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So how do you search the room?

I love how Old School RPGs don’t just solve everything with a roll of the dice but actually wants players to make meaningful choices and interact with the setting to get most out of the game.

I remember may days playing 3.X and 4e when players would come up on a room and just say “I search the room. I rolled 23, what did I find?”. I may have been playing wrong, mind you, but I hated that. I hated the lack of involvement and interaction. It was just a mechanical activity.

Since I’ve read the Quick Primer for Old School Gaming by Matt Finch, I realized it didn’t have to be like that, and it wasn’t like that, in OSR games. People had to describe what they are doing to search the room, where they are searching, how they are doing that and everything.

In many cases, depending on how specific the players description is, and how spot on they say they are looking, no rolls are made and they find the thing they are searching for. Simple as that. But sometimes, this isn’t that certain. And other times, the way they decide to search the room may have other consequences.

In Old School D&D, search checks are resolved with 1d6. Character normally have a 1 in 6 chance of finding something. I don’t know if you agree with me, but I find these chances pretty low, and this usually means a lot of players are gonna be trying this, or they will spend a lot of time trying yo find something that may not be even there. Although random encounters can occur, that isn’t very exciting for me, and I think there could be more interesting choices in this equation.

What if how they decided to look for the hidden things affected their chances and the possible consequences? Maybe if they decided to be a little less careful and made a lot of noise tapping on walls, moving things around and all? This could increase their chances to 2 in 6, but it would increase the chance of a random encounter in the same rate?

What if they weren’t as tidy and left clear signs that the room was searched for, allowing others to know they’ve been there? This could increase their chances by another point, but would increase the chance for random encounters for a prolonged time? Maybe the enemies in the dungeon could organize a search party?

Other actions could further alter the chances of finding something but they all should have a consequence too, to instigate hard choices.

I think this offers meaningful choices and may save time in my games due the insistent tries. And, of course, may lead into more trouble for my players, which is always fun!

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