Do You Always Use Reaction Rolls?

Basically what the title sez. When the rules would call for a ? Do you ever make one and ignore it? If so, do you tell your players?

Most of experience roleplaying is in post 3.5-style adventures, where the concept of a reaction roll doesn’t really make sense. For sandbox gaming, though, it seems very useful. That being said, convenience sampling of interwebz discussions that mention reaction rolls generally go something like, “Oh those? We never used them.” So what’s the real dealio?

I plain forget them a lot of the time, and just do what seems sensible, but I try to remember them and use the results (for random encounters/wandering monsters), because it makes things more interesting and swingy, and overall less lethal (because it goes from a base “100% of monsters attack you” to “<100% of monsters attack you”).

Plus they’re fun and can give an encounter an interesting twist. Why are those zombies just standing there, creepily staring off? And you can interpret the results very widely - maybe “cautious” ghouls follow the party to attack them when they’re weak, etc.

For placed encounters, I usually have at least a few notes on what the creatures’ disposition and base reaction is.

I think there is something in the rules to the effect that the judge’s discretion should come into play - there are some circumstances where only hostile or only friendly make sense. But I tend to use them in the general case, when there isn’t an overwhelming factor in one direction or another. Basically in those cases where I am not sure, I ask the dice.

That’s my take, too. The dice are a means of quickly coming up with something that I haven’t already decided on (e.g. Reaction Rolls, wandering monsters, % in Lair, etc.), or adjudicating something when I’m unsure of the result (e.g. Reaction Rolls, Attack Throws, Proficiency Throws, etc.). They aren’t there to straightjacket my creativity.

I primarily use Reaction Rolls when the players actively attempt to influence the monster. The modified 2d6 roll then affects how I interpret their actions.

Alex: So most encounters don’t necessarily begin with you making a reaction roll? You only make one if the PC’s decide to try a social approach?

And thank you for the responses, all. My suspicion was that most people probably treated reaction rolls as a “GM inspiration” mechanic like wandering monsters rather than a “physics of the gameworld” mechanic like attack throws and AC. It’s still useful to hear actual opinions, though.

Has anyone ever tried a campaign or adventure where every encounter that has the potential to be dangerous starts with a reaction roll? I feel like, in order for that to be interesting, you’d need a more hefty set of potential modifiers like the ones Alex posted a few weeks ago.

Yukiomo, you are correct. If you want to treat it as gameworld physics, you need a more robust set of modifiers.

I was rolling the majority of my reactions and it was, indeed, fairly odd. There were a good deal of “you run into a monster, it ignores you” results. I think I’ll start being more judicious about using reactions for encounters where I already have something in mind for their disposition.

To me, the important thing is coming up with a good or interesting “Why?” that drives more play.

First, you have to consider any pre-established motivation: if the zombies in this dungeon are guards set by the necromancer, then a random encounter with zombies probably means they’ll attack.

Second, I think that Charisma modifiers and other modifiers should only apply if the PCs are actively engaging the creatures in the appropriate fashion. If the PCs are just standing there (or if the creatures wouldn’t give a whit about your Charisma; e.g. zombies, wolves, lions, black puddings, etc.), I’d make an unmodified roll. This is very important, because it weighs the results heavily to Neutral (6-8), where attack is still

Third, I’d roll and interpret the result. “Indifferent” for zombies could, indeed, mean that they just stand there, staring off; or, maybe more interesting, they’re performing some kind of odd, possibly pointless function: cleaning the room with brooms, performing military drill, waiting a table that isn’t even there with trays that don’t exist… meanwhile, the black pudding might just not register the PCs as food.

Even “Neutral” just means, by the book, that if the PCs parley, the monster MIGHT let them go (they’d have to be successfully bribed, intimited, or bluffed). To me, better results (12+, Friendly) mean they are willing to leave the PCs alone for no return, and are actually open to being hired or bribed to help, NOT that they jump to help them.

I’d also consider a multiple-roll system. The PCs bump into a gang of bugbears, and their first action is to close ranks and ready their weapons. I’d roll an unmodified 2d6 Reaction Roll. I get a Neutral result, and neither side is attacking the other yet… so the PCs decide to parley, using the leader’s (who has to be in front, or get in front - can’t very well negotiate from the rear ranks!) Charisma and Diplomacy modifiers. They get a Friendly result. The bugbears are now willing to let them pass unmolested (within reason; they won’t have free run of the bugbears’ camp, and if the bugbears find them later loaded with treasure, a new roll will be necessary… with modifiers if they look weakened!). Being Chaotic, the speaker decides to try to hire the bugbears, and makes another Reaction Roll…