Monday, November 26, 2012

Weird Realization

So we are all familiar with the randomness of dice based gaming used to simulate chance and luck. Even if you tweak every little thing and take flaws and min/max yourself to a power level of over 9000, it stills comes down to a die roll. You can dual wield rapiers, scimitars, cutlasses, or kukris and get Improved Critical and have your 30% chance to crit with each of your two to seven attacks from Two-Weapon Fighting, but it still comes down to a die roll. Your crit may auto hit (only on a 20) and you may do double damage, but it doesn't mean shit if you roll snakes eyes (That's two ones, right? I know shit about gambling and dice, aside from the obvious fairly niche expertise). It's that random element of chance that keeps the game organic and exciting, it leads to that wee little bit of tightening in your gut when you absolutely have to hit that undead monstrosity and you do and your roll may save the party or lead to your death. 

For the longest time I have been irritated with the random rolls to determine ability scores and hit points. So much so that since we've played 4th Edition and Pathfinder, I have used the point buy system for ability score generation and static hit points every level, which is only a change for Pathfinder. My gripe is that one Fighter can end up with a bunch of 16s and 18s and the other can end up with a pile of 12s for his ability scores. One Fighter can end up needing to hide behind the Rogue to soak up damage while the other can just straight up wade into battle and not have to worry about it. It offers up kind of an unfair imbalance to the gameplay. My thought is that the players should at the very least be able to construct characters in a reliable fashion so that they are on even ground. I mean, if you're going to roll randomly for hit points and ability scores, why not skill points as well? Fighters get d4, Rogues d10, and so on. Modified by Intelligence modifier obviously. Anyway, my belief is that the core character should be static to ensure that everyone is built in the same way and there is kind of a fair and balanced set up for characters to be constructed on that puts everyone on even footing. 

So I've felt this way for a long time about ability scores and hit points, but never about damage rolls or saving throws or anything like that. I mean, a 6th level Wizard casts fireball and gets a low roll on his 6d6 and his buddy the 5th level Wizard casts fireball and gets a good roll on his 5d6 and does more damage than the more experienced and more powerful Wizard. I mean, looking at it logically, the 6th level Wizard is better, he should reliably do more damage (and he very well may, depending on feat selection, but for this exercise these two Wizards have all the same feats), but all his experience and power gain him is a larger potential for damage. Which is odd, isn't it? I mean the Wizard is a class of training and study and learning to grant you the skill necessary to wield magic, whereas the Sorcerer just like does it because he can with no practice or study. 

While sitting here typing about the topic, it does seem fairly odd that my need for balanced statistics hasn't extended to weapons and saves and spells and the like, I still don't feel like it is something important that needs to be added to the game. It's just a kind of weird incongruity stuck in my brain place at the moment. I suppose ultimately it boils down to the fact that hit points and ability scores are always going to be a main chunk of your character. They're with you for as long as you play the game. They are with you for every single combat, whereas that random die roll for damage from your sword or spell is with you for that single six second round of combat. Your Charisma bonus is with you for every single Diplomacy or Bluff roll. Blah blah etc etc.

Weapon rolls and spell rolls have always been random, there is no edition of the game where they haven't. Although, a part of me really likes the OD&D rules for weapon damage rolls. Single handed weapons like a longsword or battle axe do 1d6 damage. Two-handed weapons roll 2d6, but use the higher of the two die rolls for damage, and small weapons like a dagger roll 2d6 but use the lower die result as the damage. It's a pretty simple system that kind of eliminates the need for three pages of weapon charts and special abilities, but as the game has become more complex and involved more statistics, a simplified system like that doesn't really fit in. 

Interesting thought, what if Intelligence/study based arcane casters have static values based on the average die result (d4 = 2.5, d6 = 3.5, d8 = 4.5, etc) while Charisma/intuition based casters use all the normal random values? What if Clerics and other divine casters had the random values of their spells determined in some way by their standing with their deity and their devotion to his/her cause and goals in the world? Perhaps a series of feats as well to improve the static damage of the study based arcane casters. Hmm.

Alright, that's all I've got. Time to listen to the PAX 2012 Acquisitions Inc. podcast. Three minutes in and Jim Darkmagic is driving the Darkmagic estate through the planes while drunk and there is a Doctor Who reference. 

1 comment:

  1. One of the think I could relate this to with the randomness of the damage would be to think of it in possibly a GURPS sense. Where you do "hit" the target, but where or how hard are not defined. Did you graze then? did that blow land solid to the chest? The fireball catch them in the shoulder and they fell to the grounddue to the blast or did they wear it in the face?