The Referee’s Role


The Referee’s Role

Facilitator of Fun and Adventure

The referee should bring to life exciting adventures for the enjoyment of the group.

Preparation: Before the game begins, the adventure should be planned out and required maps drawn. Advice on adventure design is found later in this section.

Improvisation: In spite of the referee’s preparation, it is impossible to predict every possible player action. Players will come up with ideas that the referee has not even considered. It is thus important for the referee to remain flexible and to roll with any unexpected turns the adventure might take!

Procedures: This book provides procedures for many common adventuring situations. These exist in order to aid the referee in running the game. However, the referee should feel free to adapt and add to these procedures during play, in order to keep the game moving.

Balance: The referee must maintain a fun balance of risk and reward.

Neutral Judge

The referee must remain neutral in all things—neither on the side of the players nor against them.

Non-competitive: The game is not a competition, with the players attempting to defeat the referee, or vice versa.

Fairness: The rules of the game should be applied equally to player characters, monsters, and NPCs.

Arbiter of Rules

The referee must decide when and how to apply the rules of the game.

Rulings: The rules of the game—including descriptions of magic items, spells, or monsters’ special abilities—do not cover all possible scenarios, so the referee must be ready to apply judgement to resolve any unexpected situations which arise. 

Resolving actions: When a player wishes to do something not covered by a standard rule, the referee must consider how to determine the outcome. Sometimes, the situation can be dealt with simply by deciding what would happen. Sometimes, the referee may require the player to make an ability check (see Ability Checks) or a saving throw (see Saving Throws) to determine what happens. Other times, the referee may judge the likelihood of the action succeeding (e.g. expressed as a percentage or X-in-6 chance), tell the player the chances, and let them decide whether to take the risk or not.

Disagreements: The players may not always agree with the referee’s application of the rules of the game. When this happens, the group should (briefly!) discuss the point of disagreement and come to a decision. The referee is always the final arbiter in such cases and should ensure that the game does not get bogged down in long discussions about the rules.

Randomness: The referee should make judicious use of die rolls, random tables, etc. While these can add an element of fun and unpredictability to the game, overuse of randomness can also spoil an adventure by derailing it too much.