Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Photo of Me at Work


Photo of me running Shadows of Brimstone on our 3D Trederra board at DiceFest Online 2020 last month. Note the creepy alien soldier in the background.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Currently Gaming Nov 2020

 Other than that bit of math yesterday, I haven't really posted here in a while. Figure I should say a word or two about what gaming I'm doing.

D&D: Played the first session this week in a friend's campaign of D&D. I'm playing a flighty gullible Halfling Warlock. 

For those who know D&D, my Warlock Patron is Archfey, and my background is Guild Artisan. Dimple Copperock was an apprentice to a Colton Smelt, a master smith who makes fey-killing magical cold-iron weapons. Titania offered me power in exchange for betraying my master and leaving his employ. 

The campaign world seems pretty cool, and the GM has a lot of good ideas... but for some reason really likes the idea of the skill challenges from D&D 4th and has ported them over to 5th. I hope they don't come up too often. He did one in the first session, and it was clunky. Maybe they'll get better as we get more practice with them, but it felt arbitrary and flavorless to me. Definitely the weak-point of an otherwise excellent first session. The rest of it was more than enough fun to justify letting the GM do his thing with his favorite mechanical concept. Who knows, maybe once we've got a few skill challenges under our belts I'll grow to like them.

As I'm now playing a Warlock, I am eagerly awaiting the imminent release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, a new D&D rulebook that has a bunch of cool Warlock stuff in it.

Torg: I really like my playgroup, and am having a lot of fun, but I'm also having a hard time wrapping my head around Torg some nights. Not just because the rules are sometimes weird, but because I don't always understand the setting real well. This is my first Torg campaign, and most of the rest of the group have played Torg for decades. So they all grok the setting inside out, and I feel like I'm constantly playing catch-up. The GM threw a really interesting "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" plot at us recently, and I had the darnedest time figuring out if my PC (a dinosaur-man who worships a nature goddess I don't really know much about) should honestly be upset about body-snatching plant-clones. I guess it's an intruding reality, and as a Storm Knight I should be generally against that, but I also kind of felt like "Law of the Jungle" suggests mind-whammy plant-monsters gotta eat, too.

More D&D: I have a big campaign we play marathon sessions of on long holiday weekends. Had to convert it all to Roll20 because with the Pandemic nobody wants to get together for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was a ton of work taking my graph-paper (and Dwarven Forge) dungeon online... but now that I've got the tools/campaign built, I'm almost certainly going to want to keep using them even when things feel safe to play at the same table. Roll20 is pretty great.

Amber: We're 5 sessions into the campaign, and having a lot of fun. Nearly every scene has taken place in Amber itself, which is kinda weird, and probably my fault. I encouraged the players to get invested in Amber the place so that the big plot would matter to them, and I set a lot of interesting schemes in motion within walking distance of the castle, so they're sticking nearby thus far. It's cool, but I'm hoping to dive into the improvisational poetry of a hellride soon, as that's always a lot of fun to GM.

Shadows of Brimstone: Ran a bunch of Trederra adventures during DiceFest Online. I don't tend to talk too much here about work, but we did some almost theatrical productions this time. Fancy 3D board, 4 cameras, cool stage lights, creepy life-size Trederran Legionnaire standing right behind me, and a fun custom scenario with Darkstone Mortar fire. It was a lot of work, but also a ton of fun.

Mansquito -- I mean, Night's Black Agents: In recent sessions, the PCs slew The Man In The Iron Mask and a Moroccan Djinn. We've taken about a month off for various scheduling conflicts, but will return next week. The PCs have successfully infiltrated the power structure of Graf Orlok (the monster from the silent film Nosferatu), but they betrayed his bride while hunting those other baddies I mentioned, so next session will be a painful reckoning unless the players come up with a really clever cover story for what went "wrong".

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Advantage Math (It's not +5)

 I'm sure this is posted elsewhere on the internet, but I'm putting it here so I can remember so I don't have to do the math again if I forget it. In D&D 5th, Advantage is roughly equal to +3.325 on your roll on average, and Disadvantage works out to -3.325 on your roll on average.

That said, for typical difficulties of your character level in a thing your PC is built to be good at, the effect of Advantage is probably functionally better than that +3.325 suggests. Example: if you need to roll a natural 11+ (just counting the die, not considering modifiers) to hit, you'd normally hit 50% of the time, but with Advantage you'd be hitting 75% of the time. Which feels like it's a +5 bonus (a +25% success chance, since each +1 on a linear d20 = +5% success rate) in that situation, and if you look online you'll see people talk about it as if +5 were accurate.

I'd argue that +5 equivalency is really more of an illusion or an ideal, than an actual mechanical reality. You can't count on it reliably. Those people are just wrong.

I mean, the "it's practically +5" notion is predicated on a very middle-of-the-bell-curve target number. Aside from the fact that a roll of 1d20 isn't an actual bell curve, you also can't really expect to have the ideal mathematically balanced scenario show up at the table with any consistency. Yes, if you built your character really well, and your GM is very careful about the Difficulties they set and Monsters you encounter, then, sure, pretty often you'll find Advantage pays off roughly like it were a +5 boost to your average. But not every time. The moment the DM picks an above-average challenge for your climactic final encounter (or, for that matter, a real low-ball DC because they want you to succeed and some minor hurdle), or rolls on a Random Encounter Table, or the situation causes you to try something "outside the box" rather than what your PC is actually good at, this whole notion of it being equal to +5 is out the window. 

Lets say the GM puts a high DC on something, and you need a natural 18+ on the die to succeed. Your base chance of success is 15%. If you have Advantage, your chance of success goes to 27.75%. So that's just a hair better than a flat +2 boost. On the rolls where it really matters because you're trying to do the impossible, thinking of Advantage as being +5 will make you badly overestimate your odds of success. It's not only more accurate, but also safer, to think of it as if it were +3.

This fact is of greatest importance for GMs. If you plan out your scenarios thinking Advantage is +5, you'll end up making things impossibly hard for the PCs by mistake, and do so fairly often.


UPDATE: The excellent youtube channel "Stand-Up Maths" has done an a video on exactly this topic. So if you're reading this and you think "rbbergstrom's out of his gourd, as the PHB says advantage is the equivalent of +5 and the PHB wouldn't lie to me", you should watch this video:  As he points out and explains, the average roll of a d20 with advantage is 13.825. In other words, just +3.25 more than the normal 10.5 average of a single d20 roll.