Rules Lawyer- The Reroll

Actually, that rule doesn’t apply because of the sidebar on page 42…Rules Lawyered…

Today marks the official launch of d20 Radio’s new Gamer Nation gaming blog!   A few years ago the network made a foray into the world of internet blogging under the guise of the Gamer Security Agency.  This second dip into the world of game blogging got me thinking about second chances in games. Everyone deserves one. But how often have you tossed a die onto the table and then hung your head in dejected disbelief at the results? If only you could just try again…

Lucky for you, some games allow that very thing. Under certain circumstances many games will give a player a chance to reroll the dice. This ability is usually rare and very limited. Sometimes just a once per game ability.

Given the rerolls rare and limited nature, just how good is being able to reroll that die? Sure, when you’re at a critical junction in an RPG, you throw out the d20 and it turns up a 1, you’re going to want to try again. But are the useful times as rare as the ability itself?

It’s a terrible answer, but in the end, it really depends. What die are you using? d20? d6? What are the stakes? How rare is the reroll in your game?

In my experience, the usefulness of the reroll seems inversely proportional to the rarity. Take for example the X-wing Miniatures game. In that game you have the ability to take a Target Lock every turn. When you do, you can then spend it to reroll as many of your attack dice as you want. And attack dice have a 50% chance of rolling a hit. That’s pretty good odds of turning a miss into a hit and you can do it all the time.

Conversely, a defensive reroll is much rarer. Only a few cards or pilot abilities allow it. And the defense die only offer you a 3/8 chance of yielding beneficial results. So it’s harder to get a defensive reroll and it’s harder to have it benefit you.

In RPG’s, the odds look even worse. With a d20 system you have only a 5% chance of rolling any particular number. You also usually don’t know exactly what number you need to roll; you’re just aiming for the higher the better.  In most of these systems, the reroll is a once per game ability that required a ton of sunk XP to acquire. You get to use it once and if your goal is anything higher than a 10, you have far less odds to achieve a success than in the Xwing example.

For those games where the reroll is rare, how do you decide when to use it? You can sink a lot of XP into earning the chance to make a reroll and then, if you’re like me, never use it. A once per game ability needs to be preserved until the right moment. You don’t want to waste it on a meaningless die roll. Nor do you really want to waste it on a roll that could actually turn out worse for you if you reroll. So you end up holding onto your “precious” ability until the session ends and letting it go unused.

Obviously, don’t be like me. Learn to let it go. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are the stakes if you fail? Total Party Kill? F’ yeah use it.  Or do you just fail to seduce yet another bar maid?
  • What’s left to come this session? If it’s the first five minutes and you’ll be breaking into the BBEG’s super fortress later, maybe hold onto it.
  • Is this roll critical to your character story? Even if the stakes are relatively low, some roles are more defining for your particular character. A super-bad ass mechanic rolling a 1 when trying to fix the ship just doesn’t happen. Your experienced has earned you that reroll.
  • And of course, do you feel lucky? Well, do you punk?
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Wayne Basta

Wayne Basta

Editor-in-Chief at d20 Radio
Wayne is the managing editor of d20 Radio's Gaming Blog. He also occasionally writes books.
Wayne Basta

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  1. Seems like the rollout of d20’s new articles is going great!

    If I may make an unsolicited suggestion, it might be worth spending a bit more effort in the editing process–in this article alone, there are quite a few misused “it’s” instead of “its” (in the first paragraph and the fourth, at least). Thanks!

  2. Wayne, Thanks for the first blog post. For my Edge of the Empire games at the local store I have a house rule that I play with. It allows the players to spend a destiny point to accomplish a reroll. For some reason my group rolls very badly, so that metagame issue generated the rule for the players enjoyment. However it has been a pretty good rule. Often the players are in a key moment, with very few destiny points and they have to choose between the reroll or an upgrade.


    • That’s a fun little tweak. I can see how it might be to powerful but it sounds like it’s worked out pretty well. I assume you maintain the one force point per action rule (ie if they spent a FP to upgrade the roll they can’t again spend one to reroll)?

      • That is correct. So it keeps the force point economy pretty balanced. Of course the newer books have introduced free rerolls as talents, but I don’t think that will take away from the house rule.


  3. Yeah, knowing when to use a re-roll can be pretty tricky in some systems.

    D&D 5e has something akin to a reroll with the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic, although the player doesn’t really get a choice in whether to use them or not, which is probably a fair trade given how easy it is to set yourself up to have Advantage on most attack rolls.

    Also in the realm of d20, there’s Mutants and Masterminds, which allows a PC to spend a Hero Point to reroll the d20, with an added kicker that any result below 11 gets a +10 added to it. Any PC can do it, but only if they’ve got the Hero Point to spend, which may not always be the case.

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