D&D 5E Randomness and D&D

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The people here that I see referring to story that way are almost always trying to run their table through one published adventure or another. Published adventures are their own error state, IMO.
Now with this I disagree. Published adventures (we call them "canned modules") can and do work very well in a randomness-heavy game*. Most of the adventures I run are canned, either written by someone else or by me. It's very rare if ever that I run a whole adventure off the cuff, though almost all none of the between-adventures stuff, travel encounters, etc. is preplanned.

Where randomness causes headaches is if one is trying to run a hard AP as the campaign, or keep things on a tight course.

* - either that, or I've been mighty lucky all these 38 years.
 

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Andvari

Adventurer
I like how randomness works to generate stories. Whether it's immediate through d20s rolled in combat or from treasure generated randomly. It also forces you to think creatively with what you're given. An orc chieftain has an unlikely treasure? What's the story behind that? Many random encounters I roll out before the session so I can prepare context and story for them.
 


payn

Legend
Old School D&D was all about the Randomness. The whole point of the game was ANYTHING could happen at random. This made the Classic D&D game unique. In a way unlike anything else. Roll some dice, anything could happen.

The problem comes with Storytelling. Randomness will ruin a story in just one roll of some dice. Way too many GMs and players don't like that and don't want that in a game. Even if they rolled it, they would just change it.....they don't want the special character to die. And if you just change rolls you don't like....why bother rolling at all?
I think there is a gulf between pure random and reasonable chances. Its just as ridiculous to have an 8 hit point wizard in a party with a 2 hit point fighter at level 2 as what you describe above. Though, if some folks love a barely functioning system built just for the laughs, who am I to tell them its wrong?
 

I think it's important to still have a degree of randomness in adventures. If everything happened exactly as DMs and PCs expected, it wouldn't be half as fun. I will deliberately include random tables to roll on in my adventures (for example, I just had a list of combat complications during a big battle, so that I never knew if someone was going to show up to heal the PCs, or a hail of javelins was going to come down on everyone).

Random magic items, though, I'm not as much a fan of. I remember the days of having specialization in, say a two-handed sword, and ending up with a +1 longsword because of randomness. I'd much rather magic items be curated for the adventurers to a degree.
 

Andvari

Adventurer
Random magic items, though, I'm not as much a fan of. I remember the days of having specialization in, say a two-handed sword, and ending up with a +1 longsword because of randomness. I'd much rather magic items be curated for the adventurers to a degree.
Incidentally also why I'm not a fan of weapon specialization. If the fighter finds a weapon, I want him to be able to pick it up and use it effectively whether it's an axe, a sword or a bec-de-corbin.
 

payn

Legend
Incidentally also why I'm not a fan of weapon specialization. If the fighter finds a weapon, I want him to be able to pick it up and use it effectively whether it's an axe, a sword or a bec-de-corbin.
Yeah I always found proficiencies a bit limiting in the past. I wouldn't mind fighters being able to use any weapons, but some of them have a bonus action, feat, or whatever that needs to be unlocked through proficiency. So, you could still use the weapon to fight, just not trip, disarm, whatever specialty with it unless you have the prerequisite.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
So how do you feel about this? How much randomness do you want in a game? Do you hate it when a named, powerful NPC goes down due to a lucky crit or a flubbed save? Do you groan with dismay if a Wild Magic Sorcerer sits down at your table?
Asking "how much randomness" sort of feels to me like asking what genre of movies are best. Sometimes I'm in the mood for an action flick where everything gets blown up, other times I want a whodunnit-style thriller, and sometimes I just like a good jump scare movie. Which is to say, that I can see the appeal of a minimal-randomness system, but I also see the appeal of one where randomness plays a much stronger role.

From what I can tell, the former is much more popular than the latter these days. Randomness isn't welcome in character generation when people sit down already knowing exactly what they want to play. An episodic style of campaign, where adventures are set pieces with no larger connections, and random encounters determine what the PCs meet in the wilderness and various dungeons, isn't going to lend itself to a sweeping, epic narrative. Treasures are placed according to what PCs want or need rather than being picked out at random for characters to either figure out or liquidate back in town.

Personally, I think that D&D lends itself to randomness more when the game engine grants less options during character creation/advancement and has an overall lower level of power. I can see why randomness was eschewed in 3.X and 4E, because the sheer number of options available (including being able to craft customized magic items) and the massive scale in power strongly encouraged being particular with how your character was developed.

Compare that to, say, BECMI, where the power level was much lower (even across thirty-six levels) and there were far fewer options for differentiating your character at the mechanical level (i.e. characters were defined more by what adventures they completed than by their build), and it's easy to see randomness having a much stronger hand. There's simply more room for it to operate, and less problems tend to be caused when a monkey wrench is thrown into how things are progressing in the campaign.

So yeah, different styles for different editions (and different games, for that matter).
 
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Clint_L

Hero
Lately I've been increasing my table's randomness quotient through more liberal use of random encounter tables, using tables that provide RP opportunities more than just combat (though some of them could become combat, depending on player choices). I love it - it makes the story more fun and interesting for me. In my game world, very few creatures are automatically antagonists, so every encounter can become a variety of things.

The other key element for randomness is from dice rolls, particularly natural 1s, which is why "Lucky" is banned at my table and I really hope "Halfing Luck" goes away with OneD&D. Some of our most memorable story beats have grown from failures and natural 1s in particular. My players and I get more excited for natural 1s than natural 20s, because they know something fun and surprising is about to happen.

I write 90% or more of the underlying story, so I can make major adjustments as events unfold.

I also roll in front of the players whenever possible, so that they get the excitement of seeing their fate play out.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I feel like randomness is more in charge, not less in 5e. Yeah, your ability score rolls aren't so important, but that's because so few of your stats matter more than the d20 roll now. And I hate it.

When roiling my own, I have way more 'slay the dice' abilities like rerolls, setting the roll to a specific number, etc.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
For my 13yo and his friends' game, I've taken to using a d12 for a luck die when they try something that is outside the rules (and not obviously an ability check) or in place of wandering monster checks.

"That seems a bit sus. Roll me a d12 and get really high..."
"That sounds reasonable, let's see if anything goes wrong. Roll me a d12 and don't get a one..."
"Lets see how much trouble you have getting there... higher is more trouble..."
etc...
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
For my 13yo and his friends' game, I've taken to using a d12 for a luck die when they try something that is outside the rules (and not obviously and ability check) or in place of wandering monster checks.

"That seems a bit sus. Roll me a d12 and get really high..."
"That sounds reasonable, let's see if anything goes wrong. Roll me a d12 and don't get a one..."
"Lets see how much trouble you have getting their... higher is more trouble..."
etc...
Nice. I’ve done similar with 2d6.
 

So how do you feel about this? How much randomness do you want in a game? Do you hate it when a named, powerful NPC goes down due to a lucky crit or a flubbed save? Do you groan with dismay if a Wild Magic Sorcerer sits down at your table?
I think there's a difference between randomness and swing.

A lot of swing has been taken out from combat, certainly. I think I read somewhere that there was a design goal of having a 60% chance to hit for a level appropriate opponent. I dislike how WotC mechanical achieved that result, but I respect the design goal.

Randomness is great for some magic items, bags of beans and... the one where you throw a furry friend at something. I appreciate those since you have a random chance of 6-8 results. Eventually, it is likely that you as a player will experience every result that the item can produce. It is unlikely that would happen with a wand of wonder, which has 30+ results. (Although that may be a poor example. Arguably you shouldn't.)
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I think the books lean further into the 'less random' category because it is easier for newer players who are learning all the ins-and-outs of DMing to figure out how to work around the dice rolls and keep the game moving when that randomness is not so extreme or providing wildly weird results.

Especially considering it is much easier for the longer-running and more experienced DMs who enjoy that randomness to re-insert that randomness into their own games in whatever places they so choose. From a design perspective, I suspect WotC feels it is much better to have experienced DMs choosing to explode out a more conservative system, than it is for inexperienced DMs having to try and rein in a crazier one.
 

HaroldTheHobbit

Adventurer
I hate random tables during play. For me, it takes away a lot of the fun of being a GM, as I love to improvise and riff of my players actions and choices in-game. And my players are very good at building suboptimal characters on their own, focusing on roleplaying and interesting concepts, rather than "winning" by rolling 18/00 in STR.

For me, randomness in the roll-the-dice sense is a gamey way of playing, while we focus more on letting the roleplaying take us where it may. It's more social pillar, drama, webs within webs of intrigue, rather than rolling dice on treasure tables.

But different strokes etc.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Now with this I disagree. Published adventures (we call them "canned modules") can and do work very well in a randomness-heavy game*. Most of the adventures I run are canned, either written by someone else or by me. It's very rare if ever that I run a whole adventure off the cuff, though almost all none of the between-adventures stuff, travel encounters, etc. is preplanned.

Where randomness causes headaches is if one is trying to run a hard AP as the campaign, or keep things on a tight course.

* - either that, or I've been mighty lucky all these 38 years.
It is possible that I've just been extraordinarily unlucky over a similar length of time, but I've never--not once--played in a published adventure that was more than a time-filler, and I've never--not once--been able to make enough sense out of any to run them.
 

I feel like randomness is more in charge, not less in 5e. Yeah, your ability score rolls aren't so important, but that's because so few of your stats matter more than the d20 roll now. And I hate it.

When roiling my own, I have way more 'slay the dice' abilities like rerolls, setting the roll to a specific number, etc.
With no disrespect or sarcasm intended, I can't tell if you are being serious or not.

In what way do you find ability scores not important in 5e? They are a third to half of the bonus to the roll, aren't they?
 

payn

Legend
It is possible that I've just been extraordinarily unlucky over a similar length of time, but I've never--not once--played in a published adventure that was more than a time-filler, and I've never--not once--been able to make enough sense out of any to run them.
What do you mean by time-filler? How are non-published games not time fillers?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
What do you mean by time-filler? How are non-published games not time fillers?
The ones I played in that were ... OK, were OK to play in, in groups that were gaming together primarily as an excuse to hang out (if that makes sense). There were some that were ... OK, at least for a while, if a GM insisted on running them instead of trying to come up with their own material. There was some overlap in those.

An adventure or a campaign about the PCs and their interests and goals feels different to me, as a player and as a GM. I don't remember any instances of any such adventure I was involved with feeling like a time-filler to me, but it's possible there was at least one I don't remember.

In my experience, playing a published adventure is almost never about the PCs or their interests or their goals, precisely because the adventures are written to be dropped into play at just about any table. I've found that the longer the adventure (or series of), the more likely this is to be a problem.
 


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