Dice math – Part II: Dice pools

In part 1, I covered some properties of a linear dice mechanic using d20 system as an example. Another very common mechanic is the dice pool. The basic idea is that the player rolls multiple similar dice and counts the number of dice that have result equal to or greater than a target number. The number of ‘hits’ is then the result of the roll. Games that use it are numerous: Shadowrun, World of Darkness, Burning wheel, Warhammer (the miniature game!). For example, in Shadowrun, the dice are d6s and the target number is five. So rolling 7 dice and getting numbers 2,3,3,5,6,1,4 would result in two hits. Sometimes there are additional complications, like exploding dice, re-rolls or botches. I’ll cover these on a separate post. The next part is going to be a little math heavy.

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Map – A (Small) cultist dungeon

Here’s another map. This one features a small dungeon that local cultists have used as a meeting place for their rituals. It has also two hidden entrances: one via a secret door (marked with an S) and another through a small underground pond. The main chamber opens to a cliff and sometimes sacrifices are made by forcing people to jump of the planks extending over the edge. The cave is often deserted unless a ritual night is at hand. Again, this one would also favor lower level play.

The likely location to find this dungeon would be nearby a small town or a village where most of the villagers take part in a murderous cult in exchange for protection and favors. They could worship either a genuinely powerful entity or a weaker spirit that has, for example, minor healing powers.

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Map – Smuggler’s Den

I recently started making hand-drawn dungeon maps again and here is one for you to use. The map is about a semi-hidden cave that is being used by local smugglers or thieves to gain a clandestine entry into the city. Room 1 has a very small opening to the sea/river (or even a lake, whichever body of water you prefer) to spot both incoming shipments and to get an advance warning on possible hostiles. There den is not often deserted and you can usually find at least a couple of unsavory characters inside.

In DnD 3e/Pathfinder terms this location would best serve levels before 5, since it has limited space and tactical depth for higher level characters.

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Dice math, part 1 of N

Most RPGs feature at least some mechanics with uncertainty and from both the designer and player perspective, it is important to know what you get out of them. Often their properties are intuitively clear, but I thought it’d be fun to go through them in more detail than usually happens in a gaming session. Even though pieces like this might be available somewhere, I wanted to go through the math and simulations myself. This is part 1 of N of series where I’ll go through the properties of different mechanics. I’ll start with a staple: A linear random number generator (RNG, usually a die / dice). The most popular example of this is probably D&D and it’s spawn (eg pathfinder).

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