Pre-3e mechanics vs d20 system mechanics

vivsavage

Explorer
What are your thoughts on unified mechanics versus varied mechanics? For example, pre-3rd edition D&D had a mix of methods for determining dice results: roll over, roll under, d20 for combat & saves, d100 for thief skills, d6 or d10 for surprise, etc... while 3rd edition and onward all use the d20 roll-over mechanic for everything. Do you have a preference? Or does it matter at all? Perhaps your preference is determined by the style of game you're looking for?
 

ccs

40th lv DM
Given that my favorite edition is 1e, I'll give you one guess as to my preferences.... :)

Mostly I dislike setting DC #s for things. So roll under systems suite me just fine. And I continue to use them here in PF/5e.
 

vivsavage

Explorer
Given that my favorite edition is 1e, I'll give you one guess as to my preferences.... :)

Mostly I dislike setting DC #s for things. So roll under systems suite me just fine. And I continue to use them here in PF/5e.
Do you roll under ability scores?
 
What are your thoughts on unified mechanics versus varied mechanics?
An obvious, 'low-hanging-fruit,' sort of improvement.

For example, pre-3rd edition D&D had a mix of methods for determining dice results: roll over, roll under, d20 for combat & saves, d100 for thief skills, d6 or d10 for surprise, etc... while 3rd edition and onward all use the d20 roll-over mechanic for everything. Do you have a preference? Or does it matter at all? Perhaps your preference is determined by the style of game you're looking for?
Yes, if each dice mechanic delivers a flat uniform distribution with some % chance of success, there's no reason not to consolidate on just one such mechanic. Yes, needless complexity is needlessly complex! ;) Meh, 'style' has been overblown in the community for years now: dice mechanics are just mechanics, they do what they do in a way that's entirely subject to mathematical analysis - whether you're rolling 10 or less on d20, trying to hit a DC of 11 on an unmodified d20, trying to roll even on a d6, 6+ on a d10, or flipping a coin, it's all 50/50. Now if you roll d20 vs a DC for some stuff, and 2d10 or 3d6 for others, there's a difference...
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I feel that there should be a reason for using different mechanics, or else you're just adding complexity for the sake of complexity.

Much has been said in the past, of the value in rolling under a stat for making stat checks rather than rolling d20 and adding the stat bonus, but even that is unnecessary complexity. If you already have the concept of DCs in place for things like attack rolls and saving throws, then you could use a mechanic of d20 + stat score against a constant DC 21, and it would give the exact same distribution.

The old thief skill percentages seemed unnecessarily granular, given how infrequently they came up. You're not going to pick a hundred pockets between level 7 and level 8, so it's fine if we go with 5% as the smallest resolution available, and in that case we might as well roll it on a d20.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
One reason for the mixed mechanics was to deter people from using "lucky" dice.

If rolling high is always good, unbalanced dice that tend to roll high are an obvious temptation.

If rolling low is always good, dice unbalanced to roll the other way are equally tempting.

I played in a Blood Bowl league at a local game shop, and one of the players had two pairs of D6 he used. One set rolled high a lot, and one set always seemed to roll low. Should have been called on it, since he was blatantly cheating. And yeah, I've heard the old saw, "He's only cheating himself". It's a bunch of Bandini. He's cheating everyone he plays against.

While I enjoy the uniformity of the D20 mechanics, the mixed mechanics had their virtues.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
What are your thoughts on unified mechanics versus varied mechanics?
In my opinion unified mechanics are superior by far to varied mechanics in both D&D and any other game for that matter. Nothing gets under my skin more than inconsistent rules. I posted a review a while ago of a boardgame called Lobotomy, which had different rules for everything! Every ability-check had a different rule! It was a mess. It was impossible to play the game without constantly looking things up. Even worse are exceptions to rules, which Lobotomy also has a ton of.

Sure, it sounds nice on paper to have unique rules for every given situation, but the players also need to be able to remember it all. That's why I love the D20 system: Just roll a D20 for everything, and add a bonus.
 
That is definitely one of the charms of 1e and 2e. The last time I played 1e, it was with a player that claimed he “rolled high.” Except, when we did ability checks, he suddenly would always “roll” low. Cheating didn’t stop his character from getting shredded by a Slaad.

As much as I have a soft-spot for OSR mechanics, when 3e came out, I really dug the unified mechanics. But I also switched to Castles & Crusades, which married OSR ideas to 3e’s unified mechanics, getting the best of both worlds by my book.

One reason for the mixed mechanics was to deter people from using "lucky" dice.

If rolling high is always good, unbalanced dice that tend to roll high are an obvious temptation.

If rolling low is always good, dice unbalanced to roll the other way are equally tempting.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
One reason for the mixed mechanics was to deter people from using "lucky" dice.

If rolling high is always good, unbalanced dice that tend to roll high are an obvious temptation.

If rolling low is always good, dice unbalanced to roll the other way are equally tempting.
I think there are better ways to deal with cheating players. Like, any other way would be better.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I agree, but the mixed mechanic is actually pretty common. GURPS uses it in all their settings, for example, and if I recall Runequest did as well.

This might inspire another topic on how to deal with dice cheats. Thoughts of the moment involve taking lucky dice and applying a sledgehammer.

Repeat occurrences still involve a sledgehammer, but it isn't the dice that get flattened.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
i think people make a big deal over minor differences (who cares rolling under and over even the benefits of consistency are mildly over blown) and ignore big ones like the difference in how the turn, movement and initiative resolution were actually handled... hint 3e and 4e and 5e are very nearly identical about this and treat things like we are taking turns in a manner like chess pieces ... with only a very few off turn abilities implying otherwise.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I agree, but the mixed mechanic is actually pretty common. GURPS uses it in all their settings, for example, and if I recall Runequest did as well.
Runequest was highly consistent about rolling under a target number for just about everything
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Including damage rolls? It's been a long time so I might not recall it right, but I think damage you wanted high and other things you wanted low.
 

Shasarak

Visitor
What are your thoughts on unified mechanics versus varied mechanics? For example, pre-3rd edition D&D had a mix of methods for determining dice results: roll over, roll under, d20 for combat & saves, d100 for thief skills, d6 or d10 for surprise, etc... while 3rd edition and onward all use the d20 roll-over mechanic for everything. Do you have a preference? Or does it matter at all? Perhaps your preference is determined by the style of game you're looking for?
I think in general I prefer the unified mechanics. Certainly there is not much different between using a d20 and a d100 unless you have a level of granularity that needs values less then 5%.

Having said that, one mechanic that I would enjoy seeing again is the Ability check so maybe having two mechanics would not be too much of a stretch and certainly would give Ability scores more of a purpose then just as a measure of your bonus.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
I agree, but the mixed mechanic is actually pretty common.
I find it strange that it IS so common. One of the biggest problems for new players, is knowing what die to roll. It is probably the most common question at the table from new players: "What do I roll?". So in that context, mixed mechanics are really bad game design. This might not be apparent to anyone that already knows the rules. But play any game that has A LOT of mixed mechanics, and you immediately notice what an obstruction it is to playing (and learning to play) the game.
 

houser2112

Explorer
Unified mechanics all the way. It's ironic that grognards who dislike the complexity of 3.PF would want to retain the old mess that was pre-3,0:

Low THAC0 is good, low save thresholds are good, high ability scores are good. Roll high when you swing your sword, roll low when you're picking a lock. Roll under your unmodified Dexterity score to catch the goblet that fell off the table (how the average DM would probably resolve something that wasn't covered by a non-weapon proficiency), roll under your ability score as if it was 3 lower than it actually is when trying to use this non-weapon proficiency, roll under your ability score as if it was 3 higher than it actually is for this other non-weapon proficiency. Roll a d20 when you swing your sword, resist the wizard's charm, or dodge the dragons's breath weapon. Roll % to disarm a trap or survive resurrection. Roll a d6 to notice secret doors. Roll a d10 to determine initiative.
 

vivsavage

Explorer
Let's narrow it down a bit: how about mechanics that are, for example, consistently roll-over versus a target number, but some rolls are 3d6 and others 1d20 in an attempt to establish a different curve for different things. Maybe skill rolls use 3d6 to give characters more consistent results, but combat uses 1d20 to encourage a more unpredictable narrative. That's just an idea off the top of my head; I'm not talking about that specific idea exclusively.
 
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Imaculata

Adventurer
Let's narrow it down a bit: how about mechanics that are, for example, consistently roll-over versus a target number, but some rolls are 3d6 and others 1d20 in an attempt to establish a different curve for different things. Maybe skill rolls use 3d6 to give characters more consistent results, but combat uses 1d20 to encourage a more unpredictable narrative. That's just an idea off the top of my head; I'm not talking about that specific idea exclusively.
I think that still leads to the same problem of players not knowing what dice (and how many dice) to roll. Consistent results are already covered by what ever bonus the players have on their check, are they not?

Although I do not play 5th edition, they sure had the right idea by also merging some of the bonuses into either advantage or disadvantage. The more you can unify the rules into one consistent system, while also reducing a lot of math, the easier it is to understand and remember.
 
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vivsavage

Explorer
I think that still leads to the same problem of players not knowing what dice (and how many dice) to roll. Consistent results are already covered by what ever bonus the players have on their check, are they not?
Because of the 3d6 bell curve, the results are more consistently gathered around the 9-12 range, so even with the same modifiers the results are going to be gathered around a more predictable result than d20. It could be argued that 3d6 would tend to favor "skilled" characters over non-skilled more than the d20 even with bonuses. For example, a character with a +0 bonus versus a target of 15 will succeed 9.26% of the time on 3d6 and 20% of the time on 1d20... while a character with a +5 bonus versus a target number of 15 will succeed 62.50% of the time with 3d6 and 55% of the time with 1d20. It is, of course, all a matter or preference. I don't want to suggest that the idea is inherently better than exclusively using 3d6 or 1d20.

Devil's advocate question: is that really harder to remember 3d6 for skill checks and 1d20 for combat than having different damage dice for different weapons? In other words, in D&D I know my sword does 1d8 and dagger does 1d4. So having 3d6 skill checks and 1d20 combat rolls would seem just as easy to remember(?)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Including damage rolls? It's been a long time so I might not recall it right, but I think damage you wanted high and other things you wanted low.
True I was going to say with damage you weren't aiming for a target number but since armor is damage resistance ... It parallels perfectly
 

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