deird1: Maximus the horse, holding a sword in his mouth threateningly (Maximus sword)
[personal profile] deird1

The first time you roleplay, you'll probably end up using a D20 system. Which is a shame, because I think D20 systems have some issues.

What do I mean by "D20 system"? It's:
- a game in which you solve problems by rolling a 20-sided die (a "D20")
- a "dice plus" system, in which you get some numbers, you roll the D20 (that's the "dice" bit), and you add the dice result to the numbers (that's the "plus" bit)

I have two problems with this.
1) a single D20 has even odds of rolling any number
2) adding numbers is maths, and annoying

Let me elaborate...


Dice Rolling and Probability

Take a single D20, and roll it. You have a probability of hitting each number of:

1 - 5%
2 - 5%
3 - 5%
4 - 5%
5 - 5%
6 - 5%
7 - 5%
8 - 5%
9 - 5%
10 - 5%
11 - 5%
12 - 5%
13 - 5%
14 - 5%
15 - 5%
16 - 5%
17 - 5%
18 - 5%
19 - 5%
20 - 5%

...it's all kinda the same, is my point.

This means, that in your standard roleplaying game, I have an equal chance of swinging my sword and hitting, swinging and missing, landing a perfect hit and lobbing someone's head off, or completely failing and lodging my sword in a tree.

On the other hand, say I rolled two D6s, and looked at their combined result:

2 - 1/36
3 - 2/36
4 - 3/36
5 - 4/36
6 - 5/36
7 - 6/36
8 - 5/36
9 - 4/36
10 - 3/36
11 - 2/36
12 - 1/36

(Fractions, yes, because they're harder to calculate and I can't be bothered...)

If you plotted this out, you'd end up with a nice little bell graph. Add another die, and it would get even more smooth and bell-shaped.

In this situation, your roleplaying actions are much more likely to be normal and average - while still occasionally allowing you to wedge your sword in a tree trunk. Which, to my mind, is way better.


Number Crunching

I tend to summarise my problems with D&D by saying "I want to shoot an arrow at an orc. So I roll a D20, and add 5 for my strength, and 7 for my combat skill, minus three because of the orc's armour, but plus 1 because he's standing still, plus 3 because it's my lucky arrow, but minus 2 because this isn't the bow I normally shoot lucky arrows with, minus 4 because it's a cloudy day, plus 3 because my party's bard is inspiring me, minus 1 because I don't actually like my party's bard..."

It's annoying. And maths is hard.

Roleplaying offers a wide range of dice systems, but the three main ones you tend to encounter are:
- dice plus
- dice under
- dice pools

"Dice plus" is where you roll a die (or multiple dice, but usually just the one) and add a bunch of numbers to it, and then compare it to an imaginary target number to see whether you succeeded. (As summarised above.) It's a simple concept, but complicated in practice. You have to find the numbers on your sheet, add them to some other numbers that your GM tells you, add the total to your dice result, and compare that total to another number that your GM tells you. And then you have to do it again, next round.

"Dice under" is where you roll some dice, and compare their result to some numbers on your character sheet. But, in this case, the character sheet numbers are your target number. Usually, you find two numbers (for instance, Intelligence and Medicine), add them together (Int 5 and Med 3 makes 8), and see if you can roll under them (possible, but two D6s still give you a reasonable chance of failure on this one).

It should come as no surprise that I like "dice under" systems - and, were it a choice between the two, I'd happily play "dice under" for the rest of my days. But, in this case, I have one I think is even better...

"Dice pool" systems are pretty much awesome personified.

What happens is, you take a die and say "every time this die is rolled, this result will be a success, and this result will be a failure". On a D6, you might say 5 and 6 are successes. On a D10, it might be 8, 9, and 10. Or anything really. But every time you look at a die, you'll be able to tell at a glance whether that die is showing a success or a failure.



So, I am trying to open a locked door.

I'm good with my hands. My "dexterity" stat gives me 3. So I add 3 dice to my pool.

I'm good at lock-picking! My lock-picking skill gives me 4. So I add 4 dice to my pool.

My friend (who is with me) has seen this type of lock before! He gives me another 1 die to add to my pool.

Unfortunately, I'm stressed and shaky from our recent battle with Evil Lord Greg. So the GM takes 2 dice out of my pool.

I now have 6 dice. I pick them up, and throw all of them onto the table. Then I look at them, and count how many dice are showing successes.

2 successes! Woo! I've picked the lock!



I like this for a few reasons.

Firstly, it minimises number-crunching. I don't have to hold any numbers in my head - I just assemble them all in front of me.

Secondly, it's tangible. I can easily see what every factor is contributing to, rather than having a theoretical skill floating around in my head somewhere.

Thirdly, it's versatile. I can add dice from my Stats, from my Skills, from my Assets, from my Attributes (or "black dice" from my Drawbacks), from my friends' help, from the time I've spent preparing it, from the extra "luck" I'm using on this action... Every time, there are no special rules that need to be consulted. It's as easy as "Good thing? Add dice. Bad thing? Subtract dice." (Or add black dice, but that's another story.)

And fourthly, picking up a bazillion dice and rolling them all in a giant gamble of clatter is just plain FUN.



Questions? Comments?

Date: 2017-08-17 07:32 am (UTC)
vass: Nethack tiles: Neutral Valkyrie and tame dog (nethack)
From: [personal profile] vass
And fourthly, picking up a bazillion dice and rolling them all in a giant gamble of clatter is just plain FUN.

All over the table. All over the floor. Trying to find all the d6s when it's time to go home...

That is to say, you have convinced me that dice pools make more sense mathematically and are simpler to read, but I do see a potential issue with the dice pool as physical objects.

Date: 2017-08-17 10:35 am (UTC)
eleanorjane: The one, the only, Harley Quinn. (Default)
From: [personal profile] eleanorjane
I quite concur - it's not doing the maths that bothers me with D20, though, it's the totally broken nature of the probability (lack-of-)curve. And, as a bonus kick in the teeth, the implementation of most D20 systems is such that the bonus conferred by high stats is way smaller than the variability of the roll -- so there's little practical difference between Average Mook Person and Strongperson McBeefyface, because the extra +2 that Strongperson gets is so easily irrelevant in the face of rolling a 5 instead of a 15.

Dice pools all the way for me. :)

Date: 2017-08-17 06:30 pm (UTC)
schneefink: River walking among trees, from "Safe" (Default)
From: [personal profile] schneefink
I absolutely agree on the flat probability curve of a D20 being terribly unrealistic. But I really like the look and feel of twenty-sided dice ^^

I think I'd get annoyed by so many small pieces if I used a dice pool, and that for me calculating numbers would be much easier. I played a Warhammer RPG once and if I remember correctly we mostly used 2 d10s and a percentage system, iirc that worked quite well.

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