results in order to improve their roll. This not only makes the DM not trust you, but it also removes some of the fun of the game. Dice are supposed to introduce the effects of randomness to a game, and if your character never, ever fails, that randomless is lost. So, be the bigger gamer and let the dice fall where they may. This is Jetpack Jack, signing off.