I am currently in a game of 5th Edition D&D being played on Roll20. One player has joined the group after a number of sessions, and many people in the party feel that they are being overly secretive with their rolls.

The new player rolls everything they do in secret, with the GM being the only one who sees the roll: every skill check, every attack roll, every saving throw... (you get the picture). They do this via roll20's whisper function.

Is there a rule that governs whether rolls should be secret or public?

Honestly, I am going to confront them regardless. I just want to have some legal credibility to what I am saying.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Did you ask this player "why do you always roll secretly"? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Apr 9 '18 at 22:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @colmde As an easy rule of thumb, if one feels the need to add a “this isn't an answer” disclaimer to a comment, then it almost certainly doesn't belong in a comment. (See that help article for what does and doesn't go in comments.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 9 '18 at 23:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you addressed this with the DM yet? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 10 '18 at 1:36

There is no rule which says your rolls must be visible to other players, though by default openness is encouraged.

The Dungeon Master's Guide, on page 235, has advice about handling the rolling of dice, and begins by saying:

Establish expectations about rolling dice. Rolling in full view of everyone is a good starting point. If you see a player rolling and scooping the dice up before anyone else can see, encourage that player to be less secretive.

Essentially, what your fellow player is doing seems equivalent to this secretive practice, which the DMG advises against.

However, this is purely advice on DMing style, and it is by no means an enshrined rule. It is up to the DM and, to a lesser extent, the group, whether or not this advice is followed. Any given group may be more or less secretive or open about these sorts of things - and so long as nobody is cheating (which using roll20 should make quite difficult, at least when it comes to faking dice rolls), nobody's violating the rules of the game.

Don't assume the worst.

There are reasons that a player/DM might want to roll in secret. If there is some sort of trickery to do with the nature of the character - say for instance they portray themselves as being a different class than they actually are - they may want to (with support from the DM) keep their rolls secret so other players can't start metagaming from their rolls/modifiers and see through the deception. In some groups this is totally acceptable, but in others it'd be totally out of line.

It also might simply be that this is the practice that the player is used to from other games, and so they're used to doing it this way and don't see why anyone would have a problem. Before immediately getting confrontational, you should probably first just ask them nicely why they roll in secret. Then you can escalate to raising the issue with the DM, and then to a group discussion if it's still a problem.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not assuming the worst, I understand that a person might hide things for various reasons. It is, above all else, annoying. It makes the other members of the party feel uneasy about the player, and is really screwing with the party dynamic. \$\endgroup\$ – A concerned Roll20 Player Apr 9 '18 at 22:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ They have also claimed that it is for anti meta gaming purposes, but its having the a very meta game related effect. We don't trust them for reasons that have nothing to do with what their character has done. \$\endgroup\$ – A concerned Roll20 Player Apr 9 '18 at 22:50
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the DMG's advice really applies to roll20. It isn't a matter of being secretive per se. The DM sees all the rolls, cheating isn't really possible. It is just that the other players don't get to see. \$\endgroup\$ – Shane Apr 10 '18 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think, in a case like these, there should be a clear group-wide decision on which way people roll the dice. Either everyone rolls in secret, or nobody does (unless it's a question of a roll affecting another player in some way, like bluffing, stealing from them, etc - naturally). \$\endgroup\$ – DocWeird Apr 10 '18 at 8:16
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is not equivalent to the case in your DMG quote because the player is not "scooping the dice up before anyone else can see". The DM can see the rolls. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Apr 10 '18 at 10:31

I actually have been in a group where the secret roll function is encouraged. That way role playing is more natural and realistic.

Just an example of the way it could play out.

With open rolls, a thief could be checking for traps at every doorway in the dungeon that the party comes across. He has been rolling higher than 15 for most of the way. One time he rolls a 3 and finds no traps. The fighter then decides that he is not going through that door or trusting the thief's words, even though he had been through every other door.

By having that ability check rolled in secret, the fighter's player would have no clue that the thief failed his roll, and would walk through the door.

I am not saying that every game should be played that way, but perhaps that was the norm with the game he played previously. I don't feel like it should be assumed that the secret rolls are malicious or otherwise. It is fine to have him swap to the norms of the game you are playing.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm really more concerned / annoyed with its use in combat. \$\endgroup\$ – A concerned Roll20 Player Apr 9 '18 at 22:46
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @AconcernedRoll20Player And why does its use in combat cause you concern? The DM still sees the rolls, so you can be confident that it's not being used to conceal cheating, unless the DM is also in on it (in which case you potentially have far bigger problems than this other player's secret rolls). \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Apr 10 '18 at 10:34

/gmroll is most commonly used for the GM to make private rolls. This could be for things happening outside of the PC's awareness such as NPCs setting up an ambush, random encounters, etc. In some cases, player rolls for stealth or perception might be made by the GM so that players don't know how well they rolled outside until the GM describes the result (this can often be used to prevent meta-gaming, but can also increase the suspense and immersion), though this is likely more rare than allowing the characters to make their own rolls in these circumstances.

It can be used for situations where there is a need for a player's roll to be kept private - such as PvP actions (one PC is pick-pocketing another PC) or when the party is split and it is desired to keep their activities hidden from the other players. But during normal play, for most gaming systems (D&D 5E included), player rolls are usually made publicly.

Just look at the analog P&P experience, where only the GM has a privacy screen. In this scenario the players really have no easy way of making private rolls, and the flow of the game, even when transitioned to online tools, reflects this.


There is no rule nor set of rules to govern when rolls should be secret or when they should be public.

Performing every Roll in secret is not against the rules, so long as the dice are being interpreted fairly. But it does slow the game and make it seem less fun.

Generally, secret rolls are used when the GM wants to hide something from the rest of the Players. There are two kinds of secret rolls: The DM rolls a D20 for everyone behind the screen, or the DM takes the Passive Value for that stat and compares it to the DC, like in the case of Passive Perception.

These are typically used in a situation where the DM doesn't want to alert the party to an unfolding situation unless they succeed. If I as a DM tell my party to "Roll Perception", it instantly alerts them to something, whereas the Passive Perception allows me to make a quick and silent decision.

There are a few times when Characters would roll in-secret, too. For example, a character in the party who is secretly a host for a spirit might have rolls done in-secret to determine if the inhabiting spirit tries to take-over that player's body, say, to pull them out of danger. A Rogue might make their Detect Traps roll performed in-secret so that the rest of the party doesn't know how well they did.

However, too much secrecy makes that player seem special, and can make the other players frustrated, in-addition to slowing the game down.

Secrecy is a plot effect, and, like all plot effects, it is best used in moderation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In what way does a player rolling secretly (but shared with the GM) slow the game? Offhand, the only case I can think of where the other players knowing the value of your roll would make a difference is if there is a hidden difficulty target which players are rolling against multiple times (e.g., if the GM is hiding the enemy's AC and making the players deduce it based on which rolls hit and which miss). \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Apr 11 '18 at 9:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman When you roll openly you just roll. When you roll secretly, you roll on your own and then whisper it to the GM, who takes time and thinks about it. If everyone is rolling secretly, or making a bunch of secret rolls seemingly at-random, it slows the game down. \$\endgroup\$ – SeraphsWrath Apr 11 '18 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the clarification/explanation! I don't use roll20 myself, so I was assuming that roll20 automatically showed the roll to the GM at the same time as the player (the same as with an open roll) rather than it being a separate step to whisper it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Apr 12 '18 at 8:03

I would work under the rule -

If it's an action that the other PCs can see, e.g. a combat roll, then the roll should be public.

If it's an action where only they know the success of, then they should have the option of keeping it private.

If it's something not even they should know the result of (e.g. with a 'Search' check, they wouldn't know whether they failed the roll or if there was just nothing to find) then only the GM should see the dice roll.

There is one justification for a private roll, I suppose, and that is if the PC doesn't want the others to know they are not putting their full effort into it and are failing on purpose rather than simply not rolling high enough.

I'd take this as an exception though and work something else out - I would still keep rolls public in general, it's just more fun, and lessens the disruption of the flow of the game...


This is a personal choice thing for the DM and the players. It's definitely something that is way more possible as well with roll20 or other online situations. If they were doing it completely hidden without the DM seeing it, I'd call shenanigans on it. But because the DM is seeing it, I think this can be something that you discuss.

Start by talking with the DM. Don't immediately bring everyone in, there isn't a reason to and it makes the whole thing way more of a mess. When you talk about it, talk about how you understand that they want to do it for meta-gaming, but because only that one person is doing it that you're now suspicious of what is going on with that character and a meta-gaming more around that. Make it about your meta-gaming, not about disliking what the other player is doing, it takes lot of pressure off of the DM and make the conversation less awkward. Also, come with suggestions to this conversation. Maybe everyone rolls like that, even the players who haven't been. Sure, you still might be suspicious, but it'll be consistent or as @colmde suggests, maybe knowledge/insight/etc rolls are made in private, but visible actions are made in public and that's your suggestion.

After you and the DM have talked about possibly have a whole group discussion. This would again be bringing up your issues with it. It's about your hang-up with meta-gaming it. And when you do this, bring up the solution that you and the DM discussed already. If you have the buy-in from the DM, it'll likely be easier to get everyone to go along with it.

If there isn't a solution out of game, maybe you're right. Maybe there is something sneaky going on with that character and it's actually the DM's third cousin who they brought in as a ringer for a major plot twist later on. If that is the case, then kudos to you, you just figured it out and you get to have a great "I knew it" moment later in the game, and that's a ton of fun too.

Or, maybe you're wrong and that's just how the player prefers to roll. All word play intended. If that's the case, just roll with it and don't worry about it too much. If the story is still fun and the game is still good and most importantly, you're still having fun just enjoy the game and try your best to not let someone else specific choice bug you too much. It's probably just fine that they are doing it differently. You can always join in rolling that way and see if you like it better for the immersion yourself as a player.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.