# Why do many people prefer roll-high to roll-under?

##### Heretic of The Seventh Circle
lol
Sure, but there is no trick to using roll low. Everyone knows that first place is faster than second place, and that this makes first place better than second place. Lower numbers are better, other factors being equal. This is reinforced by the overwhelming majority of experiences involving comparative numbers. Lower prices, lower golf scores, lower track times, lower interest on your mortgage. Heck, first class literally means the best quality.

See? Everything you're saying feels rational to you because you already believe it, but it's literally just post hoc rationalizations and can be applied the other way with equal ease.
You’re stretching. There are vastly more instances of higher=better. Higher practically means better.

Fact is, most people add faster than subtract, and counting up makes more sense to most people. Golf scoring confuses people all the time.

And no one is going to intuitively think that a lower skill roll means you rolled closer to first place. That’s an utterly absurd notion.

#### Rystefn

##### Explorer
You’re stretching. There are vastly more instances of higher=better. Higher practically means better.

Fact is, most people add faster than subtract, and counting up makes more sense to most people. Golf scoring confuses people all the time.

And no one is going to intuitively think that a lower skill roll means you rolled closer to first place. That’s an utterly absurd notion.
Literally all of this is nothing more than more post hoc rationalization for your personal preference.

P.S. Being confused about how golf scoring works is literally a joke about how stupid Homer Simpson is. I mean, you do you, but I personally wouldn't be setting myself as part of that group.

##### Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Literally all of this is nothing more than more post hoc rationalization for your personal preference.
It isn’t, at all. You have to teach people to compare two numbers and prefer the lower one. You don’t have to teach people that higher=better. It’s fundemental. That there are exceptions does not disprove the rule.
P.S. Being confused about how golf scoring works is literally a joke about how stupid Homer Simpson is. I mean, you do you, but I personally wouldn't be setting myself as part of that group.
Okay? You gonna try to act like people don’t make fun of golf for its scoring system? I’m not self conscious about my intelligence, so your attempted jab doesn’t really land.

#### Swanosaurus

You’re stretching. There are vastly more instances of higher=better. Higher practically means better.

Fact is, most people add faster than subtract, and counting up makes more sense to most people. Golf scoring confuses people all the time.

And no one is going to intuitively think that a lower skill roll means you rolled closer to first place. That’s an utterly absurd notion.
Well, if it's so terribly important to you to know and tell everyone how "normal" people relate to numbers, knock yourself out. Personally, I'm wary of these sweeping "that's just how human beings are wired" statements, but since this is a pretty harmless topic, I guess I might just as well drop it.

##### Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well, if it's so terribly important to you to know and tell everyone how "normal" people relate to numbers, knock yourself out. Personally, I'm wary of these sweeping "that's just how human beings are wired" statements, but since this is a pretty harmless topic, I guess I might just as well drop it.
Okay?

I wasn’t even discussing it with you that I can see so…sure?

##### A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Right now, I don't care. I just want to be done with moving, get settled in, and have time to roll dice. High or low, don't care. I'm jonesing to get back to gaming!

#### tomBitonti

Well, on thinking about it, rolling over means positive modifiers are good, negative modifiers are bad, which as an application of language ties together quite neatly.

And in most systems, you gain XP or similar experience rewards, you amass wealth, you rise in class or skill level. So players are conditioning to think 'up'.
Ooh .. I just imagined a system where the culture thinks of people having a “life burden” which must be overcome by reducing it to zero before dying.
Then a light, unburdened, soul lives effortlessly.

Anyway, not much to do with dice. I think negative and positive is different than larger and smaller. A -3 modifier is “bigger” than a +1 modifier. Roll under 70% seems almost the same as roll over 30%, depending on the meaning of 00 as 0 of 100. I always thought some % based (roll under) systems were wonky in the way degrees of success are calculated, and having doubles be critical results (I’m looking at you, WH40K role play).

TomB

#### Aldarc

##### Legend
Fact is, most people add faster than subtract, and counting up makes more sense to most people. Golf scoring confuses people all the time.
It isn’t, at all. You have to teach people to compare two numbers and prefer the lower one. You don’t have to teach people that higher=better. It’s fundemental. That there are exceptions does not disprove the rule.
People add faster than they subtract, but you are not usually subtracting when you roll under; you are comparing a roll with another number. As it turns out most people can compare the higher/lower of two numbers quicker than they can do addition.

Saying that "you have to teach people to compare two numbers and prefer the lower one" takes about once sentence: i.e., "you want to roll lower than the number on your character sheet." That's it. IME, it's actually easier teaching roll under than teaching people that you have to roll higher than whatever arbitrary number the GM decides upon and then adding up all the various bonuses you have to the roll and waiting to find out from the GM whether you did the thing or not. I may not have to teach people that "higher=better" but I still have to teach them the rules of the game regardless of whether it is roll high or not.

##### Heretic of The Seventh Circle
People add faster than they subtract, but you are not usually subtracting when you roll under; you are comparing a roll with another number. As it turns out most people can compare the higher/lower of two numbers quicker than they can do addition.
IME most roll under systems have things that subtract from the roll as a “bonus”, or have other mechanics that mean you often have to do some amount of math before resolution can occur.

And either way, most troll systems don’t have any more math than roll under, and you do most of it before/between sessions, on the character sheet.
Saying that "you have to teach people to compare two numbers and prefer the lower one" takes about once sentence: i.e., "you want to roll lower than the number on your character sheet."
And it’s very awkward and trips up a lot of people. I’ve seen it many times over 20 years or so playing different games.
That's it. IME, it's actually easier teaching roll under than teaching people that you have to roll higher than whatever arbitrary number the GM decides upon and then adding up all the various bonuses you have to the roll and waiting to find out from the GM whether you did the thing or not. I may not have to teach people that "higher=better" but I still have to teach them the rules of the game regardless of whether it is roll high or not.
That is an issue with D&D, not with roll high systems universally.

I often introduce people to gaming via games other than D&D. They don’t have to think about roll high, they just roll and add the modifier. Better games make target numbers more transparent than D&D 5e, but 5e rarely trips newbies up in this regard.

But Alternity causes odd moments of players pausing, thinking about the system for a second, and then rolling, or rolling and getting excited or disapointed just to immediately 180 when they remember that lower is better, etc.

Neither is a problem, but it’s silly to pretend that roll high isn’t more intuitive than roll low. Hell, it doesn’t even matter why, just that it is.

#### Aldarc

##### Legend
And either way, most troll systems don’t have any more math than roll under, and you do most of it before/between sessions, on the character sheet.
In practice, however, I'm not sure that is always the case, hence why many people here complain about how their players forget all the different bonuses or which number they are using: e.g., ability attribute, attribute modifier, proficiency, spells, items, etc. There is a lot of math that happens at the table. While that may be an issue mostly with D&D, D&D and its kin are the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, and most (but not all) roll over systems are d20 D&D-based. There is a reason, for example, that Pathfinder 1 was referred to as "Mathfinder."

And it’s very awkward and trips up a lot of people. I’ve seen it many times over 20 years or so playing different games.
I disagree with the first sentence. I do not doubt that you have "seen it many times over 20 years or so playing different games." However, you may be exaggerating things about how "very awkward" that this is or how often it trips people up. Because most roll under games are not trying to say, "you want to roll as low as possible" or that "the lower the number, the better." Most roll under systems just amount to trying to roll under a given value, usually either the character's Attribute value or Skill Rating value. So the whole "the lower, the better" doesn't really apply.

In my experience, people get tripped up all the time with roll over systems as well. You know how many times I've seen people get tripped up about that over my 20 years or so of playing different games? How long do you have to listen to my stories or read through the threads here? Sure, people understand roll high but there is usually more math involved in roll over than just rolling a high number.

If you were to go back in time on this forum, I would be where you are. I would be complaining about roll under or talking about how much better roll over is. You will find many of the threads here on ENWorld where I have done so, and I will still complain about how horrible THAC0 is. But actually running many of these roll under games has been something of a harsh lesson for me about my own assumptions about what is or isn't intuitive.

Much to my own surprise even, I have found the learning curve for many new players much quicker with roll under systems, at least comparatively with roll over. In some cases, it's been watching long time players who consistently struggled with remembering what they had to roll over or add to their rolls have a much easier time when they play roll under games like Black Hack, Dragonbane, or Mausritter. There is no, "hey did you remember to add this, this, this, and this to your roll?" It's usually just, "did you roll under your ability score?" or "did you roll under your skill score?"

You can tell me that roll high is more intuitive, and while that may be true, I can tell you that these roll under games have often been quicker and easier for many of my players who really only had prior experience with roll over games. So the question for me is not "which is more intuitive: roll high or roll low?" Instead, for me the question is, "why are my players having an easier time with roll under than roll over?" I would like to believe that there is an explanation for the phenomenon with an answer that amounts to more than repeating variations of the mantra that "higher is better" or assuming that my intuitions about roll high is what's at stake here.

That is an issue with D&D, not with roll high systems universally.
Just like there are particular issues with some roll under games and not roll under systems universally.

I often introduce people to gaming via games other than D&D. They don’t have to think about roll high, they just roll and add the modifier. Better games make target numbers more transparent than D&D 5e, but 5e rarely trips newbies up in this regard.
I also introduce people to gaming via games other than D&D. They don't have problems with roll under. You often don't even have to add the modifier. You roll and compare with the number on your sheet. You know as soon as you roll. No arithmetic required. It's not hard.

Neither is a problem, but it’s silly to pretend that roll high isn’t more intuitive than roll low. Hell, it doesn’t even matter why, just that it is.
Roll high is more intuitive than roll low. However, what is being contrasted is NOT roll high and roll low, but, rather, roll over and roll under. It is similar to but not the same as the aforementioned. A roll over game is not just about rolling as high as you can. It's about rolling a value over some other value. That is where the complexities often lie.

Again, IME, I have personally found roll under to be easier and quicker for people to learn because the player knows when they roll if they succeeded or fail. In terms of the psychology present, there is often instant gratification. Players will generally have the number they need to beat on their character sheet, whether that is a skill or attribute. In roll over systems, the number they have to beat is very often in the GM's head.

This is why I have come to increasingly value tabletop games that make it super quick and easy to read success when the roll happens: e.g., many roll under games, PbtA, FitD, Free League's Year Zero Engine, etc. I know that there are roll over games where that's the case too - e.g., Cypher System - but roll over more often then not puts the math after the roll and the TN may or may not be known.

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