Sunday, January 24, 2016

When Dice Attack

I have a thing, a pet peeve I suppose, that I try not to feed, but every so often it pops into my head.
I hate exploding dice.
For the non-gamers, and the gamers that don't know what I mean, exploding dice are when a game has a rule that states that whenever a die is rolled and comes up with its highest value (e.g. a 6 on a d6) that die gets to be re-rolled and the player keeps the original value plus the new value, summed.  So if you roll a 6 on a d6 you roll again and add the new value to 6.  Typically exploding dice have no limit.  If you continue to roll the highest value you keep adding to the total until you roll a value less than the maximum.
I hate this.
In the first place it plays havoc with probability.  
In the second place it's just bullshit.
I say it is bullshit because the notion of dice in gaming is to provide a randomizing agent for actions and events that might occur but the game is not of a scale to go into the details.  When your fighter swings his sword at the orc, the GM is not deciding that the orc ducks at just the right moment or that you slip on a patch of wet grass and miss.  The dice do that for you.  When it comes time to disarm the trap, you sneaky rogue, the dice determine if your fingers are as nimble as you think they are.  This randomizer is balanced by skill, mathematically speaking, in terms of hit bonuses, defense values, skill points and various other factors.  
Let us say you have a rather complex game with many skills and some of those skills can be attempted even if your character does not possess the skill itself, such as picking a lock.  Why shouldn't you be allowed to try?  That's the attitude of most gamers.  If your fighter has no lock picking skills, can he not still attempt it?  Some games say "no" and others say "sure, here is a default rule".  
The default skill rule is by no means standard, but generally games that use it allow the player to attempt something by defaulting to a related skill or attribute and taking a penalty.  
Now add in the exploding dice bollocks.  You roll your dice, with a massive penalty, and despite the mathematical odds, your dice explodes and you get to roll again and it explodes and...
You succeed in such a spectacular way that the party thief wants to know what in the hell he's even here for.
Same applies with combat.  Lucky shots happen, I'm not saying they do not, but I've seen it happen in games with exploding dice far, far too often.  I'm describing situations where the least skilled party member, in a moment of insanity or panic throws a dagger and shear exploding dice luck kicks in and it KILLS A DAMN DRAGON.  Instantly.  That had full hit points.  
I hate that.
Not because I want people to suffer, or deny them their fun, but because it totally throws off the whole game.  It hurts feelings, it ruins carefully crafted plans, and it has to be explained.  Now your GM is having to describe some awesome event in glowing terms.  Your game has just become a Monty Python sketch.  I love Monty Python, but I don't want to play a Monty Python RPG.
There is also the problem of probability with which to contend.  
Would anybody care to work out the odds?
I am no expert, but since it is an infinite number (open ended re-rolls) then I would assume, correctly or incorrectly, that the probability is infinite as well.
I could be wrong.
Mostly it just annoys me when some level 1 nobody wipes out the evil Lich Lord first attack when he never should have been there in the first place.

I hate them.

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