Here is a pdf version.
d66 magic dice
Here is a pdf version.
Setting Notes: What Is Magic?
Working on the explanation of the nature of magic in my game world:
There is no magic. What may seem like magic is merely the skillful application of certain hard-to-apprehend deep truths about the nature of reality.
The world as you experience it appears to be something firm “out there.” This appearance is reinforced by the fact that people are largely able to agree on what seems to be “out there” – any five people can look at a horse and agree that it is a horse, that it is brown, etc. The few people who see things that others don’t can easily be dismissed as crazy and everyone can happily go about their lives as if they have a solid and unproblematic apprehension of their immediate surroundings.
It is therefore easy to remain ignorant of the fact that the world as we experience it is only a convenient presentation created by our brains – light, sound, and matter impinge on our bodies, and the raw sensations thus created are processed in our brains and organized into a coherent tapestry of perception. This presentation is generally 100% successful in allowing us to navigate our surroundings and to communicate about them. So it is easy to ignore the fact that we actually have no direct knowledge of external reality – we only have the interpretations our brains make based on the limited and discrete inputs of our sensory apparatus.
Those who are able to really apprehend the plasticity of “reality” as presented by the brain may be able to shape that reality in ways that seem magical to the uninitiated. Through rigorous training, they may be able to open new avenues of perception to see things that are normally invisible. They may learn to access the unconscious processes and schema used to organize ordinary perception, both in their own minds and in the minds of others, and manipulate those processes to astounding effect. Just as the baby is amazed when the ball “magically” reappears after it had vanished from existence when their parent hid it behind their back, so ordinary people are amazed when the initiate performs seemingly miraculous feats by applying their arcane knowledge of the hidden nature of reality.
1d20 vs. 2d6: Doing The Math
The differences between using 1d20 and using 2d6 are a frequent topic of discussion. This post takes a closer look at the actual math to clarify what these differences really are. Three types of dice systems are considered: systems in which players and referees roll against each other, systems in which players roll against a target number, and systems in which player rolls can have three possible results (success, partial or mixed success, and failure).
Opposed Rolls
In opposed-roll systems in which the magnitude of the difference between opposing rolls is not considered, the only possible outcomes are player wins, referee wins, or tie. The type and number of dice are of little consequence in such systems as the player and the referee will always each have an equal chance of winning. The only difference is the likelihood of a tie: 5% for opposed 1d20 rolls versus 11.27% for opposed 2d6 rolls.
More common are opposed-roll systems where the magnitude of the difference between opposing rolls does have meaning. In such systems, the mixed result is commonly expanded from a pure tie to rolls that are “close.” In addition, a very large difference between rolls may be interpreted as an extreme success or failure. So we have 5 possible results: Extreme success or failure, regular success or failure, and close (tie.) For these systems, using 1d20 allows greater flexibility in determining what counts as close and what counts as extreme.
For opposed 1d20 rolls:
if close is a difference of: | the chance of close rolls is: |
2 or less | 23.5% |
3 or less | 32% |
4 or less | 40% |
5 or less | 47.5% |
if extreme success or failure is a difference of: | the chance of extreme success or failure is: |
13 or greater | 7% |
14 or greater | 5.25% |
15 or greater | 3.75% |
For opposed 2d6 rolls:
if close is a difference of: | the chance of close rolls is: |
1 or less | 32.87% |
2 or less | 52.17% |
if extreme success or failure is a difference of: | the chance of extreme success or failure is: |
6 or more | 5.4% |
7 or more | 2.7% |
Clearly with opposed 1d20 rolls one has more options for defining close and extreme results, allowing more flexibility to tailor the game to suit the table.
Some opposed-roll systems may also count rolling the maximum or minimum possible to indicate extreme success or failure. The chance of the player rolling a 1 or a 20 on 2d6 and the referee not rolling the same number is 4.75%. The chance of a player rolling a 2 or a 12 on 2d6 and the referee not rolling the same number is 2.7%. So for these systems, 1d20 also provides more frequent extreme results than 2d6.
Rolls Against a Target Number
1d20
target number: | chance of rolling target number or higher: |
13 | 40% |
14 | 35% |
15 | 30% |
2d6
target number: | chance of rolling target number or higher: |
8 | 41.67% |
9 | 27.78% |
10 | 16.67% |
11 | 8.34% |
For target-number systems, 1d20 once again provides greater granularity for setting different target numbers. It also makes it quite easy to know the probablity of hitting a target number without having a table–it simply varies by 5% at each step. With 2d6, the steps are not equal as the target number increases, making judging the odds of hitting the number non-intuitive. And once again 1d20 provides more extreme results in games where the maximum and minimum rolls have special meaning: the chance of rolling a 1 or a 20 on 1d20 is 5%; the chance of rolling a 2 or 12 on 2d6 is 2.78%.
Three-Way Player Rolls
1d20
range | chance of rolling in range |
1–8 | 40% |
9–16 | 40% |
17–20 | 20% |
1d20 with alternative ranges
range | chance of rolling in range |
1–6 | 30% |
7–14 | 60% |
15–20 | 30% |
2d6
range | chance of rolling in range |
2–6 | 41.67% |
7–9 | 41.67% |
10–12 | 16.67% |
2d6 with alternative ranges
range | chance of rolling in range |
2–5 | 27.78% |
6–8 | 44.44% |
9–12 | 27.78% |
Using 1d20, one can easily adjust the probabilities of success, mixed success, and failure in 5% increments to suit their table or the specific situation at hand. With 2d6, the options are more limited and small adjustments to the ranges make bigger changes to the probabilities.
At this point one might ask, is there anything 2d6 can do that 1d20 can’t do? When we look at the probabilities of various results, the bell curve of 2d6 results doesn’t actually make much of a difference; 1d20 can be made to approximate the same probabilities by adjusting target numbers or result ranges. The only things you can do with 2d6 that you can't do with 1d20 are make the odds of rolling the maximum or minimum less than 5%, and make it difficult to guess the odds of a particular result without a table.
In conclusion, the type of dice you use is far less important than an awareness of the probabilities of various results and of your ability to adjust those probabilities to achieve the kind of game you want.
Big thanks to anydice.com for helping with the math!
Running With Swords, my home rule system
After being asked to post my current home ruleset on the Free Kriegspiel Discord, I tidied it up and put it on my Drive here; may it bring you joy.
‘Stealth’ is not a verb!
While it's true I am that variety of grumpy old man who believes that certain elements of inherited grammar and usage should be preserved, this bothers me more than a dangling participle or split infinitive. On reflection, I realized that the use of ‘stealth’ as a verb exemplifies a contemporary trend in table-top gaming that I personally view as an impoverishment of the RPG experience: the replacement of problem-solving by players with simple skill rolls.
When a player tells the GM “I stealth,” they typically then make a roll that tells everyone how well the character succeeds in ‘stealthing,’ and the game proceeds. What is lost in this exchange is the player's engagement with the fictional space. No one at the table is thinking about the details of what is involved in ‘stealthing’ into the room - keeping to the shadows between torch sconces, waiting until the guard's back is turned before silently darting to the next shadowed area, crawling under a table, or whatever makes sense in the fictional circumstances. In extreme cases this lack of thought about the details of the fiction can even lead to absurdities such as PCs ‘stealthing’ across an empty well-lit room in full view of enemies, merely because they rolled a high number on their stealth check.
Of course it is entirely possible to combine player engagement with the fiction and stealth rolls; but when a player describes their attempt at a stealthy act or movement simply by saying “I stealth,” they are forgoing that engagement and replacing it with a die roll. If that is how everyone at the table wants to play then I obviously can't argue with it, but I wonder if the culture of “I stealth” might be giving some new players an impoverished idea of what the game can be. Personally, I prefer a game where dice are rolled only after all the details of a player's action in the fictional space are considered. Replacing all sneaky movements with a blanket “I stealth” roll seems to me a step on the path to replacing an entire adventure with a series of dice rolls - roll for treasure, roll for casualties, the end.
Sean McCoy, one of the authors of Mothership, explains that he did not include a stealth mechanic in the game because he wanted players to engage with the fictional space when trying to hide and sneak around: