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Month: May 2016

Using the Rule of Averages Approach

Posted on May 19, 2016 in D20


I implemented the rule of averages as way of making things go faster in the Incarna variant of DnD 5 (i20™). Learning the system was a huge factor in this decision. I still enforce this today in my campaigns, though I don’t know if i always will.

The ‘rule of averages’ is an approach to DnD that (in my mind) streamlines resolving actions. Less rolling means less time taken in both physical activity and calculations. Processing outcomes should be easier and faster as most of it is pre-calculated. The fact is, it’s nothing more than preference. In some ways I think it requires the PC’s to think more; Understanding that an outcome reflects not just a true/false condition, but quality (amount of damage or impact) means that more consideration is given – I always offer a bonus to damage or attack based on story and tactics. This is a way of requiring players to get involved and invested, to think to get the same effect rather than relying on a roll. In all cases, the rule of averages has the the following impacts I have observed:

  1. Fudge-Proof Damage: It cannot have circumstances that allow for manipulation or fudging/cheating around it.
  2. Faster Resolution in TTRPG: Dice don’t roll off tables, are not hard to see, don’t get cocked, are not questioned, cannot be weighted to advantage, don’t have to be added up, and all the other dynamic issues that comes with the physical space you roll in and dice you have to throw.
  3. Creative Opposition: Imposing result adjustment (impact degree) as well as chance of success adjustments allows for more creative story elements.
  4. Even Assessment: GM and players can assess challenge faster; they will not have to adjust dynamically as much for the variance of rolling well vs. rolling poorly.

With leveling and HP, it’s quicker calculation. Yes, it’s just a dice roll, but and everyone gets the same. In Incarna, there are plenty of things to offset this so that not everyone of the same class/level has the same HP. Leveling can be done more independently; it’s just a dice roll, but the results of that may force spell, ability, trait, or feat choices.

With damage from items it provides for a nice, graduated damage progression based on the quality of hit. Normal = average; More than 5 needed = full/major; extraordinary/critical = double full. This emphasizes quality over simple true/false. This improves with experience as well – the number of times a character will get full damage against ‘normal’ foes goes up significantly… instead of the same random outcome each time.

With damage from effects it provides the same impact as damage from items – graduated based on how well the attack succeeded.

Many forms of countering can be used here in addition to the DnD Resistance mechanic – basically using the Result Shift of Incarna.

Typical Arguments Against

When everything affects everyone the same, it dumbs down the game and lowers the level of excitement.

I won’t argue this – it does, especially if you rely on random rolls for excitement instead of story. As a GM, I have to fudge a lot because of this forced variance. Its that or reduce it to a lesser challenge I know the PC’s can survive – also not fun. It also enhances the level of excitement knowing that not only does a character getting better improves their accuracy, but improves their quality of hit. A simple “+1” has more meaning/impact.

It does not reflect the diversity or variance in real life.

True again, and it depends on how you view PC’s – extraordinary in themselves, or doing extraordinary things and an ordinary person. Nothing really changes with averages – it’s just a matter of degree and preference. It more heavily reflects the idea that improvements in capability should mirror outcomes. This means not just more successes, but more higher quality of outcomes.

You could just offer average OR a roll.

In fact, I do with a lot. It’s a fact some people role better and others worse. The averages allows for a more even experience, and factors in less how well you roll a dice or how certain dice have a certain propensity. And there are traits and powers for luck if you do want to rely on that more actively.