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I have been running a home D&D game for the past year now with the party consisting of 5 players; a monk, a paladin, a ranger, a wizard and a druid. The Ranger was the last person to join the game about 4 months ago, and while she has been a great player (picking up on the hints I drop towards plot, taking amazingly detailed notes, remembering to look for traps that the party never did pre - her joining, etc...), she rolls way too well on her dice.

For every 10 of her rolls, 1 is below a 16 on a D20. I know she isn't cheating as at my table we always check each other's dice, and I've had her roll with multiple sets to the same result. While having this kind of help definitely improves outcomes for the party, a few of them are feeling rather chagrined at always being overshadowed, as they all assume that whatever she rolls will be a success because it almost always is.

My group plays weekly for 4 hours/session. She has been with the group for approximately 5 months = 20 sessions = roughly 80 hours of game play where we have consistently had this. This wasn't just "one good night" it's been consistent. I have also heard from some other friends that she rolled the same consistently high rolls with other groups.

The real underlying problem here is that it affects the other players when they are constantly being outperformed at any task just because of dice rolls. It leaves them feeling bad about their own performance despite doing nothing wrong, and despite my reassuring them they are doing things right or well, I cant blame them for feeling bad.

I don't think that the player should be punished for rolling too well and her character is overall balanced on paper, not would I do anything that doesn't make sense in game world. Should I, as DM do anything about this, and if so, what suggestions do you have?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like she is the favored of RNGsus. You should pray for his favor \$\endgroup\$ – Himitsu_no_Yami Oct 24 at 17:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I roll pretty well myself actually always have haha. The difference is I'll still miss approximately 35% of the time lmao. \$\endgroup\$ – Grand Oct 24 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Take her to Vegas. \$\endgroup\$ – cpcodes Oct 24 at 18:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ You mention that you've had her use different dice sets... have you tried the dice that the other players are using? Have you tried digital dice (there are free phone apps if you don't mind them being around the table). \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 24 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Erm, we don't really do "multi-tier discussion" here. We're a problem->solution website. We do have a Chat feature that you should be able to access now that you have 50 rep (iirc) and a list of recommended forums if you want more back and forth. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 24 at 18:25
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This seems like a case of confirmation bias

For me the strongest thing you've said in your question is this:

I don't think that the player should be punished for rolling too well and her character is overall balanced on paper.

I completely agree; punishing somebody for happening to do well is absurd, and since her character is balanced on paper, this situation truly can be summed up to chance.

A thing that is likely happening here is people assuming "Oh, she always rolls well" and then only remembering or taking notice of the times where she actually does roll well; ignoring or selectively not recalling the times where she rolled averagely or even poorly. This is called confirmation bias.


What should be done? Nothing

Honestly, I don't think anything needs to be changed here, but I do have some suggestions. Actually record her dice rolls, you can see for yourself (using the Law Of Large Numbers) that her dice and her are rolling average just like the others. This would help remove the confirmation bias. You've said the physical dice seem to be fair, and if that is the case, I don't believe there's anything you need to do. I would recommend checking if the dice are fair.

In terms of the spotlighting issue, one thing to consider is also if her character is just making more rolls in general, this would mean her character is doing more things regardless of whether she is succeeding at them or not, which could be factoring into how her character is perceived by yourself and the other players.

Another thing that can happen is that you'll remember her getting "a success" but not the extent of the success. This is especially true in cases where there aren't degrees of success like attack rolls: you either hit, or you miss. Thus one could think of her as "always hitting the enemies" but she could just be getting lucky and be barely hitting them, a thing which people wouldn't recall.


What to do about being outperformed?

If the other players truly feel like they are being outperformed by her, and she really is a real life Domino (unconsciously controlling probabilities in her favor), then I think your best bet is to just discuss this as a group, and see what people think about it. They are your players and they know better than anybody else how they feel and what they want.

What I feel would be most important is to ensure the following point gets across: This is in no way, whatsoever, her fault.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I actually did do this last session out of curiosity. Literally 17 rolls to her that night, 1 was below a 10. She had a 13, a 15, and the rest were between 16-19. No nat 20s but still a very high average. \$\endgroup\$ – Grand Oct 24 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe the dice being fair is a comment on her actual physical dice, but here it's unclear if you think OP is talking about her luck, dice in general, or her dice. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 24 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso I've added the phrase "physical dice" \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 24 at 18:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Grand: 1) That will happen by chance on fair dice roughly one in 1870 times, so not impossible. 2) Does she roll in an unusual/low bounce way? d20s put most of the high numbers on one side; holding the die with the 1 facing up, and giving it minimal rotation (so it mostly just flips) would get a high number a lot; it's roughly the same way a weak spin when tossing a coin can reliably get heads or tails. Giving it more lateral movement so it tumbles more would remove that bias, or you could just have her use a dice tower (that forces more bounces and lateral movement). \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Oct 24 at 20:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Grand: Metal dice would definitely increase the odds of the problem I described (elaborated on in my answer), especially if they're the bad type of dice that cluster the high values together on one side, and the low values on the other. Metal dice thrown with minimal force don't tumble much, they mostly just clunk down. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Oct 25 at 1:05
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Foreword

If you're confident that the dice really are fair and that she isn't using sleight of hand or something to trick you, I don't see that there's much you can do to change how she rolls. @ShadowRanger and others have pointed out ways in which it's possible that she's making the rolls less random than they should be (probably unintentionally), which you might try to correct for. However, I suspect (like @Medix2) that this is most likely a case of confirmation bias, so the rest of my answer will focus on other ways to address the problem.

Hogging the spotlight?

@Medix2 makes a very good point that this player might be hogging the spotlight. If she's always the first one to suggest a solution or start talking in a social encounter, that might leave your other players feeling left out. Keep an eye out for this possibility, and if it seems like that might be an issue, talk to the player outside of the game and remind them that D&D is supposed to be a collaborative experience.

Making Other Players Feel Appreciated

Change the challenges

You can try to make the other players feel more valuable by including more challenges that play to their strengths and not to hers. As a Ranger, she's probably good at things like tracking, sneaking around, and interacting with plants and animals. Some things she's probably not as good at are:

  • Unarmed combat or other situations in which she wouldn't use her normal weapons (Monk)
  • Convincing people to do things (Paladin)
  • Understanding magical devices (Druid, Wizard)
  • Recalling obscure religious lore (Druid, Monk, Paladin, Wizard)
  • Working with medicine (Druid, Paladin, Wizard)

Alternatively, you could try to set up a situation in which taking the lead makes her fall into a trap. For example, if she scouts ahead of the party, she might be knocked out by a sleeping gas trap, prompting the rest of the party to rush in and rescue her from something.

Private Notes

One thing that I like to do as a GM is hand out information on note cards rather than announcing it to the group. This often happens when a PC recalls some relevant historical fact or communicates in a language that others don't speak. I think that by giving the player the knowledge individually and letting them share it with the rest of the group, it might help them feel like they're contributing more, even if the Ranger ultimately winds up saying "Hey, that reminds me of something that we heard about a few sessions back. Let me check my notebook..."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That could be a statistic that I could look into in the sense of how many rolls she is making in comparison to the other players, though that could be influenced by the other players intentionally backing off to for her to make the rolls. As far as changing the challenge, she has a decent array of skills. She is proficient with herbalsim (or medicine can't remember which), and she's playing a tiefling with a decent charisma stat, so she steps in as secondary in those roles as well. Even her perception has been beating the druid's simply due to rolls at a lower mod. \$\endgroup\$ – Grand Oct 24 at 18:36
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For this answer, I'm assuming:

  1. You've accurately recorded every d20 roll for a number of sessions, and they're wildly disproportionately high (e.g. after 50 rolls, she's rolled fewer than 5 rolls below 10, which is effectively impossible, statistically), and
  2. You've rolled the same die yourself, on the same surface, several times, and accurately recorded the results, to rule out weighted dice or a magnetic die rolled on a ferrous surface (or vice versa)

There's one last possibility that could be influencing this: What type of d20 she has, and how she rolls the die. Some d20s don't evenly distribute their values; they almost always make opposing sides sum to 21, but some d20s put all the high values on one side (a single vertex is surrounded by 16-20, with all values above 11 on one "half" of the die). Others mix and match to distribute the values around the surface more evenly; the 20 might share a vertex with 2, 18, 4, and 16 (with that half comprising all the even numbers), with the opposing vertex having 1, 19, 3, 17, and 5 (with that half comprising all the odd numbers. An image search for "d20" will show you both types.

If she's rolling the former type of die (poorly distributed), and has a weak "roll" (more drop than roll), and always rolls from a given starting point (I know a few folks who always put the 1 on top before the roll as some sort of anti-1 juju; I've done it myself on occasion), the amount of actual "rolling" that occurs would be fairly limited, and the "half" of the die can become pretty predictable (Update: Based on your comments, she uses metal dice; compared to plastic dice, they don't bounce or tumble readily without significantly more lateral force [they roll like bricks in my experience], which makes it much easier for predictable results like this to happen). Compare to how the Wheel of Fortune wheel always seems to stop only a few spaces after the last space spun (people aren't strong enough to spin it much further, so every spin is "weak", making one full rotation and stopping shortly thereafter), or how toast "always lands butter side down" when it's just knocked off the table by a tap, because the usual forces and heights involved produce a predictable number of flips (there was a Mythbusters on this that demonstrates it under controlled conditions).

In all of those cases, you have what you think of as many equally probable options, but the lack of entropy (in this case, sufficient lateral movement and bouncing to trigger tumbling and spin in the die) being injected into the system means that only some of the options are likely.

If this is a possibility, you have a couple options:

  1. Have her use d20s with better numerical distribution; she may still only get results from half the die (maybe mostly just around one vertex, as your example indicates the vast majority of rolls being in the 16-20 range, matching the first d20 design I described), and only getting even results is still a slight benefit (she'll crit twice as often, and average half a number higher than everyone else), but it'll be a lot less disruptive if she's just slightly luckier, not insanely so. If she's really rolling to just one vertex most of the time (e.g. on a well balanced die, all rolls might be 2, 4, 16, 18 or 20), that's probably still too good (those are basically two failures and three successes, with one fifth of all rolls being crits), and you'll have to move to #2.
  2. Get her a dice tower. A good one should remove the human component by ensuring the die's final state depends not on the force or angle with which it was deposited, but on microscopic differences in angle, location of first bounce, etc., differences too small to control with human levels of precision. A more expensive solution, but one that ensures her results are as uniform as possible.
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Test the dice and use a dice tower

Most of the dice people use are uneven and the insides aren't weighted properly. It's the way the dice cool off when their made. The way they are made is the problem. Their not made with precision and randomness in mind.

You can test your dice to ensure they are balanced. I believe these seeing the dice being tested on the videos helps more than describing it. Daniel Fisher's youtube channel is a good resource for dice testing videos.

You can take salt (keep adding until a die will float) water and see if the die is uneven as it will favor a certain side/sides more often.

I just realized that your player is using metal dice. Contrary to popular belief they can be made unbalanced. I've tested a d20 from one of my player's (it was a mini metal die). It's a painfully slow way to test as you can't reasonably use the float test. It had a notably uneven amount of high rolls!

If the protruding clip mark of Gamescience dice is properly filed or cut off they are very balanced dice. Here is a good article called How True Are Your D20's.

Col. Louis Zocchi (the owner of Gamescience dice) has stated that the type of surface (felt, metal, plastic, wood, etc...) you roll on will affect the randomness of the dice! Another plus for having a dice tower.

I've shared this information with players. They liked the information and actually enjoyed testing their dice in salt water. For ultimate peace of mind try to get clear dice (it's the difference in how the clear dice are made, any brand should work) without air bubbles, but more importantly have everyone use a dice tower! Get one or two for the group. It has been a huge blessing to my rpg & boardgame groups!

Here are two I recommend through use.

The second is hand crafted and felted! A little pricey... but nice!

The Romans used these to make sure their gambling games were fair! Even accusations of cheating in those days could get you killed! Dice towers save lives! PC's included.

enter image description here

Using dice towers has taken out all & any animosity about dice rolling from all the groups I've played with. When I was younger I figured out how to manipulate dice by how I rolled the them, as soon as I figured it out I made a point not to do it as it ruins the game, but it's possible someone could be doing it without realizing it by the way they roll. The dice tower fixes this.

I generally roll very well and my friends know I hate cheating like they do. Using the dice tower let's everyone be at ease.

"We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall." Proverbs 16:33

Dice are biblical! ;-) Let's just try to make sure we're not overly influencing the roll!

I hope this information will help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for proverbs citation. I use that in Vegas each time I play craps, as a personal reminder ... :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 25 at 3:22
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It's not necessarily a problem, and no one can tell if it's a problem beyond yourself and your players

Even if she reliably gets roll results in a restricted range, regardless of the reason, that's something that you can account for when setting DC for a challenge. But even that would only be necessary if the pattern of her roll results is making the game less fun for your table.

Really, it's only marginally more scale-tipping than all of the features and abilities PCs get. The game is about the PCs, and they generally have more options than NPCs and monsters and are typically expected to win (at least in modern-edition D&D games).

If you do think it's a problem, there are many possible ways to address it.

At the broadest level, this player is either cheating in some way or she systematically does something which narrows the range of outcomes on her d20 rolls.

If you think that she is cheating, then ultimately the solution will involve frustrating whatever mechanisms she is using to cheat. There are many ways to go about this, some of which will only apply to specific methods of cheating and some of which will apply generally. If she has developed a master's technique on rolling a fair d20, for an example of a specific cheating method, then preventing her from rolling her own dice would be the only sure way that she's rolling "fair".

As an example generic method, you could try reversing what results the die shows (so rolling a 1 becomes equivalent to a 20 for her, a 2 a 19, and so on). If she suddenly starts rolling a lot of results in the 1-5 range in a reversal of her current pattern of outcomes, it would be a fair indication that she is doing something to manipulate her rolls.

If you think she is not cheating (which, in my opinion, seems more likely based on the description in the question), then the most likely explanation for her unusual outcomes is that she does some things in a very systematic way and so similar starting conditions produce similar results.

For an example of this, some players like to play with their dice and have a preference for a die showing a specific value. If this player usually arranges her d20 so that it shows a 5 between rolls, and then has a very specific motion when rolling (like a gentle toss upwards with slight rotation of an always-similar direction and magnitude; this is something I've seen at the table), then the trend should be fairly easy to break. You could ask her to use a d20 of a different size, or have her roll with her off hand, ask her to "shake" the die more thoroughly in her hand before throwing it, have the d20 show a different number before she picks it up to roll each time, or any number of other things. Breaking up the systematic parts of the sequence should break up the narrow range of results.


In any case, it's not unreasonable to ask her to do something differently if you think these outcomes are damaging the game.

You don't need to know exactly why this phenomenon is occurring to conclude that it's harming your game (or not harming it). If the outcomes are really this skewed, this consistently, and always in the same direction, you can address it is as undesirable outcome instead of an undesirable player behavior. It's not unlike restricting classes or feats due to balance concerns.

If this player really is just fundamentally lucky, then changing up how she rolls her dice shouldn't derail her high-rolling streak. But with pretty much any other explanation you can expect some changes to her method to change the distribution of her roll results, and it's not about her or anything she's done "wrong". It's just a meta-balancing concern, and with a focus on keeping the game fun I think you can make that clear.

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