## Why math is relatively unimportant

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Let's say that on page whatever-the-hell, there's some statement of mechanics:

"A wizard using a mud-pit as partial cover gets an AC bonus of -2, but is at a -3 to hit vs. opponents beyond 15 feet.  The wizard gains advantage on all spell effects targeting constructs, golems, and earth elementals."

Everyone, from a die-hard grognard to a 4venger to a member of the unwashed public who has never played a TTRPG would recognize this as part of the D&D game, right?  Good?  Okay.  Now change the numbers around, and present it again:

"A wizard using a mud-pit as partial cover gets an AC bonus of -1, but is at a -2 to hit vs. opponents beyond 30 feet.  The wizard suffers disadvantage on all spell effects targeting constructs, golems, and earth elementals."

Still recognizably D&D, yes, for all parties involved?  Good.  Now try this one:

" A robot using a space-ship as a hat gets an AC bonus of -2, but is at a -3 to dance vs. relatives beyond 15 feet.  The robot gains advantage on all laserbeams effects targeting skateboards, tech support, and Paris Hilton."

No longer D&D.  In anyone's eyes.

Yes, I know, some smart-alec is going to bring up the possibility of some trans-dimensional time-traveling version of a D&D game.  Shut up.  You know damned well that you're not finding skateboards or Paris Hilton on the cover of any actual DDN supplement, ever.  You can certainly use the D&D rules to play such a game, but it's like using the metal from a Toyota to make a bowling alley.  It's no longer a car when you do that.

And some other would-be math-savant is going to insist that the math is important too.  You're wrong.  We can whine and kvetch about the difference between +1 to-hit and +2 to hit all day, and that math gets tossed out the window the moment some 12-year-old DM in Coos Bay, Oregon decides  his brother's second-level ranger should be packing a +4 sword.  Which I did.

So there.

Criswell
Joined Dec 1969
But the game designers aren't being paid to write down the words "wizard", "elf", etc. They're paid to make sure the game rules actually work as written so that we don't have to do a mountain of houseruling to fix them.

This is like saying that editing in a movie is relatively unimportant, when it's the vital grammar of the medium. People may not notice who the editor is on a movie, but if it's jumpy, unnatural, hard to follow, etc. they will notice that.
Caeric
Joined Dec 1969
Kinda misrepresenting what people mean when they talk about why math is important, aren't you? People that want the designers to be math-wary aren't asking them for, like, iconic math (actually, the casual fans are; what else do you call HP, AC, ability scores and saving throws except as iconic math?). People just want to be able to enjoy the hobby they love without feeling like the game they're playing is discouraging them from enjoying it the way they want to enjoy it.
I don't use emoticons, and I'm also pretty pleasant. So if I say something that's rude or insulting, it's probably a joke.
But the game designers aren't being paid to write down the words "wizard", "elf", etc. They're paid to make sure the game rules actually work as written so that we don't have to do a mountain of houseruling to fix them.

Actually, that's precisely what the designers are being paid to do: to construct a platform upon which we can all agree to play "let's pretend."  There is NO SUCH THING as playing by "the rules as written" in a game which depends, in every single instance, at every single point, on the whims and agreements and subjective choices of the people who are sitting at the actual table.  Total illusion.

Caeric, if you want a reply, you're going to have to rephrase.  Your post came out as corporate-speak.

PI IS EXACTLY THREE!
Mand12
Joined Dec 1969
Math is unimportant to you, because what you're looking for from the game doesn't depend on the math.

Math is important to lots of other people, and shouldn't be ignored or dismissed.  Why?  Because we have two potential paths to go down:

1)  Crappy system math.  You don't care, others do.  Your game is fine, their game is ruined.
2)  Awesome system math.  You don't care, others do.  Your game is fine, their game is fine.

You can't possibly make a coherent argument in favor of number 1.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Qmark
Joined May 2002
18365 Posts
"A wizard using a mud-pit as partial cover gets an AC bonus of -2, but is at a -3 to hit vs. opponents beyond 15 feet.  The wizard gains advantage on all spell effects targeting constructs, golems, and earth elementals."

I'd first have to question the very need of something so oddly specific in a rulebook.

Criswell
Joined Dec 1969
But the game designers aren't being paid to write down the words "wizard", "elf", etc. They're paid to make sure the game rules actually work as written so that we don't have to do a mountain of houseruling to fix them.

Actually, that's precisely what the designers are being paid to do: to construct a platform upon which we can all agree to play "let's pretend."

And that platform involves math for the rules which resolve disputes over the outcome of situations. Now, if your group is in-synch enough you may end up barely using the rules, but they do have to be designed. Even rules-lite games like Fiasco involve a lot of sweating over the numbers. You think they didn't put in a full day's work deciding that stuff?

Dwarfslayer
Joined Oct 2010
2661 Posts
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />And some other would-be math-savant is going to insist that the math is important too.  You're wrong.  We can whine and kvetch about the difference between +1 to-hit and +2 to hit all day, and that math gets tossed out the window the moment some 12-year-old DM in Coos Bay, Oregon decides  his brother's second-level ranger should be packing a +4 sword.  Which I did.

Not really. Having more bonuses just means the character presumably fights tougher monsters.

However, the math for things like cover are more importnat, because they're tactical elements that the rules determine the significance of. And that significance can determine how often PCs will seek something like cover or concealment, and how much of an advantage enemies in entrenched positions have.

While its true that math doesnt' create flavor, having good math is important.
Math is unimportant to you, because what you're looking for from the game doesn't depend on the math

No, what anyone is looking for from an actual RPG is completely independent of math.  Give me a situation in any RPG, ever, and I will point out, if you like, a dozen places in which the whims and subjective opinions of the people sitting at the table actually created the situation, not the math.

Two people sit down and decide "if I roll a one-to-three, Bob wins, if I roll a four-to-six, Jane wins."  The "math" of that situation (50% chance of winning) is absolutely nothing compared to the initial premise: the discussion they had in which they made up the rules.  Just so, the swing of a +! sword by a level 4 fighter may or may not hit the 16 AC of his orc opponent based on a d20....but the IMPORTANT part of that instance, the one which controls and overshadows that illusory 'math' moment, was the group's decision to start that fighter at level two, the DM's decision that there be one orc rather than five in the room, the decision by the DM to grant the fighter a +1 sword in an earlier encounter, the group decision that AC 16 seems reasonable for that orc at that time given what she's supposedly wearing, the DM's decision whether or not the fighter's intimidating rush into the room should grant advantage or disadvantage...

The "math" is a thin scrum of tissue tossed over the storytelling.  It's there to give us an excuse to play let's pretend without feeling too childish.  The more we acknowledge that, and start focussing on the more important parts of DDN's design, the better off we'll be.

However, the math for things like cover are more importnat, because they're tactical elements that the rules determine the significance of...

Except it's up to the players and DM to determine - for story purposes, completely subjectively - what kind of cover is available, and what it counts as.  So there goes that illusion of objectivity.

And that platform involves math for the rules which resolve disputes over the outcome of situations.

You have it backwards.  The decision about what rule to use comes first...and controls all other parts of the process.  And even after that has happened, the "mathematical" result can be tossed out, and often is.  It's why the DMG specifically advocates tossing any roll that messes with the story your group wants to tell.

mellored
Joined Jul 2008
22709 Posts
Math is much more universal then D&D, as is enlish, or paper.  Thus saying "another game has math" is like saying "another game is printed on paper", or "another game is written in english".

I mean, "the fighter attacks for 1d20+Str" and you know it's D&D.

But "the fighter attacks for 1d8*1d5%" then we're playing a different game.

ergo, math is importaint.
So is logic.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

Saelorn
Joined May 2012
4830 Posts
No, what anyone is looking for from an actual RPG is completely independent of math.  Give me a situation in any RPG, ever, and I will point out, if you like, a dozen places in which the whims and subjective opinions of the people sitting at the table actually created the situation, not the math.

What I want is a relatively objective system for determining how to resolve tasks involving measured degrees of uncertainty, with strong DM guidelines as to how circumstances can change things. If the system does not adequately produce results that we consider reasonable, or if doing so requires excessive work on the part of the DM (or other players), then we'll junk the system and it will fail to survive beyond the first few years.

The metagame is not the game.
Orzel
Joined Aug 2007
5102 Posts
The math matters as long as the results in the game match what we percieve they should be.

If a lowly goblin somehow one shots my level 6 fighter who was at full health, I'd demand an explanation.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

"If a lowly goblin somehow one shots my level 6 fighter who was at full health, I'd demand an explanation. "

Demand?

The DM has his reasons. Maybe the "lowly" goblin is a 12th level Goblin assassin. Maybe a God has need of your soul. Maybe the weapon was poisoned in some undetectable way and the DM doesn't tell you because the rest of the party is still in danger.

You don't have a right to "demand" to know what's going on behind the screen. You trust your DM to run the rollercoaster or you don't. If you don't, get off the ride.

And that is why "math" can be a shackle as often as it is a bridge support. The math should be the servant of game play,  not it's master.

There is an opportunity cost to mathematical rigor; it is not an unqualified positive and it use should be considered carefully.
Rathyr
Joined Dec 1969
Math is unimportant to you, because what you're looking for from the game doesn't depend on the math

No, what anyone is looking for from an actual RPG is completely independent of math.

Urg. Is it even possible for your post reek of "The One True Way To Play" any more? 'Actual RPGs'? Are you serious?

Not all of us play D&D as story hour. Some of us like the Game portion of RPG, where dice rolls AND roleplaying both matter, and not everything is hand waved away. If you think the thrill of rolling a d20 is not a major part of the draw of D&D, then you don't understand the demographic that plays. Make that roll mean nothing and see what it does to the game.

Math matters to many types of players (I'd hazard more than not, although obvious the scale of how much it matters to each player will differ). Simply because it doesn't fit in with how you play doesn't mean it isn't important to D&D Next, and the quickest way to throw nearly ever edition under the bus is to force the DM to run all the numbers themselves, because I doubt many people are going to pay good money and give up their current edition to design and balance their own system. They can already do that if they wanted.
Not all of us play D&D as story hour. Some of us like the Game portion of RPG, where dice rolls AND roleplaying both matter, and not everything is hand waved away.

If you're playing with 'story' controlling the initial variables, which rules to use, and which mathematical constructs to implement, then yes, you actually are playing "story hour," using dice to add a bit of faux-randomness to the mixture.
What I want is a relatively objective system ...

Then you're not looking for a game in which all of the initial variables, mathematical coneits, and "rules" are entirely subject to the whims and subjective choices of the people sitting at the table, are you.  Since that's the definition of D&D, well...you do the math.

Saelorn
Joined May 2012
4830 Posts
Then you're not looking for a game in which all of the initial variables, mathematical coneits, and "rules" are entirely subject to the whims and subjective choices of the people sitting at the table, are you.  Since that's the definition of D&D, well...you do the math.

No offense, but you're coming off as kind of a troll here.

The math exists so we don't need to worry about altering things to fit what we want. We should be able to trust it, so that we can focus on our characters and their actions without worrying about the mechanical representations thereof. If the math in the book was weak, then we'd need to spend more of our time and effort in making the game playable.

It's like, an RPG requires both RP and G. I want the designers to worry about the G portion, so I can spend more time focusing on the RP portion. If I need to spend all of my time double-checking the G, then that's less time I have to RP.

That we retain the ability to alter the math as we see fit does not mean that we should be required to do so whenever possible. It's just an extra layer of oversight, in case we need it.
The metagame is not the game.
Slyck314
Joined Dec 1969
I would say the "Math" is something that can be balanced and tweeked after the fact.  But the "Mechanics" do need to be recognizable as D&D.  For example, make an attack roll with a d20 against your opponents AC is one system, while make a strength+melee test vs your opponents agility+dodge test is another system entirely.  And while both systems can be balanced and fun, one is D&D and the other is not.
mellored
Joined Jul 2008
22709 Posts
If housecats have a 90% chance of killing a level 20 fighter, you can't really play a fighter.
If a level 1 wizard can destroy all the cosmos with 1 spell, you can't really play a wizard.
If a cleric only heals 0.001% of the party with all his daily resources, you can't really play a cleric.
If you have 20-100 hit points, and all enemies deal 9999-999999 damage, you can't really play.

Math is still important.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

I am not a math guy, but: I think that, in the bounded accuracy system they're trying to produce, math really is important, and I want it good enough to be off my radar when running the game. Basically, I want to be able to trust that if I use what's the in the rules, I won't inadvertently force the game to become a scaling war. I know we all make mistakes when granting magic item rewards, so I like having a reference to keep me, as a GM, in line with the challenges the PCs should fairly face. This does not mean I want an expected number of magic items, or magic stores, or adding items to the sheet as characters level, if teh system is expected to support play without them. What I do like is the basic guidance of what items appear commonly, uncommonly, rarely, etc., with some tables if I want to generate item type randomly. So, I like the guidance in the packet so far.  The list of common items, though, is nothing at the moment, so I want to see what that's all about to get a better idea of where the devs are going.
If housecats have a 90% chance of killing a level 20 fighter, you can't really play a fighter.
If a level 1 wizard can destroy all the cosmos with 1 spell, you can't really play a wizard.
If a cleric only heals 0.001% of the party with all his daily resources, you can't really play a cleric.
If you have 20-100 hit points, and all enemies deal 9999-999999 damage, you can't really play.

Math is still important.

What you describe is pure player empowerement, and then pure evil !
RPGs have always been about having a DM with players versed into submission who like to roll dice in the dark.

Caeric
Joined Dec 1969
Caeric, if you want a reply, you're going to have to rephrase.  Your post came out as corporate-speak.

... for realz? You can't parse what I said? M'kay, I'll rephrase. And please don't insult me, alright? Civility and all that junk.

What I'm talking about is that when player A plays a fighter and player B plays a wizard, some editions of the game have a tendency to put the wizard in the fore as the hero. The story can be framed elsewise and the DM can take steps to stage things otherwise -- but the wizard is more versatile and potent than the fighter in most editions. These classic example classes aren't even the point. I could be talking about the warlord and the shaman, or the factotum and the druid, or whatever two major pivotal character choices. What's important is that D&D has a history of some options being leaps and bounds better than others, and some people finding that their ideal fantasy characters can't be realized to the same extent that someone else's can.

Math is a tool with which humans measure, understand, and solve problems. Thus, it is an important part of D&D Next's design. It's the tool required to solve the above problem.

By contrast, your opening post casts those of us with math concerns as interested in superficial resemblances to the math of previous editions. I'm sure that's true in many cases (again, what are HP, AC, saving throws and ability scores but iconic math concepts from D&D's past?), but that's not the chief motivator for people protesting the power balance between classes, races, and all that stuff. The motivator is an interest in creating a D&D that's just like all the good times we remember, without the bad parts. For many people, the bad parts are bad math.
I don't use emoticons, and I'm also pretty pleasant. So if I say something that's rude or insulting, it's probably a joke.
Reinhart
Joined Dec 1969
In general, if there is any quantifiable aspect of your game then math matters. Even in a narrative game like FATE, there are mathematical assumptions and decisions that the designers made about success rates and frequency of player contribution. Heck, the wager system from Baron Munchausen game or the Amber Diceless Roleplay are still built on basic economic and mathematical principles.

My question is why do we even respond to Professor Daddy on this topic anymore? He has demonstrated time and again that this is not a reasonable understanding that he holds but an unassailable and almost religious ideology. As such, he's not going to change his mind and he has no further insight to share. Since there's nothing to really be gained from arguing with him I recommend that we stop debating whether math is important and instead discuss what is the desirable purpose or outcome of that math.
The math is important precisely because most gamers don't want to have to think about it, just like you.  When you (as the DM) picks some monsters for the party to fight (and are hoping for a fight of average difficulty), you don't want ot have to double check all the numbers.  You want to just be able to say, "Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party can handle about 4 of them...I want it a bit harder so I'll make it 5."

You can trust that the numbers (or, math) of the goblins will make sense given the CR of 1.  They will have appropriate defenses, hit points, saves, and attacks.

Also, as Mand12 nicely said (and you ignored):

Which situation is better for the game overall:

1) Bad Math.  People who don't care will have a fine game, people who do care will have a bad game.
2) Good Math.  People who don't care will have a fine game, people who do care will have a fine game.
Mand12
Joined Dec 1969
No, what anyone is looking for from an actual RPG is completely independent of math.

I'd like to know how you think you can tell me what I'm looking for from an "actual RPG."
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Arithezoo

"Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party can handle about 4 of them...I want it a bit harder so I'll make it 5."

And what people who are opposed to ascendant math are worried about is:

"Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party with 4 members can handle 4 of them. I'd like to use 5, but I can't, that wouldn't be balanced."

You are actually giving a good argument for NOT holding the math to be the most important thing.

I don't think anyone is deliberately being a butter-churning Luddite here and saying we don't need no durn fancy devil numbers.

What IS being said is that the math needs to be loose enough to allow narrative and creative freedom. And yes, some people do genuinely and sincerely believe that an overly rigid system will hamper exactly that.

Or to put it another way, as a player or a DM it's important to me that a plus or minus one not be something that has to be important to me.
Istaran
Joined Dec 1969
Arithezoo

"Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party can handle about 4 of them...I want it a bit harder so I'll make it 5."

And what people who are opposed to ascendant math are worried about is:

"Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party with 4 members can handle 4 of them. I'd like to use 5, but I can't, that wouldn't be balanced."

You are actually giving a good argument for NOT holding the math to be the most important thing.

Umm. NO. Math being done right doesn't inherently mean what you said. It means that 4 CR 1 goblins will be about as challenging overall as 4 CR 1 kobolds, or 4 CR 1 giant rats, etc. And that at level 4, 4 CR 4 Orc will be a similar overall challenge.

What math being wrong means is something like 4e's pre-errata Needlefang Drake Swarms. According to 4e's math, 5 level 2 Needlefang Drake Swarms are a level 2 challenge for a party of 5. A level 1 party should be able to handle this with only modest difficulty. When I tried it (testing out the system with a friend from leaked preview materials), it was a TPK in one round. One PC got to act once. This is math gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Other examples I can think of off the top of my head include the 3.5s seacat, a CR 2 that has about a 25% chance of oneshotting any level 1 character on a charge.

The problem here is that CR/XP budget is telling you about how much you can throw at your party and expect it to be easy (on level or lower), moderate (level +1/2), hard (level +3) or "coin flip" (level +4) or "TPK by design" (level +5 or more). But the math didn't back up that assessment.

I don't think anyone is deliberately being a butter-churning Luddite here and saying we don't need no durn fancy devil numbers.

What IS being said is that the math needs to be loose enough to allow narrative and creative freedom. And yes, some people do genuinely and sincerely believe that an overly rigid system will hamper exactly that.

I think what most people generally want is to be able to reliably target the difficulty level that is well between cakewalk and TPK, and for that range to be broad enough they can have a somewhat reliably target a difficultly level that's higher or lower without hitting either extreme.
That means the devs need to do their work so that the balance point isn't on a knife-edge, and also that it's fairly easy to find.
Or to put it another way, as a player or a DM it's important to me that a plus or minus one not be something that has to be important to me.

Bad math (from the devs) will not help you here. You want the dev math to be solid enough that you never have to worry about it yourself at the table.
Saelorn
Joined May 2012
4830 Posts
Or to put it another way, as a player or a DM it's important to me that a plus or minus one not be something that has to be important to me.

I am concerned that this might be a flaw in the basic nature of the d20. As you get further away from needing a 10 or 11 to succeed, each plus or minus one gains more relative weight.

One of the oft-cited issues with 3E was how it was too easy for the die roll to become meaningless (when you have a +20 bonus to hit against AC 17, or when you have +2 to skill checks against DC 30). Bounded Accuracy should fix that, for the most part, but they could still stand to tighten up the math a little.

The metagame is not the game.
Bad math (from the devs) will not help you here. You want the dev math to be solid enough that you never have to worry about it yourself at the table.

You know, we actually agree on that as long as your Venn diagram of "bad math" includes "rigidly inflexible".
Gwathir
Joined Dec 1969
I get what the OP is saying, basically the focus of the game shouldn't be on math... and your right it isn't and Mike Mearls and WOTC have said it multiple times over the course of the playtest that they don't care about the math at this point, that their concern is to capture the right 'feel'.

And STILL you get tons of playtesters here whining about a +1 over +2 or 5% discrepency... those players are missing the point entirely.

HOWEVER, too much math or inflated numbers can easily work against what WOTC are trying to achieve. If PCs feel too powerful due to inflated math, then you ruin the feel. If you are doing too much calculating, you are ruining the feel. If the math is too chaotic to the point that you have to make your own, then you ruin the feel...If the math is completely unbalanced, you ruin a class (few players want to play a crappy class), and so on...

So math is important to an extent but it doesn't require a masters degree... if they keep the numbers as low as possible and keep introducing creative math like advantage/disadvantage, it will go just fine.

But if you spit out in your playest report THAT SHOULD BE +1 NOT +2!!!! in your playtest feedback... they won't be paying attention and they shouldn't because that is just not an area of focus right now.

Arithezoo

"Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party can handle about 4 of them...I want it a bit harder so I'll make it 5."

And what people who are opposed to ascendant math are worried about is:

"Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party with 4 members can handle 4 of them. I'd like to use 5, but I can't, that wouldn't be balanced."

You are actually giving a good argument for NOT holding the math to be the most important thing.

I don't think anyone is deliberately being a butter-churning Luddite here and saying we don't need no durn fancy devil numbers.

What IS being said is that the math needs to be loose enough to allow narrative and creative freedom. And yes, some people do genuinely and sincerely believe that an overly rigid system will hamper exactly that.

Or to put it another way, as a player or a DM it's important to me that a plus or minus one not be something that has to be important to me.

In addition to what Istaran said, good math means exactly what you want: a plus or minus one won't be something you (as the DM) has to worry about.

You can toss in that 5th goblin and have a pretty good sense of what effect it will have on the fight because the math is good.

You say no one is asking for no math, but your example indicates the opposite:

"Ok, goblins are CR 1 (or whatever), so my party with 4 members can handle 4 of them. I'd like to use 5, but I can't, that wouldn't be balanced."

Good math doesn't mean everything needs to be perfectly balanced.  Good math doesn't mean every fight has to be precisely average.

Good math means that when you see "CR 1" on a monster, you can trust that the monster's numbers will be an appropriate challenge for a level 1 party.

Again, as has now been said twice:

Which situation is better for the game:

1) No balance at all for monsters.  People who don't care about balance have a fine game, those who do care have a bad game.
2) Monsters are balanced.  People who don't care about balance have a fine game, those who do care have a fine game.

Even when you have good math, and guidelines for DMs about encounter building, you can still do whatever you want.  I can have my 4E party run into a group of 1000 goblins, for example.  On the other hand, if I want to simply run a nice balanced encounter, I know that 4 goblins will be perfect.  Or I can have just 2 for an easy fight, or 5 for a slightly harder fight, or 6 for a hard fight, etc.

Good math doesn't mean everything needs to be perfectly balanced.  Good math doesn't mean every fight has to be precisely average.

I agree with that, as I agree with what you said earlier.

However...

You do realize however that there are people who DO believe that everything needs to be perfectly balanced and precisely average, do you not?. Thats what I'm arguing against.

I worry about designers having conversations like:

Designer 1: Hey, I just had this cool idea for a new fighting style based on eagles!

*Hands manuscript to Designer 2. Brief pause.*

Designer 2: Well, it's interesting, and evocative, and it ties into that new module we're doing. We even have a great piece of unused art that would fit it. But we can't use it.

Designer 1: Why not?

Designer 2: Well, if someone takes it, and has the Flensing feat and the Sword of Gallumphing, they wil consistently do 1.2 more points of damage per round than average between levels 17 and 19.

Designer 1: *gasp* How could I have been so blind? Burn this foul manuscript! BURN IT!!

...
(Yes, that's reductio ad absurdum, for fun; it does show the point though.)
" A robot using a space-ship as a hat gets an AC bonus of -2, but is at a -3 to dance vs. relatives beyond 15 feet.  The robot gains advantage on all laserbeams effects targeting skateboards, tech support, and Paris Hilton."

No longer D&D.  In anyone's eyes.

Yes, I know, some smart-alec is going to bring up the possibility of some trans-dimensional time-traveling version of a D&D game.  Shut up.  You know damned well that you're not finding skateboards or Paris Hilton on the cover of any actual DDN supplement, ever.  You can certainly use the D&D rules to play such a game, but it's like using the metal from a Toyota to make a bowling alley.  It's no longer a car when you do that.

Ohh I would argue for that. It is not the most common form of D&D, but hey, we have Spelljammer and a bunch of home brewed settings that are different, perhaps modern or even futuristic. Obviously people who already use it use house-rules or at least optional modules, but saying that it is not D&D? Guy, I cannot disagree more with this. For people who play it, it is completely D&D.
Istaran
Joined Dec 1969
" A robot using a space-ship as a hat gets an AC bonus of -2, but is at a -3 to dance vs. relatives beyond 15 feet.  The robot gains advantage on all laserbeams effects targeting skateboards, tech support, and Paris Hilton."

No longer D&D.  In anyone's eyes.

Yes, I know, some smart-alec is going to bring up the possibility of some trans-dimensional time-traveling version of a D&D game.  Shut up.  You know damned well that you're not finding skateboards or Paris Hilton on the cover of any actual DDN supplement, ever.  You can certainly use the D&D rules to play such a game, but it's like using the metal from a Toyota to make a bowling alley.  It's no longer a car when you do that.

Ohh I would argue for that. It is not the most common form of D&D, but hey, we have Spelljammer and a bunch of home brewed settings that are different, perhaps modern or even futuristic. Obviously people who already use it use house-rules or at least optional modules, but saying that it is not D&D? Guy, I cannot disagree more with this. For people who play it, it is completely D&D.

See also Expedition to the Barrier Peaks written by Gary Gygax. While it does not include Paris Hilton (being before her time), it does involve space ships and robots and is explicitly (and exclusively) D&D.
If housecats have a 90% chance of killing a level 20 fighter, you can't really play a fighter.

Can too.
If a level 1 wizard can destroy all the cosmos with 1 spell, you can't really play a wizard.

Can too.
If a cleric only heals 0.001% of the party with all his daily resources, you can't really play a cleric.

Can too.

You really can.  Are you going to tell the people around here who have pledged that they're playing low-magic, or even no-magic, games that they're not playing dungeons & dragons?  Because in those cases, your wizard is achieving precisely bupkiss, no matter how ferociously he or she chants, nor how many material components go up in smoke.
If there is an agreement between the gamers that they want to play a game in which, say, they're all playing mice, then a housecat in that game would likely have a 90% chance of killing even a high-level fighter.

It's the agreement between the players that makes it work or not.  Not any particular mathematical choice between those players.  All you're proving here is that you wouldn't want to play those games.  That's fine.  You can alter the math as you like, since that's whate everyone does anyway.

I get what the OP is saying, basically the focus of the game shouldn't be on math... and your right it isn't and Mike Mearls and WOTC have said it multiple times over the course of the playtest that they don't care about the math at this point, that their concern is to capture the right 'feel'.

And STILL you get tons of playtesters here whining about a +1 over +2 or 5% discrepency... those players are missing the point entirely.

HOWEVER, too much math or inflated numbers can easily work against what WOTC are trying to achieve. If PCs feel too powerful due to inflated math, then you ruin the feel. If you are doing too much calculating, you are ruining the feel. If the math is too chaotic to the point that you have to make your own, then you ruin the feel...If the math is completely unbalanced, you ruin a class (few players want to play a crappy class), and so on...

Thank you for getting the point.  In particular, now that the game is essentially mechanically complete (so Mearls tells us) the umpteenth thread complaining about the difference between 52% and 54% of this or that is not merely splitting hairs, it's actively distracting from the mission of the new edition.  I think the kvetching has reached a feverish enough pitch that it's actually likely to harm the design process.

I can certainly get behind any argument about math, such as that you mention here and the one which arithezoo brings up, which prioritize the 'feel' of the game, since that's what matters both in terms of how easy it will be to modify everything and its eventual success in the marketplace.  I'm just sick and tired of the conceit that the math is the center of the game, and the "fluff" is unimportant folderol.  The reality is the reverse.  Thus the word "relatively" in the title of the thread.

You do realize however that there are people who DO believe that everything needs to be perfectly balanced and precisely average, do you not?. Thats what I'm arguing against.

Are there?  I've seen many people say that balance is important (I am one of them), I've even seen people say that balance is the most important (I'm not one of them).  But I have never seen anyone say that "everything needs to be perfectly balanced and precisely average."  So who, exactly, are you arguing against?  A person, or a hypothetical position?
...
(Yes, that's reductio ad absurdum, for fun; it does show the point though.)

The hypothetical position.  Sure, it is fun.  And I guess it shows "the point".  But it isn't really helpful, because you are arguing against a position that doesn't exist (and certainly isn't being practiced by the designers, who have said that:

1) Perfect balance is impossible
2) Perfect balance, even if possible, would not be desireable
3) Balance, while important, is not the most important thing

The only people for whom Good Math would be bad are those who are too rigid to change anything presented in the books while at the same time not wanting things to be balanced.  These are such conflicting traits that I think the person's head would explode.

So to use your example of the DM thinking about adding a 5th goblin: if the DM doesn't care about balance they certainly aren't going to care that the book suggests 4 goblins for a standard difficulty encounter.  They are going to use however many goblins they want.  If the DM does care about balance, they will be glad the book contains nice advice regarding generating a balanced encounter, as well as advice regarding altering the difficulty of the encounter.

The book never says, "A level X encounter MUST have EXACTLY Y creatures."  It does say, "An encounter of average difficulty will contain around X creatures.  You can raise or lower this number, but be careful.  Raising or lowering by too much will change the level of the encounter."
Istaran
Joined Dec 1969
Thank you for getting the point.  In particular, now that the game is essentially mechanically complete (so Mearls tells us) the umpteenth thread complaining about the difference between 52% and 54% of this or that is not merely splitting hairs, it's actively distracting from the mission of the new edition.  I think the kvetching has reached a feverish enough pitch that it's actually likely to harm the design process.

A +/- 2% here or there isn't too terribly important, though there are a few things to consider.
One is overall balance.. for example, there are at least arguments that, say, clerics are better fighters than fighters, or better rogues than rogues, or whatnot. Ideally, this should be so far from truth (mathematically speaking) that it is obviously not the case. (As opposed to now, where there's enough truth to it that people get in long arguments over the methods of calculations used and how reflective they are of realistic game scenarios.)

Another is the impact of math on feel. Whether cover gives +1 or +2 to AC doesn't impact feel in an obvious way: either way it feels like it's valuable to hide behind it if the option arises. Whether it gives +1 or +10 to AC does impact feel: in the latter case it feels like it makes you nigh invulnerable (or if you were otherwise being hit on 2s maybe it just makes you stop feeling so naked. :P). And if it gives you -2 AC, then it feels really counterintuitive (unless we're using THAC0 style ACs of course).
But there's a lot of gray area. +9 AC feels a lot like +10 AC, and so forth.

As a DDN specific example, advantage is very.. advantageous. It both feels and mathematically is very potent. However, since it doesn't stack, your second source of advantage feels and mathematically is completely worthless. Also, since advantage/disadvantage cancel, once both apply any number of further advantages/disadvantages feel and mathematically are irrelevant.