Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

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Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Nov 03, 2016 5:15 am UTC

I love advantage (though I think its intersection with disadvantage is a bit nonintuitive). I love the proficiency bonus (particularly how it consolidates tons of information in one spot, and creates a simple, easy-to-follow linear curve).

I don't get why they stuck with the clunky ability score bonus formula, though. (Ability Score - 10) / 2 -- rounded down? Why not just half your Ability Score, rounded down? No more negative ability bonuses; on top of that, it's much easier to calculate ability bonuses on the fly. Sure, it means adding +5s all over the place (Dexterity 20? +10 to your AC!), but I feel like that should be easy to account for. It also just makes more sense to me: If moving a boulder requires an average amount of Strength (DC: 10), it makes sense that someone with phenomenal strength (Strength: 20; +10) would never be able to fail outside of a 1.

Speaking of moving boulders -- it makes no sense how there's no circumstance under which I add my proficiency bonus to a check to move a boulder. But that's how it is; moving boulders is an unskilled Strength check, so I only add my Strength bonus to the roll (no skill bonus).

But that means that the DC: 15 for moving a boulder is actually harder to reach than the DC: 15 for swimming across a lake (Athletics; Strength + Athletics). That's... kind of silly, isn't it?

The new system for saving throws is something I'm also kind of bluh about -- I don't like that Charisma, Strength, and Intelligence are saving throws. I feel like there's a better solution here that fixes both these problems -- like a set of saving throws that double as untrained skill checks, maybe. Something like... go back to the original Fortitude/Reflex/Will saves, and let them also double as untrained ability checks (Fortitude for Strength/Constitution, Reflex for Dexterity/Wisdom, and Will for Intelligence/Charisma).

EDIT: I'm also struggling to understand why they went with such a non-intuitive formula for proficiency bonuses. I like proficiency bonuses, but I feel like it should just be your character level / 4 rounded down. Level 1 is zero; level 4 is +1 -- so on.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Chen » Thu Nov 03, 2016 1:07 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:I don't get why they stuck with the clunky ability score bonus formula, though. (Ability Score - 10) / 2 -- rounded down? Why not just half your Ability Score, rounded down? No more negative ability bonuses; on top of that, it's much easier to calculate ability bonuses on the fly. Sure, it means adding +5s all over the place (Dexterity 20? +10 to your AC!), but I feel like that should be easy to account for. It also just makes more sense to me: If moving a boulder requires an average amount of Strength (DC: 10), it makes sense that someone with phenomenal strength (Strength: 20; +10) would never be able to fail outside of a 1.


Adding 5s all over the place would really mess with the whole D20 part of the system. In previous editions the D20 roll did become somewhat irrelevant at later levels with all the bonuses and such stacked on them. In 5th though, the D20 roll itself is always somewhat relevant. Combat throughout the levels makes it so that the small bonuses you can get are significant since the die roll still tends to matter in what you're going to hit. A flat +5 to everything could probably be mitigated at the high end, but would cause issues at the low end.

Speaking of moving boulders -- it makes no sense how there's no circumstance under which I add my proficiency bonus to a check to move a boulder. But that's how it is; moving boulders is an unskilled Strength check, so I only add my Strength bonus to the roll (no skill bonus).

But that means that the DC: 15 for moving a boulder is actually harder to reach than the DC: 15 for swimming across a lake (Athletics; Strength + Athletics). That's... kind of silly, isn't it?


Not sure why you'd ever get better at moving boulders via experience. I'd maybe allow a circumstance bonus if you had some training in engineering or the like, but otherwise its just brute force, no reason anything but strength should do it. It would also make things counter-intuitive that somehow a 10 strength level 20 Wizard could PHYSICALLY move a boulder with the same effort as a level 1, 18 Strength Fighter could. What in their 20 levels of wizarding has made it easier for them to physically move boulders?

EDIT: I'm also struggling to understand why they went with such a non-intuitive formula for proficiency bonuses. I like proficiency bonuses, but I feel like it should just be your character level / 4 rounded down. Level 1 is zero; level 4 is +1 -- so on.


I presume this is for some sort of balance reasons. While more elegant if the formula was simple, its possible it was a problem in terms of gameplay.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 03, 2016 3:41 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:I love advantage (though I think its intersection with disadvantage is a bit nonintuitive).


Eh, you should see the interaction of Lucky with advantage/disadvantage.

Roll 3 dice, keep best.

This means that having disadvantage is BETTER than having neither, if you are using Lucky.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Nov 03, 2016 6:18 pm UTC

Chen wrote:Adding 5s all over the place would really mess with the whole D20 part of the system. In previous editions the D20 roll did become somewhat irrelevant at later levels with all the bonuses and such stacked on them. In 5th though, the D20 roll itself is always somewhat relevant. Combat throughout the levels makes it so that the small bonuses you can get are significant since the die roll still tends to matter in what you're going to hit. A flat +5 to everything could probably be mitigated at the high end, but would cause issues at the low end.
Since it would be basically be added to *everything*, would it? If we just hiked DCs by +5, too, what would the genuine difference be? We'd be dealing with higher numbers at lower levels, but wouldn't the scale be the same? The rate of success, the impact of bonus modifiers?
Chen wrote:Not sure why you'd ever get better at moving boulders via experience. I'd maybe allow a circumstance bonus if you had some training in engineering or the like, but otherwise its just brute force, no reason anything but strength should do it. It would also make things counter-intuitive that somehow a 10 strength level 20 Wizard could PHYSICALLY move a boulder with the same effort as a level 1, 18 Strength Fighter could. What in their 20 levels of wizarding has made it easier for them to physically move boulders?
I agree that there isn't a "boulder moving" skill, but if moving a boulder is just as hard (DC wise) as swimming across a river, moving a boulder is actually harder because you never get to add a skill bonus.

My solution for the level twenty wizard would be to make sure wizards don't get to add their proficiency bonus to their generic strength checks; that's a fighter thing.

I presume this is for some sort of balance reasons. While more elegant if the formula was simple, its possible it was a problem in terms of gameplay.
You're probably right; the proficiency bonus starts at plus two, which indicates some sort of underlying math going on that I'm not seeing. I'm still curious why, and how a simpler system plays out.

A question I don't know the answer to: As a fighter, I add my proficiency bonus to strength and constitution saves. If I multiclass to a wizard, do I keep doing that? Adopt a wizard's saves? Get *both*?

Edit: Found the answer; you keep the saves of your original class. Which is simpler, but also kind of silly; if I'm a level 1 fighter -- and a level 19 wizard -- I have the same saving throws as a level 20 fighter.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 03, 2016 6:34 pm UTC

Adding +/- 5s increases the range, whereas rolling more dice does not. With more bonuses/penalties, there are more situations wherein actions are assured or impossible, not merely likely/unlikely. Proficiency is actually fairly elegant. That and the ability to add it are a bit like the Drama Die system from 7th Sea.

Proficiency progression is the same for all classes, so in practice, it doesn't actually matter. You're progressing by char level, not class level.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Chen » Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:04 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Since it would be basically be added to *everything*, would it? If we just hiked DCs by +5, too, what would the genuine difference be? We'd be dealing with higher numbers at lower levels, but wouldn't the scale be the same? The rate of success, the impact of bonus modifiers?


In terms of DCs I think you may be right, as far as I can tell. If you just added 5 to all skills and DCs there shouldn't be a difference. A lot of other things get more complicated. Armor class, for example. The max dex bonus for medium and heavy armor would require those armors to be rebalanced in some way, whereas light armor probably wouldn't need to be. But then being denied your dex bonus is WAY worse than it was before.

Damage would also be problematic. Yes everyone would have more HP due to higher con, but every physical hit they dealt would be much stronger. Spells would also be comparatively weaker since they don't generally get a casting stat added to damage, but rather to DC (which would be negated by increased save stats).

I agree that there isn't a "boulder moving" skill, but if moving a boulder is just as hard (DC wise) as swimming across a river, moving a boulder is actually harder because you never get to add a skill bonus.


I'm not sure that's an actual problem. Straight ability checks even in older editions had significantly different DCs compared to skill checks. A DC 10 strength check was WAY different from a DC 10 swim check in prior editions as it is in this one.

My solution for the level twenty wizard would be to make sure wizards don't get to add their proficiency bonus to their generic strength checks; that's a fighter thing.


Eh I don't like this. Even being a wizard doesn't prevent you from being exceptionally strong, especially if its strength to do something that doesn't really require a skill. This seems pretty consistent with past editions too where your chance to open a stuck door or bend bars was just reliant on your strength. Plus I imagine there are various feats/class abilities that DO grant you proficiency on various straight checks. I'd think there should be some cost to gaining that benefit.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:42 pm UTC

Wizards do not get strength as a proficiency by default.

If you've managed to do that, you've somehow burned resources on it that make you less wizardly and more strength based. It's an option, and it's not particularly broken in any way.

But no, most wizards will not be terrifically strong, or good at strength checks.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:08 pm UTC

Chen wrote:In terms of DCs I think you may be right, as far as I can tell. If you just added 5 to all skills and DCs there shouldn't be a difference. A lot of other things get more complicated. Armor class, for example. The max dex bonus for medium and heavy armor would require those armors to be rebalanced in some way, whereas light armor probably wouldn't need to be. But then being denied your dex bonus is WAY worse than it was before.
Yeah; I've been thinking about this problem a lot (how deeply being denied your dex bonus messes you up). My first thought was that you'd make heavy armor more powerful to accommodate for this (though I always preferred a damage-reduction setup for armor, instead; make heavy armor reduce overall damage, but have a much lower AC -- I think this setup would actually move closer toward that model, which might be a positive?).
Chen wrote:Damage would also be problematic. Yes everyone would have more HP due to higher con, but every physical hit they dealt would be much stronger. Spells would also be comparatively weaker since they don't generally get a casting stat added to damage, but rather to DC (which would be negated by increased save stats).
I kind of forgot that you add your strength bonus to melee attacks, so -- yeah, that would definitely change a lot of the HP dynamics. Same with spells, yeah.
Chen wrote:I'm not sure that's an actual problem. Straight ability checks even in older editions had significantly different DCs compared to skill checks. A DC 10 strength check was WAY different from a DC 10 swim check in prior editions as it is in this one.
That's kind of what bothers me; I feel like a Strength check and an Athletics check should be the same essential thing -- having two different scales of DC makes things fuzzy and confusing, especially when trained checks and untrained checks start to overlap.
Chen wrote:Eh I don't like this. Even being a wizard doesn't prevent you from being exceptionally strong, especially if its strength to do something that doesn't really require a skill. This seems pretty consistent with past editions too where your chance to open a stuck door or bend bars was just reliant on your strength. Plus I imagine there are various feats/class abilities that DO grant you proficiency on various straight checks. I'd think there should be some cost to gaining that benefit.
This is why I kind of like tying it to saving throws, instead; bring back the three basic ones (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will); make untrained checks based on your saving throws (Str/Con for Fort, Dex/Wis for Reflex, Cha/Int for Will). That way, a wizard could be ridiculously good at untrained strength checks -- they just have to buff their Fort stat (either via Strength or Constitution).

Alternatively, keep the six ability stat saving throws and use them for untrained skill checks too. Or maybe provide a feat that lets you add your proficiency bonus to untrained checks for one ability score; certain classes get a particular feat as a class ability for free (Fighters get the Untrained Strength bonus for free at level 2, etc).

---------
EDIT: In fact, the more I think about this, the more I think the (Attribute Bonus / 2) rounded up model works really well for dexterity bonus and AC stuff -- presuming you stop making armor grant an AC bonus, and start focusing on damage reduction, instead. Because it's always been really weird how D&D doesn't differentiate between dodging an attack versus blocking an attack; now, suddenly, heavy armor takes away your dex bonus to AC (making your AC extremely low), but also gives you a flat damage reduction score.

Now we can talk about stuff like armor-piercing attacks (which ignore your damage reduction, or a certain amount of it) without all sorts of weird, bizarre rulings.

(Of course, this wouldn't be an AC score anymore; it'd be a 'How Hard Is It To Hit You' score)

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Xanthir » Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:51 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:I don't get why they stuck with the clunky ability score bonus formula, though. (Ability Score - 10) / 2 -- rounded down? Why not just half your Ability Score, rounded down? No more negative ability bonuses; on top of that, it's much easier to calculate ability bonuses on the fly. Sure, it means adding +5s all over the place (Dexterity 20? +10 to your AC!), but I feel like that should be easy to account for. It also just makes more sense to me: If moving a boulder requires an average amount of Strength (DC: 10), it makes sense that someone with phenomenal strength (Strength: 20; +10) would never be able to fail outside of a 1.

Basically, because it makes the numbers bigger (and thus harder to work with intuitively; easy mental math is very dependent on low numbers), but the simplicity gain from figuring your bonus differently isn't enough to make it worthwhile.

Also, inertia. We've always done it this way.

Your example of how it would "make more sense" doesn't, itself, make any sense. If all ability bonuses got a flat +5, all DCs would raise by +5 too, so you'd have identical chances. Again, larger numbers, but same results.

Speaking of moving boulders -- it makes no sense how there's no circumstance under which I add my proficiency bonus to a check to move a boulder. But that's how it is; moving boulders is an unskilled Strength check, so I only add my Strength bonus to the roll (no skill bonus).

But that means that the DC: 15 for moving a boulder is actually harder to reach than the DC: 15 for swimming across a lake (Athletics; Strength + Athletics). That's... kind of silly, isn't it?

...why is "moving boulders" not an Athletics check? The skill system is intentionally very loose, precisely so you can fiddle with it in corner cases like this.

The new system for saving throws is something I'm also kind of bluh about -- I don't like that Charisma, Strength, and Intelligence are saving throws. I feel like there's a better solution here that fixes both these problems -- like a set of saving throws that double as untrained skill checks, maybe. Something like... go back to the original Fortitude/Reflex/Will saves, and let them also double as untrained ability checks (Fortitude for Strength/Constitution, Reflex for Dexterity/Wisdom, and Will for Intelligence/Charisma).

I'm not a huge fan of the particular *implementation* of saving throws in 5e - it's clear that the old Fort/Ref/Will saves (Con/Dex/Wis) are still the most common saves, so having a Str/Int/Cha saving throw proficiency just isn't worth as much. That said, I like the concept a lot - it throws away one more arbitrary delineation of reality, in favor of reusing the existing six-fold delineation we use for everything else.

Going with your "paired stats" idea just means one more concept for people to remember. It's quite nice that 5e has boiled down every single check to just d20 + stat + proficiency (+ special bonuses).

EDIT: I'm also struggling to understand why they went with such a non-intuitive formula for proficiency bonuses. I like proficiency bonuses, but I feel like it should just be your character level / 4 rounded down. Level 1 is zero; level 4 is +1 -- so on.

Then there'd be no difference between a proficient and non-proficient character until level level 4, and from 4-7 the difference is miniscule. As it is, even at 1st level you feel the difference, as +2 is a worthwhile bonus, and at high levels it's significant without being game-breaking. And the existing formula is easy - you get 4 levels with each bonus before it upgrades. (If you're a primary spellcaster, it upgrades whenever you unlock the next odd-numbered spell level, too.) The fact that it's non-trivial to write an arithmetic formula to convert level into prof bonus is irrelevant.

A question I don't know the answer to: As a fighter, I add my proficiency bonus to strength and constitution saves. If I multiclass to a wizard, do I keep doing that? Adopt a wizard's saves? Get *both*?

Edit: Found the answer; you keep the saves of your original class. Which is simpler, but also kind of silly; if I'm a level 1 fighter -- and a level 19 wizard -- I have the same saving throws as a level 20 fighter.

Yes, you get your original saving throw profs from your first level (representing your original years of training). A Fighter1/Wizard19 can have either fighter-ish profs or wizard-ish profs, depending on which class they took at first level. You can take feats to gain additional proficiencies if you want.

Having rules to *change* proficiencies just isn't worth it. It doesn't make a difference for the vast majority of characters (who are either single-class or at least reasonably-consistent multi-class), and it's more math to do for people who *are* multiclass. If really important, a player can work with their DM to swap things around, or they can just take that feat and be done with it.

It's important to remember that D&D is not a reality simulator. It's intentionally a game, and in 5e it's explicitly trying to pull back on the complexity of previous editions while retaining the same feel as the old versions. Fiddly stuff like "you get a saving throw prof if at least half of your levels have that prof, per saving throw" is just needless complexity that, in the very rare cases when people care, can be handled outside the rules just fine.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:30 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:Your example of how it would "make more sense" doesn't, itself, make any sense. If all ability bonuses got a flat +5, all DCs would raise by +5 too, so you'd have identical chances. Again, larger numbers, but same results.
It mostly just makes sense to me to get rid of negative ability bonuses and to simplify how you calculate things. I have distinct memories of having to refer to charts rather than being able to figure out an ability score on the fly; to me, the less you have to refer to a chart, the better.

Now that I actually know what the formula is, I don't have to refer to a chart -- but the inelegance of it still grates on me.
Xanthir wrote:...why is "moving boulders" not an Athletics check? The skill system is intentionally very loose, precisely so you can fiddle with it in corner cases like this.
Honestly, it probably should be -- and if I were DMing a campaign, it would be. But D&D still describes moving a boulder as a strength check rather than an athletics check.

Thinking on it, though, that's actually a much easier solution; all 'nonskilled' strength checks are athletics; all 'nonskilled' dexterity checks are acrobatics; all 'unskilled' wisdom checks are perception, etc. That elevates certain skills, though.
Xanthir wrote:I'm not a huge fan of the particular *implementation* of saving throws in 5e - it's clear that the old Fort/Ref/Will saves (Con/Dex/Wis) are still the most common saves, so having a Str/Int/Cha saving throw proficiency just isn't worth as much. That said, I like the concept a lot - it throws away one more arbitrary delineation of reality, in favor of reusing the existing six-fold delineation we use for everything else.

Going with your "paired stats" idea just means one more concept for people to remember. It's quite nice that 5e has boiled down every single check to just d20 + stat + proficiency (+ special bonuses).
I agree regarding the fact that Fort/Ref/Will is just one more thing to remember; it's much neater to just have six stats apply to six saves (which have the same name). I also agree that it's very, very nice that 5th edition has boiled all the checks down to a really simple formula.

One of the ideas I like, though: Make Fort/Ref/Will defensive stats (rather than saves); your Reflex takes the place of your AC (armor reduces Reflex, though never below 10; it adds DR instead). Return saving throws to what they were in 4th edition; generic rolls that sometimes gain bonuses based on feats or special circumstances ("+1 to saves against fear").
Xanthir wrote:Then there'd be no difference between a proficient and non-proficient character until level level 4, and from 4-7 the difference is miniscule. As it is, even at 1st level you feel the difference, as +2 is a worthwhile bonus, and at high levels it's significant without being game-breaking. And the existing formula is easy - you get 4 levels with each bonus before it upgrades. (If you're a primary spellcaster, it upgrades whenever you unlock the next odd-numbered spell level, too.) The fact that it's non-trivial to write an arithmetic formula to convert level into prof bonus is irrelevant.
I was thinking about this, and wondering if it was something that came up in playtesting; the idea of level 1 having a +2 proficiency bonus right from the outset probably makes you feel more like a badass (which is a totally reasonable explanation as to why you start with +2).

Also, I guess my issue with it is just that if I hear someone's level 17, I have to stop and think a while to figure out what their proficiency bonus is (but I presume that's why tables exist in D&D; so you can just look the value up).

I'd prefer it to be something like your level / 4 rounded down, but I can understand why that doesn't precisely work the way they want it to.
Xanthir wrote:It's important to remember that D&D is not a reality simulator. It's intentionally a game, and in 5e it's explicitly trying to pull back on the complexity of previous editions while retaining the same feel as the old versions. Fiddly stuff like "you get a saving throw prof if at least half of your levels have that prof, per saving throw" is just needless complexity that, in the very rare cases when people care, can be handled outside the rules just fine.
I agree, I just wish there was a more elegant solution. I feel like a level 1 Fighter/Level 19 Wizard shouldn't have a level 20 Fighter's saves; I also don't think a complex multi-class formula is going to help at all. Reducing base complexity (while maintaining some semblance of emergent complexity) is definitely the best call; their decision reflects that. I just can't help but think there might be a better solution.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Chen » Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:48 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Wizards do not get strength as a proficiency by default.

If you've managed to do that, you've somehow burned resources on it that make you less wizardly and more strength based. It's an option, and it's not particularly broken in any way.

But no, most wizards will not be terrifically strong, or good at strength checks.


No one actually gets proficiency in strength checks by default do they? Strength saves yes, but the actual checks I presume you'd need a feat or special class ability (if it even exists) to get.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Xanthir » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:26 pm UTC

Chen wrote:No one actually gets proficiency in strength checks by default do they? Strength saves yes, but the actual checks I presume you'd need a feat or special class ability (if it even exists) to get.

No, when we're talking about "strength proficiency" or what have you, we mean proficiency in strength saving throws. That's just too long of a phrase.

(There are some things that'll grant you proficiency with all checks with a given attribute, but they're class abilities or magic items.)

The Great Hippo wrote:It mostly just makes sense to me to get rid of negative ability bonuses and to simplify how you calculate things. I have distinct memories of having to refer to charts rather than being able to figure out an ability score on the fly; to me, the less you have to refer to a chart, the better.

Now that I actually know what the formula is, I don't have to refer to a chart -- but the inelegance of it still grates on me.

Yeah, I'm not disagreeing that it's a little awkward, but the results we get today really are worthwhile - the "typical" stat (10 or 11) gives a +0, neither good nor bad, and even high stats only contribute a +3 or +4 to the roll. Having +5 be the "neutral" result is non-intuitive, and having the standard ability spreads be somewhere between +5 and +9 makes the mental math significantly more difficult. (Many of us number nerds don't truly understand how much trouble even simple mental math causes people, even fellow nerds; having to carry is a significant source of errors. Plus, D&D is designed to be accessible to kids, who have weaker mental math faculties than an average adult anyway.)

Your simpler formula makes it easier to calculate stat bonuses, which happens only a few times across an entire campaign, usually in downtime when it's okay to take a little bit longer, or take the time to look it up in a table. The small numbers they currently use make *every single roll* easier to mentally handle. They made the right tradeoff imo. ^_^

The Great Hippo wrote:Honestly, it probably should be -- and if I were DMing a campaign, it would be. But D&D still describes moving a boulder as a strength check rather than an athletics check.

Sure. And that does make sense - the distinction is between "things you can get better at with practice" and "things you only get better at by making yourself generically better" (that is, raising your stat). You can get a *lot* better at swimming just by practicing; given equal strength, a skilled swimmer and an unskilled one are very noticeably different. You can't get a lot better at moving boulders just by practicing; given equal strength, a skilled lifter would be a bit better than an unskilled one (knowing better lifting techniques, etc), but the difference is relatively minor. You get better at moving boulders by getting stronger, mainly.

But just throwing it under Athletics works too, if you want. Doesn't matter that much.

The Great Hippo wrote:Thinking on it, though, that's actually a much easier solution; all 'nonskilled' strength checks are athletics; all 'nonskilled' dexterity checks are acrobatics; all 'unskilled' wisdom checks are perception, etc. That elevates certain skills, though.

No reason to do that; Str is an outlier with its one associated skill, but the rest of the stats all have a variety of skills that cover different areas.

The Great Hippo wrote:I was thinking about this, and wondering if it was something that came up in playtesting; the idea of level 1 having a +2 proficiency bonus right from the outset probably makes you feel more like a badass (which is a totally reasonable explanation as to why you start with +2).

Yes, but not just that - like I said earlier, your idea means that there is literally no difference between a "proficient" and "non-proficient" player until level 4, and it's not until level 8 or 12 that it starts actually being *noticeable*. Distinctions that make no difference are an anti-pattern anywhere; this is why 3e's "good" saves started with +2 while it's "bad" ones started at +0. (This is also one of the reasons why it's BAB system wasn't great: medium and bad BAB were identical until level 3, and only +1 different until level 7; good bab was only +1 better than medium/bad at first, and doesn't pull any more ahead until level 3 (for bad) or level 5 (for medium). BAB was just mostly insignificant until much higher levels, precisely because all three formulas started from a base of 0.)

The Great Hippo wrote:I agree, I just wish there was a more elegant solution. I feel like a level 1 Fighter/Level 19 Wizard shouldn't have a level 20 Fighter's saves; I also don't think a complex multi-class formula is going to help at all. Reducing base complexity (while maintaining some semblance of emergent complexity) is definitely the best call; their decision reflects that. I just can't help but think there might be a better solution.

You're welcome to try for one, but I don't think you'll succeed. ^_^ Iron Heroes had this problem much worse; its Mastery bonuses added together in a "simple" but totally nonsensical way, and the fanbase tried to make it work better in a simple way for a long time; the best we got was a somewhat complex multiclassing formula. The big difference here is that Masteries were *vital* to your character in Iron Heroes, and having them be non-intuitive was a big deal; saving throws don't matter all that much in D&D.

But really, if you just need a gloss so they "make more sense" to you, consider that your initial saves and weapon/armor profs are the result of years of training in your youth. Characters usually level up in very short amounts of time, comparatively; ignoring travel time that doesn't do much, many D&D campaigns are actually just a few weeks long. Every level past 1 is the result of hyper-fast story-based character advancement (you're a Hero©), not ordinary training.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Chen » Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:49 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:No, when we're talking about "strength proficiency" or what have you, we mean proficiency in strength saving throws. That's just too long of a phrase.

(There are some things that'll grant you proficiency with all checks with a given attribute, but they're class abilities or magic items.)


Yeah since I was talking about strong wizards moving boulders I was referring to the Strength checks, rather than the saves, which is why I was confused by Tyndmyr's response.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:25 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:Yeah, I'm not disagreeing that it's a little awkward, but the results we get today really are worthwhile - the "typical" stat (10 or 11) gives a +0, neither good nor bad, and even high stats only contribute a +3 or +4 to the roll. Having +5 be the "neutral" result is non-intuitive, and having the standard ability spreads be somewhere between +5 and +9 makes the mental math significantly more difficult. (Many of us number nerds don't truly understand how much trouble even simple mental math causes people, even fellow nerds; having to carry is a significant source of errors. Plus, D&D is designed to be accessible to kids, who have weaker mental math faculties than an average adult anyway.)

Your simpler formula makes it easier to calculate stat bonuses, which happens only a few times across an entire campaign, usually in downtime when it's okay to take a little bit longer, or take the time to look it up in a table. The small numbers they currently use make *every single roll* easier to mentally handle. They made the right tradeoff imo. ^_^
That... actually makes a lot of sense to me, yeah (it doesn't hurt that you've apparently included me under the heading 'number nerds').

I still like the aesthetic of non-negative ability bonuses (they're called bonuses, for goodness sake!), but yeah, I can at least now see why they would want to keep the numbers low (and maintain the idea that ''average" = "zero").
Xanthir wrote:You're welcome to try for one, but I don't think you'll succeed. ^_^ Iron Heroes had this problem much worse; its Mastery bonuses added together in a "simple" but totally nonsensical way, and the fanbase tried to make it work better in a simple way for a long time; the best we got was a somewhat complex multiclassing formula. The big difference here is that Masteries were *vital* to your character in Iron Heroes, and having them be non-intuitive was a big deal; saving throws don't matter all that much in D&D.
I actually have a copy of Iron Heroes at home; I haven't read it in ages, but I'll pick it up later and take a gander (mostly because this problem fascinates me). But yeah, if a group of creative minds couldn't think of a solution to this problem, I doubt I'm going to fair any better.

(The best I've come up with is 3.5's solution; each class has its own specific save progression. Which means more charts. Adding proficiency is way easier)
Xanthir wrote:But really, if you just need a gloss so they "make more sense" to you, consider that your initial saves and weapon/armor profs are the result of years of training in your youth. Characters usually level up in very short amounts of time, comparatively; ignoring travel time that doesn't do much, many D&D campaigns are actually just a few weeks long. Every level past 1 is the result of hyper-fast story-based character advancement (you're a Hero©), not ordinary training.
This is actually a solution I was thinking about; the idea that your first level represents your actual profession, and all the following levels are just things you pick up in pursuit of that profession.

I really like this idea, though it starts to feel a little bit like a different game. Like, if you're really going for broke on this solution, I feel like your background should determine your saving throw progression. But that isn't what D&D is about; I'm probably over-thinking this.

EDIT: I still do like 4th edition's fix: Saves are a d20 roll that has to beat 10. Sometimes, breaking free requires multiple saves. Also, you gain bonuses based on circumstances (but instead of adding bonuses, just roll the save as an advantage; elves get advantage on saves against charm spells, for example). That breaks the elegance of all checks being d20 + ability bonus + proficiency bonus + relevant modifiers, but it's also very simple (and since all you get are advantages -- rather than bonuses -- you don't need to do any math).

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:57 pm UTC

One of the issues D&D faces is one of power-creep - 20 years ago, when I started playing (2nd Edition AD&D), character generation was 3d6 six times, generating the stats in order, and then see which race/class combinations you actually qualified for. You'd routinely see player characters with stats at 6 or lower, and if you rolled the stats for a Paladin, you played Paladin because you might not get another chance...

By 4th Ed (I don't have 5th Ed chargen rules handy) the standard was a fixed array of 6 numbers from 10 to 16, arranged in whichever order you like, with a point-buy variant that could give you one stat as low as 8, and a third option of rolling 4d6, drop lowest, six times and rearranging to suit - with a warning that unless your character's ability bonuses fall in the +4 to +8 range, they'd be dangerously unbalanced. So that's an average +6 total bonus, or an average bonus of +1, or an average ability score of 12.5.

Anyway, as Xanthir points out, in modern D&D, 10 is not so much the average ability score as the minimum, making the minimum ability score bonus +0 rather than +5.

His other point - about it being worth adding half an hour of consulting tables or performing detailed calculations to character generation if it saves a few seconds from each attack - is also a good one. There is a less obvious downside - between chargen being the first thing a lot of players experience, and a half-hour delay in chargen being a lot more visible than a 3 second delay in resolving an attack, delays imposed by chargen carry a disproportionate publicity cost compared to delays buried in routine play. On the other hand, while the obvious delays during chargen will get complained about, routine delays during play will just give players the feeling of the game getting bogged down and put them off the whole thing rather than putting them off specific aspects...

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Xanthir » Sat Nov 05, 2016 2:56 am UTC

Chargen is also the time when you are *actively looking at tables*, so just looking up the bonus is barely noticeable in all the other table-lookups you're performing.

rmsgrey wrote:One of the issues D&D faces is one of power-creep - 20 years ago, when I started playing (2nd Edition AD&D), character generation was 3d6 six times, generating the stats in order, and then see which race/class combinations you actually qualified for. You'd routinely see player characters with stats at 6 or lower, and if you rolled the stats for a Paladin, you played Paladin because you might not get another chance...

By 4th Ed (I don't have 5th Ed chargen rules handy) the standard was a fixed array of 6 numbers from 10 to 16, arranged in whichever order you like, with a point-buy variant that could give you one stat as low as 8, and a third option of rolling 4d6, drop lowest, six times and rearranging to suit - with a warning that unless your character's ability bonuses fall in the +4 to +8 range, they'd be dangerously unbalanced. So that's an average +6 total bonus, or an average bonus of +1, or an average ability score of 12.5.

That's not really power-creep. It just makes your characters more consistent, and allows you more agency over the character you play. Having to play a paladin because the stats you rolled is ideal for paladins is kinda sucky for most people. (Those restrictions are nice if that's what you're going for; it can breed creativity. But it's terrible if you went in wanting to play a spellcaster.) And the "power level" is based on how the numbers compare to *everything else*, too; we don't have a static background of level-appropriate monsters and quests against which our changing ability-generation techniques are being applied.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby rmsgrey » Sat Nov 05, 2016 3:22 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:That's not really power-creep. It just makes your characters more consistent, and allows you more agency over the character you play. Having to play a paladin because the stats you rolled is ideal for paladins is kinda sucky for most people. (Those restrictions are nice if that's what you're going for; it can breed creativity. But it's terrible if you went in wanting to play a spellcaster.) And the "power level" is based on how the numbers compare to *everything else*, too; we don't have a static background of level-appropriate monsters and quests against which our changing ability-generation techniques are being applied.


It's not just making the characters more consistent; it's also making the typical numbers larger - if you keep the background assumption that the general population is generated by rolling 3d6 for each stat, then adventurers are no longer drawn freely from the general population (okay, someone who didn't have at least 9 in at least one of Str, Dex, Int, Wis wouldn't qualify for any character class) but are rather always a bit better than average, though never truly exceptional.

You could subtract 10 from all ability scores and have most characters starting with abilities in the 0-6 range, making ability score bonuses just half your ability score (rounded in the negative direction) without significant mechanical implications.

The numbers for PCs have been pushed higher - insofar as they're comparable across editions, that's power creep.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby Chen » Mon Nov 07, 2016 1:55 pm UTC

Ad&d second edition had 6 methods for rolling characters in it. The base method was the 3D6 in order, but it had everything from the common standard now (4D6 drop the lowest, assign where you want) to an early version of the point buy system, albeit with base scores and then rolling dice to determine the "points" you had to spend.

Back then stats were also wildly top heavy in terms of benefit and did practically nothing at the mid-low levels. Str needed at least a 16 before you got any combat bonus (+1 damage I think) whereas an 18/00 was something ridiculous like +3 hit +6 damage. Most stats needed at least a 15-16 before you started getting any type of bonus. Hell IIRC you needed 18 intelligence to even be able to cast 9th level spells. While thats actually less restrictive in terms of pure numbers than 3rd/3.5/pathfinder (19 needed for 9th level spells), those editions have MUCH easier ways to raise stats. In 2nd Ed there were wishes, those random manuals and GM fiat to get stats raised. Combined with the ridiculous bonus exp if you had high stats in your primaries for your class, it meant that the die roll for stats was HUGELY problematic in terms of balance. Those outlier scores that sometimes get rolled were rewarded greatly.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Feb 18, 2017 1:49 pm UTC

Necroing this thread for a D&D-related discussion that came up here:

I'm aiming to have a system that streamlines damage/hitpoints with D&D's d20 check system (rather than having a completely separate sub-system). What I'm coming up with (and what I'd like feedback/criticism on) is based on a core premise that SecondTalon described years ago (using saving throws to determine the degree of damage):

You have a score that represents your resistance to being injured; let's call it 'Resilience' (we can call it anything). It's based on... something. Whatever you'd like.

All attacks/spells/sources of damage use flat integer values. Whenever you get hit with something that does damage, you have to make a save against injury -- 1d20 + resilience versus a DC of 10 + the damage value. Keeping rolling until you succeed.

Every time you fail, the injury you receive is upgraded (None to minor; minor to moderate, moderate to major, etc). Each injury you receive is tracked separately, and inflicts a (cumulative) penalty to all rolls you make after you receive the injury. The penalty goes up one for each tier (minor is -1, moderate is -2, etc).

(Again, injury penalties are cumulative; so six minor injuries = -6 to all rolls)

You're unconscious when you receive an incapacitating injury; you die when you receive a mortal injury. You can throttle the 'survivability' of your campaign via removing or adding tiers of injuries between 'minor' and 'mortal' (since a 20 is an auto-success, each additional tier gives you at least a 5% chance of avoiding a 'mortal' injury).

How does this sound as a replacement for D&D's hitpoints/damage rolls system? Are there any glaring issues with it (beside having to basically re-evaluate the amount of damage everything does, I mean)?

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby pseudoidiot » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:16 pm UTC

If I remember right Mutants & Masterminds has a similar idea where basically everything is a saving throw. I may be off-base because I haven't played, but that was the understanding I got.

The Great Hippo wrote:Keeping rolling until you succeed.
This is the part I wouldn't like. I don't like anything where I'm basically rolling as part of the same effect, whatever that may mean.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:39 pm UTC

Mutants and Masterminds uses 'degrees' of success; I'd have to double-check with the text, but it basically amounts to using the difference between a successful check and the DC, dividing it by 5, rounding up, and treating the resulting number as the "degree" of success. So if I roll a 28 -- against a DC of 15 -- I have two 'degrees' of success. When you hit someone, you make a damage roll against their toughness, and the degree of success determines how injured they are.

I don't like degrees mostly because it involves additional operations to determine the severity of damage. However, I see what you're saying about too many rolls -- I've replaced the calculation of degree with several rolls (keeping rolling, and every time you fail, increase the degree).

On one hand, I don't see rolling a couple of D20s as much different than rolling a couple of D6s. On the other hand, when you roll the D6s, you just add up the values and apply the number -- in this case, you're rolling a D20, comparing the value -- rolling another D20, comparing the value -- rolling another D20, comparing the value...

The simple fix for this is to find a way to determine the 'severity' of damage from a single check; M&M's 'degrees' are an easy way to do that -- but I instinctively don't like 'degrees' because of the extra math.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby rmsgrey » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:46 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Necroing this thread for a D&D-related discussion that came up here:

I'm aiming to have a system that streamlines damage/hitpoints with D&D's d20 check system (rather than having a completely separate sub-system). What I'm coming up with (and what I'd like feedback/criticism on) is based on a core premise that SecondTalon described years ago (using saving throws to determine the degree of damage):

You have a score that represents your resistance to being injured; let's call it 'Resilience' (we can call it anything). It's based on... something. Whatever you'd like.

All attacks/spells/sources of damage use flat integer values. Whenever you get hit with something that does damage, you have to make a save against injury -- 1d20 + resilience versus a DC of 10 + the damage value. Keeping rolling until you succeed.

Every time you fail, the injury you receive is upgraded (None to minor; minor to moderate, moderate to major, etc). Each injury you receive is tracked separately, and inflicts a (cumulative) penalty to all rolls you make after you receive the injury. The penalty goes up one for each tier (minor is -1, moderate is -2, etc).

(Again, injury penalties are cumulative; so six minor injuries = -6 to all rolls)

You're unconscious when you receive an incapacitating injury; you die when you receive a mortal injury. You can throttle the 'survivability' of your campaign via removing or adding tiers of injuries between 'minor' and 'mortal' (since a 20 is an auto-success, each additional tier gives you at least a 5% chance of avoiding a 'mortal' injury).

How does this sound as a replacement for D&D's hitpoints/damage rolls system? Are there any glaring issues with it (beside having to basically re-evaluate the amount of damage everything does, I mean)?


There's a pretty obvious pacing issue - every hit requires multiple rolls to resolve, but you don't know how many until after you roll them - so rather than roll a fistful of dice and work out the result, you roll a die, work out the result, possibly roll a second die, work out the result, possibly roll a third die, work out the result, etc - and then you have to remember how many rolls it was... One of the great advantages of D&D's system over other systems out there is that you can fully resolve most attacks with a single roll (d20+damage dice) rather than needing to roll multiple waves of dice...


Also, there's a known issue with systems where the more hits you take, the more likely you are to take more hits - they're unstable: in a fight between two evenly matched opponents, the first hit will usually win since after the first hit, their opponent is more likely to take damage, less able to deal damage, and the damage they do take is more likely to be crippling. Contrast that with the current system, where the first hit does still provide an advantage, but only because it then takes fewer additional hits to finish them. Another way of looking at it is that under the usual system, if both players roll the same numbers in different orders, they'll score the same number of hits; in your system, the player who rolls high to start and low later will get a lot more hits than the player who starts low and gets higher.

Obviously, instability has the advantage of realism, but it makes it much harder to balance encounters - a couple of bad rolls can turn what should be an easy fight into a TPK - heck, a sufficiently unlucky player can go down on the first hit. And remember, randomness is bad for PCs - PCs have to get lucky on every single encounter; the monsters only have to get lucky once.

Damage that weakens the recipient sounds good, and is an attractive idea from a realism standpoint, but when it's been tried in the past, it's generally led to combat that doesn't feel fun to play out. That can work, but only when you make combat a last resort rather than a bread-and-butter mechanic - gritty realism means players either avoid combat as much as possible, or spend a lot of time rolling new characters...

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:03 pm UTC

I see what you're saying about the instability. I was debating various ways to mitigate injury penalties (for example, replacing temporary hitpoints with the ability to just ignore injury penalties), but those are all very situational. Another solution is to have the injury penalties only apply to injury rolls; this means receiving injuries doesn't directly impact your ability to deliver deliver injuries (but injuries tend to gather more injuries, which incentivizes removing the injuries before they escalate and take you out of the battle).

Regarding the multiple-roll thing -- I can't think of a good solution outside of M&M's 'degree' system; some way where the degree of your success or failure (how far away from the DC you are) determines the severity of the wound. This makes it just two rolls -- a roll to hit, and a roll to inflict injuries (or a roll to resist injuries -- whichever direction you'd take it). I just instinctively dislike this, because it involves operations rather than comparisons.

I'd dislike it a lot more if there was a way to guarantee the numbers involved would always be simple (like, divisible by 5), but I can't think of a good way to make it that easy.

EDIT: A few alternatives, maybe:

  • Multiple DCs (DC: 15 to inflict a minor wound, DC: 20 to inflict a moderate wound...) could work, but now we have to calculate those DCs, which is going to be a pain. I mean, if you calculate them in advance -- and have them all on paper -- that's fine, but it's kind of cumbersome to have, like... 5 separate 'armor classes'.
  • Make degrees operate on factors of 10. If you roll 10 or higher than a DC, you go up to the next tier. So, if the DC is 15, a 25 is tier 2, a 35 is tier 3... that's much easier to calculate, but D20 systems kind of don't work via factors of 10.
  • Roll against a 'Resilience' DC; if you succeed, calculate the difference. This is the severity of the wound. I like this idea most, since it's a super-simple calculation -- but it's precariously close to just a re-vamp of hitpoints. Plus, this wouldn't work with just five tiers of wounds; you'd probably end up with a system that tracks 'wound points' and knocks you out if your wound points exceed a certain value.

That last idea catches my eye the most -- it's actually not all that dissimilar from HP. It just turns damage rolls into a d20 roll + modifiers. Beat the DC, and then use the difference as damage.

It does a few things -- flattens damage values to integers (which I like), gets rid of non-d20 dice (which I also like), cleanly separates blocking / resisting a hit from dodging a hit (also like), and creates a built-in crit-confirmation system (a natural 20 on your to-hit roll is a guaranteed hit; a natural 20 on your damage roll does critical damage).

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons Math (5th edition)

Postby eran_rathan » Thu Feb 23, 2017 7:06 pm UTC

Your last idea is much the same idea as 7th Sea's Raises - every 5 above a TN is a Raise, which lets you do something extra/dramatic against your opponent.
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