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A couple of times in my current campaign (D&D 5e), one of my players has elected, due to blindness, or darkness, to make a random shot in a random direction (including vertically, not just horizontally) without being able to see. At one point I am sure that I read about a DM's system using a d20 to represent degrees in a circle to represent a random shot, but I can no longer find it (I thought it was in SilverClawShift's campaign archives). Does anyone else know of an effective system to represent a random shot?

I was thinking about a system like that in which you would roll a random number for direction, but I need a 3D simulated roll - up and down and left and right, but also in a 360-degree circle, not just the 4 cardinal directions .

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Miniman, Rubiksmoose, Oblivious Sage, Mark Wells, SevenSidedDie Jan 14 at 21:26

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ also, my occasional reminder that D&D is a bad reality simulator :) \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 14 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the player firing randomly or are they using some remaining sense to at least have an idea of where they're aiming? The odds of hitting something on a truly random shot are so low that the easiest simulation of what happens is just "you miss". \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jan 14 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells, not to mention that about half of the vertical angles are eliminated by the fact that they're the floor. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 14 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ To hopefully sum up many of the above questions: What is the player trying to achieve here? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jan 14 at 21:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ve cast the 5th vote to hold this. There are lots of ways to solve this particular task, but many may be useless to your actual need, which depends on what the player is trying to accomplish, and why you’ve picked this task to resolve it. Please edit the question to include all that practical information. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 14 at 21:29
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I doubt you would find a rule specifically about firing in a random direction. However, other places such as the confusion spell use a method for determining a random direction (in this case, a direction for wandering off).

To determine the direction, roll a d8 and assign a direction to each die face

You can easily use the same method to determine a random direction to fire in (1 = North, 2 = North-East, 3 = East etc).

If you really want a random direction within 360 degrees, then dice may not be your answer. 0 - 360 degrees lie in a continuous number line (infinite possibilities) while dice can only ever give you a discrete answer and so could never give you 'every' direction! The only option would be to use another 'continuous' mechanism such as the old 'spin the bottle' (or some little spinner arrow like you get in some board games). Then use that to roughly line up with a direction. This could all over-complicated things though. Sometimes its better just to keep things simple.

Slight aside:

The DM should always know where the enemy is, even if the player doesn't. You may want to allow a Perception check to see if they can hear the rough direction of an enemy.

Regardless, a player can generally just say which direction they are shooting in - it doesn't have to be random. And the shot should still require an attack roll (with disadvantage) just in case they happen to pick (or roll) the lucky direction.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking about a system like that in which you would roll a random number for direction, It's just that I need a 3D simulated roll- up and down and left and right, but also in a 360-degree circle, not just the 4 cardinal directions \$\endgroup\$ – CollinB Jan 14 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CollinB why do you need such a complicated system? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Jan 14 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CollinB: I've added a paragraph related to this \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Jan 14 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth noting that unless the enemy takes the Hide action, creatures in combat know where each other are by the sounds they make as they move and act (barring significant enough distractions, such as loud noises that would drown out any sound from movement). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 14 at 15:02
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This system already exists. It's called 'Blinded'; roll with disadvantage

Which is to say, that a 360° (or more) system is overkill and largely pointless. If you look through enough of my answers, you'll likely see several iterations of "don't make players roll if it doesn't add anything".

"but there's a .05% they could hit and a 5% chance from there that they could crit!" is effectively nothing, and since D&D doesn't use decimals, it rounds down to nothing.

Either roll with disadvantage, or tell the player that the shot is too hard and that they can't roll. If the player still chooses to fire an arrow, then you describe their miss. "You choose a direction and snap off a shot. an instant later, you hear the sound of arrow hitting cobblestone."


If you absolutely MUST use some sort of system...

I'll actually answer your question. First: scrap vertical movement. The system is already clunky, as is.

If you want something that vaguely accepts a 360° shot, every face on a d20 represents 5%; 5% of 360 is 18. This means you can represent 18° for each d20 outcome.

Using math (Side-Side-Side or Angle-Angle-Side), we can determine how many degrees hits a 5-ft square (or cube) at certain distances.

Appoximately:
15ft is 18°, or 1/20
10ft is about 28°. It's really like 1.5/20, but I would give it the 2/20
5ft is almost 54°. close to 3/20
1ft is 135°. close to 7/20

Again, this is mostly an exercise to point out how convoluted the system would be; you should just use blinded.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Being blinded gives you disadvantage when you know where your target is. The situation described here is having no idea where anything is. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jan 14 at 21:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells "unless the enemy takes the Hide action, creatures in combat know where each other are by the sounds they make as they move and act (barring significant enough distractions, such as loud noises that would drown out any sound from movement)" - V2Blast's comment on another answer \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 14 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jan 14 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells OP specifically stated in their question "one of my players has elected, due to blindness, or darkness..." This answer is in complete accordance with the provided information. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 15 at 14:13
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Given what you are asking; your player wants a truly random direction and angle, you could roll 1d8 for direction, and just count the squares surrounding the player and ignore the square behind the player, (or use NSEW for even and in between odd (NE, NW, SE, SW)), then roll a die for angle, say from 0-180, because over 180 is going to change the direction. You could roll a d6 and multiply it by 15 for a 90 degree angle or d12 multiplied by 15 for the full 180 degrees. Even then, since you're likely adjudicating theater-of-the-mind or with a two dimensional grid, the random angle will probably just help ensure a miss, but hey, if it's what the player asked for...

It seems a bit silly though, but seems useful if someone threw a loaded crossbow and it goes off when it hits the ground.

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My system for random directions is to roll a d8, and use the direction that the pointy end of the die is facing as the result. The number rolled is irrelevant, but you could use it for elevation or distance if needed.

If you need elevation as well, you could use percentile dice instead, and use the direction of the 1's die for direction, and the value of the number for the elevation angle. Re-roll 90's. Or you could use both dice in analog fashion, as with the d8.

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You could use an online random number generator and do a random number between 1 and 360 degrees. You wouldnt have to be precise to the degree but that could give you an idea of the direction then flip a coin to decide for up or down.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure why this drew a downvote. I think it's an acceptable idea. However, I would like to point out that the question asked for up/down movement as well as left right, which 0-360 does not account for. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 14 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm thats a fair point. You could flip a coin for up or down. Though depends on the situation. For blinded you could argue that you could guess the height based on feeling the ground beneath your feet I guess. And I guess you could argue my solution is more technical than its worth. Although if the asker is using roll20 they could just use the command /roll 1d360 for the same effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Falconer Jan 14 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ (It wasn't me) But I assume this drew a downvote as it isn't a solution to a random attack in 3d space. If the question was "how do I attack in a random compass bearing" this would be a reasonable answer. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 15 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah thats a fair point, I’ve edited to include the coin flip option I suggested above for verticality. \$\endgroup\$ – Falconer Jan 15 at 9:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even a coin flip doesn't resolve the problem. On a grid, assuming you're choosing a 5-foot cubic space to attack, a 5-foot-range attack would have 26 choices: 8 spaces horizontally around you, 9 above you (directly or diagonally), and 9 below you. Extending that range by an indefinite amount would increase that substantially. Your suggestion wouldn't account for either distance or the vertical angle (i.e. how far up or down you're targeting). Even assuming you're on the ground, that only gets rid of slightly less than half the options, leaving quite a few remaining. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 17 at 2:01

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