I was thinking on this some the other day. Are opposed rolls really necessary? I know one of the things my friends and I disliked about D&D back in the day was that defense rolls didn’t exist.If it’s your character in the firing line, you want to have some level of control over what happens to them. Fixed numbers as a defense makes you sit there and watch as something happens to your character that you can’t affect. Not a problem for some people, but there are those who don’t like it.

Reading a discussion about Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse world had me thinking. What if the players rolled everything to do with their character, attacks, defenses, skill rolls, but the NPCS just used fixed ratings equal to the average of what they would have rolled? The player still has full control over their character. Nothing changes on their end. On the GM’s side, they save time by not having to roll for everything involving an NPC. It also removes two things I strongly dislike: Villains flubbing rolls and goons open-ending. Few people I know like it when their character is taken out of the scene by a goon getting a massive roll and gutting them. And few things are more anti-climactic than the villain in a game botching a roll in the final encounter and getting butchered because of it. It messes with the atmosphere of the game. Sure, it may be realistic in some ways, but would The Empire Strikes Back have been as fun to watch if Luke lost his hand because he tripped and accidentally ran himself onto Vader’s saber? Or if Vader had tripped on a piece of debris and fallen into the shaft himself? It’d feel silly and unsatisfying, and it feels the same way to me when it happens in a game. You have to use luck points, or whatever the game has in order to ignore it.

Removing NPC rolls eliminates the chance of something random happening in a good NPC vs bad NPC scuffle, but NPC vs NPC stuff isn’t something I like to roll anyway. I just describe what’s happening based on what I want the NPCs doing in a scene. If I want an NPC to unexpectedly clobber one of the goons guarding a castle, it’ll happen. Otherwise the players’ time is being taken up with rolls that often don’t directly affect the player characters and takes up time that could be spent on having fun. Now, if the players are watching an NPC vs NPC fight going on and having fun cheering for one side, sure, roll it out, they’re having fun, but if the PCs are taking a group of NPCs into a battle against a group of NPC bad guys, I’d just describe the overall fighting around the PCs, then let the players get on to influencing events.

I may give this a test sometime to see how much it speeds things up, if my players are willing to try it.