The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Are Your Players Beating The Odds?


What do you do if all too often the dice are killing the drama in your game? What if the players get bogged down in long boring fights with the minions, but then get a few lucky roles and kill the Big Bad Evil Guy in just two rounds? One possible solution maybe to change the way you roll the dice.

Most of the important rolls in Dungeons and Dragons involve just a single die being rolled (most often d20). Rolling a single die produces flat odds – every result is just as likely as every other. If you are wanting to modify the game to give better odds in every fight to whichever side is statistically better, then altering the dice combinations to produce bell curves can do just this.

Option 1 – Multiply and Divide

The simplest manner of bell curving the odds is to roll multiple instances of a given die and divide the result by the number of dice rolled. For example roll 2d20 to hit, then divide by 2. With just 2 dice you’ve already produced a bell curve, and will severely limit the really good and the really bad rolls. A critical success on a roll goes from being a 5% chance to being just a 0.25% chance (and the same for a critical failure). If you decide to triple (or quadruple or more) the dice the bell curve will get even steeper, and extreme rolls will all become increasingly uncommon.

Option 2 – Alternate Dice Combination

While option 1 produces results that mirror the original dice, it depends on players dividing the results. While this is not a problem for many players, almost every group I have ever been part of has had at least one player adverse to math, who would inevitably not be able to handle the division.

If you don’t want to include division you can use alternate dice combinations that produce similar, thought not identical, results. Here are some suggested alternate combinations.

Original Die Alternate 1 Alternate 2 Alternate 3
d20 2d10 3d6 4d4+1
d12 2d6 3d4
d10 2d6-1 2d4+1
d8 2d4
d6 2d4-1
d4 2d2

For each of these cases the best possible roll become a critical success (when applicable), and the worst possible roll becomes a critical failure (again, when applicable).

Obviously tweaking the dice is not going to be a first line of defense, but there are situations where it might be best; like if you have heroes and villains who are always just a couple lucky shots away from everything going awry, and you are a DM who is not inclined to fudge.

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October 12, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , ,

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