Monday, January 4, 2010

3d6: Average is Good

If everyone is special, then really no one is.

The first thing to take into account in using 3d6 instead of 1d20 is the fact that you end up with a much more average roll. With 1d20 you have a 5% chance of rolling any number. This means that you are just as likely to roll an 18 as an 8. In game, this means that, barring bonuses, you are just as likely to shoot the bad guy in the head, as to shoot his goat.

With a 3d6 however you have a similar range of numbers, 3-18, as opposed to ,1-20, but you are much more likely to get the result of a 10. This is because there is only one combination of dice that gets 18, three 6’s. There are twenty-four combinations that get you 10. In game this means that spectacular success and failures happen fewer and farther between.

This makes the numbers on your character sheet matter more. If you are more likely to land a few points from 10 on a die roll, then you can't roll hoping to get that 17 so you'll succeed. Your bonuses will mean a lot more. And in an RPG your bonuses and your character sheet are you. So this means that your character is more important than the dice you roll. This character is good at basket weaving not just a PC on a lucky streak.

Tomarrow I'll go over what this does to combat.


  1. Does lessening the possibility of spectacular failure remove something from the game?? Knowing that you are less likely to fail completely do you now have less of a sense of adventure and excitement? Do you take more risk or less?
    Just things I thought about when I was reading this!

  2. In my experiance, GM's rarely use the Critical failure, or "fumble" rules. So in most cases, not making the DC for a task is punishment enough, without the need for the chance to "epic fail".

  3. At some point (level 10ish +), the rolls just dont matter anymore period, espescially if you take out spectacular failure.

    Let's take a 3.5 stock lvl 10 human rogue. We'll assume his dex is a 17

    By lvl 10 he can put 13 points into any class skill.

    Lets say he maxes out...iunno use rope, a dex based skill and for the sake of argument picked up Skill Focus (Use Rope) as his human bonus feat, and Deft Hands as well

    Homeboy here has a +21 use rope modifier. If he uses his trusty silk rope, that's a 23. With at least 5 ranks in escape artist he'd be tying people up at a 25 bonus.

    To sum up this excersize, at some point, if you chose to specialize in something, it doesnt matter if your dm is using 3d6 or d20, you will succeed every time in a reasonable encounter. If this is good for the overall game, I'm not sure as a DM, but as a player I feel entightled to be excellent at my chosen skills.