Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Too Many Dice?!!

I am the Warden and this is a quote from Robert Schwalb on his recent post on sneak attack in D&D Next!!
"The rogue in the current playtest document has sneak attack, and it’s a combination of the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition rules. The extra damage as of right now goes all the way up to 10d6 at the highest levels, but a rogue can use the damage against anybody. At first glance, this feels right, but the more I turn it over in my head, the less satisfied I am with how it works. For starts, an extra 10d6 damage whenever the rogue hits with advantage? At the highest levels, a rogue’s dishing out 20d6 damage a round before we even get to weapon damage and other damage boosters. Sure, this is fun for a while, but I know people who trip up adding together 4d8 or even putting a d20 result with a single number."
It's the last sentence that's bugging me, almost as if it were an affront to RPGs as a whole. Sure, sure, I can go into the whole "When I was young and played AD&D..." blah blah blah, but that'll just be mistaken as an old school argument and stray from point about dice and gaming in general.

When I read that sentence, my initial reaction was "Are you fucking kidding me?" In an age where computers are at our beck and call and DMs use dice rolling apps and games are played via computers, are we really that concerned about having dice numbers toned down because we're concerned about players having trouble doing basic arithmetic? Where the game is taught by reading a 200+ page tome? And sold in book stores?

On this debate, I'm willing to come across as an insensitive prick, though I would argue against it. I play with someone has trouble doing math in his head and brings a calculator to games, all while sitting next to another player who can recite Pi infidecimally (and probably knows how to spell that word too) and pops out formulas for the chances of success in a millisecond... but he adores D&D and defends it to his last breath. I'm still learning to cope with my own issues of calculation after my accident - what used to be calculated in a heartbeat mentally must now be written down and I still have a chance of getting it wrong. That being said, I stand by my comments because it just seems insulting to players.

Can everyone add numbers in their head in a flash? No. But they don't have to. What's startling is this has been told to me on a couple of occasions during my development of the Optional System and Killshot. "People can't add very fast. Too many dice slows down the game." Are you telling me no one can perform basic math any more? And if they do have trouble, using a calculator is worse than an initiative tracker, miniature terrain, or even a GM screen as an aid to play?

There's a lot about Rob's post on sneak attacks I agree with and I'm not attacking that. Just this seemingly standardized viewpoint that the core audience for RPGs is automatically too dumb to handle multiple dice. A genre of gaming where only new players have one set of dice and experienced gamers have dice sets for each character? If I seem to overreact, then look at it this way. If you wrote a novel and your editor told you to change some of the wording because "people can't read words more than three syllables large," what would your reaction be? Not kids, adults.

I've been playtesting a game involving multiple dice - a dice pool, if you will. The difference between adding a single die to a predetermined modifier (which never changes in the game, mind you) and adding up a pool of 5-7 dice in one roll is miniscule. Maybe over the course of hours, my game is losing out on 5 minutes compared to rolling a single die and I can live with that. Some have more difficulty, yes. Including myself, but it's the same trouble I'll have rolling a single die unless I'm playing a game with no modifiers at all.

This is what I hate about mass marketing and brings me back to a point I've made countless times before - we're not popular!!! We're a market unto itself played by reasonably intelligent and free-thinking people. We play RPGs not because they're easy or cheap, we play them for their flexibility and level of engagement. I like playing games where you get to roll a lot. Others don't share that passion. And that's OK. It just infuriates me to hear this level of crap (a word I can use freely) without evidence. If you want evidence, look to the hugely successful miniature war game market and tell them players don't like rolling multiple dice.


Wow. I had no idea it pissed me off so much.