Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Miscellaneous d4-related thoughts

These are things that crossed my mind while writing that last post, but didn't quite fit.
  • There's a few alternate d4 designs. There's d8s numbered 1-4 twice, and d12's numbered three times. I have one of the latter, which is cool. Sadly, most games that require 1d4 will make you roll 2d4 or 5d4 somewhere along the line, so having one such d12(1-4x3) does me little good.
  • There exists a patent for an alternate d4 design that looks much better. It's made of four isoceles triangles, and you read it by looking at the top face, just like any non-d4 die. Probably it would roll better than existing d4s, but I have nothing but theory to support that. Nobody is making them currently, and the patent rights prevent duplication by other companies for another 5 or 10 years. Hmm... it's a TSR patent. I wonder if Andy would know anything about it? Haven't called him since September - this could be a good excuse.
  • Speaking of whom, what was Andy (or whichever of his WotC colleagues) thinking in making all those 2d4 damage weapons in 4th Ed? It's almost like they think 2d4 is some sort of intermediary between 1d8 and 1d10. It's not. Higher minimum, slightly higher average, but most importantly: steep bell-curve. Every other weapon die has a flat damage probability, but those 2d4 scythes and 2d6 mauls do very predictable median damage amounts with only rare excursions to the upper and lower damage totals. I haven't been able to deduce the logic behind why those particular weapons are given the otherwise non-existant curve. Definitely going to have to ask him about this.
  • Of course, though I'm complaining about 2d4 becoming a regular feature of D&D 4th, it could be worse. In the Savage Worlds RPG, there's times you end up rolling 1d6 and 1d4 at the same time. The dice explode, d6 on a 6, d4 on a 4, you gotta figure out which ones you're rolling again, and your neural pathways go kaplooie. (See previous post. Math and movement use different sections of the brain.) At least D&D only has you roll d4s alone, or together with other d4s, so one motion gets all the dice tumbling in their most randomizing trajectory.
This last bit I'm not going to bullet point, since it's unrelated to the other thoughts.

There are situations where the existance of the d4 is justified. Back in the hatbox days, I designed a game system for a one-shot. The scenario was a success, I ended up running 6 sessions of it, for 4 different play groups. It used d4s, amidst a lot of other dice. In the system, you wanted to always roll low. Each PC had a variety of traits rated at various die types, including a single very narrow specialty that rolled a d4. This was your one best subskill, the thing you were expected to always succeed at. The GM (me) didn't have to worry about weird rolling habits (or cheating) with that d4, because the player was nearly always going to win in that arena anyway. With that mechanical base to support it, the d4 worked perfectly well. It occurs to me, upon reflection, that I could have just made that specialty an auto-win, and left out the d4 entirely, with only minor impact on the way it played. Also, the experience taught me that all gamers are psychologically trained or wired to want to roll high - nothing spells "false hopes" like rolling a "20" and then remembering it's the worst possible result.


digital_sextant said...

Disregard my previous comment.

Jeremy Rice said...

There is a (free) role-playing system called "The Window", where you want to roll low, and use various dice for your skills.

I've never run it, nor played it, but the indie group was generally fond of it, and I've vaguely wanted to give it a (one-) shot.

...But I'm still convinced Fate is the One True System, with a little tweaking.

...Well, and The Pool, with the right group of narrativists.

And Great Orc Gods, when sufficiently punchy.

...And... oh, screw it. There are plenty of worthwhile systems.