Any way to get rid of "roll d20, add modifiers"?

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Because let's be honest here--it's dumb.

Why is it that often the most variance between two characters' successes at doing activity X comes in the random roll rather than their abilities? I say it ought to depends on the action.

For example: opposed Strength check for a bullrush, say. My buddy weighs 280 pounds, plays defensive end for a football team. I'm about 150. He's probably got a STR of 18 in the D&D universe, while I'm probably around 12. If he bullrushes me, I lose in the real world, a hundred times out of a hundred. In the D&D world, he's only got like a 60% chance to win.

On the other hand, Spot checks depend heavily on chance. Maybe you happened to be looking the other way, or whatever. The variability allowed with a d20 roll could be appropriate.

Is there any way to allow, say, a d6 roll for certain checks and have it not bee too tangled up and complicated?
Is there any way to allow, say, a d6 roll for certain checks and have it not bee too tangled up and complicated?

I do like the idea of using different dice on checks (something like d4 for untrained and unfamiliar, to d6 familiarity, to d8 for basic training, d10 for experts, and d12s for masters) but to be honest it will make using checks way more complicated than it is right now.
I do like the idea of using different dice on checks (something like d4 for untrained and unfamiliar, to d6 familiarity, to d8 for basic training, d10 for experts, and d12s for masters) but to be honest it will make using checks way more complicated than it is right now.

Do you remember alternity by chance? I see a lot of d20 in it, and always loved that system. It had a LOT of dice being tossed for checks.
Do you remember alternity by chance? I see a lot of d20 in it, and always loved that system. It had a LOT of dice being tossed for checks.

Never played it.
You might be surprised at the actual statistics. Using the standard tiebreaker mechanic of "scores are equal => higher modifier wins, else reroll":

Equal bonus: 50%
+ 1: 57.25%, 1.34:1 (instant +5% because ties now go in your favour)
+ 2: 61.75%, 1.61:1
+ 3: 66.00%, 1.94:1
+ 4: 70.00%, 2.33:1
+ 5: 73.75%, 2.81:1
+ 6: 77.25%, 3.40:1
+ 8: 83.50%, 5.06:1
+10: 88.75%, 7.89:1
+14: 96.25%, 25.67:1
+18: 99.75%, 399:1

It doesn't take a big modifier before your chance of winning an opposed check drop off dramatically. This doesn't work so well for opposed ability checks because they have no level or skill based effect. But that's a mechanical problem of opposed ability checks, not the base d20 system.
As a houserule, for opposed checks we use the "less it's better" mechanic. So if you have 12 and he has 18, both of you roll and who gets the greatest difference between his roll and his score wins.
For instance, if you roll 10 and he rolls 14, he wins because he succeeded the roll by 4, whereas you succeeded by 2. It's an awkward mechanic, but with this one at least there is an actual difference between 18 and 19.

k.
Yeah, sure! And let's get rid of those stupid Dungeons & Dragons words. Because let's be honest here - it's dumb. We don't always explore dungeons and fight much more than only dragons...

May be you just need another game?
Because let's be honest here--it's dumb.

Why is it that often the most variance between two characters' successes at doing activity X comes in the random roll rather than their abilities? I say it ought to depends on the action.

For example: opposed Strength check for a bullrush, say. My buddy weighs 280 pounds, plays defensive end for a football team. I'm about 150. He's probably got a STR of 18 in the D&D universe, while I'm probably around 12. If he bullrushes me, I lose in the real world, a hundred times out of a hundred. In the D&D world, he's only got like a 60% chance to win.

On the other hand, Spot checks depend heavily on chance. Maybe you happened to be looking the other way, or whatever. The variability allowed with a d20 roll could be appropriate.

Is there any way to allow, say, a d6 roll for certain checks and have it not bee too tangled up and complicated?

Every time a rule is make you either have to sacrifice realism or simplicity. This is a case where simplicity won. I hope it wins again when it comes to turning undead. I should not have to pick up the book every time to do a certain attack.
This just goes to show that D&D characters have more pluck than you. They are fantasy heroes that can turn things around and have a chance to succeed even at the things they perhaps should not. D&D is just a bad system to represent people who suck at something and should always lose.
Because let's be honest here--it's dumb.

Why is it that often the most variance between two characters' successes at doing activity X comes in the random roll rather than their abilities? I say it ought to depends on the action.

For example: opposed Strength check for a bullrush, say. My buddy weighs 280 pounds, plays defensive end for a football team. I'm about 150. He's probably got a STR of 18 in the D&D universe, while I'm probably around 12. If he bullrushes me, I lose in the real world, a hundred times out of a hundred. In the D&D world, he's only got like a 60% chance to win.

On the other hand, Spot checks depend heavily on chance. Maybe you happened to be looking the other way, or whatever. The variability allowed with a d20 roll could be appropriate.

Is there any way to allow, say, a d6 roll for certain checks and have it not bee too tangled up and complicated?

That's funny, someone like that once made a bet with me that because they were so much bigger than me and played football that they could just run through me like that.

Granted I was 180 and 5'4 and he was about 6' and 270 something, but the numbers aren't too far off.

I slammed his ass to the ground so hard he didn't know what hit him. He was bigger than me and stronger than me by a long shot, as well as trained in rushing like that.

I however have martial arts training and know how to use leverage to my advantage. Bullrushing should be more than just opposing strength checks, because there is skill involved in both doing it and defending against it.

18 strength vs. 12 strength isn't the whole of it, and someone with 12 strength has a decent chance of pulling the leverage trick and using the bullrushers own strength and momentum against them by pure instinct or quick reflexes. However adding base attack in as well allows the ability to represent the person like me who's actually trained to do that.

... Of course my being short and having a low center of gravity helped too... Kind of like dwarven stability I guess.
As a houserule, for opposed checks we use the "less it's better" mechanic. So if you have 12 and he has 18, both of you roll and who gets the greatest difference between his roll and his score wins.
For instance, if you roll 10 and he rolls 14, he wins because he succeeded the roll by 4, whereas you succeeded by 2. It's an awkward mechanic, but with this one at least there is an actual difference between 18 and 19.

k.

IIRC (its been a while), that's how skills where done in classic D&D such as the Rules Cyclopedia.
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That's funny, someone like that once made a bet with me that because they were so much bigger than me and played football that they could just run through me like that.

Granted I was 180 and 5'4 and he was about 6' and 270 something, but the numbers aren't too far off.

I slammed his ass to the ground so hard he didn't know what hit him. He was bigger than me and stronger than me by a long shot, as well as trained in rushing like that.

I however have martial arts training and know how to use leverage to my advantage. Bullrushing should be more than just opposing strength checks, because there is skill involved in both doing it and defending against it.

18 strength vs. 12 strength isn't the whole of it, and someone with 12 strength has a decent chance of pulling the leverage trick and using the bullrushers own strength and momentum against them by pure instinct or quick reflexes. However adding base attack in as well allows the ability to represent the person like me who's actually trained to do that.

... Of course my being short and having a low center of gravity helped too... Kind of like dwarven stability I guess.

That's not a bull rush. That's more like a grapple or a trip, and you had training over the guy. Essentially what amounts to skill ranks, a feat, or a DEX roll. If you can actually out-bullrush a 270 pound trained lineman while only being 180, well, you've done something nobody else has in the history of football.
As a houserule, for opposed checks we use the "less it's better" mechanic. So if you have 12 and he has 18, both of you roll and who gets the greatest difference between his roll and his score wins.
For instance, if you roll 10 and he rolls 14, he wins because he succeeded the roll by 4, whereas you succeeded by 2. It's an awkward mechanic, but with this one at least there is an actual difference between 18 and 19.

k.

I can give you a tip regarding that rule to save you two subtractions: Roll your score or lower. If one succeed and one failed, the winner is the one who succeeded. If both succeed or both failed, the higher die roll wins. Same probabilities - easier on the brain.

If you want to go back to with "roll high to win" but still keep those probabilities, you can just roll and add ability score. High result wins. The numbers to add are higher, but I would think it still easier on the brain than two subtractions.
I agree with ancalimohtar. Checks should be done with adequate dices. Ability checks with a d20 are pretty futile since the dice is more important than your ability modifier.

Our houserule is:
use d10 for all checks with ~10 as highest modifier (like abilities)
use d20 for all checks with ~20 as highest modifier (like skills)

And you can always use 3d6 in place of a d20 for attacks. The outcome of this is no 1,2,19,20 and much more in the range of 8-12. You could call this a "safe" check. The character chooses to use his experience instead of the chance to strike real hard (or loose real bad). So in most cases no critical hits or critical misses are possible and most times you get a 8-12.

Same for skills, but you are only allowed 3d6 if you are allowed to take 10 at this moment.

But I really like the idea that dices "grow" with your level.
Like using d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20 dependent of your level.
Level 1-3: d4
Level 4-6: d6
Level 7-9: d8
Level 10-12: d10
Level 13-16: d12
Level 17 and above: d20

This would also drive people to really want high level heroes...so "d20" ist not only the name of the sytem but also the goal ;)
A bullrush is him trying to push me by basically charging into me. He ended up an his ass and I was still in the same place. I used dex to stop his bullrush yes, but it also took all my strength to. I didn't say I was bullrushing, just that size and strength isn't the end all beat all to stopping a bullrushing opponent. I'd be in dire straights if I tried to bullrush him, that is true, but the reverse situation is not all that unrealistic.
Or use 2d10 which has almost the same range (2-20), but centered around 10, so it there is less outliers.

Actually moving from d20 to 2d10 would make a lot of sense. BUT the math involved while trivial still takes some more miliseconds than just reading off the result of one dice.
Unearthed Arcana has a whole system set for using 3d6 instead of d20 called "bell curve rolls". It remaps critical threat ranges and gives alternatives to a less useful re-roll mechanic.

Sure d20 is random and wildly variable. The mechanic may not promote realism, but it is fun and will remain in 4e.

The "bell curve system" will probably be just as viable an alternative in 4e, however. It may be even easier to implement if they do away with threat ranges.
A bullrush is him trying to push me by basically charging into me. He ended up an his ass and I was still in the same place. I used dex to stop his bullrush yes, but it also took all my strength to. I didn't say I was bullrushing, just that size and strength isn't the end all beat all to stopping a bullrushing opponent. I'd be in dire straights if I tried to bullrush him, that is true, but the reverse situation is not all that unrealistic.

I don't mean to be pedantic, but I'd interpret this as you using your attack of opportunity in order to perform a trip attack. Since you are trained in this sort of thing, I'd apply bonuses as if you had the improved trip feat.

Carry on.
I don't mean to be pedantic, but I'd interpret this as you using your attack of opportunity in order to perform a trip attack. Since you are trained in this sort of thing, I'd apply bonuses as if you had the improved trip feat.

Carry on.

Hmmmm, you might be right... Didn't think of that.

My only real point was that, just because a person of lower strength beat someone else in a strength doesn't mean it was just because of strength, it's possible other factors played a part in it.
Unearthed Arcana has a whole system set for using 3d6 instead of d20 called "bell curve rolls". It remaps critical threat ranges and gives alternatives to a less useful re-roll mechanic.

Sure d20 is random and wildly variable. The mechanic may not promote realism, but it is fun and will remain in 4e.

The "bell curve system" will probably be just as viable an alternative in 4e, however. It may be even easier to implement if they do away with threat ranges.

I like the idea of the UA 3d6 a lot more, but never bothered to really push for it in any games I've played, because people love their d20's.

WotC has, unfortunately, tied their entire brand identity to the d20. Even though it seems many of their developers are now realizing that there's too much swing in it and that a bell curve might be better, there is really nothing they can do about it. As long as it's called "The d20 system", we're going to be using the d20 for the vast majority of rolls.
There are other systems that make "higher strength = always win strength battles" true. I'm glad D&D's not one of them since there are so many other factors than stats that come into play. One of my friends had a problem with it but theres always taking 10 and all that you can do with skill checks so you're not always rolling a d20.
I can give you a tip regarding that rule to save you two subtractions: Roll your score or lower. If one succeed and one failed, the winner is the one who succeeded. If both succeed or both failed, the higher die roll wins. Same probabilities - easier on the brain.

If you want to go back to with "roll high to win" but still keep those probabilities, you can just roll and add ability score. High result wins. The numbers to add are higher, but I would think it still easier on the brain than two subtractions.

Thanks!

IIRC (its been a while), that's how skills where done in classic D&D such as the Rules Cyclopedia.

I don't remember really, I only know it worked in a similar way in 2nd edition. We always liked that edition more than the 3rd, so some rules were kept when we switched to 3e.

k.
I can give you a tip regarding that rule to save you two subtractions: Roll your score or lower. If one succeed and one failed, the winner is the one who succeeded. If both succeed or both failed, the higher die roll wins. Same probabilities - easier on the brain.

If you want to go back to with "roll high to win" but still keep those probabilities, you can just roll and add ability score. High result wins. The numbers to add are higher, but I would think it still easier on the brain than two subtractions.

Wow, this is the old 1st edition AD&D rule for opposed checks. Nice to see it resurfacing!

-Rick
I love the basic mechanic of rolling 1d20, adding a modifier, and matching a DC. I don't ever want to see it go away.
I take it the OP doesn't want it to go away entirely, but just to not be used for every situation, and I can kind of sympathize with that. (The thread title is a bit overstated, is all.)
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
I take it the OP doesn't want it to go away entirely, but just to not be used for every situation, and I can kind of sympathize with that. (The thread title is a bit overstated, is all.)

Yeah, I just mean to remove that as the only type of check roll. Hell, the entire system is named after the "1d20+modifiers against DC whatever" mechanism. The problem is, when the modifiers are too small, the randomness takes over, even when the real-life situation that the check is modeling isn't so random.

Easiest way to fix it would be to change the type of die that is rolled depending on the situation.
For example: opposed Strength check for a bullrush, say. My buddy weighs 280 pounds, plays defensive end for a football team. I'm about 150. He's probably got a STR of 18 in the D&D universe, while I'm probably around 12. If he bullrushes me, I lose in the real world, a hundred times out of a hundred. In the D&D world, he's only got like a 60% chance to win.

And in a heroic story if you are the main character, there's a good chance you'd David his Goliath. D&D should resemble the heroic story more than real life.
At least I have my proper avatar now, I guess. But man is this cloud dark.
I love the basic mechanic of rolling 1d20, adding a modifier, and matching a DC. I don't ever want to see it go away.

I agree. I have loved this mechanic since its introduction and I am very glad they are sticking with it. Complexity is good sometimes but this is the mechanic used most often when playing D&D. No, it is not the most realistic mechanic but it is quick and easy. As it is used more often than anything else in the game I think that is exactly how it should be.
For example: opposed Strength check for a bullrush, say. My buddy weighs 280 pounds, plays defensive end for a football team. I'm about 150. He's probably got a STR of 18 in the D&D universe, while I'm probably around 12. If he bullrushes me, I lose in the real world, a hundred times out of a hundred. In the D&D world, he's only got like a 60% chance to win.

I see what your saying here, There a thousand other example that could be given. Like how does one fail a grapple vs a poodle, how does a 12 year old girl get that slam dunk so often, and so on. But the fact of the matter is DnD is just flat out unrealistic. The mechanical features of the game, like those that alow to survive a colussal stomp attacks, or escape from the claws of a dragon, play out poorly when applied to mondane events and object. Hopeful the 4e machanics will smooth things out a bit but there is no way to avoid these kinds of issues all together. Maybe if level/HD depend modifiers were used more often adn more effectively there would be a better seperation of what a hero and common may do.

On the other hand, Spot checks depend heavily on chance. Maybe you happened to be looking the other way, or whatever. The variability allowed with a d20 roll could be appropriate.

It is import to realize that the amount of chance incurred during a check is basicly a relation between the die size/number and amount/type of modifiers. Using different die will lower the wieght of luck that goes into a check but there are other ways to curb checks as well

More modifiers will Lower the weight of the roll and the weight of luck, while adding weight character attributes and build. Ex. use X4 Str mod with bullrush, overrun and grapple checks. I think this is a better solution and sense 4e is trying to streamline game play this is more likely to the kind of fix we will see.

Using a die set with a smaller ranger of result will just lower the weight of luck in your check but it also lowers the range of the check results, asuming the old set and the new set have the same average score. So for those that want to minimize luck, using 3d6 inplace of D20s is probably your best bet for now. However I wouldnt use the 3d6 variant for anything but opposing checks sense the high result is lowered from 20 to 18, making some otherwise reachable DCs, and ACs out of reach.
0the high variance doesn't actually matter that much, because almost everything requires numerous rolls to accomplish. For example: Fighting, sneaking, climbing swimming, surviving longer trips, etc.

Lots of rolls means that higher scores do have an edge. If the variance of single rolls is reduced, game becomes much less random in the long term, too, which may or may not be desirable.
How about adding a reroll mechanism ?
Reroll for every ability mod involved, for example a character with a +4 STR mod trying to bull rush rolls 4 d20 and keeps the best dice.