Another Way Dice Fail RPGs

The prototypical RPG mechanism is the contest and the first example given is arm wrestling.

If my character has a strength of 13 and yours has a 14, yours should win, right? Your character is objectively stronger than mine, so obviously when we arm wrestle, yours wins.

Except that’s not how it works. If there are 5000 RPGs with stats and dice, I would be shocked if The Internet can name 2 where that’s how it works. The rest all say “Whoa whoa whoa, sure the character with a higher strength has an advantage, and should win more on average, but there are so many other factors; and anything can happen; and uncertainty is more fun; and if the outcome is predetermined, why bother!”

None of these arguments are invalid, which is a big part of why this design choice hasn’t been questioned much. But what are the arguments against?

How often are these two characters going to arm wrestle? If the answer is usually once, having them each reveal their score and naming the higher the victor is a fast and intuitive resolution in the game, and serves the story well because the audience learns which of these characters was stronger.

If there are factors affecting the outcome of this match, what are they? If I’m finding an extra reserve of strength because your father beat my father in arm wrestling, the audience wants to know that. If my partner is distracting you, we want to see how. If you’re fatigued, or de-motivated, or whatever, we want to feel that. Better than “roll d20 +STR” and abstract those factors, would be “choose motivations and event cards face down and simultaneously reveal to see whose final strength is higher.”

D20 + STR, btw, is a joke. Even in the theoretical probabilistic mean, your character only has a 5% advantage over my character: In 40 million contests, yours will win 21 and mine will win 19. Maybe it’s not obvious that’s not enough of a difference: Suppose you have an 18 strength, the maximum possible, and I have an 11, the average: You’ll win 31 and I’ll win 9. I don’t know about you, but I will never ever win a wrestling match against Arnold Schwarzenegger.


And that’s assuming every point of strength matters. There are too many games with calculated secondary stats where only every 2 or 5 points of strength actually affect contests. Collapsing modifiers is a good way to differentiate characters when the randomizer is throttled (Apocalypse World’s 2d6+stat, for instance) but actively bad in a d20 system (or percentile, heaven forbid).

What about criticals? Should a 1 mean auto-fail and a max roll mean auto-success, even in the worst matchups? Yeah, sure. I agree that never having 100% certainty in a contest is better for suspense, drama, story, and fun. But you know what’s more fun than my feeble character going against your masterful character and winning because my die landed on the 20 face? My feeble character scrabbling and scheming in story-enriching ways that I as a player orchestrated.

Our cause and effect reversed. Rather than roll a die representing abstract factors to see how a thing goes, make a thing go and notice whether that was a really good (like a 20), really bad (like a 1) or something in between. Maybe you make that thing go by deciding what factors are in play, or maybe its determined by the game state (including your characters stats/attributes), or maybe you just choose.

What about multiple contests in sequence? AKA combat. It’s not hard to argue that even if your character is a slightly better sword fighter, even if your character is ultimately going to win the fight (barring external or extraordinary factors), the audience still wants to see an arc with multiple blows traded, with risks taken, costs paid, and surprises launched. And I don’t disagree.

But in the same way I think we’ve got our cause and effect reversed in individual contests, I think there are better ways to approach combat than a series of random events. Particularly since 3-6 rolls does not begin to approach the probabilistic norm we like to imagine it does. I’ve alluded to one such system that I’m sure would be fun in combat above, so here’s another:

Suppose that each character is a bundle of feelings. (They are, if your story’s any good, but suppose your game system mechanizes that.) My character is a monk: focused, optimistic, dedicated, obligated, and trained. Your character is swashbuckler: intuitive, amused, vain, unpredictable, and talented. Each round, we simultaneously choose which feeling our character is feeling and reveal them. The resolution is us as players figuring out what’s happening in this moment that’s causing our characters to feel this way now, and how that interaction plays out where we are.

If I played optimistic and you played unpredictable, maybe I see you’ve forgotten to tie you shoes and go to trip you, but you swing from a chandelier, bowling me over. Of if you play unpredictable and I play optimistic, you hop on a table for no good reason and I see it’ll be easy to defeat such a sloppy opponent, tipping you off. Hmm, looks like order matters, or else some kind of priority; If the goal is to have a back-and-forth, it might literally be: this turn figure out how our cards describe me pulling, next turn, you.


Point is: Question precedent.


You’re right. A lot of game drafts exist (mine included) to apply the “feeling points” idea, and some very good games with very different systems (Dying Earth, Pendragon, Lasers and feelings, Misspent Youth) although they are not “standard”. You could say they are games focusing on the “why”.
I’d say the tradition of rolling is living because it is a standard and also because learning it is a sunken cost. But you’re right, mostly, people want to have fun and do not care about probabilities or exploring causes and effects. I still don’t get the fun in Ludo, and it’s a thousand years old games…


No, one will win 21 million times and another one will win 19 million times. The difference is 2 million, not 2. If you arm wrestle for money and each bet $10 on their win, one is $40 million richer at the end.

Arnold at his prime had more than 18.

But all that is moot. The reason why this works is because STR describes more qualities than just 3-4 muscles of a single arm that participate in the arm wrestling. What randomization does is it gives us approximation of how STR relates to this particular task given the average of all of the character’s strength-like qualities.


This, decoupling STR from biceps, is not a fact, it’s a way of making it work.
The various ways actually used at a table should be compatible if you don’t want to be wrestling for the rules system (which can be fun with enough flair and fair play).


I may be misreading, but I gathered from the OP that there is an assumption that dice rolls immediately imply every player doing an in depth statistical analysis of probability, etc. I’m sure this is true of those inclined to math and stats, but honestly I rolled dice for years without ever wondering about or calculating the odds.

Now, what I realized as I matured was that sometimes certain rolls “felt wrong” in actual play, and generated play experiences that didn’t match expectations. It was at that point that analyzing the rolls and probability became a good way to figure out WHY they felt wrong.

So for me dice are cool because they give you a pleasurable activity (rolling them is fun) and behind the scenes they give you an objective analysis if the OUTCOME of the rolls creates unfun play.

For example… 18 STR vs. 11 STR… basically comes out to a 3 out 4 times 18 wins. I kinda agree that that doesn’t feel right… 9 out of 10 maybe? 19 out of 20? Whatever it is, it tells me my Stat range is not doing what I want it to… or the applied dice mechanic is incorrect, etc.

Now, while the “how am I feeling today?” mechanic seems interesting, I’m not sure how I’d judge its efficacy. Granted, I come from a very simulationist bent… that mechanics (dice or otherwise) are in service to creating a desired experience. The expected experience comes first, always ultimately dependent on a human judgement call, but good mechanics push that judgment into a range of possible outcomes that “feels right.” That, to me, is efficacy. In the “feeling” mechanic, how would it help shape that judgment? How is someone supposed to know if “flighty” beats “sanguine” and why… by how much… in what circumstances?

I’m not saying it couldn’t work, but any mechanic, from my point of view, has to be evaluated on how well it pushes possible outcomes into an acceptable range of results. Dice have traditionally allowed for this very well, if used correctly.


… I guess that was only a draft of a mechanic for example’s sake. There is probably a good design challenge here, but just to be clear : if you want to use a “descriptive quality” mechanic, what are the other assumptions :

Do you also want “physical simulation” ? or “realistic narration” ? Most tables don’t see the divide. Realistic narration works fine with descriptive qualities. Physical simulation and its “objectivity” runs into a forest of problems.

Who will interpret the odds ? and the result ? Do you want the rules to adjudicate that ? or the players ? or the GM ? Bear with me : descriptive qualities can work just right for physics simulation if there is an expert at the table. They will do certainly better than fixed rules. But what if players have a very naive view of physics ?
So, there’s a challenge, but it’s really not clear to me what the terms are. And my guess is : if you untie the major contradictory assumptions in the problem, it’s self solved from the start.


I agree this is the crux. When I said earlier “ultimately dependent on human judgment call” I was talking about what I think you are calling “descriptive qualities” and “realistic narration” (I tried to avoid the pitfalls of the word “realistic” but it works if not nitpicked.) “Realistic” usually ends up meaning “The final result/description feels right to everyone at the table.” Basically “realistic enough”

As for physical simulation vs. realistic narration… I do see the difference, but I don’t think they are incompatible. I’d want both and that they work together. Going old school here for my example. As far back as my intro to D&D in 1980, I always hated Armor Class… because it just didn’t “feel right” that layering up plate mail made you harder to hit. Within that same year, discover 1st Edition Champions, and the (very novel concept for then) idea of a DCV stat (how hard to hit) separate from a PD stat (how much you can soak when hit) was pure genius. These new mechanics were hardly “realistic” from a pure physics POV, but they “felt right” in a way Armor Class didn’t.

As for…

I think trad games actually had an advantage in that it was just assumed “Rules adjudicate, then GM interprets, players react” pretty clearly. I still feel that exists in a lot of ways… simply tempered by the ideas of spreading “director stance” around… which I always felt was “not just the GM interprets, players get to interpret as well”

I’ll be honest that I spent years of my youth under the false assumption that “enough of the right rules” would create a perfect physics for a game to perfectly and consistently answer every question. Alas, that was not to be. I think what you mean by “untie the major contradictory assumptions” it is this… that no matter how many rules and how fine tuned, ultimately human judgement and narration is required to “interpret” the mechanical results.

I just find dice (back to the OP) and other mechanics, when done right, help guide consistency and “playgroup accepted level of realism” in the interpretation. Too much handwavium and things “feel wrong” because they are too inconsistent, head scratching and whimsical. Too much procedure and things “feel wrong” because forced results don’t match expectations and interpretation is buried under pointless minutia.

Put another way, interpretation and adjudication should work together… I don’t see them as either/or. Dice rolling is a part of that… done well, adjudication by dice supports and focuses the interpretation.


I’m not entirely unconvinced by this argument but it seems to make a lot of assumptions that I’m not convinced by:

Not every game is seeking to tell a specific story for an audience. The concern of if a mechanic " serves the story well because the audience learns" isn’t really core concern except in games played before an audience. I’ve been playing TTRPGs since 1982 and never played for an audience. Even if we take the audience bit out (and its repeated, focusing again on the narrative convention that physical feats are more likely if one has a strong emotional stake in them), I get the impression I get here is that the author believes narrative/genre fidelity is the creation of suspense and drama and the same as “fun”.

I know that this is a popular view for some players and designers – but it’s neither the only view or the way that systems with the mechanics the author is discussing are typically played. D20 systems and D&D derived systems (especially pre-2000’s ones) are general not seeking to promote genre fidelity and novelistic or filmic narrative structure. There’s no planned or expected “arc”, there’s no goal of providing an audience (even if that audience is the players) with a expected outcome or specific narrative beats and the mechanics don’t help do these things because they don’t want to.

Instead the goal of such games has been a sort of ‘quasi-realism’ - a game where a key part of play is being able to judge based on the player’s real world knowledge if something is possible or might succeed and to advocate for it with a GM who acts as an arbitrator. This is the ludic joy of problem solving - it’s not being addressed here, either in the post about dice failing “RPGs” or in the mechanics described because it’s largely outside of the mechanics in classic D20 games. I might as well say “Another Way Knives Fail at Cutting” and support my argument with a of the difficulty of cutting sheet steel with kitchen knives.

There’s another way to look at these mechanics. The desire to roll that appeal to the dice generally provides another sort of ludic joy in classic TTRPGs - that of gambling. The thrill of taking a risk.

If one thinks about gambling a wide gradiation in outcomes and a fairly low amount of predictability enhances this. 5% isn’t a joke. 5% is a 1 in 20 chance. In a gambling game that’s a solid shift in the odds. Think in a traditional D20 game how often do players roll a natural 20 or natural 1 (5% chance of either) – often enough that most games have special rules for it in various situations. A +1 on a D20 roll is a significant bonus, a -1 a significant disadvantage.

For combat mechanics specifically the goal of criticals and fumbles in classic D20 play is to make combat unpredictable – dangerous. The players are supposed to consider it a risk, and fumbles and criticals add to that. There’s no goal of narrative cohesion, and the decision to engage in combat is the decision to gamble with one’s character rather then find a problem solving outcome (or use the same problem solving to stack the advantages for the characters). This is working as intended for the play style.

I’d be more interested and appreciative of a discussion of how die mechanics fail at promoting genre fidelity and narrative cohesion if those die mechanics, and the game they were taken from were designed to create narrative cohesion and genre fidelity. Otherwise this feels a lot like claiming an American Football’s oblong shape is bad because it ruins a game of English Football.


It could be argued that players are their own audience, aren’t we ?

Considering the stated topic is “What are the arguments against (rolling for a fisticuff duel or that sort of contests)”, I’d say the arguments you present in favour of (rolling for fisticuff) are off topic. But you’re right that there is a lot of assumptions, yes, about the players, and I wonder whether D&D is just used as a kicker or if it’s a frame for the whole discussion.

Re-reading OP I found one of those assumptions lying in a non-sequitur : “If there are factors affecting the outcome of this match, what are they? If I’m finding an extra reserve of strength because your father beat my father in arm wrestling, the audience wants to know that. If my partner is distracting you, we want to see how. If you’re fatigued, or de-motivated, or whatever, we want to feel that.” That’s a healthy expression of desire, not an assumption. But something is untold then that leads to this non-sequitur : "Better than “roll d20 +STR” and abstract those factors, would be “choose motivations and event cards face down and simultaneously reveal to see whose final strength is higher.”
I find the 2 propositions disconnected. They describe a specific experience. My experience is this : we roll for the duel, and see the result. Then someone can add a descriptive detail that explains why the winner won. Maybe it is obvious : the winner was prepared, they have better VMA. They know the ropes. That’s usually for the winner to describe, and characterize. Or the GM can introduce a non-neutral, dynamic, narrative element. But if victory was against the odds, maybe there’s some other factor coming in. A rumor in the crowd. Overconfidence in the champion. Whatever. The dice here represent… something neutral and random, or something significant the GM is smuggling right there, right ? So the dice really are used according to the “table agreement” of who can say what anyway.

But that’s not what OP says. OP follows by exchanging dice roll with card bets and stats with descriptive qualities. This looks like a total non-sequitur to me. I deduced that jtreat wanted to jump to the conclusion, they wanted the conclusion : namely, to focus more on “why” stats affecting the roll (as ±modifiers, the traditional tool for the job).

Looking for “assumptions” I also found : “trad games actually had an advantage in that it was just assumed (a certain system)” (RDUNeil).

More than assumptions, I conclude that we come to the table with different tastes : some like what goes with ease, that is, without saying. For the communication part of the RPG conversation, it’s clearly an advantage. We communicate much more easily when we already know what is being communicated. Others want to create and explore new territory. And you don’t launch an expedition if a die roll decides of your success : you need reassurance.
I say these aspirations are contradictory. Not incompatible, but the space in-between is probably uncomfortable. Also, probably instructive.


Completely agree. I often try to explain that RPG play is a unique social and creative activity in that the authors and audience are the same people… you are actively involved in creating a story that you are also actively watching as it plays out. I don’t really know of any other activity like that.

How much value a particular player holds with that story comes down to “taste” and assumptions and expectations. For me, that unfolding story and the narrative experience is paramount. For others it may be of minimal value.

This is getting at the underlying social contract of play… is everybody operating under the same criteria and assumptions? If so, you’ll get more harmony. Discord arises when assumptions/expectations clash. Even exploring new territory can be harmonious if everyone is onboard with which old assumptions are being challenged by new ideas.

Very early on I realized that my expectation of focus on unfolding story and narrative experience was NOT shared by everyone, and it explained why we might clash on what was acceptable play.

This very much mirrors my own experience… if the dice provide an unexpected (but possible) result, then the story bends at the moment to produce a narrative interpretation of “why” to explain that. If these unexpected results happen too often, you are back to my earlier post about analyzing the procedure to fix it, to reduce the unexpected down to a more acceptable level.

I can only guess, but I wonder if the OP, in talking about…

… was simply saying “Instead of interpreting die rolls with abstract factors, lets make those factors less abstract and apply them a priori to the event.”

With dice, this is just another way to get modifiers… bonus or penalty… say in this case, based on your state of mind. Fair enough… not far off from what stats like Stress or Momentum do in current games. I think the difference is that somehow the “state of mind” simply contrasts with the opposing “state of mind” and a success or failure is decided without rolling any dice. I just don’t have a clue how that might be managed. You’d have to assign values to emotional states and have some way of comparing them (like the Robo-Rally example of revealing them one at a time)… with some kind of commensurate cost to invoking more powerful emotions, etc. Some kind of bidding mechanism? I really don’t know.

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There’s a lot to talk about here, but I’d like to push back on the “audience” issue a bit.

The idea that the people involved in the game itself are the audience presents some concerns, and perhaps clarifies a bit of why I break with the original argument here.

Generally the members of a TTRPG group are known as “players” who “play” a game. There’s a few key distinctions here between player and audience that deserve to be unravelled.

A. Audiences are generally considered passive, they spectate. The audience in a football game does not participate in play for example. Sure there are forms of entertainment where audience participation is encouraged or expected, but they are rare and the audience participant is rarely more then a foil for the performer.

B. Audience is generally a term related to drama not games. While audiences exist for sporting events, and even card games, for me at least the first image brought to mind is a play, novel or film – static entertainment where chance isn’t involved. The audience spectates as the performs act out a story.

I find it interesting that the term would seem like something to use in the context of TTRPGs, most of all to describe the players. A player being someone who is actively involved in the progress of the game. Likewise the activity of players rather then audience or performers derives its excitment from an unpredictable ending, a contest or unfolding of possiblity where the activity’s unknowable outcome is itself an element of it that brings joy.

Now a TTRPG could conceivably be played for an audience. The popularity of actual play seems to show this … and it’s interesting to explore what mechanics might look like tailored not to the fun of the players but that of the audience.

Likewise, a TTRPG where the players are sone combination of player, audience and performer is possible, popular even. The players’ abilities to perform an improvised genre appropriate story with a high degree of genre fidelity and narrative cohesion being the source of joy as an audience or even mechanivmcally rewarding to the player.

Both though would be pretty different sorts of games then one using a d20 opposed STR check to model an arm wrestling match between PCs… The original poster’s argument for dramatic and story coherent outcomes is one that’s worth debating in this context – but from what I can tell the mechanics of such games use dice rather differently?

I don’t want to assume, so what I’m saying here is only my interpretation of what you wrote, and I could be very wrong.

That said, your POV expressed seems to me to be, in old Forge speak, very Gamist in approach.

This is not a bad thing, simply one perspective in the old triumverate of Gamist, Simulationist and Narrativist play. (I’m sure there are more up to date theories on play style and such, but I find the old divisions still quite useful.)

Essentially, Gamist play sees the RPG experience much as you described it… a GAME first and foremost… something to “win”… usually by players demonstrating their cleverness and system mastery to show how good a player they are. The rules, understanding them, manipulating them to advantage… and being rewarded and recognized for that behavior are all Gamist goals.

Not everyone is a Gamist. Simulationist and Narrativist have very different goals in playing RPGs. Sim looks to the structure of role play to evoke a very particular play experience… either a lived in “immersion” (yes, I know this is a divisive term) or a particular genre feel, etc. It isn’t about winning as much as “Did that Star Wars game really feel like Star Wars… did the droids do what droids should do, and the Hutts do what Hutts do, etc.” It is a focus on commitment to genre verisimilitude, exploring a created world, etc…

Narrative play is about exploring THEME. It can be just as mechanistic as Gamist play, but seeks a very different outcome. It seeks to evoke an agreed upon theme… “nature of heroism” or “loss and redemption” or “teen angst symbolically manifested as monsters” or whatever. It can be quite heavy handed, or more lightly applied.

The idea of a story arc and playing to an audience (that being the players) I feel falls right between Sim and Nar play. A good story follows a traditional arc… intro, rising action, obstacle, climax, denoument… so the game wants to simulate those stages of a story by how scenes are framed, etc. Good stories also are thematic… they are about redemption, or the hero quest, or the place of the outsider in society, etc. The mechanics are in service to creating an experience where the story arc happens and the actual play of that arc explores the themes in question.

These different play styles ( and the fact that every player has a bit of all of them to some extent, just usually one more than the others) really shape the focus on “audience” or not. I would actually agree with you that audience is not a concern in much of Gamist play… maybe only in as much as the Gamist wants the other players at the table to recognize how good she is/how much she knows/how well she has mastered the system, etc.

Again, all this is simply my interpretation of what you wrote… so I mean no judgment or anything. Just enjoy talking about this stuff.

I’m decently versed in GSN theory, or at least I’ve read the essay. I don’t use the terms mostly because I don’t find the way they’re used in popular game design discussion especially helpful, but also because I don’t entirely trust them.

I do enjoy the sorts of games the old Forge would call gamist, but then the old Forge mostly used that as a slur, though that’s not really the point. The point I’m trying to make is that whatever the needs of genre emulation and narrative cohesion that d20 skill checks fail to meet, they aren’t a mechanic design to meet those needs. The playstyle of either classic d20 stat based exploration/problem solving games or contemporary traditional tactical combat games use isn’t intended to deliver story beats.

Complaints about mechanics that aren’t meant to do what one claims they should be doing isn’t a design issue, it’s either a misunderstanding or edition warring. It’s one thing if I say “2d6 based partial failure mechanics encourage too much reliance on die rolls for the problem solving play style I prefer” We can have a legitimate discussion about a lot of things - that playstyle, the purpose of such mechanics, potential replacement mechanics and so on. When I instead say “2d6 partial failure mechanics ruin play because they don’t offer challenge” in order to discuss that claim we’ll have to unravel a lot of my assumptions to get to the point.

In the case here I think there may be a bit of the assumptions found in the popular form of GSN theory poking out - that classic games are largely Gamist and thus mostly about system mastery, that Narrative play is better (or at least the only sort of play worth discussing) etc. I don’t really know. I find a bit of this in the player = audience idea.

What I’m wanting to unwrap there is that a theatrical frame around play (at least the terminology) seems to miss or disfavor important elements of play, elements of play that can be key to how and why a game would use die rolls. Likewise the audience framing shows a specific emphasis on a playstyle that is only one of several, and to address the take that assumption needs to be unwrapped.

Again I’m perfectly willing to believe d20 based stat checks don’t do well at delivering narrative cohesion and genre fidelity - and that this is a legitimate concern for people who want to emphasize those design principles.


I think I get it now thanks to your explanations. It’s not that you or I dislike the topic of the discussion (“let’s find arguments against using D20+STR for an arm wrestling duel”) nor that we oppose these arguments. The case is we need to see these arguments foundations because we suspect they simply are invalid (“trying to cut steel with a knife” by the tool metaphor) or misdirected (“if you don’t like this toy try that one”).

Less polemical would be neatly framing the discussion “this is for the original example only” ; brainstorming “hey, here are others arguments against D20+STR, let’s make a heap” ; or sharing experiences “my table was pushing for real time action, so we just dropped the dice and now perform martial arts in slo-mo.”

That’s the basic point yes.

Secondly the authors selection of D20 Stat test mechanics (specifically D&D mechanics) seems an odd choice for talking about encouraging narrative play?

The argument is that mechanical systems - specifically the way probabilities work in D20 systems with 3-18 statistics - fail to deliver results that are narratively coherent and genre faithful (e.g. the strong PC should almost always win at feats of strength because that’s the PCs role in the narrative and it damages the expectation of someone watching play unfold - and who that someone is becomes a secondary issue…) Yet these concerns aren’t the ones that the designers seek to address - OD&D, the game that started the 3-18 stat system and those following it have very little concern about genre fidelity or narrative cohesion. We can fruitfully ask what the D20 stat check (and there’s lots of varieties – I prefer Xd6 vs. stat value personally) is intended to do but really only in the context of what those D20 systems to do. Understanding what sort of play is involved is really the first step to avoiding bad play experiences and towards interrogating a set of rules.

I read the original post and I don’t really know what I’m supposed to get out of it except “Don’t replace the rules of Dogs in the Vineyard or Night Witches with AD&D and expect them to deliver the same play experience?”

I should add that another goal of my original reply was to move a bit beyond that and ask

"What are various play experiences that dice and randomness are meant to deliver? How does the appeal to dice and when a system calls for it define or effect play style?"

That’s why I brought up the discussion of the joy of gambling.


That’s only one of the definitions of what “audience” is. But that’s not what - in my mind - audience means when related to ttrpg. As a consumer of a product (rules, setting, you name it) I am either in the target audience of this product, or not. In other words the audience here refers to the people giving attention to something and attention giving isn’t necessarily a passive experience as evident by the fact that we discuss about the products we consume, we participate in hype cycles of releases, etc. So from my point of view your definition is both correct in general as well as not relevant specifically in the context of RPGs (outside of things like let’s plays or instructional video materials - which isn’t what the discussion was about).

@DeReel, now I want to see how you would develop an Over the Top movie rpg. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Do you also want “physical simulation” ? or “realistic narration” ? Most tables don’t see the divide. Realistic narration works fine with descriptive qualities. Physical simulation and its “objectivity” runs into a forest of problems.
Who will interpret the odds ? and the result ? Do you want the rules to adjudicate that ? or the players ? or the GM ? Bear with me : descriptive qualities can work just right for physics simulation if there is an expert at the table. They will do certainly better than fixed rules. But what if players have a very naive view of physics ?

And, don’t forget that after all this, the game should still fun? If I want more realistic odds, I’d play Gurps. But, I won’t play Gurps because I find the uncertainty entertaining.

The odds reflected in the table make pretty good sense for D&D 5e because the characters are really heroic and get to succeed more as an underdog. The argument being made fits well with earlier D&D versions though because the system and odds do not really reflect a hard scrabble world.

That’s said, I also prefer Dungeon World to D&D for many reasons. Two of these are because a +1 has a bigger impact in DW AND also the game does not pretend to simulate the real world in any serious (but false) way.


I don’t the the original post was talking about audience in the sense of consumer market share … Now I don’t know the original writer’s intent, I can’t - death of the author and all that, but…

If I’m finding an extra reserve of strength because your father beat my father in arm wrestling, the audience wants to know that. "

Does that work as " If I’m finding an extra reserve of strength because your father beat my father in arm wrestling, the player wants to know that."

Yes I think it does - hence the meaning I’m using.

Does it work as " If I’m finding an extra reserve of strength because your father beat my father in arm wrestling, the market for the game wants to know that."

Seems a bit of an odd concern here? I mean maybe? It still eliminates the player as someone with agency. We could even replace it with “consumer” and what we might get is that the concern of the designer should be catering to consumers – e.g. selling copies. I know this is a popular metric for judging if a design is good or bad … especially in certain scenes, but frankly I find it a bit gross, I have delicate sensibilities.

I’d prefer to give the poster the benefit of the doubt and believe that the term audience was used in a way that follows from the abundance of narrative/theatrical/literary terms and concern in the rest of the post, as a literal audience of the mechanic - either viewers or players who fulfill the role.

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Well, let’s say you have one more strength point, what I could do then is say you get a +1 bonus to your dexterity roll to solve this. Because it’s not only about strength, technique is also important.

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