Cinemechanix: Dice Spreadsheets Return!

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 05 April 2019 Written by Steve

First off, sorry for the two week absence. The first one was intentional because I felt like crap, the second was unintentional because my internet was out from Wednesday through Saturday because internet providers in America have the same business model as drug cartels. I think it’s back up now, at least until the next almost certainly avoidable but slightly unprofitable. multi-day outage hits, so on with the blog. 

Since I’m going to need to put together some kind of coherent rules document in the next few weeks, I needed to see how the changes I’m planning to implement affect the die rolls. Those of you who have been here a while know what that means: It’s time for Troll Dice and Spreadsheets! One thing I’ve regretted about the recent (planned) changes is that the d20 went away and I hadn’t been able to think of a good way to get it back without unnecessarily complicating the basic dice-rolling or character creation rules. Fortunately when I started putting together the first spreadsheet, I realized that we actually need the d20. With d12 as the free die, the rolls are just too low. You need a Hero Die of at least d8 to even think about rolling a 20, and at least a skill point or two to get to the 5% chance you have on a plain old d20. Since splitting the effect into 10s and 1s digit happens after subtracting the DN or opposing roll, raises would be way too rare if the 10s digit tops out at 1 for most street level characters. Making 20 the default free die  brings the roll ranges up more into the range I want them to be in, where more ability or a really good roll gives you 1 raise but multiples require being both better and luckier than the other guy in most cases. 

On spreadsheet one, the roll is the die combination you’re rolling and the next few columns are the stats on that die combo. Minimum, Maximum, and Average roll are self-explanatory, Dmin and DMax are the average minus the mean deviation and the average plus the mean deviation, which gives a good idea of the common range for that die combination. For example, if you’re rolling d20+d10, about 60% or rolls will be in the 11-21 range, with the remaining 40% split about evenly between low rolls (10 or less) and high rolls (22+). 

The next several columns factor in modifiers, so if you want to see what chance you have to roll a 10 if you’re rolling d8+d10+3, you’d go over to the “Chance of Rolling 10 by Modifier” column group and cross-reference d8+d10 with the “3’ column, which tells you that you’ll beat a DN 10 81.3% of the time with that die and modifier combo. If you want to find out your chances of a modifier higher than +4, you can just shift one column group to the left for every 5 points. Rolling a 10 with a +5 modifier is the same as rolling a 5 with no modifier, rolling 20 with a +12 is the same as rolling 10 with a +2, etc. The first (DN 5) column group only goes to +3 because dAnything +4 gives you 100% chance of rolling a 5. The results are rounded normally to 1 decimal place except for the extreme ends: 99.95% and up are rounded down to 99.9% since there’s still a very tiny chance of failure and anything under 0.05% is marked with an asterisk to show that the chance of a successful roll is non-zero but tiny. 

The table goes up to a Hero Die of 3d12, which is basically a character with Hero Factor 16 with a +8 Core skill. I stopped the DNs at 50 because it’s a nice round number and because the chance of rolling 55 with a modifier or +4 or lower is less than 1% for even the cosmic being rolling d20+3d12.  

Since the default free die is d20, you’re probably wondering why I included all those d12 and lower results. That’s an alternative I’m considering for the “ganging up” rules in combat. In a combat round, your action is the usual d20. Defensive actions start at d12 and the free die drops by 1 each time you defend. So if you’ve been attacked twice this round, your free die for the third attack is d8. Making defense rolls start at a lower dice means you don’t have to half defense rolls, which was necessary in the previous versions to prevent situations where attacking a more powerful character was basically the same as giving him a free attack. I’m also toying with the idea of making wound levels cap your free die instead of giving a penalty. So if you have 3 wound levels, your maximum free die is d8 (the first would drops your free die from d20 to d12, the next gives you a d10 cap, and the third caps your free die at d8). 

To make all those rolls of percentages a little more illustrative, I created spreadsheet 2, which shows the chances of rolling different DNs for sample characters from different power levels and build types. The Power Levels (which determine base Hero Die and stats) are more or less the same as the ones I’ve been using for Hero Factor ranges all along, so I’ll just explain the Character builds:

  • Unskilled: The character is jjust rolling Hero Die with no modifiers.
  • Skilled: The characters has 1 point in the appropriate Core Skill (so his Hero Die gets 1 bump) and a +1 Edge modifier. 
  • Professional: The character’s Core Skill is about halfway between “Skilled” and “Master” (about 25% of Hero Factor for most characters) and the character’s modifier from Edges for the action is 50% Hero Die. 
  • Master: The character’s Core Skill is maxed out at half Hero Factor and the Edge modifier is equal to Hero Factor. 
  • Munchkin: Core Skill still maxed out, but the character has min/maxed his way into a modifier that’s 150% Hero Factor. 

Mooks and Regular Joes (Hero Factors 1 and 2) aren’t divided into build types because the differences between the different types is so small that it’s not going to make much difference, and because Hero Factor 3 is still the recommended minimum for PCs. The top set of results (before the blank row) is with a d12 Free Die, so it’s basically the standard defense roll for a healthy character. The second batch of results are for a d20 Free Die, so that’s where most PC rolls that aren’t for defense will fall.The results are color-coded: Red: 1% or less; Orange: 1.1-24.9%; Dark Yellow: 25-49.9%; Yellow: 50-74.9%; Light Green: 75-98.9%; Dark Green: 99.9%+. 

The results look more like the range I’m looking for: DN 5 is so easy that it doesn’t need to be rolled unless there are extenuating circumstances; DN 10 is more likely to succeed than fail for most characters; DN 15 is hard to hit (less than 50%) unless you’re playing a high-power game or have put a lot of character points into whatever you’re rolling for; 20 is more likely to fail than succeed unless you’re a super-hero or munchkin; 25 is outside the range of normal human possibility (unless you’re an action hero munchkin), and 30 or higher is difficult even for Superman, so 40 is probably the “Fly Around The World So Fast You Turn Back Time” DN. 

Next Week: Significantly less math!

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