Are Dice Pools Good, Actually?

Wulffolk

Explorer
A d20 or d100 system is easier for players to understand, but usually terrible for simulating actions and results realistically.

Dice pools can be much better at simulating actions and results, but are more complicated for a player to calculate precise odds.

In a d20 or 100 system the success or failure of an action is usually binary, yes or no. In a dice pool system the success or failure of something is usually variable, different levels of success or failure based on the roll or the skill of the character.

I very much prefer the dice pool approach for almost everything.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
That is a lotta d20's. Yikes. Cool though.

My comments above notwithstanding, I actually really detest pools of d4's. Yuck. D6's are my favorites.
There's a reason that SAGA generally used something like 4d10x2 or 5d10x5 (or in some case 10d10x10 for some Star Destroyer shenanigans).
I have a general principle I live by as a GM, which is: characters don't need to roll to make coffee, unless they are being shot at or brewing a cup for royalty.
Unless you're playing Roll for Shoes. At which point the game requires that character to both roll for, and fail at, making coffee to advance. ;)
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
A d20 or d100 system is easier for players to understand, but usually terrible for simulating actions and results realistically.

Dice pools can be much better at simulating actions and results, but are more complicated for a player to calculate precise odds.

In a d20 or 100 system the success or failure of an action is usually binary, yes or no. In a dice pool system the success or failure of something is usually variable, different levels of success or failure based on the roll or the skill of the character.

I very much prefer the dice pool approach for almost everything.
You absolutely can use dice pools with d20s. D100s is a bit more difficult. Unless using a large matched set of dice (all of the same two colors).
 
Of course you can use pools of d20s. I don't like it, it rubs my rhubarb the wrong way, but it is definitely possible. Pools of d100, while technically possible, seem like way to much fiddling with dice to not be a huge drag at the table.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
I think if you're looking at pools of d100s, you're probably also looking at a dice roller on a phone/computer, which is deeply different.
 

Wulffolk

Explorer
You absolutely can use dice pools with d20s.
When I referred to a d20 or d100 system I was referring to systems like D&D's d20 system. I was not saying that d20's could not be used in a dice pool.

However, I do believe that there is almost no need to use d20's or d100's in any dice pool. Use of dice pools is much better when the results are easy to read. That means smaller dice sizes are better, with d6 being the easiest with it's upward facing results and familiar shape.
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
When I referred to a d20 or d100 system I was referring to systems like D&D's d20 system. I was not saying that d20's could not be used in a dice pool.

However, I do believe that there is almost no need to use d20's or d100's in any dice pool. Use of dice pools is much better when the results are easy to read. That means smaller dice sizes are better, with d6 being the easiest with it's upward facing results and familiar shape.
It depends upon what you are rolling against. In a system where you are rolling low against your character's attributes (say, a Dex score to determine if you hit someone with a bow and arrow) the dice should be large enough to cover the attribute's normal range. In D&D, the normal range goes up to 18 before bonuses, so if you were to use a dice pool system in a game with a similar range for attributes, a d20 is necessary.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
What makes you say this? Why are dice pools better?
An extreme value is as likely as an average value in single die resolution. A larger die pool means when you fail you're likely to almost succeed or partially succeed, and total failure or extraordinary success are quite rare, which feels very natural. If you roll 20d6, you're almost guaranteed to roll between 57 and 83 (~93%) even though that's only a quarter of the possible results (26 outcomes of 100 possible ranging from 20 to 120). Adding dice makes the outcomes more consistent, but it still has the requisite equitable uncertainty.

Yes, you can mitigate the single die problem by making a table of results for a d%, for example, but then it's difficult to get the same system to work with a target number system, too.

I don't think dice pools are better or worse than single dice. But they do have different properties.
 

Bilharzia

Villager
An extreme value is as likely as an average value in single die resolution. A larger die pool means when you fail you're likely to almost succeed or partially succeed, and total failure or extraordinary success are quite rare, which feels very natural.
I've no idea why this "simulates actions and results realistically". If you think, for example, getting a result between 01-50 is just as likely as getting a "00" result then I have to tell you that's not how probability works or percentile dice work. You don't roll to hit a number, you roll to (usually) get under a value which represents your skill.

"A larger die pool means when you fail you're likely to almost succeed"
This is a bit painful to read. I suppose that's great if you think reality is like this, or if you want the game to allow you to succeed all the time. I'm not sure why you would bother with making tests at all in that case.

This isn't how the Year Zero Engine works, as a dice pool system. A single success means you succeed, there's no partial success, there is success above the minimum which can give you bonuses, but no success means you have failed, and sometimes failed with bad consequences.
 
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schneeland

Explorer
In D&D, the normal range goes up to 18 before bonuses, so if you were to use a dice pool system in a game with a similar range for attributes, a d20 is necessary.
If you do roll under with the attribute value as the target number, yes. But you could also just pick [attribute value] d6, roll against a fixed target number and count the successes. It would still get a bit unwieldy, though.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I’m not a fan of dice pools because (1) it slows down resolution time and (2) makes it hard to eyeball probabilities. it also requires you to carry around tons of dice. I understand the visceral appeal of rolling lots of dice, but it’s not for me.
Your #2 is one of the reasons I like them. I don't like the effort of hiding information (like AC) from the players (slows things down) and the inscrutability of dice pools helps add a sense of uncertainty.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Your #2 is one of the reasons I like them. I don't like the effort of hiding information (like AC) from the players (slows things down) and the inscrutability of dice pools helps add a sense of uncertainty.
Probability with relatively small pools isn't that hard. 3d6 as an additive pool is likely to be 10 or 11, those are the most common results. So if you know you're likely to get a 10 or 11, but need a 14 or better then you better have something that adds at least +4 to that roll or get lucky.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
Probability with relatively small pools isn't that hard. 3d6 as an additive pool is likely to be 10 or 11, those are the most common results. So if you know you're likely to get a 10 or 11, but need a 14 or better then you better have something that adds at least +4 to that roll or get lucky.
Sure, although I'm not sure I call something like GURPS a dice pool. I guess it technically, is, though.
 

Bilharzia

Villager
Sure, although I'm not sure I call something like GURPS a dice pool. I guess it technically, is, though.
It's not. I thought the definition of a dice pool system was counting the number of "hits" and not adding up the numbers and comparing that to a target number - which is what GURPS does. From what I can see posters are mixing things up.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
I think that dice pools with successes work best with custom dice that can have multiple successes, penalties, weird effect, etc (look at the new L5R RPG for an example).
Yup!
The advantage of counting rolled dice is in a system that uses exploding dice, where you always have a chance, no matter how small.
This part isn't true of L5R, tho'. It's actually true of FFG Genesys and Star Wars, as all the difficulties are in dice, and all dice except force have blank sides.

L5R, if one is Compromised, one only has a chance at Diff > Att if one is skilled, as the attribute dice have no explosive only faces, only explosive+stress, and compromized cannot keep dice with stress unless they only have dice with stress, then they can keep only one.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
It's not. I thought the definition of a dice pool system was counting the number of "hits" and not adding up the numbers and comparing that to a target number - which is what GURPS does. From what I can see posters are mixing things up.
Actually, the definition used more generally industry wide is where the number of dice is dependent upon character ability scores.

Some, such as D6 System, are roll-and-total.
Some, such as Prime Directive 1E and LUG Trek are keep best die, with a method for explosive.
Some, such as Shadowrun and Vampire, are count successes.

ANd then, we have the "Roll and Keep" pools...
Roll x dice, keep y of them, then total those Y dice: L5R 1-4, Cortex Plus, Savage Worlds
Roll X dice, keep y of them, count the symbols: L5R 5e

Technically, Savage worlds is keep 1, and is at most roll 2d keep 1... but the dice rolled are 1d6 & 1d(skill).
Cortex plus is almost always roll 3-8 dice, of size by ability and inclusion if relevant, keep 2.

L5R 1, 3 & 4 is roll Stat+skill, keep stat. 2E is roll Skill keep stat. Both cases, total the kept, compare to opposed roll or TN as appropriate.


All of those use character skills and/or attributes to determine the number of dice to roll.



Symbollic Dice Pools include WEG's DC treatment ....
1 wild die, skill-1 other dice. Wild -1, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1+Exp; other: 0,0,1,1,1,1.
Really not much different than the roll and total approach, just reducing the numbers.
FFG WFRP3 - Way too convoluted for here, but multi-axis results and always a chance of success and of fail.
FFG Star Wars: much more streamlined with only 8 symbols, and 7 kinds of dice, and simpler talents as well.
FFG Genesys: different advancement, but otherwise, 99.9% same mechanics as Star Wars - the exact symbols changed, but the names and rates are the same as in SW.
FFG L5R - even more streamlined, 4 symbols, two dice types, fixed number difficulty, and sometimes a no-chance roll.

All of these are variations of dice pools. What dice you get is by abilities....
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
I wouldn't have described Savage Worlds as a dice pool, but it's plausible seeing that in this context. Thanks for the unpacking.
 
This part isn't true of L5R, tho'. It's actually true of FFG Genesys and Star Wars, as all the difficulties are in dice, and all dice except force have blank sides.

L5R, if one is Compromised, one only has a chance at Diff > Att if one is skilled, as the attribute dice have no explosive only faces, only explosive+stress, and compromized cannot keep dice with stress unless they only have dice with stress, then they can keep only one.
The AEG system used an exploding d10 for L5R and it's sister system 7th Sea. Both the old and new systems are examples of dice pools that work, IMO.
 

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