To be fair, I have never GMed a game before, so I can’t really know for sure all the gears that keep the game running. I can, however, hear the grinding when certain skills are used. I’m not talking about when certain skills are used occasionally, more like when certain skills are over-used. Sure, you could say that because it’s a skill, is on your character sheet, and has a modifier, that it should be rolled. But does it have to be?
“Ok Shadowrunners, you only have to climb two stories high to get on top of the office building. Roll your Climbing. Oops! Looks like the street samurai failed. He ends up taking longer to get up there than the rest of you.”
Really? Was that at all necessary?
“Alright guys, roll initiative. This should be a really easy encounter, as your enemies are several levels lower.”
Then why go through with all the rolls (and the time that goes with it), if you’re sure we’re going to win? Isn’t it enough just to say that we take out a bunch of mooks, and save an hour of game time?
“Alright guys, roll Perception… Ok Mike, you see… Ok Dan, you see what Mike saw and… Ok, Sarah, you see what both Mike and Dan saw and…”
I have to tell you, as a player, I hate this. Rolling for Perception is pointless most of the time, not counting just before an ambush. GM, just tell us what we see. I never invest in the Perception skill, because I know that with all the Perception rolls being made around the table, we’re going to make it anyway. Making so many Perception rolls, and then telling each player what they see is usually just a pointless mechanic. It gets used so much simply because it happens to be in the game. This is one aspect of the game that I say needs to be removed. It slows the game down!
I know what you’re saying: “Ah, but your players could then miss an important clue that helps you in the adventure.”
If the GM puts a clue in the game, and we don’t find it because we failed a Perception roll, that’s a failure – Not on the players, but the GM. It’s an even bigger failure if the PCs fail to complete the adventure. How many movies or TV shows have you watched where the main character’s fail to find a clue? None, because that would stop the movie right there.
- “Well, uh, you guys ended up in the Pit of Despair and died because you failed to notice the hidden amulet.”
- “Well, uh, you guys completely bypassed the adventure because you failed to notice the assassin creeping away.”
- “Well, uh, your TPK was a result of your failure in the Perception check.”
- “Well, uh, you guys failed…”
No, GM, you failed. Not only have you slowed the game down, but you made it come to a screeching halt.
Ok… if we have to roll for Perception, then just make the person with the highest modifier roll, and give him a +1 bonus for each of the other PCs in the group. That’s what everyone sees, because you know that (normally) the person with the highest check is going to tell everyone else what he saw anyway.
I could go on and on about several skills, but my point is that, as a player, I would have more fun if my GM would not have us roll so many skill checks. Not every skill check is going to have an impact on the story, while many simply end up slowing the game down. I know that I seem to have it out for Perception, but I’m talking about most skills.
Sheesh! After reading what I just wrote, I can see that it might seem a little harsh, and even written with a bit of arrogance. Sorry about that. It’s just that in our last session the game took forever because of so many unnecessary rolls, and really wasn’t a fun night. If the GM had just exercised a bit of the tactic I’ve talked about here, we would have accomplished so much more (and we only meet twice a month). I think that on some level, a lot of your players might feel the same as I do, so I can only ask that you keep this in mind.
By Guest Writer Peter Simpson.