Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rolling of the dice

I'm glad this blog post came up, because it is an issue that I have -- surprise, surprise -- an opinion on, and it's something that we've discussed quite a bit at our game table.

For those that are too lazy to click the link above, the general gist is that over the years, melee combat has given the deciding factor -- the die roll -- to the player, rolling to-hit to overcome AC - THAC0, BAB or whatever system you like. Spellcasters and the like instead had to combat Saving Throws, but it was the DM's lucky dice that determined the outcome of that, not the players'. This gave all the drama (good and bad) to the melee characters, and the rest just had to sit back and be told whether their idea worked out.

We tried a few different solutions to this, including systems found in various other games, such as Oriental Adventures, Pathfinder, 3rd edition and 4e. Some of my players and I had come to the same conclusion as Monte Cook did, that they were getting gypped, and I must say, I liked the idea that the spellcaster had that variable in their spell's strength, combatting against their target's innate ability to resist it. We even toyed with moving the randomness of an NPC's attack against the party into the players' hands, turning AC into a defensive roll against a very static attack value that the enemy had. It sure made things easier on my side of the table, but in the end it felt a little unbalanced -- the players shouldn't really have that much "control" over their fate, and having the DM (whether deceptively or honestly) widening his eyes at a roll just made behind the DM shield can add to the suspense of the story as it unfolds. Not knowing if the goblin keeps missing because of low rolls by the DM or because the goblin isn't a threat is fun to leave to speculation; seeing that the goblin didn't hit you when you rolled a 6 on a defense roll tells you right out that you can turn your back on the goblin and focus on the hobgoblin captain instead.

That being said, I'm not vehemently opposed to any one method. They all work, and it was fun to dabble with different systems to stir things up. My voting in the polls that followed the blogpost weren't weighted to either extreme; I might have a preference for the players' fates being more in their own hands, but if the game design can keep the spellcasters engaged without it, I'll be fine with that too.

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