Thread: Why dice pools? (Any system)

1. Why dice pools? (Any system)

There seem to be lots of RPGs out there, that use dice pools. It's an interesting idea, but seems more troublesome to me than it's worth. Simply counting the numbers on the dice and adding a number seems much more intuitive to me than counting the number of successes you rolled.

But still lots of people make and play games using this system. Why?

(When using a dice pool, you check your relevant skills rank and then roll a number of d6 equal to it. Then you count all the dice that came up with a 4 or higher or a 5 or higher, and the number of these "successes" are your final value.)

2. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

That's not necessarily the only dice pool mechanic, but it is the most common.

The answer is usually that people like the probabilistics that the dice pool systems have. Each way of rolling dice has its own probabilities of results, and each are good for different games.

3. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Has anyone ever made a statisic curve diagram for that?

Somehow I'm one of the people who thinks they are really helpful for understanding such things.

4. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

I find the mechanics of a dice pool system tend to be confusing. For example, in White Wolf, to jump over something you roll a number of dice equal to Dexterity plus Athletics, and each 7 or higher counts as a success.

So if the DM wants to make this harder, should he (1) remove a few dice as penalty, (2) increase the difficulty to 8, or (3) require more than one success? Each of these will make the roll harder to succeed, but it isn't clear what the relative effect of these measures are.

5. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Kurald Galain
So if the DM wants to make this harder, should he (1) remove a few dice as penalty, (2) increase the difficulty to 8, or (3) require more than one success? Each of these will make the roll harder to succeed, but it isn't clear what the relative effect of these measures are.
Each extra success required is roughly equivalent to removing two dice from the pool, if the target number is 7. The target number changes are more complex, since they change that equivalency.

6. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Kurald Galain
I find the mechanics of a dice pool system tend to be confusing. For example, in White Wolf, to jump over something you roll a number of dice equal to Dexterity plus Athletics, and each 7 or higher counts as a success.

So if the DM wants to make this harder, should he (1) remove a few dice as penalty, (2) increase the difficulty to 8, or (3) require more than one success? Each of these will make the roll harder to succeed, but it isn't clear what the relative effect of these measures are.

This is what made OWoD hell to work with because all three measures where a part of the rule system. NWoD has made the goto responce removing dice as a penalty, and further frozen the targetnumbers at 8 which makes everything much easier to understand. (The GM can however still requre several successes for an act to be successfull).
These dice mechanics seem simple and intuitive to me. This is one of the main reasons i find NWoD to be a simple and entertaning system to GM.

7. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

It's a conspiracy to get people to buy more dice.

8. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

However, other systems (I would say better systems) have much more elegant mechanics. Take Burning Wheel, as a rule one needs to roll 4+ for a success, difficulty is a matter of successes needed. However, there is also a second dimension to skill and attribute, every skill and attribute has a number and a color, black, gray, or white. Black skills are the default, and need 4+, Grey needs 3+, white needs 1+. This creates an incredibly elegant method in which to model variation over a group, or exceptional talent, while maintaining a model of individual capacity that is entirely separate.

9. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by tahu88810
It's a conspiracy to get people to buy more dice.
No, that's rpgs in general.

10. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Side question: Assumed we have 6d2 that show the numbers 0 and 1. What's the formula to calculate how many possibilities there are to get a total of 2?
(Or: How many ways are there to arrange two 1s and four 0s?)

11. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Reasons I like dice pools:

• Having more dice is better, but it's not completely clear how much better. I think it helps immersion to think "He's a little better at this than I am" rather than "He has a 7% greater chance of success than I do".
• The numbers are more visceral. Human beings can see small numbers without counting. If you roll a handful of dice and get 3 successes, you know it at a glance. If you have 5 successes, you know it without having to say "1, 2, 3, 4, 5". But higher numbers (like comparing percentiles or rolling a D20 and adding a modifier than could be well into the double digits) can only be understood on an intellectual, abstract level. The smaller number of successes in a dice pool system is visceral. (If your system involves ridiculously large dice pools like Exalted, then you don't get this benefit.) This visceral attraction is a huge appeal for me. Using percentages offers finer granularity, but it feels "colder" because it only engages the higher brain functions and doesn't involve the "lizard brain". Also, I feel that the finer granularity is only apparent on paper. In actual play, you can only really recognize at most Critical Failure/Failure/Mediocre Success/Unqualified Success/Critical Success. If you can only really process it as one of those five levels of success, why not just have five levels of success in the first place? The extra granularity might be more accurate, but it's below the resolution that you're capable of discerning (it's like paying much more to buy a camera with better pixel resolution than your monitor, printer, or eyeball are capable of processing so the extra pixels are just wasted anyway).
• Related to the first point, you have to make decisions based on information like "This action will be easy/really hard" instead of "This action has an 88%/21% chance of success". That's more like the way people make decisions in real life (except maybe insurance adjusters using actuarial tables or something).
• Diminishing returns. Any bit of help is a big deal when you have a low level of skill, but those little bonuses don't matter as much at higher levels. At the low end, adding a bonus die for a positive modifier (or improving your skill) can change your chance of success from 50% to 75%. At a higher level, that same +1 die might change your chance of success from 92% to 94%. If each level of skill has the same cost (or an increasing cost), the higher levels become less and less cost effective and lower skill levels are much more enticing to pick up. This makes one-trick ponies possible, but really inefficient compared to ponies with a more varied repertoire (although they might have a signature trick among their variety of abilities). I hate enforced niche protection, so I like this effect.
• Getting better doesn't just push the average of your roll higher and higher, it's makes your average roll more and more likely. The better your skill gets, the more predictable the roll will be due to the bell curve getting a higher peak. Professionals can reliably perform at a consistent level because the distribution of their rolls become more clustered around the average as they get bigger dice pools. A one-die-plus-mods system like D20 means that improving from a skill of 5 to 10 means that your rolls go from 15+/-10 to 20+/-10. Going from a 5 die pool to a 10 die pool can mean going from "Usually 2 or 3 successes but 1 or 4 aren't uncommon" to "5 successes almost all of the time".

12. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Yora
(Or: How many ways are there to arrange two 1s and four 0s?)
That would be 6! / 4! 2! ways out of a total of 2 ^ 6.

Or 15 out of 64.

13. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Yora
(When using a dice pool, you check your relevant skills rank and then roll a number of d6 equal to it. Then you count all the dice that came up with a 4 or higher or a 5 or higher, and the number of these "successes" are your final value.)
That's the World of Darkness dice pool mechanic. L5R uses a dice pool in a very different way.

There, you have a Trait and a Skill, both ranked out of 10. You add the two together to find out how many D10s to roll, keeping a number equal to your Trait. You can never roll more than 10 dice, but you get bonuses if you would have rolled more than 10. Fans of L5R produced a probability chart that gives percentage chances of making a given Target Number.

L5R also allows the use of Raises, that is the player choosing to increase the Target Number of a given task. This allows for greater amounts of success, but has the greater risk of failure too.

14. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

1. Rolling several dice is more fun than rolling one die.
2. The more complicated a system is, the harder it is to powergame in it. Dice pools are more complicated than rolling 1d20 or 1d100.

15. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Yora
Side question: Assumed we have 6d2 that show the numbers 0 and 1. What's the formula to calculate how many possibilities there are to get a total of 2?
(Or: How many ways are there to arrange two 1s and four 0s?)
For 6 elements in a row, there are 6! possible arrangements. Since we don't care about swiching two identical elements (two zeros or ones) we should divide it by all possible arrangements within those subsets (zeros only and ones only). With 4 zeros and 2 ones we get 6!/(4!*2!)=15. Now with only zeros and ones, you get a total of 2^6 arrangements possible. So the probability of getting a sum of 2 on your 6d2 is 15/2^6.

This site has a rather advanced dice roller. Unfortunately dice pool isn't implemented and would have to be coded manualy.

Personaly I prefer summing up dices from a pool rather then counting successes - much easier to handle and gauge probabilities.

16. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Tengu_temp
The more complicated a system is, the harder it is to powergame in it. Dice pools are more complicated than rolling 1d20 or 1d100.
Does that really matter? Powergaming is about getting more bonuses. Bonus dice in a dice pool aren't necessarily harder to acquire than bonus modifiers to a d20. Crunching the exact numbers is harder, but the fundamental will to power doesn't require that sort of cerebral analysis. They merely tend to coincide in roleplayers (and some powergamers more into that sort of analysis might even hypothetically be drawn to the challenge).

17. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Tengu_temp
1. Rolling several dice is more fun than rolling one die.
2. The more complicated a system is, the harder it is to powergame in it. Dice pools are more complicated than rolling 1d20 or 1d100.
What's so complicated about powergaming "More Dice = GOOD"?

And I'd argue that's only true for a fairly limited band of complexity. It's fairly tough to powergame RISUS, at one end, and there's tons of "how do I optimize (x)?" threads here, and D&D can get pretty complicated.

----

Another oddball dicepool game is the Weapons of the Gods system - you roll 2 to 8 d10s, and look for matches. The number of dice in the match becomes the tens value of your roll, and the number on the dice is the ones. So a roll of (2,5,6) is a 16 (or a 12 or 15), a roll of (1,3,3,8) is 23, and a roll of (1,8,8,8,8) is a 48.
What makes it interesting is that you can 'store' some rolls to add to another roll later. (Store away 2 9s, to make a later roll go from 39 to 59, for example...)
It's a good thing it has a probability chart in the back of the book, because calculating it is a BEAR.

18. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Arbane
What's so complicated about powergaming "More Dice = GOOD"?
More complex mechanics mean it's harder to count what is the most optimal way of doing things. For example, look at DND 3.5 Power Attack: there are rather easy formulas to calculate what amount of PA is the best in the chosen situation. Those formulas would be much more complex if the game used dice pools.

19. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Tengu_temp
More complex mechanics mean it's harder to count what is the most optimal way of doing things. For example, look at DND 3.5 Power Attack: there are rather easy formulas to calculate what amount of PA is the best in the chosen situation. Those formulas would be much more complex if the game used dice pools.
yeah because world of darkness is notoriously balanced and difficult to power game

20. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Xuc Xac, with the reasons he listed, hits it right on the head, at least in the areas I'd point out. If you know what to look for (like in nWoD or Mouse Guard), it's a snap to figure out if you succeeded or not.

The math is actually more intuitive and simpler, in my mind. I like counting up successes, instead of adding a bunch of numbers to get a result. To me, it's even more immersive. You're doing less math. If you know what you're looking for (here is where the oWoD with its changeable target number got really tricky) then you can figure it out easy. Heck, White Wolf even has nWoD dice which have the 8-10 colored differently, so you can easily see how many successes you got.

Not only that, but the concept of +1 in a skill or ability = one more die to roll is just very intuitive to understand. I'm all onboard with what Xuc Xac says about dice pools engaging the visceral, instead of the intellectual and abstract.

21. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Tengu_temp
2. The more complicated the probability calculations of a system is, the harder it is to powergame in it. Dice pools are more complicated than rolling 1d20 or 1d100.
Fixed it for ya.
Seriously, as a system acquires more options, and more types of options, the potential for optimization rises.

22. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Tengu_temp
2. The more complicated a system is, the harder it is to powergame in it. Dice pools are more complicated than rolling 1d20 or 1d100.
This is oh so very wrong.
GURPS is one of the most complicated systems ever and it's ridiculously easy to break. OWoD used dice pools and was also ridiculously easy to break.

23. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

I suppose dice pools are better for people who can count, but are bad/slow when it comes to adding and subtracting.
Originally Posted by Tengu_temp
More complex mechanics mean it's harder to count what is the most optimal way of doing things. For example, look at DND 3.5 Power Attack: there are rather easy formulas to calculate what amount of PA is the best in the chosen situation. Those formulas would be much more complex if the game used dice pools.
Pff. You'd be using a probability formula rather than a strictly algebraic formula. Wouldn't bother anyone with a calculator.

24. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Ernir
Pff. You'd be using a probability formula rather than a strictly algebraic formula. Wouldn't bother anyone with a calculator.
Or a hardcore Pokemon player, wethey calculate probabilities in their heads pretty easily.

25. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by true_shinken
Or a hardcore Pokemon player, wethey calculate probabilities in their heads pretty easily.
yeah. i swear, if every kid played pokemon, and their parents played it with them, mathematics advancement would soar.

26. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by true_shinken
This is oh so very wrong.
GURPS is one of the most complicated systems ever and it's ridiculously easy to break. OWoD used dice pools and was also ridiculously easy to break.
Well, GURPS is an open systemt that can be used for anything, and those games are easy to break by default. And oWoD is ridiculously badly designed.

27. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Tengu_temp
And oWoD is ridiculously badly designed.
Or perhaps it simply had different design goals. It is probably true that any (sufficiently complicated) system can be "broken" by a sufficiently dedicated munchkin, so it's not necessarily a benefit for a system to have "balance" as one of its main design goals. Indeed, near as I can tell, only a handful of RPGs consider balance one of their goals, and all of those clearly fail at achieving that goal.

28. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

OWoD was pretty badly designed mechanically no matter how you look at it. A large number of rolls for mundane tasks, wildly differing power and usefulness of powers that were supposed to be equal, no system or XP cost for learning some of the most powerful and useful abilities and the list goes on. While balance was not a major concern, it honestly seems that the system in it mostly existed because someone thought that any new RP needs to have mechanics. Pretty much everything is arbitrary, clunky and mindbogglingly unbalanced. I mean, seriously, who thought that Pavise of Foul Presence was a good idea?

29. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

Originally Posted by Terraoblivion
OWoD was pretty badly designed mechanically no matter how you look at it.
I have to agree. Even then, it's still one of my favourite games. I never tried NWoD because I liked the mix-and-match nature of OWoD.
The old Storyteller system also graced us with Street Fighter StG, the best combat system ever for fantastic martial arts.

30. Re: Why dice pools? (Any system)

I love dice pools as Shadowrun does them; each required hit needs, on average, three more dice in the pool, and i can work easily from there as a DM without having to stop and work through probabilities.

It also lets me accomplish amazing feats of dice-stackery while I wait for my players to get themselves fed, watered, and ready to play.

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