d20 vs. 3d6 "dice heresy" by Chris Sims
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    d20 vs. 3d6 "dice heresy" by Chris Sims

    At the risk of opening the can of worms even further from recent threads (ie. status effects annoying players, "ego-gamers", why must numbers go up, etc ....), here's an article by Chris Sims which proposes replacing the d20 with 3d6 in the basic rolls of 4E D&D, as a way of increasing the probability to hit.

    Loremaster - Dice Heresy by Chris Sims

    Wonder what to make of this, in light of recent discussions.
    Last edited by ggroy; Wednesday, 21st April, 2010 at 02:18 PM.

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    Burn him! Burn the witch!

    *ahem*

    Clearly, I have an unnatural love for my d20. Is that so bad?

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    I used to be a fan of bell-curve mechanics like the 3d6 roll. Nowadays, I think the regular d20 is a better choice. It's easier to calculate probabilities when designing monsters and skill challenges, the effects of bonuses and penalties on the roll are more consistent, and it lets us play with our pretty icosahedrons.

    Most importantly, it reduces the amount of number-crunching in the game; two numbers to add together instead of four, on every single attack roll. I am not opposed to number-crunching in a good cause, but I do think D&D has way too many numbers to keep track of; they add up to a severe drag on the flow of combat. Any proposal which increases the amount of number manipulation is going to get a wary reception from me.

    I certainly agree with the point that PC chances to hit are generally a bit low - it's a contributing factor in grind, especially when facing soldier-type monsters - but why not apply a flat bonus and adjust monster stats accordingly? Or, for that matter, adjust monster stats and leave the PCs alone? (Cranking down monster defenses has the same effect as cranking up PC attack rolls and doesn't require any "house rule headspace" for the players.)
    Last edited by Dausuul; Wednesday, 21st April, 2010 at 03:04 PM.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by ggroy View Post
    Wonder what to make of this, in light of recent discussions.
    Based on recent discussions within my own group? Players have become whiney little babies!

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    The 3d6 model also had some traction in 3e, with similar thoughts.

    Without looking at the aesthetic or "feel good" nature of d20 vs 3d6, mechanically there are some major differences to note.

    1) As noted in the article, using the standard math of 4e players using 3d6 will tend to hit more often than those that don't.

    2) The biggest difference is the effect of +1 attack/defense bonuses. In the range of standard 4e math, +1 to attack can have a larger impact than the normal 5% that it provides on the 20.

    That also means that higher level monsters are more of a challenge, and lower level monsters less of a challenge than under the standard system.


    I think there are some good merits to 3d6, my favorite being the granular crit system, but its a question of taste of mechanical desire.

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    If I understand the article correctly, to hit probabilities are too low, characters can't get enough DPR, and have to wait too long between turns to do damage. The paradigm which we should strive for is "to hit chance should be in excess of 90%." Because that's how it works in WoW.

    To say that I disagree with that paradigm would be the understatement of the year.

    I don't have a problem with the d20 > 3d6 switch per se, but the reasoning is... not my cup of tea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammael View Post
    If I understand the article correctly, to hit probabilities are too low, characters can't get enough DPR, and have to wait too long between turns to do damage. The paradigm which we should strive for is "to hit chance should be in excess of 90%." Because that's how it works in WoW.

    To say that I disagree with that paradigm would be the understatement of the year.

    I don't have a problem with the d20 > 3d6 switch per se, but the reasoning is... not my cup of tea.
    Incorrect paradigm. Read the context of his post, not the reference to WoW. I'll quote the relevant reference:

    In such video games, exemplified well by World of Warcraft, your character’s turn-to-turn wait time is also remarkably short. That means if you do miss (or are successfully blocked, parried, dodged, or whatever), your disappointment lasts less time than it might take for the miss notification to disappear. The character on the screen is doing something else almost immediately, occupying your attention. Even if that weren’t so, the onscreen action is often enough of a distraction. I can honestly say, while playing World of Warcraft, I rarely had to or bothered to recognize misses other attacks that failed to connect.

    Not so in a D&D game. Every miss is not only noticeable, but barring some unusual circumstances, it also has the bitter sting known as waiting for another turn. Turns in a D&D game are as quick to come as those in video games. Even an exciting encounter can become a frustrating bore if misses start to pile up.
    In any case, Chris has started looking at the math more carefully (negative modifiers, etc.) and has changed his opinion. A negative modifier has a much more significant impact in the 3d6 method than in the straight d20 method.

    You should read the entire thread, it is rather interesting.

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    This is neither here nor there, but...

    A few months ago, I ended up running a D&D game at a friend's house with absolutely nothing but a PHB, the online SRD, and a handful of Yahtzee dice. It's a long story; we were all hanging out, got bored, someone suggested we play. So I hammered out a quick dungeon crawl while they scribbled up some character sheets on notebook paper, and rolled up some fourth-level characters. But when it came time to play, we realized that we only had six-siders for dice.

    I was loving the spontaneity of the situation, and I didn't want to kill the spark by drowning it in math. So to keep the flow, I quickly ruled that 3d6 would be used instead of d20s, and off we went. Other rules were improvised as needed...d4s were replaced with d3s, d% were replaced with red and black poker cards, and so forth.

    Turns out, replacing d20s with 3d6s didn't break the game. At all. In fact, it had the opposite effect...it gave the game a much more balanced feel. Without critical hits, automatic success/fail, or the upper and lower extremes of the d20 scale, combat was a lot less "swingy," attack rolls were a lot more reliable, save throws were a lot less sensitive, and that's pretty much all. Dice mechanics aside, the characters were still adventurers, exploring the haunted ruins of Castle Wherever. It was a blast.

    I'm not saying that I am ready to ditch my d20. I too have an unnatural affection for that polyhedric ball of triangles, and I will use it at every opportunity. But that Saturday afternoon of improv gaming really changed my perspective on the 'd20 vs. 3d6' debate. It was one of the most entertaining games I have ever played, hands-down.

    I concede that not everyone would have enjoyed it. Some folks really like the symmetry of balanced math, where one has an equal chance of rolling a 3 as they do a 12, and that's cool. And not everyone likes to deviate from the rules-as-written either, for any reason, and that's cool too. I'm not trying to change the way anyone plays the game.

    But don't sweat it if you accidentally leave your dice at home. It ain't no thang.
    Last edited by CleverNickName; Wednesday, 21st April, 2010 at 03:41 PM.

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    I know people who feel that the 3d6 roll better represents reality - the assumption being that most of our attempts at anything will cluster around our average results. That may be, but I don't like it much in my games. Once you get to a certain point of ability, the dice roll becomes almost a formality, the chances of missing becoming so low. This might work OK in a point-buy system like GURPS or Champions where the cost of getting the ability so high can be made particularly expensive, but I can't say I like it in my D&D.

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