Monday, March 9, 2009

Dice Withdrawal

I didn't play any games or D&D at all this past weekend. Not Friday, Saturday nor Sunday. It was such nice weather I ended up spending the weekend outside doing family stuff. I'm definitely ready for Springtime. My 14 year old's team moves back outdoors soon, and I agreed with his coach at practice on Sunday that the boys are getting cabin fever and itching for some fresh air themselves.

It struck me sometime this past weekend that I could introduce the use of my old 1E dice that have become useless with my adoption of pre-Greyhawk Dungeons & Dragons. Specifically the d8, d10 and d12, and use them in some fashion rather than simply for referee tables like custom Wandering Monsters.

Consider that all weapons in OD&D deal 1d6 damage. Magic Swords do not deal any extra damage except to specific targets as detailed in their item descriptions. This is a trade-off, as OD&D Magic Swords are still potentially the most potent melee weapons due to mental powers and communicative abilities. Other miscellaneous magic weapons normally add their magical plus to damage as well as rolls to hit.

Recently I have house ruled that all magic weapons function like swords, with the additonal rule that any magic weapon allows the user to roll two dice for damage, using the higher result. In practice this has proven to be a fun method, as throwing more dice normally is. But what of the d8, d10 and d12?

The average roll from a d6 is 3.5, as everyone knows. Considering that average and the unused polyhedrons in my collection, I realized that increasing the 3.5 average by one in three steps of 4.5, 5.5 and 6.5 essentially replicates +1, +2 and +3 to damage that magic non-sword weapons of those types would normally deal in the original rules.

I can go two ways with this. All magic weapons roll two dice, using the higher result. A minor bonus for +1 weapons. I could tinker with this and allow three and four dice for +2 and +3 weapons, respectively, if I wanted to increase the average damage of those more powerful weapons. The maximum damage is still 6, but results of 6 would be much more frequent.

The other method which introduces those neglected dice works out as follows:

Normal weapons average 3.5, use 1d6.
+1 weapons average 4.5, use 1d8.
+2 weapons average 5.5, use 1d10.
+3 weapons average 6.5, use 1d12.

The average damage does not change with the new dice, they simply increase the numeric range. So simple I wonder why I never thought of this until now. Players might hate rolling a result of "1" with a +3 weapon that deals 1d12, but would cheer each time a "12" popped up.

I'll have to play test this somehow, but unfortunately the only magic weapons in my current game are +1. I still love a d6 dominated game, with d20 relegated to attacks and saving throws, but the idea of reintroducing those other three is tempting, if only on this somewhat limited basis.

The burning question is, of course, what to do with that damned d4. Perhaps reserve it for Cursed -1 Weapons? It does average -1 damage, or 2.5. I'm probably the only one who never realized before how this average for the dice moves along a straight line in single increments. This would be a bit of homebrew, of course, as the only cursed weapon in OD&D is the Sword, Cursed -2. As we know for Swords in OD&D that modifier only applies to the attack roll.

Don't ask about +4 weapons. As of right now there simply aren't any. Which is a good thing as I don't own any d14s. The end result is I don't see myself moving away from a heavy d6 game. I do enjoy playing with numbers, though. I think the more dice method for magic weapons is how I'll continue and move forward, and give a thought about adding an extra die for +2 and +3 weapons. Those other four dice types will probably continue to beg me to play some 1E while they languish on the sidelines.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Spike Page said...

I am in awe of your mathletic prowess, Sham!

I'll have to show this to Garish (DM/spouse) and see if he'd like to give your method a whirl in our next White Box S&W game. I for one like the increased chance of high success/fail.

Sham aka Dave said...

Glad you like it. The post isn't nearly as well thought out as it should be. I typed it quickly with my soon to be three year old throwing Wacky packages around while sitting on my lap tonight.

Anyway, I think the idea has some merit and doesn't "break the bank" since those unused dice can replicate the average scores for magic weapons in OD&D.

K. Bailey said...

Average of 2d6 take highest = 4.47, but I would much rather have 2d6 keep highest than D6+1 or D8.

Sham aka Dave said...

Yeah, it's what I currently do. But allowing players to use those "other dice" has some attraction as well.

K. Bailey said...

Hm I think I did not state what I meant very clearly. Introducing different die sizes into your OD&D game sounds like a great idea.

What I meant to say that as a purely as a player interested in doing the most amount of damage, I would want to roll 2d6 keep higher because of the distribution, even though the average is pretty much the same as D6+1 or D8. 2d6 rolls 4+ 75% of the time; D6+1 66%; D8 63%.

As a player interested in winning a fight, I kind of want predictability so that I can make tactical decisions better. "Okay, he can take two more hits, I heal the other guy first."

With more swingy damage the plans are more risky. That's often more fun. You can win fights you should have lost, and vice versa. Obviously thought there's a thing as too much chaos. Probably the best thing is to have a mix. The dice nerd in me likes the AD&D and later damage dice by weapon type, because they "feel" different.

Sham aka Dave said...

Ah yes. I look at things from a referee PoV. That said my biggest concern with a change like this is the player losing that minimum damage plateau.

Guaranteed damage is more important than potential damage over time.

If I were a power gamer, I'd prefer that magic weapons remained d6 and added their plus to the roll. With a +2 weapon my minumum would be 3, my average would be 5.5, and my max would extend to 8. That's how non-swords function in OD&D.

But, I like playing with the numbers and thinking of ways to roll extra dice. This is a way to possibly roll different dice.

Just an option.

My issue with AD&D 1E was that everyone wanted to use a Long Sword. 1d8/1d12 damage made everyone a min/max player. With generic damage I get some variety in OD&D.

I'll be posting more on damage ranges and dice soon.

FASERIP said...

I'm using this houserule with Moldvay/Cook, in part because I also use the non-variable weapon damage default of those rules, and this balances better with the damage capabilities of the high-HD monsters in that game. But I also like this idea because it feels so right--- it had to have been someone's houserule in the old days.

When I brought up this idea over at the Citadel of Chaos (topping out with +3 weapons), a poster named Corvus suggested using two dice for +4 and +5 weapons. Now that doesn't match the progression you're going for, but it certainly gives a lot of oomph to those really magical swords, etc.

kelvingreen said...

Not to be picky, but 1d6 doesn't have an average. It took me ages to get my head around that.

As for the 1d4, the cursed weapon is a good idea, but I'd also be tempted to use it for unarmed attack damage. Unarmed specialists like monks would get 1d6, but I'd guess that won't come up in your game! :)

thanuir said...


What do you mean by average? d6 certainly has an average mean of 7/2, median ({3, 4} or only 7/2) and it even has mode {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6}.

Those are the most usual and applicable averages, though all I have heard of do assign a value to d6. So exactly what do you mean when you say that d6 does not have an average?

kelvingreen said...

Well, isn't the whole point of a die that it does not produce an "average" result, in the sense that Sham is using it above? As in, no result should be more common than another. For ages, I thought a single d6 had an average result of 3-4, or 3.5, because 2d6 has an average result of 7, and 3d6 11, etc. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that this was not in fact the case.

thanuir said...

d6 indeed has no chance of generating the expected value / arithmetic mean, which is 7/2 (or 3.5 in your notation or 3,5 in the Finnish notation). For the references, neither does 3d6, 5d6, 7d6, or generally any odd number of even-sided dice. 3d6, for example, has equal chance of giving 10 or 11 (other numbers being less likely).

On the subject of averages in general, I do recommend you to take a look at wikipedia:

There are different kinds of averages, all or almost all of which are defined for dice.

kelvingreen said...

I just about remember enough from school to know about mean, median and mode, but in the terms we're discussing at the moment, the "average" on 2d6 would be 7, and on 3d6 10-11, as they're the most common results. My only point was that a d6 that does its job properly will not have a most common result.

thanuir said...

The most common result is the mode. The mode of 3d6 is {10, 11} (that is, both 10 and 11 are modes). The mode for d6 is {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6}, which means that all the results are most common, as they have the same probability. The mode exists, it just is not very useful for practical applications. One could even call it trivial.

kelvingreen said...

A fair point!