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I've always wanted to play D&D before, and recently I finally found an online play-by-chat group I can play with regularly. I spent a lot of time chatting with them and building up a fun noble bright paladin that I thought would be cool and heroic, and always try to be a shining example of good behaviour even to the party's detriment.

Unfortunately, I roll badly constantly, and my character just fails at everything. Every skill check, every save, every combat, she just fails and misses. We're about to start our 4th session now usually about 7 hours long and I'm just so bored. I even tried to add some flavour to the game in a non-dice-rolling form by romancing an NPC, but another player pushed in and just seduced them away.

What should I do? I really want to play the game and have fun roleplaying my character, but with how awful everything has gone for them so far the only progression I can see them going down is going back home to train more. They're currently heartbroken from having their love taken and depressed about their inadequacy.

Its not like she's weak either. I rolled 17 Dex and Con for her, but it just doesn't matter; I can't hit anything. We've fought 30+ bandits so far and I've killed just one; it took me 5 swings to land a blow with my rapier with thunderous strike.


  • All our characters are currently level 3.
  • We rolled our stats randomly, since the DM thinks it more fun that way. I rolled pretty well: Str 13, Dex 17, Con 17, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 15.
  • My paladin had an idea of how a fanatical hero should behave, and tries to emulate them by charging into battle ahead of the party, even if it's foolish.
  • She is an aarakocra wearing Chain armor and wielding a rapier (I know it's not ideal, but it fits her nature of wanting to be some dreamy heavily armored paladin striding into battle).
  • We play on Roll20 through Discord, and the DM watches us roll to make sure all the stats are added on correctly. I currently have a +5 to hit with my rapier.

So an example of a fight that went terribly for me:

A group of 12 bandits and a boss character attack the town gates, killing the guards. We roll initiative and I roll to go first, so I plan on jumping into the middle of them to pin the group, until the bandits roll a nat. 20. Their roll is equal to mine, but the DM says it's a crit so they go before me.

Half the bandits flank dash past us to rush into the town. I use my turn to cast shield of faith and dash ahead and block them, with some heroic dialogue thrown in. My comrades engage the rest of the bandits and the boss as I try to solo the 6 running bandits.

The bandits completely ignore my character and run through me. I miss with my attack of opportunity; meanwhile, my party members are slaughtering the boss.

I run after the bandits to try and stop them from attacking some NPCs, and fail completely as I miss my attacks. They run past me and grapple an NPC that another PC is in love with.

I decide to try and save her, but another NPC comes from offscreen and does it for me. Meanwhile, my friends have beaten the boss. I decide to fight the other bandits, and charge in but miss again. The guards turn up, and the bandits give up.

This was a 6-hour-long fight and I did nothing.

I've talked to the dm and other players about it, and they feel bad for me but they just say, "that's how the dice go" and "maybe you'll get lucky later".

How can I keep playing this character in a fun way, given the circumstances? I like them and really want to enjoy RPing as them.


Here's all my rolls from last night's game logs (all rolled via Roll20's interface):

  • Cha save: 4+4 (fail)
  • Con save: 8+3 (fail)
  • initiative: 18+3
  • attack roll: 5+5 (miss)
  • attack roll: 5+5 (miss)
  • attack roll: 7+5 (miss), against an armored bandit)
  • attack roll: 6+5 (miss)
  • attack roll: 2+5 (miss)
  • Arcana check: 7+0 (fail)

There weren't a lot of rolls for me to make last night, since it was mainly a dialogue-based session, and my character doesn't like to use Deception and didn't need to persuade anyone. But as you can see the only thing I rolled well on was initiative.

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16 Answers 16

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It is disappointing to fail at what you're trying to do in D&D. I think it's one of the hardest things, when starting out, to realize that sometimes, a narratively cool thing won't happen because the dice said no. You seem to have two issues here: one with what your character can do, and one with expectations.

What Your Character Can Do

You said you've failed at everything, and I'm choosing to take this as not being hyperbole, which is absolutely a bummer. You've played four sessions, though, which means it could easily just be a string of bad luck. It could also be a misunderstanding of how your modifiers work, but without seeing your lady's sheet, I can't speak to that.

It stands out to me immediately that her Charisma is lower than her Dex, which isn't going to do her any favors as a Paladin; their spells are Charisma based. I am by no means an expert on character building, but from what I've seen, most Paladins focus on either strength or dexterity, and then charisma. From what you've said about wanting to be the idealistic paladin leader, and what you've said about trying to romance people, this might be useful from an in-character perspective.

I understand wanting to make a character for RP purposes, even if it's less effective. (I wound up with a drow cleric in the Light domain, once.) However, it doesn't sound like it's working—meaning, it doesn't sound like it's fun for you. I had the same realization recently: despite my love for writing and character building, I'm not an RPer in D&D. Instead, I'm much happier as a min-maxer who wears heavy armor and hits people really hard. These reasons are actually why I play paladins. I favor the heaviest armor I can get, and strength-based weapons. I suppose things might vary in your specific setting, but giant armor and big heavy weapons and occasionally shields is what says "archetypal paladin" to me.

If I were you, I would swap the rapier for a longsword (depending on which fighting style you picked, I'm assuming dueling), and ask the DM if you can swap your dex and charisma. This will make you more effective in combat, both with hitting and with spells. I wouldn't recommend dropping the strength, because that'll mess up your options for armor down the road.

Generally, running ahead is a bad idea, especially if alone. However, paladins are pretty decently set up to survive that. In fact, this might be an aspect you've overlooked about your character: if she has enough armor and can put herself in the way of the bandits, she's providing the invaluable service of being a tank. Of course, this doesn't generally work well in D&D if you aren't putting out damage, but it's still a vitally important party role.

Expectations

There was a red flag for me immediately when I clicked this question:

...that I though would be cool and heroic and always try to be a shining example of good behaviour even to the parties detriment.

This is not a good mindset for D&D. This is also why a lot of people have a bad notion of paladins. No one player is always gonna be cool and heroic. It's a group game. Everyone will have their moments. Adjusting to this is really hard when first playing.

Trying to solo 6 enemies at once is not possible. No matter how cool or how in character. You don't have any of the awesome AOEs that some classes (and races, if you're a dragonborn) have.

In general, player characters in D&D do not have plot armor or special main character privileges. They exist in a world with rules that govern how events play out (generally), and you may need to adapt to them.

What You Can Do

I have been in your shoes. I made a character with a loose idea of his personality and goals, with little subtleties that I thought would be fun. And then, none of them came up, the DM threw half the rules to the wind in ways that favored spellcasters, and my human fighter wound up feeling pretty useless. After an especially tense situation, I decided to take a step back. I was at a crossroads: I could stubbornly keep trying to make him the character I designed, and constantly butt heads with the party, which was not fun for me, or I could go with the party atmosphere, multiclass into warlock, and go with the flow.

I chose the latter.

Now, I see a few options for your character, but I think all of them require some overhaul for both you and for her.

First: You need to let go of the idea of being the big hero. Your character doesn't have to. But you, the player, do. This means no more charging off. Play it as your character learning her lesson. Keep the party together. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but the lack of fun in the bandit fight is partially your own fault. Stick. With. Your. Party.

Second: Figure out what you want her to be to the party. It seemed to me like you wanted her to be leading from the front, so I'll go with that.

Third: Get, or save up for, the best damn armor you can get. If you're gonna be at the front, you have to be able to take those blows, or avoid them altogether.

Fourth: At level four, either bump up your charisma, or, if the DM permits it, take the Inspiring Leader feat, which lets you give your party a little pep-talk in exchange for some temporary hit points.

Fifth: Right now, arrange your spells so you have at least one smite, and take as many buffs as you can.

This answer is assuming that you may very well continue to be unlucky with your rolls. So, instead, make a character that avoids rolling as much as possible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the advice, I was thinking of going for that feat as a party buff thing. I took protection as my fighting style since she's supposed to be heroic protecting the weak. The idea of her having a crisis of personality sounds interesting though, realising all her dreams of grandeur were flawed and straying away from lawful good towards chaotic good. \$\endgroup\$ – jacobgr43 Jan 3 at 21:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jacobgr43 My policy as both player and DM is that failure is the best thing for a character! There's a lot of options for directions that she could go in from here, but in general, I would try to embrace these issues and run with them. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Jan 3 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Overall this is a pretty good answer but your advice on changing stats around is terrible. The OP actually has awesome stats for a dex paladin. Put his lvl4 asi into dex and cha and he will have +4 and +3 respectively which is great. Only thing he should change is to wear medium or light armor that can benefit from his high dex. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 3 at 23:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ "I am by no means an expert on character building". I thought it needed addressing for this to be a complete answer. Additionally, he responded to this post to say that he took protection as a fighting style, which doesn't seem to jive with the lighter armor concept. However, the original post was formatted differently when I posted this, and I believe I may have misunderstood the stats. Still, one way or another, I don't think that dexterity paladin and protection are necessarily the best combination. If you have a different recommendation for build, you are welcome to post it. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Jan 3 at 23:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @L.S.Cooper Why is light armor/dex a bad fit for Protection style? You carry a shield & wanna defend your allies? Cool, you're playing Protection style. The point of wearing lighter armor is to take advantage of a high Dex to get the same AC with cheaper and less restrictive armor. Chain gives you AC 16; if you have at least +2 Dex, Scale is just as good, and if you have +4 or better, then go Light! Only actual Plate armor is better than what you can do with medium armors and moderate dex, or light armor and a dex focus. 1 point of AC is no big deal, and especially for a flier, light is better \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jan 4 at 15:18
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First Problem: those are some pretty abysmal rolls

It's not surprising you had a bad experience with this session: nobody would be able to succeed with d20 rolls like what you got. Your one good roll was in initiative, arguably the least important roll you made (for your character, anyways), and not one of your other rolls was above an 8. The odds of rolling that poorly are pretty low; about 0.04% probable, or about 4/10000.

So while this encounter was frustrating, you can also take solace in the knowledge that it was an aberration... probably.

I would double-check the rolls you were making, to make sure you weren't accidentally using a d12 for your non-initiative rolls. It sounds like you were using something like Roll20 to make your rolls, so that's pretty unlikely, but still something to check for.

Despite your bad rolls, you may want to adjust your tactics

Right off the bat, in 5th Edition D&D, trying to fight more than one creature at once is extremely dangerous, even when they're substantially weaker than you are. As a third level character, you're only marginally more powerful than an "average" other creature in the game, and a group of 6-12 Bandits, each a CR1/8 creature capable of dealing (on average) 4 damage per hit, could have buried you very quickly on the heels of some lucky rolls on their part.

Even with your terrible rolls (which should not be ignored!), this combat encounter was probably not going to go that well for you even in more normal circumstances

When a combat encounter features a very large number of enemy creatures, the smartest tactic is to let them come to you; running into the middle of them is bad for multiple reasons:

  • They can surround you, cutting off your ability to retreat
  • It might be difficult for your allies to heal you—most healing spells operate in touch range, and the ones that do operate at range often have pretty pitiful healing capabilities
  • If you do try to retreat, you'll have to use Disengage to get away from them without injury; if they try to retreat, only you will get to make an Attack of Opportunity, and only against one of them; the rest won't be required to disengage.

Unless you have a powerful AOE control spell (as a level 3 Paladin, you do not), you don't have the tools to manage a pack of enemies that numerous. You can't prevent them from simply running past you, you can't soak up all that damage on your own, and if things go badly for you (which, arguably, they did), you don't have any recourse to fall back on.

So my advice is two-fold. First, stop walking under ladders, and stop breaking mirrors. Maybe stuff some four-leaf clovers into your pockets before the next session.

Second, work with your allies to form a better battle plan that doesn't involve sending one solitary person to try to stop twelve people from simply running past them. Find a battle plan that keeps your character with the party, better able to maneuver and respond to changes in the circumstances of the battle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point about the bandits’ damage output. Having them run past may have been the DM trying to be nice! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 3 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ He might also take Magic Initiate at L4 and pickup some cantrips that require an enemy to make a save (particularly if it targets Wis or Cha) instead of him rolling to hit. That would let him rely on a different person's luck :) \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Jan 3 at 21:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I totally forgot to mention the bandits running past, but SevenSidedDie is right. Those bandits definitely saved the character from nigh-certain death. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Jan 3 at 21:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd definitely agree that 12 bandits would drop this character quickly. But it sounds like she tried to be one of several characters fighting the 12 of them, and then later "soloed" 6 of them. It looks like the bandits would only hit about 25% of the time with an AC of 18 (chain + shield), and this paladin has 31 max HP (plus the ability to heal 15 more HP with Lay On Hands). That means that the bandits would take an average of 31 attacks to kill the paladin (4 damage per hit, but 4 attacks per hit on average = one damage average per attack), assuming that she didn't heal herself. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jan 4 at 2:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Continued (sorry for length): that's the amount of attacks 6 bandits would get in five rounds, assuming that none of her attacks dropped any of them, which is about the duration of this combat. And her survivability gets even better since she has shield of faith up. It was definitely risky for all the reasons you mentioned, and not a great tactic for a paladin, but I don't think it was very likely for her character to be "buried very quickly." \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jan 4 at 2:46
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Check the Program

A minor note, but one that deserves to come first. Your rolls were extremely low, but they did tend to cluster around 5 (all but two rolls within 2 of five). I think it's possible that something may be set up wrong on your roll20 character sheet.

click on the "gear" symbol on the upper right of your character sheet, then look in the upper right box. It should say "Core Die Roll" and have 1d20 written there. If it says "Core Die Roll 1d10" then that's your problem.

However, since you did roll an 18 for initiative, it's possible that you simply got extraordinarily unlucky. So with that in mind, read on:

Improving your odds/fun in combat

There are three basic ways to excel in combat.

  1. Play to your strengths

  2. Fit your goals to your circumstances

  3. Improve what you need and don't have

Let's talk about how each of these applies to your character.

1. Play to your strengths

Paladins won't attack as often as Monks or (at higher levels) fighters, but when they chose to they can hit hard. As such, they aren't really built for dealing with multiple enemies, but paladins are excellent at dueling single strong foes and dealing "nova" damage (large amounts of damage that can only be done a few times).

In the combat above, it might have benefited you to focus on a single target, like the boss. Even with abysmal rolls, you'd be serving as a "tank" to your team, directing attacks away from allies of yours with lower HP or AC. And you could have benefitted from the actions of your allies as well (such as gaining advantage against the boss if an ally knocks them prone, or casts hold person on them). And you could have used your paladins' Chanel Divinity feature of their divine oath against this stronger foe, which often improves your odds of hitting an enemy (such as the Oath of Devotion's Sacred Weapon feature, which would have let you add a +2 to all your attack rolls).

Running after multiple enemies is exactly the kind of thing a paladin is bad at. You'll spend a lot of resources dashing to keep up with them, and may waste resources smiting them by doing more damage than their total hit points (thus "losing" damage that could have been dealt to a larger target). Also, very few 3rd level paladins have Area of Effect abilities or spells, so they cannot damage a large number of enemies quickly (unlike spellcasters who could use spells like shatter or spike growth to damage several enemies at once). Although there are going to be situations where you should pursue a mob (and this may well have been one of them), know that running after a group as a paladin is like running into melee range as a wizard: there are times to do it, but it's usually a sign something has gone wrong.

2. Fit your goals to your circumstances

You're a righteous paladin in shining armor, with literal wings extending from your back. You look like the angry face of justice from on high, come to earth to punish the wicked. Who in their right mind would stand against you?

Unfortunately, that's exactly what you wanted your enemies to do. You ran in front of them, hoping they'd all stop and attack you. As an aarakocra in heavy armor, you're slower than most standard enemies (walking speed of 25 feet), and you lack the movement advantages of a monk or rogue, so the best chance a minor enemy will have is to simply outrun you: to find an easier target.

If you want to chase these enemies down (which is totally understandable: they are threatening innocent people), your goal can't be to catch and defeat them all: best case scenario, that would take 6 rounds, which is quite a long time. Not to mention the fact that they are faster than you, and don't want to stop and fight if they can help it. So you need to use a tactic which will work at a distance, and use the fact that they are afraid to face you to your advantage.

For example, you could try to intimidate them into surrendering. If that's the goal, then even failed attacks could work towards your goal. If a feathered and armored creature was swinging a sword inches from my face, shouting that I must yield or die, I'd really reconsider my life choices up to this point. These enemies clearly want nothing to do with you (they keep running past you) so use that weakness as a strength. That way not only will you have a greater chance of defeating them all quickly, you'll also feel like you've contributed more to their eventual surrender even if all your rolls fail. (You describe this combat as the town guard convincing them to surrender: but if you'd been shouting at them to yield, maybe it was you who convinced them to give up). With the right goal, you can work towards success even when all your rolls fail.

I'm not saying you need to shout "surrender" in every combat: I'm saying fit your tactics and goals to your enemies and situation. If your enemies are faster than you, know that you can't swing a sword over distance but you can shout very far. If your enemies are afraid of you, convince them to surrender rather than face your blade. If your enemy is overconfident, lure them into a fight that is to their disadvantage. Any enemy psychology or feature of the terrain can be turned to your advantage.

3. Improve what you need and don't have

In this battle, you prioritized attacking enemies that were running from you. But your major tactical advantage you gave yourself was to cast Shield of Faith and increase your AC.

Increasing AC fixed a problem you didn't have: you made yourself harder to hit, but your had excellent AC already, and your enemies do little damage per strike. Besides, your opponents already showed that they would run right past you given opportunity, so standing in front of them and improving your armor didn't really help you stop them. If your goal was to chase them down, what you needed was to hit consistently so you could take down your enemies quickly and move on to the next one. This must have been especially clear after your second round of combat, where none of your strikes seemed to connect.

A spell like bless would have been more effective here, increasing the probability that you land a blow (and helping your allies at the same time). Similarly, using your Chanel Divinity might have been very helpful. If you had the Oath of Devotion (which sounds likely), and if you'd used sacred weapon and bless at the same time, you'd have added an average of 4.5 to every single attack roll you made (minimum 3) which would have likely turned four of your five attack rolls above into hits. It might have even turned your worst attack roll into a hit (2 + 5 dex and proficiency + 2 Charisma + 4 a lucky bless roll = 13, higher than a standard bandit AC).

Looking ahead, you might have noticed that mobility was an issue for you in this battle. You can fix that by swapping out your heavy Ring Mail armor for Studded Leather (same AC next level if you improve your Dex), and gain an extra 25 feet of movement every round through flying. Alternatively, since the aesthetic of your armor is important to you, could invest some money (75gp) in a mount like a riding horse (until you can cast Find Steed in two levels).

I've been told before that "the goal of war is to find a fair fight and make it unfair." If you find yourself having trouble with something (rolls to hit, mobility, whatever), look for resources that can improve those things. And you don't need to only look to your character either. Maybe your team's wizard will cast magic weapon on your sword before the fight begins, or your teams druid will cast entangle on the fleeing enemies and give you advantage on your strikes.

Sometimes, nothing will work

You were insanely unlucky in this last game. The odds of rolling below a 10 (naturally) on 5 attacks is about 1/32, and you managed to roll abysmally for another three rolls besides. This kind of bad luck will happen once in a blue moon: but it's worth acknowledging that it will happen.

This will happen sometimes, even if you pick all the right tactics and have optimized your build. Every now and again, Gimli gets stuck under a warg, or a stealthy smuggler steps on a dry twig. No matter how good you are, sometimes everything will go wrong.

If you follow the guidelines above, then hopefully these times will be few and far between, and they will not last very long. My biggest advice is "use it." Are you getting frustrated? Then so is your character. Let that rage and frustration fuel them to train even harder, to search or that next magical item, to learn that new spell which will make them more able to turn a miss into a hit, a failure into a success. Do you feel like this is ridiculous? Then laugh. Reframe the misses as comedic, and imagine how funny it would be to see the mighty paladin spout justice and hellfire, but then miss.

In the words of Maya Angelou: "you should be angry. You must not be bitter." The role of random chance in your successes or failures is more on display in a role playing game than in real life: you can always see how there are elements of the game that our out of your control. But just because some things are out of our control doesn't mean everything is. Every situation has something you can do to turn it to your advantage, some way to improve your odds. And if you do all that and still fail, let it motivate you to do even more in the future: to make your character even better. And the better you get (and the more you use tactics that work to your advantage), the more often you'll find even mediocre rolls resulting in a success.

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Try a new d20. Yours seems to defy the laws of probability. It may very well be unbalanced towards lower numbers (unlikely in this case of digital dice, but theoretically possible) or cursed (if you're the superstitious type).

Otherwise, just keep playing. Odds are that you'll have better rolls the next time, so says math.

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I am going to leave to the other answers suggestions about how to maximise your chances within the rules and how to deal with unlucky throws.

I'm going to focus with the more serious problem: you are letting superstition interfere with your expectations.

Many gamers have superstitions about their favourite and least favourite dice, about having hot or cold hands, rituals about how they roll the dice, all to improve their chances.

Normally, this is just a bit of fun and adds to the interest of the game. [To a degree - if someone is blowing on and shaking a die in their hand for more than about three seconds for some important roll, I am internally screaming at them: JUST ROLL IT ALREADY!]

However, in some cases it seems people take it too seriously. This case seems to be one of them. It's time to step back and understand that this set of beliefs about the dice is all bunk. This is just a symptom of natural human biases - that try to spot and extrapolate patterns, that remember some events more vividly that others, that try to give a reassuring sense of control where none exists - all going too far.

Yes, you have had a string of unlucky rolls. No, that doesn't mean your future holds a higher number than expected of unlucky rolls. To believe that the dice are biased against you or your character is irrational and paranoid.

Once you can discard these beliefs, your question looks odd:

How can I keep playing this character in a fun way, given the circumstances?

There ARE no circumstances here. You had some bad rolls, and it is very unlikely you will suffer them again. Next time, it is very likely to rolls will be better. Sometimes you might get a bad run, and not have as much fun, but they will be counteracted by times where you roll better than expected. Get back on the horse, go play and have fun.

Roll with the punches when the dice are bad, and punch with the rolls when the dice are good.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that this is a digital roller. The references in this answer to physical dice are a bit off, due to that, but they can probably be rewritten to maintain the same basic message. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 4 at 4:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gaming on New Years Eve, I got 5 failures (rolls of 3 or less on a d8), followed by a 42 (that's 5 8s on a d8 in a row plus a two) on one exploding roll. The odds of those outcomes are 0.7% and 0.003% respectively. I got both sides of the crazy coin for dice rolls in a single night, hitting only one of the six attacks I made. Having a bunch of bad luck makes your comeback all the more satisfying. \$\endgroup\$ – TemporalWolf Jan 4 at 22:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Frame challenge to your frame challenge: being disappointed by bad luck IS a set of circumstances. Is it irrational? Sure. That's why we're humans and not robots. Knowing, logically, that the dice aren't out to get you doesn't make it suck any less when you have a string of bad rolls and have all your plans go wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Jan 4 at 22:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: I understand, but I don't think it affects the message in the slightest. People may not blow on their phones, but they still maintain similar superstitions. (I remember an author of an online dice game buckling to pressure to publish the source code of the dice rolling routine, because naive (yet arrogant) games insisted it wasn't fair. I have listened to people argue over how pseudo-RNG isn't sufficient, when it has no affect on gameplay. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Jan 5 at 0:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @L.S.Cooper: I disagree. Being disappointed by bad luck in the last game is a set of circumstances that is already irrelevant. Asking how to deal with a character that is inherently unlucky is superstition. Taking effort to overcoming irrational biases in your thinking is not only a good goal, but in this case makes the problem disappear. Knowing that there is no higher force is out to get you when you have some bad rolls is far less sucky than believing you somehow deserve it and it will continue to happen. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Jan 5 at 0:43
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What went wrong?

  • You had consistently bad luck. It happens. The average of a d20 over a sequence of rolls should be roughly 10.5, whereas your d20 consistently rolled below that. Unfortunately, other than finding ways to get advantage on your rolls, there's not much to be done here.

  • The combat had slow pacing. You had ~6 turns across a 6 hour combat, and spent most of the encounter watching other PCs and NPCs. I would be bored too! Perhaps there were too many NPCs (you mentioned 12+ bandits) or players were taking too long with their turns. Either way, this is on the DM - it is the DM's job to keep the game moving.

  • Your choice of tactics, to rush in by yourself and use the Attack action on almost every turn. Encounters are generally meant to be handled by groups. Plus, you had a number of character options (Help, Disengage, healing, etc) that you may have neglected.

What can you do to participate more and have fun?

  • Focus more on the roleplay aspects, which you seem to enjoy. If you want to pursue certain roleplay goals, like romancing NPCs without competing against your allies, then try informing your fellow players (possibly out of character) what you would like to do. Maybe they can even assist you in the roleplay.

  • Change up your tactics. As a paladin, your character has a number of support-focused options that you could leverage, such as using the Help action to assist an ally, or using your Lay on Hands or casting one of your spells. Some of these options don't require rolls, so they can remain effective despite having bad luck.

  • Talk with the DM. Whether it was the slow-paced combat, having too many enemies, or having NPCs appear to upstage you, your DM seems to have certain stylistic choices that don't sit well with you. Have an out of game conversation with your DM to see if you can come to a compromise; maybe they can adjust their style, and you can have clearer expectations about the type of game they want to run.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Minor nitpick: it has been mentioned that this game was a play by chat one - play by chat games are slower by nature. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jan 3 at 23:43
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While the accepted answer is great, and probably spot-on, I'd like to address one other aspect of the narrative that I haven't seen anyone else talk about:

The DM.

Bad rolls happen, you have to deal with them. The DM should not fudge dice in your favor, but neither should they totally ignore your attempts to engage, nor should they even circumvent your heroics. It beggars the imagination that a group of bandits would just ignore an armed and armored warrior in their midst, especially when they had you outnumbered, etc, but beyond that having an NPC roll in and save someone that you were trying to save?

I'd recommend in addition to the other suggestions here, also talk w/ your DM. Both from the perspective of "hey, help me figure out my tactics" but also, "Even if I'm not successful, I feel like heroes should be the focus of the action, can we talk about that?"

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As someone else pointed out in the comments elsewhere, the DM may have very well been trying to save the bird-brained paladin from being killed instantly. If every bandit had taken an attack against the paladin, she would have been faced with almost certain death. The NPC stealing the spotlight is an issue, though, I agree. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Jan 4 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @L.S.Cooper I don't disagree, but there's a difference between 1-2 of them engaging and the rest running off (i.e. letting the Paladin still fight) and totally ignoring the character. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Jan 4 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ DM may have also hoped that the Paladin would catch the hint and rejoin the party, or potentially had plans for what these bandits were supposed to be doing and was playing them as following their own motivations? I do think the DM made a lot of errors with that fight, though-- no matter how you cut it, that is WAY too many bandits to throw at a party. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Jan 4 at 22:46
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It's super disheartening when RNG is beating you up. You made all the right decisions, and your character is built effectively. The DM was not screwing you over, and the bandits were acting normally. 99% of the time, you would absolutely have dominated that situation.

If you really are expecting a lot more terrible rolls, like you broke a mirror with a black cat, you may look into Crowd Control spellcasting more. Usually CC spells require the enemy to roll, so it takes less burden off your cursed dice. You could also take the tank roll, focus on spells that force combat like compel duel, or charm the enemies. By being the damage taker, it mostly relies on enemies to surpass your AC, and the rolls are on them.

Honestly though, you had an abnormally bad string of luck, but your character is worth saving. It has a good backstory and is built properly as a close quarters brawler. Don't let this setback color your experience of D&D.

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Role play

This character is someone who clearly is not lucky. Play him like it! Your paladin won't take risks or tries to minimize them because he knows he will fail. Any point where you cannot just "Take 20" have your paladin not take the risk.


I rolled up a cleric that had near perfect stats except for one poor roll (7) and I role played them as if they blame everything on their poor stat. Failed initiative? I was not smart enough to join the fight. Failed healing? I forgot to target my ally.

This can be fun, just change your perspective!

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You can still have an impact even if you fail all your rolls

I recently had a session where I failed every roll, and every enemy succeeded on every saving throw against my spells. However, while this was certainly frustrating, I still didn't feel useless. I was using some spells like web that have an effect (difficult terrain) even on a successful save, and as a 6th-level abjuration wizard, I had the ability to protect allies by absorbing some damage with my Arcane Ward. So even though every roll (attack, save, or check) went against me, I still felt like I had an impact in the battle.

Of course your character is not an abjuration wizard, so these specific examples do not apply. However, most characters will have some kind of ability that can affect the battle without needing to succeed on a d20 roll (and without needing an enemy to fail one). You mentioned that you have the protection fighting style; this is one such ability. As a paladin, you also have healing, which is guaranteed to work. And when using Lay on Hands, not only is there no d20 roll, there's no dice involved at all. Lastly, if nothing else, you are a sack of hit points with a high AC, so every attack against you (hit or miss) is an attack that you have successfully directed away from someone else.

A good DM will also use narration to help you feel impactful even when your actions don't have a direct effect. For example, if you and your ally both attack the same enemy and you miss while your ally hits, the DM might narrate that sequence of events to describe how the enemy's efforts to block or dodge your attack left them open to the attack from your ally, allowing them to score a good hit. Looking strictly at the game mechanics, you did nothing. But the DM can still build a narrative around this sequence of a miss followed by a hit that emphasizes your contribution anyway, since the dice could just as easily have let you hit instead of your ally.

Help your DM help you

As others have said, part of this is down to the DM. Protecting others by absorbing enemy attacks is a decent plan, but it only works if the DM actually makes the enemies attack you. You clearly tried to act as a human shield, putting yourself in the path of those 6 bandits in hope that they would stop and fight you instead of pillaging the town, but the DM didn't play along with that. (As other comments pointed out, it's possible that you weren't "supposed" to fight those 6 bandits, and the DM wasn't prepared to improvise when you decided to engage them.)

Other than talking to your DM outside of normal sessions to resolve the disconnect and figure out what you (or they) can do differently, there's another thing you can do during sessions to help your DM help you: narrate the rationale for your actions. For example, let's suppose that, as others have suggested, the DM intended for you to stay with your party rather than split off to engage the other 6 bandits on your own. Depending on how you worded it, your DM might have been caught off guard and misunderstood your intentions. They believed you were just making a bad decision and just trying to fight the bandits 1 on 6, whereupon they tried to "save" you (and keep their "cutscene" on track) by having the bandits run past you instead of engaging. In this situation, your goal was to change the behavior of an NPC (or several). Since NPCs are DM-controlled, if you want to change their behavior, you need to clearly and explicitly communicate to the DM what you are trying to accomplish. You could tell your DM that your goal is not to fight and kill all 6 bandits yourself, but rather to engage them in combat just to keep them occupied them until reinforcements (either your party or the guards) arrive.

Your plan to intercept and delay the bandits might have been implied by the "heroic dialogue" you mentioned, but implying it isn't good enough: you should still be explicit about what you're trying to accomplish. Your DM is managing a dozen bandits and likely at least a dozen more guards and townsfolk, so you can't rely on them to pick up on subtle hints, or even unsubtle hints. By simply telling the DM what you're trying to accomplish and how, you give them the best possible opportunity to say "yes, and" to your plan rather than trying to stop you from making what they believe is a mistake. In this example, it sounds like the DM already had the idea that guards were on the way, so it would have been fairly easy for them to improvise by having the guards show up to reinforce you just in time.

Of course, if you're already clearly declaring your intent and the DM just isn't playing along, then you've done just about all you can within the session, and you need to have a talk with them about a mismatch in expectations, as suggested by other answers.

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You must read Dragonlance. Sturm Brightblade is the quintessential paladin. If you read his story, you will fully understand what a real paladin can go through in their story.

I think you are missing a great RP opportunity with your character.

Step back and see what's going on. An idealistic young person signs up to become a real Hero: no bull, no dark motivations or ends-justify-the-means or corruption. Just pure, innocent, heartfelt dedication to making an unsafe world safe and an unholy world purer. Full stop.

She finishes training and steps into a world that is not meeting her expectations. Some jaded older paladins probably tried to warn her that not everybody (hell, practically nobody) cares about other people and their problems, but of course it didn't sink in (probably because an equal number of old paladins were trying to shield her from the truth or even lie to keep her in the program).

Now she's in the real world, people don't automatically run from her holy weapons, people lie to her face, the public ridicule her and spit on her, her friends run amok and do dishonest and morally grey things and get rewarded for it while it seems she is being punished (with bad rolls) for standing by her convictions and doing the right thing.

Who else do we know that was pure and just and found out the world was more complicated than they thought but still stood by their convictions?

  • Luke Skywalker (except maybe in episode 7-9)
  • Harry Potter
  • Captain America
  • Superman

This is actually a common plot line in the life of a dedicated warrior for justice: more than to most people, the wickedness of the world stands out to them, and they are more willing to fight it.

You have options here. She can renounce her faith, go ex-paladin and just hit things; she can go extremist with her anxiety of her faith journey and slip into darkness; she can get jaded but still have a smoldering little candle flame of faith in her; she can grin and bear it knowing her god will make it right eventually; or you can even play her up to be an amiable but bumbling paladin. Whichever sounds the most fun would be a good track to take in your role playing life.

One thing I've noticed about group gaming is that your character's story has to be "portable". What I mean is that it has to not require going to specific places and require too many specific NPCs, because your DM is most likely not going to be able justify going to a specific place for your story, nor can they stack your story's NPCs on top of all the others. Vagueness on your part helps. If you had a ranger who hunted vampires, it would be better to say "She doesn't know who killed her parents, but she knows it was a vampire with red gloves." A DM can whip out any vampire he likes with a passion for red gloves. But if she said it was Count Orlock of Castle Winnegard in Balaklovia, then the DM needs to create a Count Orlock, a Castle Winnegard, and whole region named Balaklovia, and somehow tie the story into that place. (All very possible in a duet, not so much in a group, especially if everyone has a specific story like that.)

Saying your character longs for opportunities to prove her worth to her god because a paladin once came through her town and not only got rid of a Troll bandit problem but found the Mayor was a corrupt cultist that was sacrificing Troll babies to some dark god to poison the town's well and make a zombie militia (and that's why the Trolls were attacking the town's merchant wagons in the first place) is perfectly reasonable. Maybe the DM can throw you a bone and you can meet your paladin hero and find out he is a fraud or help him with a crisis of faith or meet his really hot son who's a warlock because the paladin fell in love with a succubus or something like that.

As far as the rolls are concerned, do what most players (and characters) would do: take the luck out of the picture by improving your abilities. At a certain point in your adventuring, you can roll a 2 and still take out a goblin in one hit because your bonuses are so high. You've gotten stat advice already, so I won't belabor that, but if she lives long enough then she will have opportunities to get stronger and be more useful.

TL;DR: Let the trend be your friend and play out the rocky start of a hero that is trying to fulfill her destiny.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "that is trying to fulfill her" [end] - I think you accidentally a word... :P \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 5 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did some polishing. I guessed that “destiny” was the final word, but you might want to replace it with something else if that's not quite right. I also replaced or removed the unnecessary swearing per our site policy on appropriate content, and fixed up some spelling, punctuation, and formatting things. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 5 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oops. Its been a while, and I couldn't remember whether SX was a no-profanity place or not. I didn't see any cursing in the other posts so that should have told me something. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Murky Master Jan 6 at 3:18
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You don't need to do anything. Rolls are independent of each other: the fact that you rolled horribly last session does not make it any more likely that you will roll poorly in the next session. In fact, if we go by the numbers from Sebastiaan van den Broek's simulation, there is a ~97% chance that you will roll better next time.

So the solution is to not worry about it, show up to the next session and play however you want; the problem will disappear on its own.

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This answer is provided to give you some insight about the dice rolls themselves, in addition to the answers providing you tips on how to play.

Your dice rolls were bad but not to the point it 'defies probability' as I've seen commented. You rolled a total of 62 over 9 rolls with a d20 die. (edit: I thought it was only 60 first, I updated my post accordingly). I wrote a small program that simulates these dice rolls and the odds of rolling this (or worse) are around 3.18%. This is low, but it will happen on occasion, even if it sucks if it was on your first night.

Total output from the program:

In 1000000 sessions, it took an average of 31.459485 attempts to get a value that is or is lower than 62 for 9 rolls with a d20. This is a percentage of 3.1786915774368207. The total amount of dice rolled was 283135365. The average die roll on the d20 was 10.499832643654388

As you can see the average die roll is what we expect when rolling 1 million times, 10.5 with a good amount of precision.

Here is the full program written in Java:

import java.util.Arrays;
import java.util.concurrent.ThreadLocalRandom;

public class RandomTest {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        //settings
        int totalDiceRollsPerSession = 9;
        int dieRange = 20;
        int limit = 62;
        int totalTimesToRollToLimit = 1000000;
        //settings end

        int[] numberOfAttemptsPerTime = new int[totalTimesToRollToLimit];
        long allRollValues = 0L;

        int totalRoll = 0;
        int numberOfAttempts = 0;
        for (int totalTimes = 0; totalTimes < totalTimesToRollToLimit; totalTimes++) {
            while (totalRoll == 0 || totalRoll <= limit) {
                numberOfAttempts++;
                totalRoll = 0;
                for (int i = 0; i < totalDiceRollsPerSession; i++) {
                    int dieRoll = ThreadLocalRandom.current().nextInt(1, dieRange + 1);
                    totalRoll += dieRoll;
                }
                allRollValues += totalRoll;
            }
            numberOfAttemptsPerTime[totalTimes] = numberOfAttempts;
            numberOfAttempts = 0;
            totalRoll = 0;
        }

        int totalDiceRolls = Arrays.stream(numberOfAttemptsPerTime).map(value -> value * totalDiceRollsPerSession).sum();

        double averageNumberOfAttempts = Arrays.stream(numberOfAttemptsPerTime).average().getAsDouble();
        double averageRoll = (double) allRollValues / totalDiceRolls;

        System.out.println(String.format("In %s sessions, it took an average of %s attempts to get a value that is or is lower than %s for %s rolls with a d%s. This is a percentage of %s.\n" +
                "The total amount of dice rolled was %s. The average die roll on the d%s was %s", totalTimesToRollToLimit, averageNumberOfAttempts, limit, totalDiceRollsPerSession, dieRange, 100/averageNumberOfAttempts, totalDiceRolls, dieRange, averageRoll));

    }
}

Feel free to play around with the settings, although if you start doing billions of rolls the average die roll may not be calculated correctly anymore due to having too large numbers.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The trick to not using so much memory in simulations like this, even without needing to optimize, is to keep in mind what information you'll actually need at the end. All you need to know in this case is how many sessions had a sum <= limit, and what the total roll is. So if you keep a running count of both, and divide by number of sessions/rolls respectively at the end, you can do it in constant memory. (makes the code shorter, too) \$\endgroup\$ – Ray Jan 6 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ray oh yeah I know, I added a lot of meta data just for ‘fun’, in the end the only real memory consuming thing is keeping the value of every single roll but that’s only to be able to calculate the average roll later on, which is unnecessary for the answer percentage. I could optimize this away by just adding it up all the time, but tbh I just wrote this in 10 mins for a quick answer that people could play around with. \$\endgroup\$ – Sebastiaan van den Broek Jan 6 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ray I couldn't let it go so I just removed storing all the actual roll values and aggregated them immediately, now it should run pretty much anywhere. \$\endgroup\$ – Sebastiaan van den Broek Jan 7 at 7:31
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Sounds like a night of bad rolls

It sounds like you're new to DnD, so welcome to the game. There's a lot to be had in the setting and source materials, but far more based on what you make of it.

You have an idea for a character: an Aarakoa paladin whom is courageous, as well as a bit foolhardy. You, the player, are having a night of terrible rolls, hence your character is having a bad night.

If your only stance on enjoying yourself are the rolls going your way, then you might need to pick a different hobby. Anyone who's played DnD has had a night of cursed dice, you seem like you may've had more than one. On the other hand, you can have a night of straight up blessed dice wherein your d20 only seems to respond with one number and that number is 20.

Your question is buried in there, I think it's how do I keep playing this character and have fun doing so? The answer depends on what's fun for you. It seems you enjoy your character concept and I venture to guess you'd have fun dedicating your character to a god and them trying to figure out how they've displease said deity. Be unnecessarily dramatic about it, when you do hit, roleplay seeing symbols that indicate your actions the desire of your deity.

In short, we all have bad nights with dice, what you do with that bad night is up to you.

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Math is cruel, and D&D doesn't care.

'You want game to be difficult, you want game to throw at players 3 bad events and you want the game to help them twice. That is your dream configuration. But math is cruel. There will be games like ours today, with 4 bad events and only one good. There will be even games with 0 bad and 5 good events. Players will play it, will have 5 good events, finish the game without smallest effort and then they will write on BGG that game is easy like piece of cake and boring and they don't recommend it.'

'You are right.'

'You need to control the game. Now it is rollercoaster. You have no idea what will happen. It may be extremely easy. It may be extremely hard. Your intended configuration of 3/2 is only one of many possibilities. What about others? You have to remove all good events. You have to make it 5 bad events, 0 good events and then set difficulty of the game.'

Vlaada Chvatl talking to Ignacy Trzewiczek, during the development of Robinson Crusoe

As a player, you can't do anything about your luck. Not without cheating, anyway. And sometimes math is cruel.

Now, your character has no reason to expect math to be cruel. Nothing about any one thing that happened in that battle was weird. And they have no reason to think that things will go that badly for them tomorrow, either.

But you the player? That's different. It's alright to feel disappointed, and it's alright to feel demoralized, and maybe you can't put your heart into playing a character who has hope for tomorrow. The game left you out there to twist in the wind, and if "tomorrow will be different" isn't enough solace, you're not wrong to decide the game isn't for you.

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Try a different game

One of the biggest problems with D&D is a series of bad rolls can make a game or session terrible pretty easily. There are plenty of other game systems, many of which changes rolls from binary success/failure to a spectrum of results, and many make it so even failure is interesting. If you're particularly enamored with the Fantasy Setting, Dungeon World might be a good place to start.

Chances are you can make D&D work, you may have just had some really bad luck, but if you try some of the other answers here and it's still not ending up being fun for you, maybe try a different system.

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