Here to represent this heresy is David.
Rolling multiple dice (e.g. Shadowrun, WoD, FATE) is intrinsically fairer and *more fun* than rolling a single die (e.g. D&D)
My big issue with rolling lots of dice is it takes a second to know what happened. When it's just that d20 or d100 it's like BAM! Instantaneous, it's exciting.
You roll lots of dice it might be fun to roll them but then you gotta pick through trying to figure out what happened. It's not the lost time it's more just the momentum.
Firstly, there is a visceral thrill in holding lots of dice in your hand. You know by weight if you stand a good chance of succeeding. And if you’re only holding one dice (when you could be holding many), your chance of success feels more tenuous. And then comes the sound, the holy clatter of many dice bouncing against table and each other.
But I disagree that with a single dice, d20 or d100 (which I count as a single dice), that you know the result instantly. I don’t think you always do. All systems have modifiers that need to be applied, or advantage/disadvantage systems where you pick the best/worst. Sure, if you see a high number, you know you’ve probably succeeded. But in the case of rolling many dice, if you see many sixes or tens (depending on d6 or d10 system), and few ones, you also have a good ‘gut reaction’ for success or failure before you need to do the maths.
To summarise I have loss of momentum (good term) with single dice rolling, because of the “having to do maths” step, in the same way as with ‘picking through’ multiple dice.
I haven't seen that. I see a 17 or 20 pop up and it's like YEAH!!! at least half the time. With dice pools, all you can say to balance that is you know you have a good chance if you're rolling lots of dice--but if the system works like that then all you've done is kill the tension before the roll.
So killing the tension before a roll, because you’re holding multiple die, is a good criticism. Although I have seen someone roll six 1s on 6d6 (a chance of 1 in 7776), in general more dice tends to peak the distribution of outcomes to mediocrity, with most rules being not great, but not terrible either. This is alleviated a bit with exploding dice (where the maximum result on dice can lead to more dice being rolled), similar to a critical on a d20.
But, I don’t think that having a more peaked distribution of outcomes (as opposed to the flat distribution of a d20 or d100) is a bad thing. Player characters are normally exceptional individuals, capable of doing things *under stress* (which is normally when a dice roll is required) that most ordinary people would stand little or no chance to achieve even in the best of days. So I’m arguing that even a mediocre outcome for a PC is still some near-world class result. And a critical should feel superhuman, and happen much less often than a 1 in 20 chance.
I think it also enhances the story if you know the players are more likely to get through the challenges they’re facing, albeit by the skins of their teeth. In D&D a PC can roll a couple of ones in succession, and massively derail the story.
I have no strong opinion on the probability curves—different games probably require different ones.
It’s all just about that one second of “holy fuck!” i won! i lost!
That’s why in Demon City i like using the normal Rider-Waite tarot deck, soon as you see those cards flip up you know what they are.
I am appreciative of other randomisation systems. Castle Falkenstein was a favourite of mine, though it’s definitely not the same.
In terms of that one second of “holy fuck”, I agree it’s satisfying to see a gamble pay off with a high-roll. It’s why Vegas exists, after all! But, in D&D we try to weight the outcome in our favour using stat and proficiency bonuses, magic items, buffs and advantage. So even if we roll a 9 or 10, we are still likely to succeed. I like games with multiple dice because this weighting is building your dice pool to guarantee an outcome with a large margin for success, and it means holding more dice in your hand. And an amazing roll (six 10s on 6d10 for example) is less likely than a natural 20, and so feels more special.
I guess it boils down to:
I can say, to my players, taking their bonuses into account "you need a 14 or better" and then...14!" yay!!!
On handfuls of dice, we all sit counting. Or waiting while the player counts.
One of things I really like with a system is margin. It’s not just whether you succeeded or failed, but how much by, or how close you got. This allows for ’succeed at cost’ and ’succeed with additional bonus’. D&D is very binary, and this allows for quick “yay” or “nay”, and carry on with the next problem. But if margin is something you care about, and it feeds into the story, then doing the math becomes important. Yes, this may slow things down slightly, but if that’s part of the game, then it’s not such a big issue.
D&D combat is a partial-success system. You hit or don't but THEN you do a certain amount of damage (you don't just win/lose, kill or don't kill). You often expend x number of resources in either case.
This does not technically have anything to do with how many dice you roll. You can roll on or two dice and have a degrees of success system (obvious example: FASERIP) and you can roll a handfull and have a pass/fail (like in Threshold Numberof Successes systems).
These are both valid points.
1. D&D combat is the only time it’s a partial success system. I would argue this is a hold-over from it’s war-gaming roots, where you would roll to see how many units died in an engagement. And I feel that rolling to hit, and then rolling for damage, can create a slowing down of momentum in the same way you described, because it’s two sets of maths that you need to do, rather than one.
2. I agree that you can have a one or two dice system with margin. Modern Call of Cthulhu (5th edition) does that, I believe. And yes, multiple dice systems can be pass/fail, though to be honest I dislike it when they do that. I feel that there are opportunities for something truly spectacular to happen with multiple dice all coming up max, or with exploding dice, that just aren’t there with a D20 roll of 20.
1. Whether or not this argument has merit, it has nothing to do with rolling handfuls of dice or not.
2. Ok, so multiple dice all coming up max and exploding dice are also exciting. I would say about as equally exciting as a crucial natural 20 or a crucial natural 1 if the math of the game is done right. How often this happens is up to the game design and outside the remit of this conversation. BUT I would say a 1 or 2 die system has the advantage of instant legibility in most of those in-between results. "You need a 16 or better, it's a crucial roll, if not, your friend dies...16!" That's harder with multiple dice.
2a. While exploding dice then add a new exciting possibility, our conversation is just about handfuls of dice period and technically any kind of die mechanic can have exploding dice. So the cool things about exploding dice are outside the remit of the conversation.
"Whether or not this argument has merit, it has nothing to do with rolling handfuls of dice or not."
I’m not sure that’s true. You were suggesting that the advantage of rolling a single dice is that it does not slow down the action, but rather maintains the momentum, and I was presenting a counter argument whereby rolling to hit and *then* rolling for damage can be equally disruptive.
"BUT I would say a 1 or 2 die system has the advantage of instant legibility in most of those in-between results. "You need a 16 or better, it's a crucial roll, if not, your friend dies...16!" That's harder with multiple dice."
I still disagree, to some extent. I feel that you can achieve instant legibility with multiple dice-rolling systems, if you know the system well.
We might be reaching the limit of what we can get out of reasoned debate here. I would be willing to concede the point for novices, people new to gaming, who just know that they need to roll high on the d20 to do well. In that case, a single roll can maintain the momentum as you put it. But I’m not sure that argument holds for experienced players.
But you still have a high chance to get an immediately transparent, legible, result in several vital situations, including to-hit in those situations where to-hit will definitely matter and saving throws.
"I would be willing to concede the point for novices, people new to gaming, who just know that they need to roll high on the d20 to do well. In that case, a single roll can maintain the momentum as you put it. But I’m not sure that argument holds for experienced players."
Anything else to say?
No, think it’s all good.
Thanks for this. Was fun!
If you have something worth disagreeing about and want to be in the Disagree-a-thon, put it in the comments.
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