Reaction Rolls Aren’t All About You


Drawing of two parties conversing in a wood, from DMG 48.


Reaction rolls are a key part of AD&D gameplay and I ask players to make them regularly. Players in our campaign typically don't bother parlaying with mean-looking creatures in dungeons (for better or worse), though the reaction roll gets used frequently otherwise.

I apply the reaction roll in all these cases, and more:

This is a fast, clean, versatile mechanic, and it can produce some extremely fun and interesting results. It can score the PCs a major unexpected win, or conversely create an unexpected challenge! And importantly, it's a fair, impartial game mechanic and a fun roll of the dice.

This is a roll that players can make for themselves, and indeed I have yet to roll one myself in our campaign. But it's important for everyone to understand that though a player may be making the roll, the result is only partially about their character.

There is a huge, 1-to-100 random value being added in by the percentile dice. My interpretation is that this portion of the roll only partially represents the performance of the character. There are two portions of a reaction roll result:

  1. The PC's performance in the interaction, which is represented by (1) their reaction modifier from charisma, (2) reaction modifier from other sources, and (3) a portion of the d100 roll.
  2. Circumstances outside the PC's control –- the other portion of the d100 roll. This includes the other party's natural disposition, personality, how they're feeling today, whether the weather has had an effect on their mood, how they feel about life, whether they just had an argument with a friend today, if they're sick, if they have a headache, and an infinite number of other possibilities. In AD&D fashion, all this is abstracted into a flick of the wrist, a toss of the dice.

Just like morale rolls, pursuit rolls, and sage rolls, there are a huge number of in-world conditions that can affect a reaction check. That's why percentile dice are used to produce a wide range here. Whether you call it luck, life, or "the intricacies of the universe," reaction rolls aren't all about the checking character.

← Go back home