Player – I rolled a 15, plus 7. Do I hit his AC?
DM – What’s the total?
Player – Um, hold on. 15… (Counts under breath) 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. (At full volume again) 22! Does that hit?
DM – Yes it does. His AC is 14.
I’ve been playing a lot of public-play D&D over the past year; mostly D&D Encounters but also a fair amount of LFR. This is of course in addition to my regular weekly game. Playing in all of these games allows me to see how other people play and lets me learn from the experience. It also highlights problem areas in my game and in the game of the other players and DMs.
One disturbing trend that I’m seeing more and more is players that don’t (or possibly even can’t) do the math. They roll a d20, call out the result and then give me their modifiers and ask if they hit. In many cases the roll is high enough to beat the monster’s defences, so I know they hit even without the modifier added in; however, I always ask for the total before confirming a hit or miss. And it’s not only happening with attack rolls. It’ happens with damage rolls too.
As the DM I always try to keep the gaming moving. I have a lot of tricks and shortcuts I use at my table to ensure that the game run smoothly. But I feel that taking the time to get the players in the habit of doing the math is worth any minimal delays it may initially cause.
Before going on, I must admit that I have two exceptions to my “give me the total” rule. The first is when a player rolls a 20. After all a 20 always hits so the only reason to call out the total is when the monster has a really high defence and there’s an outside chance that it’s just a regular hit and not a crit. However, in the games I’ve played since 4e was released I’ve only ever seen a natural 20 not result in a crit once. The other exception is after the monsters defence score is known (usually because I’ve announced it to the table) and you’ve done the math in your head. In these cases I accept it when a player rolls, calls out the number, and simply tells me they hit.
Even though I always ask for totals, whether it’s an attack roll or a damage roll, a lot of players still don’t do it. In all fairness, we do have a few younger players participating in D&D Encounters – but this is simple math. I can’t believe they don’t give me the total because they can’t add two or three relatively small numbers in their head. What I think it comes down to is laziness and poor gaming protocol.
In most cases when there are a few players that don’t do the math themselves, other players at the table will often do it for them when I ask for the total. This presents me with difficult dilemma. On the one hand I’m glad that someone can do the math and give me a total quickly. However, the person giving me the number isn’t the player who rolled the dice. So my attempt to get them into the habit of giving me the final result clearly isn’t working. And when they realize that the other players will help them, they have no incentive to do it themselves.
When the other players help the lazy ones by doing the math, I know they’re just trying to help speed things up. I also know that the more I keep asking for the totals, especially when it’s apparent that the roll hits, the more I’m beginning to look like a jerk DM. But I believe that in the long run I’m helping the lazy players become better players, and I’m helping them speed up any game they’re going to play in down the road, whether it’s my game or someone else’s.
Do you have this problem at your gaming table? When players in your game (especially in public-play games) don’t add the numbers themselves, do you do it for them? Am I blowing this whole thing out of proportion and making a big deal out of nothing or do you see this as a common and growing issue?