D&D 5E Randomness and D&D


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overgeeked

B/X Known World
Thankfully? I'd replace that word with "regrettably", if I was forced to play a modern edition. Fortunately, that's not the case.

And were I forced to run a modern edition, I'd say get back to me in a year or so 'cause it's gonna take me that long to kitbash the system into something I'm willing to touch.
I'm about eight years into trying to kitbash 5E into something I'd like to play. Still pounding my head against that particular rock.
 

Jaeger

That someone better
First, the d20 is too swingy. IMO I think skill should trump randomness, so using something non-linear like 2d10 (even for attacks) would be better.

Keeping the current bonuses in the game, I would even prefer a 2d8 or 2d6 system, so bonuses count for more. Being +11 on a d20 is great, but you can still suck--and frankly if you are +11, you shouldn't really ever suck.

Proficiency bonus should trump ability modifiers by at least x2. My ideal (if you want to keep the total around +11) would be proficiency ranging from +2 to +8 and ability modifiers capping at +4 instead of +5.

I don't mind when luck comes into play at all, even against my big boss that I love, but there is so much variability in a d20 that often your bonuses are immaterial.


Interlock games do this. 1d10 with an attribute scale of 1-10 and skills that go to 1-10. I have seen versions where they used 1d12, or even 2d6 and not change much else.

The old decipher LoTR games were 2d6 with attributes -3 to +5 and skills 1-12. It tries to emulate the math of 3.x d20...

I think that you could take Interlock, and tune the math (Stat/Skill levels) so that it will emulate (more or less) the DC progression of 5e: 10,15,20,25,30.

Converting to 2d10 "5e" is doable, but you could not just swap it out for a d20. You would have to re-figure all of the underlying math for the 2d10 'pyramidal' distribution.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Interlock games do this. 1d10 with an attribute scale of 1-10 and skills that go to 1-10. I have seen versions where they used 1d12, or even 2d6 and not change much else.

The old decipher LoTR games were 2d6 with attributes -3 to +5 and skills 1-12. It tries to emulate the math of 3.x d20...

I think that you could take Interlock, and tune the math (Stat/Skill levels) so that it will emulate (more or less) the DC progression of 5e: 10,15,20,25,30.
Interesting, I'll have to think about that...

Converting to 2d10 "5e" is doable, but you could not just swap it out for a d20. You would have to re-figure all of the underlying math for the 2d10 'pyramidal' distribution.
Yeah, I already starting doing that and decided it wasn't worth the hassle.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
If randomness bothers you, how about 5d4? You only auto fail if you roll all 1's, you only critically succeed if you roll all fours. The actual "could theoretically succeed" range is now 5-19, or 15 numbers instead of the current 18. You have an average result of 12.5 which should, given a reasonably good bonus, succeed at most tasks. Extreme results still exist, but are now incredibly rare moments, so they can be given more weight when they do occur, from the catastrophic to the miraculous.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
If randomness bothers you, how about 5d4? You only auto fail if you roll all 1's, you only critically succeed if you roll all fours. The actual "could theoretically succeed" range is now 5-19, or 15 numbers instead of the current 18. You have an average result of 12.5 which should, given a reasonably good bonus, succeed at most tasks. Extreme results still exist, but are now incredibly rare moments, so they can be given more weight when they do occur, from the catastrophic to the miraculous.
Back in the dim and distant past, I pondered a system that was based on 3d20, take the middle. Crit success was a nat 20 and 2 successes; crit fail was a nat 1 and 2 failure. Two nat 20s was an autosuccess; three was an auto crit success. Two nat 1s was an autofail; three was an auto crit failure. I never got a chance to try it at the table, but it seemed to have some averaging function and to make crits to be more likely to be failures or successes if you were bad or good at what you were attempting.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
If randomness bothers you, how about 5d4? You only auto fail if you roll all 1's, you only critically succeed if you roll all fours. The actual "could theoretically succeed" range is now 5-19, or 15 numbers instead of the current 18. You have an average result of 12.5 which should, given a reasonably good bonus, succeed at most tasks. Extreme results still exist, but are now incredibly rare moments, so they can be given more weight when they do occur, from the catastrophic to the miraculous.
I prefer 4d6-4, range 0-20, avg. 10, odds of 20 or 0 are just 1 in 1,296.

I actually bought a lot of d6's with 0 instead of 6, so you get 0 - 20 as each die is 0-5.

Back in the dim and distant past, I pondered a system that was based on 3d20, take the middle. Crit success was a nat 20 and 2 successes; crit fail was a nat 1 and 2 failure. Two nat 20s was an autosuccess; three was an auto crit success. Two nat 1s was an autofail; three was an auto crit failure. I never got a chance to try it at the table, but it seemed to have some averaging function and to make crits to be more likely to be failures or successes if you were bad or good at what you were attempting.
Cool! I did the sort of the same thing:

Roll 3d20.

Attacking: take worst roll. Made success in battle harder than the 60+% WotC designs for.
Skills: take the middle roll.
Saves: take the best roll. Made saves easier since most creatures don't have save proficiencies.

Advantage escalated which roll you took, or added another d20 in the case of saves.
Disadvantage de-escalate the roll you take, adding another d20 in the case of attacking.

Critical success required a 20 plus another success, critical failure required a 1 and another failure.

Going along with this, I basically (more or less) halved the hit points for everything.

It worked quite well IMO, giving the game a more AD&D feel.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Almost certainly won't happen - that 2 h.p. Fighter only had 1 h.p. all the way through 1st level and if still alive to reach 2nd is the luckiest SOB out there. :)

That "barely functioning system" and its near variants did well enough for 15 years or so. Without it the game, and this forum, wouldn't exist.
Well, "officially". Max HP at first level didn't become an official core rule until what, 3rd edition? But it was an extremely common house rule before that. To my recollection all of my 2E games used it, and it was a common practice in 1E as well.

Not for me. Random is random; and if you choose to spec. in 2-h sword you're gambling that an enchanted one will turn up someday...or that you can commission someone to make you a magic one.

Further, in this type of game there's no way of knowing whether your 2-h sword specialist will live long enough to find it...by the time they get there you might be playing a mace-wielding Cleric.

Lay the adventure out ahead of time without regard for which specific PCs might play in it, and let the chips - and items - fall where they may.
This is the way I mostly prefer to play and run as well, but it's definitely a subjective preference. I do like to see the option for characters to have a signature weapon and not suffer for it be supported, at least in some games.

I have never read a published adventure and felt as though I understood just about anything about it. They literally don't make sense to me, reading them. And playing them, I feel straitjacketed by the expectations. The stuff I come up with to run--and I'm sure this is a shock--makes sense to me. It might well not make any sort of sense to anyone else, and that''s ... fine, since I'm the only one who has to run it.
Wow. Really interesting. I do tend to find that really long adventures are tough for me to study and absorb, but there are designs which are more accessible and better-written, and laid out with good information design so I can quickly refresh my memory at the table while running. Bryce Lynch talks a lot about some principles of good adventure writing/design on his massive review blog, tenfootpole.org. Some of them are of course subjective, and his tastes run to old-school, location-based adventures for the most part, but he's got some great universal principles in there. Someone summarized a bunch of them on a blog, here:

 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, "officially". Max HP at first level didn't become an official core rule until what, 3rd edition? But it was an extremely common house rule before that. To my recollection all of my 2E games used it, and it was a common practice in 1E as well.
I'd neither seen nor heard of the concept before 3e.

Then again, back around 1984 we added "body points", which gives everyone an extra 2 to 5 h.p. once at 1st level - mostly "meat" and harder to rest back or cure - which may have to some extent acxcomplished the same thing.
 



DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Well, "officially". Max HP at first level didn't become an official core rule until what, 3rd edition? But it was an extremely common house rule before that. To my recollection all of my 2E games used it, and it was a common practice in 1E as well.
I'd neither seen nor heard of the concept before 3e.
Yeah, I am with @Lanefan on this one. Until I tried 3E in 2007, no one I ever played with or heard of did max hp at 1st level. Since hp could go to -9/10 (depending on reading), even having low hp at level 1 wasn't a death sentence.

In that respect, it was very rare if I met anyone who did death at 0 hp. That was never a commonly used rule IME.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I'd neither seen nor heard of the concept before 3e.
We did it for a little while.
Then again, back around 1984 we added "body points", which gives everyone an extra 2 to 5 h.p. once at 1st level - mostly "meat" and harder to rest back or cure - which may have to some extent acxcomplished the same thing.
Until we switched to something like this. It was something like a set amount based on your race plus your CON mod, if you had one. You ran out of hp, it went to body. You took a crit, it went to body. Zero body and you're dead.
 


Something Reynard said got me to thinking. When I first started playing D&D, random chance was king. What ability scores did you roll? Did you get a 17 instead of a 16? These things could make a world of difference when determining what you could play, and how effective you would be.

If your DM rolled treasure randomly, a humble treasure chest could pay out in potions of healing or a longsword +3; the original "loot boxes", if you will.

Even some magic items and spells were slot machines; what did I get from my Bag of Beans? What card did I draw from the Deck of Many Things? Did my Prismatic Spray nuke the dungeon boss, or was it a colorful dud? Even the basic game mechanics, did I hit? How much damage did I do? Did I make my save?

Often, it proved that it was better to be lucky than good.

Over time though, D&D campaigns evolved to have ongoing plotlines and became much more than the Rogue-like and Diablo-esque games that it inspired. Some groups began to shun randomness, because it could turn an enjoyable story into a total disaster. Not only did some players reject pure randomness, but even some games did (I'll shill Amber Diceless Roleplaying here as an example).

I often see people who desire more randomness and less at loggerheads about what they feel is "fun". The arguments about monster critical hits a few months ago touched up on this, with a majority of voices seeming to feel that the game would suffer immensely if there wasn't a constant (if low level) threat of being instantly knocked down by a powerful monster's lucky hit.
The thing here is I like games with more randomness than D&D has ever had. I can play or run D&D - but if I'm actively looking for randomness Blades in the Dark, Apocalypse World, Cortex Plus, or Sentinels Comics can give me success with consequences on every single roll. By contrast D&D (any edition with minor 4e exceptions) has every roll being pass/fail with a degree of success mechanic for attacks.

I can embrace that with more planned plotting and more to interact with rather than a whole lot of seeing what happens. But there's no D&D I consider has much randomness.
 

In hindsight, it took one of the fighter's strengths in old editions, having the largest number of weapon proficiencies, and made it not matter as much. Because other than being able to hit certain enemies that couldn't otherwise be damaged, you weren't going to get as big of a bump from a magic weapon (barring the very powerful) as you would the one you specialized in, with its bonuses to attack and damage and greater attack rate.
This in practice didn't matter much; the magic weapons were extremely heavily weighted towards longswords with greatswords in second (as in something like twice as many magic swords as all other magic weapons combined and 70% longswords, 25% greatswords, and 5% other - with scimitars coming under other weapons). And clerics, of course, couldn't wield edged weapons. Also longswords and greatswords were the best because of the extra damage they got against large creatures while cleric weapons got the same or sometimes less damage when attacking large or larger.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
As it happens, max hit points at 1st level was adopted universally by every group I ever played with. I don't even know who got the idea, originally, it just...happened.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
As it happens, max hit points at 1st level was adopted universally by every group I ever played with. I don't even know who got the idea, originally, it just...happened.
Starting with which edition? Apparently in 3E it was the default... I don't really remember I never played it enough.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Starting with which edition? Apparently in 3E it was the default... I don't really remember I never played it enough.
I'm going to say 1e, simply because my brain doesn't really remember my Red Box games. I know I played them, but I can't recall a single detail about the experience.
 

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