From what I’ve seen, there are two schools of thought when it comes to disclosing target numbers (called a variety of things in different systems):
- Don’t tell your players what they need to roll, just let them figure it out after a few attempts.
- Tell them what they need to roll.
I’ve been used to option one as the default approach for years, on both sides of the screen. Over the past few years, though, I’ve had a chance to see option two — full disclosure — in action as a player, and it rocks.
I’m now solidly in the second camp, and will be taking the full disclosure approach the next time I run a game. Telling your players what they need to roll has several benefits:
- Saves time (they’ll figure it out anyway, so why not just tell them?).
- Allows them to make more informed choices — both about whether and how to attempt the task, and about whether or not to expend finite resources (action points, for example).
- Encourages creativity — “Crap, I can’t make that DC. I’ll have to try something else.”
- Pulls the party together to help with important rolls.
- Signals to your players which rolls are really critical, and which are less important.
You don’t have to share every target number, either — just most of them. You can still make a few rolls in secret, or keep mum about what the party needs to roll when you think it’ll add drama to the situation.
If you’re used to not disclosing target numbers, this represents a major shift in play style — and one that might not be for you. The best way to find out if this play style works for you and your group is just to try it. At your next session, disclose all (or nearly all) target numbers in advance, and see what happens. Like me, you might discover that you love this approach.