D&D 5E Randomness and D&D

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Reading this, I would posit you're giving too much weight to skills and asking/expecting them to produce a steeper power curve than is really desirable. One of 5e's best traits is that it flattened the overall power curve from what 4e and - even more so - 3e had, back to more like what 0-1-2e ran with. You seem to want to fight this trend.
Well, I feel my position is putting the appropriate amount of value on skill compared to the die size of d20.

AD&D didn't really have "contested rolls" IIRC, but it has been a while... In many respects, it handled things very differently than the d20 system.

It's not a chess newbie vs a grandmaster, it's a chess-club regular vs the top player in the club. Taking a skill in something makes you better at it, sure, but doesn't and shouldn't make you perfect.
I never said a "newbie", I said someone with base proficiency and no INT mod, so a total of +2. That is someone who has some dedicated training and practices regularly. A "newbie" would be someone without proficiency who is just learning the game, etc.

No, taking a skill doesn't make you perfect, and it does make you better. What should help you approach perfect is two things: experience and dedication. Experience is modelled by level and dedication (perhaps?) by expertise... But only with feats can you have expertise unless you are a Bard or Rogue (another huge flaw in the game). Yes, most people play with feats, but they remain optional. And before anyone harps on 5.5 I don't care about it--it isn't out and I am not playing it.

Assuming equal ability scores, +2 proficiency vs. +6 has a 30% chance of winning. So, 17+ levels of experience doesn't do much compared to having proficiency alone. Sort of pathetic IMO. Ok, let's add expertise and bump it to +12. Now the +2 proficiency still has over an 11% of winning. The maximum amount of skill and dedication is going to lose more than 1 in 10 times to someone who has only basic proficiency. Very pathetic IMO.

So, let's look at the ability (skill) check system in 5E and chances of success:

1670120608366.png


I've highlighted a couple examples:

+5 bonus vs. DC 10 "easy" task. Should someone with either vast experience or training and natural talent granting +5 bonus really have a 20% chance to fail at an "easy" task??? IMO that should a resounding "NO!!!!" It isn't even a "medium" task, it is EASY for crying out loud.

+11 bonus vs. DC 15 "medium" task. Someone whose bonus represents the maximum ability 20 and 17th level (tier 4!) experience has a 15% chance to fail at a medium task??? Ridiculous.

Here are the numbers if we examined a 3d6 alternative to the d20:

1670120858316.png


Same bonuses and tasks. Now, the first example has only a 1.9% chance of failing. Much more to my liking for an easy task by someone with experience and/or training and talent. In the second example, such an experience and skilled person would only fail about 1 in 200 times while attempting what is only medium difficulty. Failure in such a case would be a total fluke!

Such a system would support why the Variant for Automatic Success is offered in the DMG. Yet I would rather have a system that makes it happen without having to enforce additional rules about proficiency, bonus, and/or level vs. DC.

That, and one of the pure joys of D&D for me is the chance of the upset result. Take that away and it gets boring pretty fast.
Great! I am honestly glad that works for you, but it really doesn't sit well with me. I find it ridiculous when it happens.

Which is deep into "why bother?" territory.
Because it can happen. You might as well ask the millions and millions of people world-wide why they bother playing the lottery? I never have, but I know a lot of people who do regularly.... 🤷‍♂️
 

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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.
I remember those days, but I also remember the animosity that sometimes cropped up when a teen would roll really well and another teen rolled really bad... something that didn't start to fix until we were in our 20s... farther in then I want to admit.
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.
man... I had a 2e DM that let you come into a campaign and get rolls for items... I learned the apparatus of kawalish is a reroll...
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?
the deck of many campaign enders is the only one that bugged me...
Often, it proved that it was better to be lucky than good.
very often for 2e and 3e...
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).
this I did NOT experence... selling me on 2e was drama plot, a ongoing story and improve in fact that sold me on rifts and WoD too.
5e, from the very beginning, however, catered to a "less random" approach to the game.
100%
Monsters were presented with average damage totals to speed play. Players could opt to not roll hit dice, instead taking a set amount of hit points on level up. Even rolling for ability scores has changed; while still the first option presented, most groups seem to have switched to point buy, and, of course, ever since the year 2000, the difference between a 16 and a 17 has become largely academic. You no longer need certain ability scores to qualify for a class (even though you are still rewarded in other ways for higher ability scores), with the notable exception of multiclassing.
my group went to point buy or arrays (not often the standard)
Or do you feel that the game has become too predictable, and want even more chaos, like exploding dice or more d% tables to roll on?

How do you feel WotC will move the game in the future, towards one extreme or another?
I bet we will ALWAYS have SOME randomness... but I agree we will see less and less.
 

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 don't think I would do it, but that REALLY sounds interesting.
 

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.
I know we saw an option in 2e... I think it was the reprints or the domain of dread book.

Having said that we had a big fight when someone had a really low con rolled a 1 for hp and was told they 'died' at character creation...
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
No, taking a skill doesn't make you perfect, and it does make you better. What should help you approach perfect is ...
...nothing. IMO there should always be a chance of failure if failure is possible, even as there should always be a chance of success if success is possible. That the d20 isn't always granular enough is another issue entirely....
two things: experience and dedication. Experience is modelled by level and dedication (perhaps?) by expertise... But only with feats can you have expertise unless you are a Bard or Rogue (another huge flaw in the game). Yes, most people play with feats, but they remain optional. And before anyone harps on 5.5 I don't care about it--it isn't out and I am not playing it.

Assuming equal ability scores, +2 proficiency vs. +6 has a 30% chance of winning. So, 17+ levels of experience doesn't do much compared to having proficiency alone. Sort of pathetic IMO. Ok, let's add expertise and bump it to +12. Now the +2 proficiency still has over an 11% of winning. The maximum amount of skill and dedication is going to lose more than 1 in 10 times to someone who has only basic proficiency. Very pathetic IMO.
In most instances I'd see that as a feature rather than a bug - it's a nice flat power curve where the great can still fail and the lowly can still succeed.
So, let's look at the ability (skill) check system in 5E and chances of success:

View attachment 268617

I've highlighted a couple examples:

+5 bonus vs. DC 10 "easy" task. Should someone with either vast experience or training and natural talent granting +5 bonus really have a 20% chance to fail at an "easy" task??? IMO that should a resounding "NO!!!!" It isn't even a "medium" task, it is EASY for crying out loud.

+11 bonus vs. DC 15 "medium" task. Someone whose bonus represents the maximum ability 20 and 17th level (tier 4!) experience has a 15% chance to fail at a medium task??? Ridiculous.
Well, not ridiculous if one looks a bit sideways at their word choice.

"Easy" should be the type of thing that doesn't need a roll at all unless you're truly hopeless, thus should replace "Very Easy" above as the DC 5 descriptor. "Medium" should drop to the DC 10 point, with something like "Tricky" as the DC 15 descriptor and the rest left as is.

Put another way, what they're describing as "easy" often isn't. Further, unless the intent is that the game become something of a supers affair at very high level, there always has to be a chance for even high-level characters to fail.
Here are the numbers if we examined a 3d6 alternative to the d20:

View attachment 268618

Same bonuses and tasks. Now, the first example has only a 1.9% chance of failing. Much more to my liking for an easy task by someone with experience and/or training and talent. In the second example, such an experience and skilled person would only fail about 1 in 200 times while attempting what is only medium difficulty. Failure in such a case would be a total fluke!
The way I'd have it, and do have it for my 1e Thieving skills, is that the chance of success would never fully reach 100% - a roll of '00' would always have something funky happen even if your chance of success was a base 113%, which can happen.

I'd also want to smooth out the other end a bit, and turn some of those flat zeroes into a small but not-zero number. In fact, I'd want to smooth out the whole thing because when using a bell-curve (unless you assign uneven DCs e.g. DC 13 or DC 8) there's just too big a jump between one step and the next in the step that crosses 50% in that 3d6 table. Percentile dice for the win! :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I know we saw an option in 2e... I think it was the reprints or the domain of dread book.
Doesn't surprise me - 2e had all kinds of funky things going on late in its run, most of which I happily ignored. :)
Having said that we had a big fight when someone had a really low con rolled a 1 for hp and was told they 'died' at character creation...
I'd have got that player to roll up a second character then and there to have ready as a backup, but still bring the first one into play just on the off-chance it could somehow manage to hang on.

Way long ago before we introduced body points, a character came in to one of our games with 1 h.p. She lasted long enough for b.p. to be introduced a year or so later, and min'ned out on those too.

Almost 40 years later (though there's some big gaps in there), that character is still alive, quasi-active, and in our Hall of Fame; I think she's 9th/7th level these days as a double-class.

So it can happen. :)
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Doesn't surprise me - 2e had all kinds of funky things going on late in its run, most of which I happily ignored. :)

I'd have got that player to roll up a second character then and there to have ready as a backup, but still bring the first one into play just on the off-chance it could somehow manage to hang on.

Way long ago before we introduced body points, a character came in to one of our games with 1 h.p. She lasted long enough for b.p. to be introduced a year or so later, and min'ned out on those too.

Almost 40 years later (though there's some big gaps in there), that character is still alive, quasi-active, and in our Hall of Fame; I think she's 9th/7th level these days as a double-class.

So it can happen. :)
That’s one of the things that bugs me about conversations about rolled HP. Rolling low isn’t a death sentence and doesn’t mean the character’s unplayable. You don’t know until you try.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That’s one of the things that bugs me about conversations about rolled HP. Rolling low isn’t a death sentence and doesn’t mean the character’s unplayable. You don’t know until you try.
In fairness, the odds of survival for such a character are immensely higher if the death at -10 option is in play rather than death at 0. :)
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
...nothing. IMO there should always be a chance of failure if failure is possible, even as there should always be a chance of success if success is possible. That the d20 isn't always granular enough is another issue entirely....
Notice I said "approach" perfection, not reach it. But depending on the task, the degree of failure should simply be the minimal roll. In the case of 1 in 20, 5% is ridiculous IMO for something that is routine and very easy. At least with 3d6, the minimal roll is just about 0.5%, which is better from my point of view.

In most instances I'd see that as a feature rather than a bug - it's a nice flat power curve where the great can still fail and the lowly can still succeed.
As I said, you like flat-power curves than I'm glad d20 is the roll for you. I don't, obviously. :)

Well, not ridiculous if one looks a bit sideways at their word choice.

"Easy" should be the type of thing that doesn't need a roll at all unless you're truly hopeless, thus should replace "Very Easy" above as the DC 5 descriptor. "Medium" should drop to the DC 10 point, with something like "Tricky" as the DC 15 descriptor and the rest left as is.

Put another way, what they're describing as "easy" often isn't. Further, unless the intent is that the game become something of a supers affair at very high level, there always has to be a chance for even high-level characters to fail.
Oh, I agree, their word choice is silly. If something is "very easy" why should it even be in doubt unless there are other circumstances.

I would drop them all by 5, but all of them. You can keep "very easy" at 0, so failure is only possible if you have a low ability score or some other penalty. Then, a PC with +5 (standard for your "good thing" at level 1 even) would succeed on a 20. But a 5% chance for "nearly impossible" is too high for me. Using 3d6 would still be impossible unless you allowed a nat 18 to work, but you could also use 2d10, so "nearly impossible" would be 1% for that PC.

The way I'd have it, and do have it for my 1e Thieving skills, is that the chance of success would never fully reach 100% - a roll of '00' would always have something funky happen even if your chance of success was a base 113%, which can happen.

I'd also want to smooth out the other end a bit, and turn some of those flat zeroes into a small but not-zero number. In fact, I'd want to smooth out the whole thing because when using a bell-curve (unless you assign uneven DCs e.g. DC 13 or DC 8) there's just too big a jump between one step and the next in the step that crosses 50% in that 3d6 table. Percentile dice for the win! :)
Well, you certainly can, as I said, make a minimal roll always fail and a maximum always succeed. But the 5% of the d20 is just too high for me, so 3d6 (or even 2d10) is better and my personal preference.

Another option IIRC someone mentioned upthread which I have tried in the past but also really liked is 3d20 take middle. This makes a minimum or maximum roll just 1 in 138 (roughly), very rare certainly but quite possible! It also continues to use d20's and makes it so you don't have to do any math.

Using it produces these numbers:
1670156811528.png

And of course, you can always replace those 0's and 100's with 0.725% and 99.275% respectively.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
The game probably should have a rule that says something like "if bonus is X and DC is Y, the check succeeds". This would speed up play immensely. People can and do perform many things daily that would require a skill check, but they become so routine that the chance of failure drops to fractions of a percent.

I mean, let's look at driving a car. When you first start to drive, the combination of remembering which pedal to press, being alert of the road ahead, drivers around you, possible road hazards, using turn signals, watching your speed and gas gauge, staying in the center of your lane, all while zipping around at speeds Olympic sprinters can only dream of while merely going around the block in a residential neighborhood, is insane to contemplate- yet many people manage to do this routinely.

In fact, for most of us, these actions are so automatic, that we can do it and even carry on a conversation with passengers in the car!

But in D&D, every time you get in a car there's at least a flat 5% chance that you fail, no matter who you are. And what form does that failure make? Was it a failure to make a turn signal, or to come to a complete stop? Did you veer slightly from the center of your lane, or any number of minor mishaps that don't necessarily mean disaster?

Judging from my personal experience alone, the D&D model would probably be that there's a 5% chance that every time you get behind the wheel you'll have an accident that risks life and limb, lol.

Simply put, tasks that are performed often get easier over time. 5e's timeline for this is glacial. The idea that you have to wait 4 levels (as a first level character) to get 5% better at your proficient skills is insane.

Ordinary people most likely would not hit this milestone in their lifetime! I mean, think about what this would mean if the game world actually ran on these rules! If most people have ability scores of around 10 (and a 12 somewhere, taking racial modifiers into account), and proficiency only grants a +2 for their lifetime, then even a check with a target number of 5 has a failure rate of 15% (10% if your best ability score comes into play)!

That seems like a huge margin for error, especially given that most jobs require more than one kind of ability check to perform, and worse, there's no chance of most people ever getting better at their jobs than they started off with!

Now sure, obviously, D&D is not meant to simulate reality. But at the same time, insisting on huge margins for failure for PC's, when we have to assume this doesn't hold true for NPC's (or the world would quickly come to a crashing halt) really detracts from the "role-playing" side of the role-playing game.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
The game probably should have a rule that says something like "if bonus is X and DC is Y, the check succeeds". This would speed up play immensely. People can and do perform many things daily that would require a skill check, but they become so routine that the chance of failure drops to fractions of a percent.
There is in the DMG (p.239):
1670163533754.png


But in D&D, every time you get in a car there's at least a flat 5% chance that you fail, no matter who you are. And what form does that failure make? Was it a failure to make a turn signal, or to come to a complete stop? Did you veer slightly from the center of your lane, or any number of minor mishaps that don't necessarily mean disaster?
This is the part of 5E that in a strange way, I both love and hate...

Every time you get in your car to drive someplace, there is a very significant consequence to failure... you could get in an accident and die or kill someone else. There are also lesser consequences of failure. You could get a flat tire because you ran over something. And so on.

Now, many DMs might say unless there is a reason why a check would be needed: driving at high speeds, bad weather, high traffic, or whatever which might cause you to perform less than your normal levels, you shouldn't call for a check.

Simply put, tasks that are performed often get easier over time. 5e's timeline for this is glacial. The idea that you have to wait 4 levels (as a first level character) to get 5% better at your proficient skills is insane.
Yes and no. I have PCs with skills they have never used in game so how much should those improve? Do we assume PCs are practicing these skills outside of the game? During downtime? Around the camp fire at night on the road?

I worked on a system for 5E for improve proficiencies with each level. The basic idea is you get 3 (or so) proficiency points IIRC, which you can used to improve any proficiency bonus by +1 (no more than one increase per level), to a maximum of +6. Now, if you want to keep things more "modest", cap it at the next bonus until you reach 5th level.

For example, let's say your 1st level PC has the following proficiencies:
Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons, Athletics, Nature, Perception, Stealth, Survival, Navigator's tools, and Vehicles (Water).

When you reach second level, you increase your proficiency bonus in Martials Weapons, Athletics, and Stealth to +3, while the others remain at +2. At 3rd level, you cannot increase those again so increase Simple Weapons, Nature, and Perception. And so forth.
 

Are we in a OneDnd playtest thread?
Because some take a 1 in abilty check as a failure, which is not the case in the current rules.

The Phb also tell that the DM call for a roll when the outcome is uncertain. If the DM consider the action obviously a success or an impossible thing, he can skip to ask for a roll.

DnD is also a world of magic, once a DM commit for a DC, clever party can manage the get magic at work, an sometimes get an unexpected huge bonus.

and after some thought, I aim for as much randomness as we see in professional sport results.
 
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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.

5e, from the very beginning, however, catered to a "less random" approach to the game. Monsters were presented with average damage totals to speed play. Players could opt to not roll hit dice, instead taking a set amount of hit points on level up. Even rolling for ability scores has changed; while still the first option presented, most groups seem to have switched to point buy, and, of course, ever since the year 2000, the difference between a 16 and a 17 has become largely academic. You no longer need certain ability scores to qualify for a class (even though you are still rewarded in other ways for higher ability scores), with the notable exception of multiclassing.

Feats no longer have ability score requirements (though some armor and weapons do demand a certain amount of Strength to use, but at the same time, you can build a perfectly viable character without a high Strength just as well).

A lot of debates have occurred not just on whether or not D&D should be random at all, but to what extent it should be random. How likely should players succeed at die rolls, for example. Many of the complaints about the game's math really come down to "it's too random" vs. "it's not random enough".

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?

Or do you feel that the game has become too predictable, and want even more chaos, like exploding dice or more d% tables to roll on?

How do you feel WotC will move the game in the future, towards one extreme or another?
For me with most RPGs, and especially D&D, randomness is a hugely important part of what makes it surprising and fun.
 


Argyle King

Legend
My opinion on randomness depends upon which part of the game we're discussing.

For character creation, I like players being able to play what they want to play. So, I'm fine with pointbuy and more-clearly defined chunks of character creation options.

For the in-game action, I enjoy some element of randomness. Part of the adventure is seeing what happens.

Even if a character and a campaign has a planned story arc, I believe the journey and the things encountered along the way are sometimes more important than the end destination. An element of randomness can introduce something unplanned, which drives the story in a way that may not have been intended but ends up being more enjoyable.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The game probably should have a rule that says something like "if bonus is X and DC is Y, the check succeeds". This would speed up play immensely. People can and do perform many things daily that would require a skill check, but they become so routine that the chance of failure drops to fractions of a percent.

I mean, let's look at driving a car. When you first start to drive, the combination of remembering which pedal to press, being alert of the road ahead, drivers around you, possible road hazards, using turn signals, watching your speed and gas gauge, staying in the center of your lane, all while zipping around at speeds Olympic sprinters can only dream of while merely going around the block in a residential neighborhood, is insane to contemplate- yet many people manage to do this routinely.

In fact, for most of us, these actions are so automatic, that we can do it and even carry on a conversation with passengers in the car!

But in D&D, every time you get in a car there's at least a flat 5% chance that you fail, no matter who you are. And what form does that failure make? Was it a failure to make a turn signal, or to come to a complete stop? Did you veer slightly from the center of your lane, or any number of minor mishaps that don't necessarily mean disaster?
I think I've known a few of those drivers in the past... :)
Judging from my personal experience alone, the D&D model would probably be that there's a 5% chance that every time you get behind the wheel you'll have an accident that risks life and limb, lol.
Which only points to the fact that the d20 just isn't granular enough for what it's being asked to do.
Simply put, tasks that are performed often get easier over time. 5e's timeline for this is glacial. The idea that you have to wait 4 levels (as a first level character) to get 5% better at your proficient skills is insane.
The key phrase in there is "over time"; which in what seems like the typical 5e campaign is a very scarce resource.

You don't become an experienced driver in a month or two; it takes at least a few years of doing it regularly. Most 5e campaigns (at least, the published ones) aren't designed to last longer than a few in-game months - the PCs are on a hyper-accelerated power drive where they gain stupendous amounts of new abilities in a ridiculously short (to them) time.

Given that, it's hardly surprising that by 15th level you're still nowhere near perfect at something you learned at 2nd - you just haven't had the practice time and repetition, never mind you've also been getting bombarded with more new abilities during that time.
 

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