Rolling damage: needed?

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So, ever since 3e I've been using average damage for some things instead of rolling. Example: instead of finding 10d6 and rolling them for a fireball, I just say it's 35 points of damage and move on with the game.

As a DM, I pretty much did this for any monster attack, and it sped up play greatly... no more hunting around for a particular type of die, no more carefully adding up different dice, etc. It was somewhat similar to how DDM handled damage.

Now in 4e, combat is designed to go faster, but take more rounds. More dice are rolled for an average attack, and both damage and HP are increased so that the standard deviation of damage die over the course of a battle is surprisingly small. The non-d20 dice don't really contribute as much as one would think.

Given that rolling damage doesn't contribute in a very significant way to the overall probabilities (especially compared to the swinginess of the d20 roll), it did not seem worth it to me to invest in the extra overhead.

i.e. in a sufficiently experienced/fast group, the additional rolling/calculating can effectively double the time that it takes to resolve a turn... it may not seem like it, but the mental gear shifting and such involved can significantly reduce the pace of a game (plus the extra dice tend to take up a lot of table space;)).

I know that many players still like the 'feel' of damage dice even if they don't do as much now (it's similar to the frisson one feels from gambling), but I personally view them as breaking immersion anyways. I'd rather have combat go almost twice as fast.

As a DM, that's simply the type of game I wish to run. Comments?
Well, if you really want to speed things up I guess that might be a good way to do it. Personally, I don't like it and I know my play group would hate it. It removes a great deal of randomness from the game which for us is part of the fun of playing a RPG in the first place.
It removes a great deal of randomness from the game

That's the point: my contention is that it actually does not.

which for us is part of the fun of playing a RPG in the first place.

So (hypothetically) if it was mathematically proven that static damage amounts somehow increased standard deviation (i.e. randomness), would you then have more fun using static damage amounts over rolling damage?

My contention is that it is the perception of randomness* (or perhaps just the coolness of the dice) that people enjoy.

It is also my contention that accomplishing twice as much would be more enjoyable regardless of one's perception.

*Oddly, many people have even argued before for bell-curved probabilities (example: 3d6) over linear (example: d20) probabilities, even though (or perhaps because) the standard deviation is greatly reduced.
Rolling dice is random. Applying an average is not.

Averages don't always match what a player would roll (over time) in actuality. For instance, just because statistically I should roll a 3 1 in 6 times on a d6 doesn't mean that I will. True, the odds are that I have a 1 in 6 chance, but in actuality it might take me 10 or 20 rolls to come up with a 3. It might also take me a single roll to come up with a 3. Or I migt roll a 3 multiple times in a row. Take that away and you take away randomness.
Rolling dice is random.

Again, the point is that the damage die have reached to point where they are not creating enough randomness to warrant the overhead.

Averages don't always match what a player would roll (over time) in actuality. For instance, just because statistically I should roll a 3 1 in 6 times on a d6 doesn't mean that I will. True, the odds are that I have a 1 in 6 chance, but in actuality it might take me 10 or 20 rolls to come up with a 3. It might also take me a single roll to come up with a 3. Or I migt roll a 3 multiple times in a row. Take that away and you take away randomness.

I don't get the impression that you completely understand the standard deviations, bell curves, probabilities, etc. involved, but that's ok. Your perception as a regular player is indeed noted. Thank you.

I'd be curious to hear from some actual statistician/mathematician types (and also from some psychological types). Although I work with banking software development now, I studied more the latter in college.
My contention is that it is the perception of randomness* (or perhaps just the coolness of the dice) that people enjoy.

It is also my contention that accomplishing twice as much would be more enjoyable regardless of one's perception.

Think about what you are saying... with regards to how one feels about an experience, the only thing that matters is ones perception. They aren't going to have more fun if you prove to them that the thing they are perceiving isn't true, because their perception is going to determine whether or not they are having fun.
Applying an average cuts down on the chance for dramatic tension. If I know a monster has a 10d6 ability then I know he will do 35 damage, period. If I have 36hp I am safe for next round. If I know he does 10d6 and you will be rolling it, well that could be anything from 10 to 60. If I have 36 hitpoints the chances are I'll be ok, but there's a large chance I won't be ok and a small chance I will die outright.

You can cite all the curves, deviation, and theory you want but dramatic tension is half the fun. If you turn it into magic the gathering where each creature has a set damage, you make it into a numbers game not a roleplaying game.


Resistance 10 to fire means a lot more against a 35 damage fireball than to a 10d6 fireball and the players know that if they can somehow get their resistance to 35, they are completely immune to the fireballs.
I don't think it's needed? Fun! but not needed. Some of my players like to roll damage even if they know they are fighting minions. They just want to roll damage.
Applying an average cuts down on the chance for dramatic tension.

I contend that the d20 (i.e. hit/not hit) accounts for 80-90% of that dramatic tension while the damage die (contributing little in the way of standard deviation) only add to dramatic tension in edge cases (like what you described). Conversely, if you play twice as fast, you should theoretically increase dramatic opportunities by about 100%.
I do understand how the deviations and probabilities work, but I think they are irrelevant to whether or not the game is fun. The deviations and probabilities are useful in predicting whether or not the game will be "balanced" on average, but play no role in determining whether or not people will have fun.

Yes using averages for damage rolls would average out to the same thing as rolling the damage dice. And it would not hurt the randomness much. You get more than enough randomness in the D20 roll itself (assuming you are at least still doing that) to keep the element of chance in the game.

But your assumption that speeding up combat (assuming your proposal would speed up combat for the sake of argument [I actually don't think it would]) is "more fun" seems to be predicated on your implicit assumption that "more is better" (more encounters that is). But that is an assumption. Not a fact. I certainly don't think it is necessarily even true.

I think the primary element in determining whether or not the players are having fun comes down to the degree to which they are involved and engaged in play, and that the speed at which the game is progressing is secondary.

Certainly, you don't want the game to progress too slowly or else players will feel like they are constantly "waiting" rather than being engaged. But the sweet spot from the fun perspective is likely NOT the mode of play that allows the encounters to go by the most quickly. The difference between rolling dice and computing averages is very minor in my opinion. If the players are engaged, they'll be ready to roll their dice when their turn comes. They'll throw them down immediately as they explain what they are going to do for their turn, then they'll take a couple seconds to add up the results.

I think another thing you might be ignoring is the suspense factor. A lot of times the primary fun component is coming in those moments where a combatant is on the edge of life and death, the dice are about to be rolled, and everything is suspensfully waiting to see what the result is going to be. As an example, think of those moments during play when everyone is hollering out a big "cheer" as the dice resolve on the table. Removing damage dice rolls removes that element from the game.
with regards to how one feels about an experience, the only thing that matters is ones perception.

And that was my point (and query): that it wasn't necessarily genuine randomness that was aiding their enjoyment. Randomness itself wasn't the main issue.
Ok I apologize for the off topic, but did anyone else just take a look at Klintus Fang's avatar and immediately have the reactions of "Oh no, Hellmute posted. This thread is going down in flames."
And that was my point (and query): that it wasn't necessarily genuine randomness that was aiding their enjoyment. Randomness itself wasn't the main issue.

yes. but the suspense of watching the dice roll, for many people, is.
Ok I apologize for the off topic, but did anyone else just take a look at Klintus Fang's avatar and immediately have the reactions of "Oh no, Hellmute posted. This thread is going down in flames."

you are the second person to say that. haven't you guys ever seen the original AD&D PhB? No picture is more iconic of the DnD experience for someone as old as I am... ;) No single person can have rights to that icon!! :p

who the hell is hellmute anyway? (don't answer that question... it was rhetorical).


I'm not changing the icon! I will have to "reform" its image, I suppose.
Now in 4e, combat is designed to go faster, but take more rounds. More dice are rolled for an average attack, and both damage and HP are increased so that the standard deviation of damage die over the course of a battle is surprisingly small. The non-d20 dice don't really contribute as much as one would think.

The most dice you can possibly roll for damage in 4e is 14 (if you're a maul wielder and you're using the biggest damage dealing power possible and you don't crit).

usually you're likely to hover around 1-4 dice. For the maul wielder, that might be 2-8.

Fireball is 3d6.

The big point is - less dice, more deviation. More deviation, more randomness.

Additionally, since 4e has very standardised hitpoints, there's no longer any randomness coming from that side of the equation.
I think the primary element in determining whether or not the players are having fun comes down to the degree to which they are involved and engaged in play, and that the speed at which the game is progressing is secondary.

You've added some excellent input. Thank you.

I feel that a faster game is more engaging, but that is may just be me. As a simulationist, I am certain that faster is more like reality... but as you mention, that doesn't necessarily mean it's more fun for everyone. Same with accomplishing more.

However, those things definitely are more fun for me as a DM... enough that it effects how much effort I am willing to devote to the task. It seems like that would be a significant factor.

it would not hurt the randomness much. You get more than enough randomness in the D20 roll itself

This, by itself, is all I really wanted observed. Thank you.
It removes a great deal of randomness from the game

That's the point: my contention is that it actually does not.

Vegas welcomes you!

And I'm gonna be mad when I get my vorpal sword.
Whether it's really random or all the same, I'd rather roll damage dice. I'd miss moments like, "Heck yeah, max damage!" or "Crap, I rolled a 1 and hit for 4 damage."

Game wise it's probably fine and almost certainly balanced to just apply average damage all the time. But personally I'd rather keep rolling. If I want quick battles I'll play the miniatures game.

Just my 2 coppers.
It is an interesting mechanic to just use the average of the dice for the damage rolls.

Problems include what Mr TheScum pointed out: effects that depend on what you actually roll for the damage. Not only vorpal weapons, but also Gauntlets of Destruction, and the new property in the Adventurer's Vault (brutal weapon, or something like that). So do you figure up the average damage for all those variations? Or do they roll the dice, and use the results? Or if the special number doesn't show, he uses the average?

Over the long run sure the statistics and standard deviations will even out, but those depend on a huge number of inputs. Does an encounter have enough damage rolls to really show those out? An encounter could last twice as many rounds as another due to damage dice (extremely unlucky encounter vs extremely lucky it could be 3-4 times the number of rounds).

For me, it would be more fun for rolling damage. I love it. Others may prefer the quicker play without figuring up damage dice.
Some of my players like to roll damage even if they know they are fighting minions.

Exactly...a condition that I acknowledged in my initial post. But could you not empathize with a DM that wished to continue with the game rather than spend table time on such?

This might sound harsher than intended but - I have no wish to indulge those that would willingly squander my time.
I know enough about statistics to know that they don't always accurately reflect the reality of a given situation. Statistics are used to determine what might happen. Not what will happen.

Given that rolling damage doesn't contribute in a very significant way to the overall probabilities

Applying an average removes probabilities from a lot of situations. For example, a fighter is facing off against a goblin. The fighter's avg dmg happens to be 7 and the goblin happens to have 8 hp left. The fighter may have rolled high on his turn and killed the goblin. But becuase an average damage value was used that probability is gone; the goblin survived and now finishes off the cleric that happened to have fewer hp remaining than the avg dmg dealt by the goblin.

Here's a similar situation but no averages are used. The fighter rolled low on his turn and the goblin survives. The goblin tries to finish off the cleric but it also rolls low and the cleric barely survives.

If you use averages instead then the outcome is already known beforehand. (not random)
If you roll dice the outcomes may vary. (random)

But again, if you're looking to speed up gameplay then your method might be a good way to go about doing that.

Another method that some DM's have used in the past (I imagine that some still do this) is to use a laptop or nearby desktop and write a die rolling program. Type in a value such as "2d6" or "3d8" and it returns an appropriate rolled result. It's not quite as fast as applying an avg dmg result but it removes a lot of the "mental gear shifting" and other dice related issues you seem to have.
Problems include what Mr TheScum pointed out: effects that depend on what you actually roll for the damage. Not only vorpal weapons, but also Gauntlets of Destruction

Gauntlets add 0.5 average damage per dice... because average damage = (highest + lowest)/2.

An average can even be obtained for vorpal, but it's more complicated. It is around 0.7 extra damage per dice (i.e. about .84 per d4, .6 per d10, etc.). If my group ever reaches that level, I can provide the precise average.
Exactly...a condition that I acknowledged in my initial post. But could you not empathize with a DM that wished to continue with the game rather than spend table time on such?

This might sound harsher than intended but - I have no wish to indulge those that would willingly squander my time.

I would posit that you probably over estimate the amount of time that is wasted rolling dice. Multiplying out averages in ones head is no easier than adding up dice numbers on a table. And if you instead assume you are writing down the averages ahead of time... well, that's more time spent away from the table preparing.

If my DM really insisted that we not roll damage dice because he insisted it would save time, I would go with it, but what I would honestly think to myself is that he's being eccentric and a bit obsessive compulsive. (I hope that doesn't sound harsh, but that is what I would be thinking, and I mention it because I think that is what most of the level-headed people at the table would be thinking).

At best you are talking about saving 5-10 second per turn, unless your players are seriously math challenged and have difficulty adding up dice. But if they are that math challenged, they will likely have even more difficulty computing the averages.

You'll save far more time having an efficient initiative tracking system (the best way is to let the player's be the ones managing initiative so you can focus on the other details), and by training your players to stay engaged and to be prepared for their turn before it occurs, then you'll ever save by replacing damage dice rolls with averages. IMO.
Another method that some DM's have used in the past (I imagine that some still do this) is to use a laptop or nearby desktop and write a die rolling program.

I had been using DM's familiar in 3.5. It calculated attacks, damage, and special effects for full attacks (i.e. sometimes involving dozens of rolls) for any SRD monster with just a single click. I'll miss it in 4e. But my own speed wasn't really the issue.

It's not only speed though... I'd be much happier if my players were more immersed in their actions than in their die numbers. The former is role-playing while the latter is more of a dice game (and unfortunately, as much as I love games, I have no interest in dice games, ball-games, regular card games, etc...).
Gauntlets add 0.5 average damage per dice... because average damage = (highest + lowest)/2.

An average can even be obtained for vorpal, but it's more complicated. It is around 0.7 extra damage per dice (i.e. about .84 per d4, .6 per d10, etc.). If my group ever reaches that level, I can provide the precise average.

does this mean you are planning to track hit points out to multiple digits of percision? Or are you intending to round? In any case, this is starting to sound like it is more time consuming then just rolling the dice.
I would posit that you probably over estimate the amount of time that is wasted rolling dice.

It depends on the circumstances, but the shifting of gears can affect the pace of the game far more than anyone realizes.

Multiplying out averages in ones head is no easier than adding up dice numbers on a table.

It has become second nature for me now, but I do write them down.

if you instead assume you are writing down the averages ahead of time... well, that's more time spent away from the table preparing.

I'm ok with that. Prep time is easier to coordinate than table time (indeed, I even enjoy prep more with this... even though that part takes almost no time now). Table time itself can be a precious thing to a group of busy adults, thus I place importance on maximizing game time.

if they are that math challenged, they will likely have even more difficulty computing the averages.

It would be done ahead of time, directly on the power cards. For anyone that was math challenged, it would be done for them.

You'll save far more time having an efficient initiative tracking system

Agreed. Already done though in my group's case, but your tips would definitely be a first step for anyone wanting to maximize game time.
are you intending to round?

Of course.

this is starting to sound like it is more time consuming then just rolling the dice.

Well, this conversation is technically more time consuming that just rolling dice ;)

But as I mentioned, I've been doing this for quite awhile, and it has saved me tremendous amounts of table time (more than doubling my speed as a DM during combat)
Gauntlets add 0.5 average damage per dice... because average damage = (highest + lowest)/2.

An average can even be obtained for vorpal, but it's more complicated. It is around 0.7 extra damage per dice (i.e. about .84 per d4, .6 per d10, etc.). If my group ever reaches that level, I can provide the precise average.

But vorpal weapons have the potential to do infinite damage. How do you calculate that average? You're crippling my character, you fiend.
I had been using DM's familiar in 3.5. It calculated attacks, damage, and special effects for full attacks (i.e. sometimes involving dozens of rolls) for any SRD monster with just a single click. I'll miss it in 4e. But my own speed wasn't really the issue.

It's not only speed though... I'd be much happier if my players were more immersed in their actions than in their die numbers. The former is role-playing while the latter is more of a dice game (and unfortunately, as much as I love games, I have no interest in dice games, ball-games, regular card games, etc...).

Sorry, I wasn't suggesting the die roller as a means to speed you up but your players. If using a laptop as your DM screen you could simply "roll" the damage dice for the players and tell them the results. I know some players wouldn't like it because they'd feel like you were taking the roll out of their hands but having them use average damage results would do the same.

Using a nearby PC instead would at least allow them to see the results themselves even if they aren't the one's inputing the dice parameteres and pushing the Enter key. But playing near one's desktop isn't always convenient.

The DDI gametable might be a good alternative for you. It should speed things up at least.
But vorpal weapons have the potential to do infinite damage. How do you calculate that average?

As an ever smaller fraction (much like how .33333 can go on forever).
you could simply "roll" the damage dice for the players and tell them the results.

Blasphemy!
As a DM, that's simply the type of game I wish to run. Comments?

Not sure if you're looking for support or debate here but I really only have one comment, well a question, "Is it the type of game your players wish to play?"

If they're good with it then sure, it removes significant randomness per single dice roll but over the life of a character? It'll wash out nicely and there'll be little difference than rolling them on average. If the players are good with it or at least not opposed I see no issues with it at all from a game mechanic standpoint.

On a personal note, you speak of immersion being broken by rolling damage but I could see something of the inverse with metagaming with fixed damage as in "I can take two more hits since I have 15 hp's and it only hits for 7 per then joe use that leader power of yours to swap bob into my spot and then Jill can heal me."

YMMV there as with anything else subject to interpretation and influenced by personal likes, styles, and preferences.

The prime thing is if people are having fun then it's all good.
yeah. not that I think it's a good idea, but the sum of an infinite series can be computed if it converges, and in this case, it probably would.
Blasphemy!

lol. what you are proposing is effectively the same thing. ;)
Not sure if you're looking for support or debate here

Neither. Merely discussion.

I really only have one comment, well a question, "Is it the type of game your players wish to play?"

I couldn't say. Like any house rule, one can discuss it's merits, drawbacks, preferences etc.

Considering the large amount of effort I put into the game (much of which is solely on behalf of my players and may not be my preference), asking for this consideration (in an effort to maximize play time), does not seem like an unreasonable request to me.

"I can take two more hits since I have 15 hp's and it only hits for 7 per then joe use that leader power of yours to swap bob into my spot and then Jill can heal me."

Excellent example. Again, those are edge conditions, but I've nonetheless established that any such metagaming will cause me to randomly alter the amounts. Regardless, they've technically had this opportunity for quite awhile now (I already use average damage for the monsters as a DM), and it's never come up yet... not that such tactics would be all that terrible (I see effectively similar stuff in regular groups).
I cannot speak for your gaming group, but I would be against the idea of average damages. It would remove one of the actions I get to do as a player, making it seem less roleplaying and more gaming, if that makes sense. I want as much control over what my character does as possible, and that means letting me roll for what my blows do.
lol. what you are proposing is effectively the same thing. ;)

No, mean I roll for them when someone cast Blasphemy (as that spell can involve a lot of rolling)

Seriously though, me rolling for them wouldn't speed up combat (indeed, delegating *to* the players is more used to speed play), besides being less fun for either of us.
Personally, I think doing it on the DM side of it, with Monsters and NPCs is not too bad. Minions already do static damage, the others can also do a static damage, but full damage on a Crit.

Making the Players do it as well, I think you need to make sure the Players are very much in agreement with it. I have several friends who are very proud of their dice collection, and only letting them roll D20s would be a huge afront on their personas. I am also sure, some people wouldn't mind, but that is something that could (and I say could, not is) a break point for some.

The Slippery Slope to this, is when do you say, "Rolling to Attack takes too long, if the Monsters have a 50/50 chance to hit, we'll just say every other one hits." Or, "Well, Avg Dmg is 20, with about a 50/50 chance to hit, each creature automatically hits for 10 damage." Now, I'm not sure if this is a longterm possibility, but it is the next step.
I don't like it.

And it may not reduce the 'randomness' (depending on how you define randomness), but it definately changes the curve and it removes a number of possible outcomes. In other words - it tightens the curve around the mean, shortening the tails on either side.

If the principle is taken to its extreme, one could simply calculate DPR versus AC, create a table and just use that for combat. Very streamlined, very fast. And completely boring. And yes, that is taking the argument well beyond what was suggested. But the principle holds.

What it removes is the 'luck factor'. That attack that does minimum damage, leaving the opponent still standing. That attack that does maximum damage, striking at the heart of the opponent and leaving him staggered.

It turns the game into a static and predictable game where you always know how much damage an attack will do. The uncertainty - the luck - is taken out of the game and what is left is, imho, less interesting.

And for what? To gain a few seconds (how long does it really take to add two numbers together?)

Doesn't appeal to me, YMMV.

Carl
I don't like it.
It turns the game into a static and predictable game where you always know how much damage an attack will do. The uncertainty - the luck - is taken out of the game and what is left is, imho, less interesting.

I do agree with this. Without damage dice, the game would be rather boring. If my DM made me take averages for all my damage dice, I'd put up with it if I had to, but would probably quit immediately if another DM came along unless he was the best story telling DM that I've ever seen.

If my DM started telling me that he puts in so much effort for me that he considers it only fair that I should do this one thing for him, I'd quit immediately even if their was no other DM to play with. I feel bad saying it, but I would rather not play at all then have to deal with that kind of attitude.
Seriously though, me rolling for them wouldn't speed up combat (indeed, delegating *to* the players is more used to speed play), besides being less fun for either of us.

I doubt it would make much of a difference in speed if you entered the parameters into a computer and pressed Enter or if one of the players did instead. But if you think so you could always have one of the players sit in front of the PC and be the designated "dice roller". Another option might be to have each of your players bring a laptop to the game and use a die rolling app themselves. But I don't know if that's feasible for your players and your table space seems to be at a premium anyway.

As far as what's more fun it would be about as fun to me as being assigned a static damage score for my attacks.
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