Monday, June 22, 2009

Prediction #1: No Roll To Hit

Hi all, sorry for the silence. I've been struggling with swine flu's mutated cousin the regular flu, which is less likely to hospitalise me but just as all-round annoying. Interrupted sleep, a constant flow of mucus and a head stuffed full of codeine do not a productive blogger make.

So while I finish up my recovery (and get around to a post about mind flayers I owe you) I'm going to leave you with a prediction for D&D 5th Edition I've been mulling over. It is this:

* Providing that an eventual 5th Edition continues in largely the same direction as 4th Edition, the next edition of D&D will eliminate the concept of rolling to hit. Powers will always be effective to some degree; only their degree of effectiveness will retain a random element.

Think it over in the comments; if you've cared enough to have responses I'll back it up with the logic when I'm recovered.


Anders Hällzon said...

Makes sense. Why have two random elements?

Of course, eliminating damage rolls and keeping to-hit rolls works almost as well.

GregT said...

After I posted I decided it was equally likely that we'd get a system that still had to-hit rolls but had a "Miss" effect on every power.

i_can_see_forever said...

I admit that this makes some sense. If they wish to further emphasize the tactical combat aspect of the game then it follows that they will reduce elements of randomness so that the player's choices matter more.

Of course this will have people up in arms, as it raises the age-old debate of player skill vs. character skill. Although personally I find the argument that it should take no skill to be successful at a GAME a bit odd.

I don't know that I would go so far as making it a 'prediction', though. At this point I imagine that 5e is not even a glimmer in a developer's eye. We're still some years out from the next product cycle, and who knows what will happen by then.

Kelly Davis said...

One roll / attack would be interesting, and I would not be opposed to trying it.

Malcuy said...

Why not then a single roll that contains both elements? If you eliminate one of the rolls then it seems that's what you get, so the amount you exceed the target by is proportional to your success?
However, your comment about having to hit rolls still but giving everything a miss effect confused me slightly, as I thought the origin of your post was that daily powers have miss effects.
It's hard to say really. After all, the rolls symbolise what you choose them to symbolise, so really having two separate rolls instead of one doesn't really change anything, apart from as another commentator said, the player skill/character skill thing, if that is you see character skill as being represented by the rolls of the dice.

That sets me thinking about role play deciding a character's attacks and choices in combat, which I don't think really happens much with my group. They're pretty Meta, but we're working on that.
Really, it seems like having almost all the powers be combat powers, and then condensing the skills down into so many fewer skills kinda gives players more chance to come up with their own role play, in character ways of dealing with things, after all, fewer skills covering the same possible challenges (everything) means that players are going to have mastery of a larger portion of the possible skillset (everything), so while it's not handed to you like it was in earlier editions with wizard and cleric spells that had no actual combat use (unless you had enemies that were allergic to clean, healthy, non toxic water) maybe it's more freedom to come up with it yourself? But then of course, too much freedom stunts creativity, necessity is the mother of invention and all. Depending on the pantheon you're playing with.

Maelora said...

You're likely right, Greg. Some games lke Final Fantasy already do this.

Expect death to be more or less eliminated also, and 'save points' to appear too.

After the 4E iteration of the Rust Monster, which obligingly spits out money to the value of the items it rusted when you kill it... anything is possible. We already have MM2 monsters who heal you as a reward for killing them.

However, before we can even consider 5E, we have the joy of experiencing 4.5E first... and 4.6 and the rest.

KoalaBro2 said...

I'm surprised at how many people are leaping on board with this prediction. Allow me to offer a contrary opinion: rolls to hit will never go away.

Otherwise, how would you account for high defenses? I can understand the logic of one roll per attack, but rolling extra dice is just not that time consuming.

I see nothing in 4e that represents any kind of incremental step towards no roll to hit. If anything, exactly the opposite. Powers that used to be auto-hit (like Magic Missile) now require rolls to hit.

Anyway, I'd be interested to read Greg's logic, but I doubt that I will be persuaded.

Arkem said...

I personally would like to see D&D change its to hit system if only to use something other than 1D20.

If D&D is trying to move towards a more tactical combat system the to hit system needs to have less randomness in it. Even moving to 2d10 would yield a better probability curve and 3d6 or 5d4 would be better still (at least from a probability curve point of view). The least fun I have in D&D 4th Edition is missing with an encounter power, rolling a 1 (or really anything 5 or below) is not fun and I'd happily roll something like 2d6 + 4 instead of 1D20. It's really sad watching peoples' turns amount to "I Use At Will Power X, I miss, well I guess I'm done"

This phenomenon is why Twin Strike is easily the best ranger at will power. Not only is it flexible, allowing two targets but being able to roll two attacks creates a much more predictable damage output. I bet that if we were rolling 3d6 to hit rather than 1d20, people might actually build Rangers without Twin Strike.

Perhaps Wizards could remove To Hit rolls and move from small dice damage to large dice damage. This would mean that attacks always do something but there's still enough randomness to get people excited. An attack that dazes the target and does 3d8+Int damage could instead daze and do 2d10+Int damage without a hit roll. This would roughly do the same average damage (taking into account misses) but more consistently.

So I wouldn't be surprised if Wizards created some sort of alternate To Hit system that minimized the randomness to maximize tactical play.

Twang said...

I understand the whole 'less random is more tactical' idea, but I just don't like it. If we get the same result everytime we do something combat turns into tetris - 'I put this damage here, then this damage there' and so on.

Think back to some of the most glorious fights you have had. What made them so memorable? In some cases it was the setting for the fight, or the story that led up to it. In many cases, however, it was the lucky roll that saved you/dumped you in it. It was that damn goblin that critted twice and nearly slaughtered the whole party. It was the simple fight that turned bad because the fighter could not hit anything. I love all that randomness, even if, on average, it only happens occasionally.

Take that away and you leave the potential that every fight becomes predictable, and so monotonous. Life is just not like that, and even if it it is not heroic.

Arkem said...

Sure unpredictability adds excitement and the stories we tell are about the rare events not the everyday. I just think that D20 swings too far the other way, pretty much all wargames and most roleplaying games use smaller dice in ways that give a smoother probability curve. In a way it makes the game more exciting as the critical hits and misses are less common and thus more exceptional. In D&D 4th Edition 1 in 20 rolls is a critical hit, in a 3D6 based system 1 in 216 rolls is critical. 3D6 gives a nice bell curve where you know what is likely to happen but the chance of something extraordinary still abounds.

In the 4th ed game I'm playing at the moment we don't make stories about how often we critically hit because it happens all the time and isn't really special. We might mention it if there's 2 or 3 in one encounter but generally it's not a big deal. What we do talk about is how often we miss soft targets, an entire party of level 2 characters each missing AC18 even with combat advantage and cleric buffs because none of us can roll a 10 or better.

Occasionally we should fail spectacularly. Sometimes we should succeed amazingly. But with all of the other times modest success is much more interesting than failure.

Kelly Davis said...

I think the d20 will always be a part of the core mechanic of D&D, discussion of to hit/damage rolls aside.

KoalaBro2 said...

Regarding "predictable" probabilty distributions: there's nothing more predictable than a D20. Each +1 represents a 5% bonus to hit. It's simple, it's intuitive. How many people know off the top of their heads what the probability of rolling a 14 or greater on 3d6?

If you want to make hits more reliable, you just reduce the enemy defense numbers. WotC did a pretty good job of creating a reliable progression of to-hit rolls, so that everyone needs to roll the same number to hit on level 1 as on level 30, even though defense numbers are dramatically higher.

I think people are dramatically undervaluing the utility of a flat probability curve. The problem with Twin Strike is that it's unbalanced, not that it's too easy to hit. If Twin Strike did half damage, say, a lot more people would be interested in Sure Shot (or whatever it's called).

Arkem said...


If Twin Strike did half damage I would still choose it as it would still represent the best possible chance to apply Hunter's Quarry damage. Careful strike only has a better chance to hit than Twin Strike versus targets of extremely high AC (about AC30 at level 1). I think I would prefer two attacks at d8 / 2 with either having a chance to add d6 damage than to do d8 with +2 to hit with one chance to add d6 damage. Note that neither Careful Strike nor Twin Strike gets stat bonus added to damage.

I don't particularly like flat probability curves but my main problem is the amount of varience involved in large single dice such as the d20. I prefer smaller ranges like d6, d8 or d10. I guess I just prefer less chance in combat, prefering to emphasize cover, concealment and combat advantage over high rolling.

Michael Cardoza said...

Pop quiz: which D&D designer worked on a game with a single roll that determined both to hit and damage, and what was the name of that game?

Arkem said...


Is it Dave Arneson and Harpoon? (a complete guess based on a bit of research)

Michael Cardoza said...

@Arkem Nope, although that'd qualify given my question. But I'm thinking of a current WotC employee who was a significant contributor to 4e. He was part of the development staff at the company which developed the RPG I'm thinking of.

Another important 4e developer wrote for the same game later on.

GregT said...

Mike Mearls and Iron Heroes? Robert J Schwalb and Witch Hunter? Monte Cook and about five million crazy projects?

There's a whole ton of these, Bryant.

Michael Cardoza said...

Current WotC employee, so not Schwalb or Cook.

Iron Heroes had single roll combat? I can't check my copy since I'm in the middle of a move, but that doesn't sound right.

So OK; Greg's not making his prediction based on past work of the lead 4e designers, obviously. Fill us in on the logic and I'll tell you why one roll combat was probably already considered for 4e. (Which doesn't say much about whether or not it'll be in 5e, of course.)

Greg Tannahill said...

I haven't played Iron Heroes; the Wikipedia description made it sound like it possibly used a unified roll.

Scott Bay said...

Oddly enough, I've been doing some half-assed research into abstract board games, mostly chess variants or games that can use chess pieces and a chess board, in an attempt to come up with a tactical mini-game to shake up my 4E game. Obviously, it would eliminate some dice rolls (or maybe all of them).

In my reading, I also discovered a brief history of the wargame - and it claimed that the designer of the Prussian (royal court?)'s wargame included dice rolls to simulate the fact that, no matter how well you plan something, something can go wrong and cause you to fail (critical failure on a 1). It's a kind of like the Kobayashi Maru scenario from Star Trek - which I guess is good for military leaders to face, but not what I want to deal with in my games.

lessthanpleased said...

Mike Mearls was a contributor to Unknown Armies, which uses one roll to determine both hit and damage. I know for a fact that Mearls was a contributor to the sourcebook "Hush Hush."

I don't know whether other WotC designers also worked on Unknown Armies. But I do know Mearls fits the bill.

Michael Cardoza said...

Yep. And Rob Heinsoo worked for Daedalus, the original publisher for Feng Shui, which likewise uses a single roll. Feng Shui was later published by Atlas.

You can see the Feng Shui influence most strongly on page 42. Feng Shui's all about rewarding the stunt rather than penalizing it; this carried right into 4e. I'm 95% sure Rob (and Mike) were pulling from that design pattern intentionally.

Warren said...

You're all crazy. The d20 isn't going anywhere, just like Magic Missle.