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Using the Rule of Averages

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. Learning the system was a huge factor in this decision. I still enforce this today, though I don’t know if i always will.

The rule of averages is an approach to DnD that streamlines resolving actions. Less rolling means less time taken in both physical activity and calculations. Processing outcomes should be easier and faster. The fact is, it’s nothing more than preference. In some ways I think it requires the PC’s to think more – I always offer a bonus to damage or attack based on story and tactics – this is a way of requiring players to get involved, to think to get the same effect rather than relying on a roll. In all cases, the rule of averages has the the following 2 impacts:

  1. Fudge-Proof: It cannot have circumstances that allow for manipulation or fudging/cheating around it.
  2. 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; critical = double full. This emphasizes quality over simple true/false.

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

Typical Arguments
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 variance. Its that or reduce it to a lesser challenge I know the PC’s can survive – also not fun.
It does not reflect the diversity 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.
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. And there are traits and powers for luck if you do want to rely on that.