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So I am starting in the world of pen-and-paper RPGs, and sometimes the material I read mentions a natural roll, like a natural 1 is always a miss, and a natural 20 is always a hit.

I understand that rolling a 1 will miss, but why is it called "natural?" Is it just to indicate the value before modifiers, and if yes, does that mean the final result is still called a roll? What other types of rolls are there?

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up vote 23 down vote accepted

"Natural" means an unmodified roll.

The number you see printed on the die when you just throw it. Not adding or subtracting bonuses, penalties or rerolling. Just the number you see.

Terms will differ in individual games and groups, but usually the total result (natural roll plus any modifiers) is just called your "roll," or we'll say "I got a 25." In some systems (sounds like you're reading a D&D book), your natural roll has implications regardless of the modifiers you can add to it, so it's important to have a way to talk about the difference.

"I rolled a 25 on a natural 1! My modifiers are awesome! ...but I still missed, because natural 1s always miss in our game."

"Man, I got a -2 on a natural 5. I need to get this curse removed as soon as possible or I'm gonna die of a stubbed toe."

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I don't like your choice of words there... For me "I rolled an X" signifies that X is really the number I rolled, i.e. what shows up on the dice. I'd probably say "I got X", but I'm not a native English roleplayer... ;) – fgysin Mar 21 '13 at 13:20
@fgysin: Yea, the phrasing of "I rolled an X" is somewhat flaky, colloquial phrasing in evolved languages usually is. Illogical or not, though, "I rolled an X" and "I got X" are both very common ways to express the idea that "X" is the total of one's roll including modifiers and, at least in D&D groups in my part of the world, are a recipe for confusion if you use either of them to mean the natural (unmodified) roll. – Matthew Najmon Apr 4 '13 at 20:09

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