29 August 2014

A comparison of D&D5e fighting styles

I might generally be down on complexity in role-playing game mechanics, but I do enjoy running the numbers.

Here’s one comparison of three fighting styles in D&D5e. Caveats: This is based only on the PHB (as it is the only book out when I’m writing this). I’ve chosen a very specific situation to analyze; there may be no generalizations to make. This is only about averages; once you’re rolling dice, anything can happen. This doesn’t consider tactics and such. Also, there’s every possibility I made a mistake.

Huey, Dewey, and Louis are triplets. They’re all 1st level fighters with 16 (+3 modifier) strength, 14 (+2 modifier) dexterity, and 15 (+2 modifier) constitution. They each have 12 hp. They’ve all got “chain mail” (AC 16) armor. Their proficiency bonus is +2.

(The “chain mail” doesn’t let them use their dexterity bonus for AC, but they got it as part of the starting equipment. The only armor that would give them a better AC would be half plate, but they can’t afford it.)

Huey has chosen the Defense fighting style (+1 AC), a war pick (d8), and a shield (+2 AC). His AC is 19.

Dewey has choosen the Two-Weapon Fighting style (add ability modifier to off-hand attack damage) and two shortswords (d6). His AC is 16.

Louis has choosen the Great Weapon Fighting style (reroll damage rolls of 1 or 2) and a maul (2d6). His AC is also 16.

They’re going to have a little tournament among themselves. (They’ll use the “Knocking a Creature Out” rule to keep from killing one another.) Since they all have the same number of hit points, their chance of winning a bout can be determined by comparing their average damage per round versus their opponent’s AC.

Bout 1: The odds favor Dewey (4.9 average points of damage per round) over Huey (3.975).

Bout 2: The odds favor Louis (4.383) over Huey (3.975).

Bout 3: The odds favor Dewey (6.85) over Louis (6.083).

So, Dewey with his two shortswords is favored in two of the three bouts. Huey with his war pick and shield is not favored in any.

26 August 2014

D&D5e Great Weapon Fighting

The Great Weapon Fighting style in D&D5e allows rerolling any 1 or 2 on a damage roll. How does that effect the odds? AnyDice time: D&D5e GWF

17 August 2014

I did not fail

Looking back over some old posts, I read this in “Separation”:

I failed in the one thing I wanted to do in life: Make Andrea happy. I failed to give my children a happy, whole home.

I was wrong.

Shortly after that, I had several conversations with my ex-wife in which I only asked questions and listened to the answers. It took a long time, but her answers finally convinced me of something.

Even if I had been perfect, that wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Not that I didn’t have faults or make mistakes, but they weren’t the cause of my divorce. They weren’t even contributing factors.

I was also wrong in taking responsibility for anyone else’s happiness. I should show love to—try to fill the tank of—my loved ones. But just as love is a choice, so is happiness a choice. A choice each person has to make for themself.

Anyway, I thought it was important to finally have a follow-up to that post.

18 July 2014

The cinematic anti-death spiral (RPG rule)

(This is something of a Joesky Tax, since I haven’t posted any usable game stuff in a while.)

I have ranted before about “death spirals” in RPGs, where a character accrues penalties as they take damage. They tend to not be fun and are arguably less realistic too. (Although realism is the usual justification.)

In many movies and other fiction, you will observe the opposite. The hero becomes more effective as they take damage. In this spirit, I offer the cinematic anti-death spiral for D&D-style games. For every 5 points of damage a character takes, they gain a +1 to all rolls. And let’s give their opponents an equivalent penalty to their saving throws versus the characters spells and such.

This applies mainly to player characters, but the referee might also use it for “big name” NPCs.

(I should probably mention the “escalation die” that some game—13th Age?—uses, but I don’t really have anything to say about it.)

17 July 2014

On RPG clones, retro and otherwise

Taxodermic Owlbear has assembled an impressive list of retroclones. (Though I might nitpick that only a few are technically retroclones.)

It is periodically asked if we need another clone or D&D knock-off. Rhetorically, since you only ask that if you think the answer is “no, we already have too many”.

But consider the passion and imagination that that list reflects. Very few of those games made anyone a living, and even people who write RPGs for a living don’t do it because it is anything close to lucrative. That list is proof to me that the traditional RPG hobby can have a life beyond the RPG industry.

And I think it is great that all those games can leverage a time-tested core while adding just a few or a lot of unique spins.

Some may say that that passion and imagination would be better channeled into other things. e.g. adventures or games with more originality. I say that telling someone what they should do with their passion and imagination is the quickest way to kill it.

Do we need another clone? Yes, I think we do. We need people to follow their individual muses and inspire us with the results.

16 July 2014

Thoughts occasioned upon watching Maleficent

...featuring spoilers.

If you’re going to make a “from the villain’s point-of-view” retelling of a story, it seems to me that you should aim for something more nuanced than simply making someone else the villain.

If you’re going to make “from the villain’s point-of-view” and simply make someone else the villain, you should make that villain at least as believable as the original villain in the original story. (Honestly, I haven’t seen the Disney Sleeping Beauty in ages—if at all, but I thought the dark fairy in the original tale was a perfectly believable villain. You know...as far as fairies go.)

I hate it when the villain accidentally dies. Let the hero either decide to kill them or decide to let them live and deal with that. An accidental death is a storytelling cop-out.

(That said, I really enjoyed Maleficent. I wouldn’t criticize if I didn’t care. I especially like the twist on “true love’s kiss”.)

12 June 2014


If you had told me before WWDC 2014 that Apple would introduce a new programming language, I would sadly shake my head. So many programming languages are created without leveraging any of the lessons of languages that have been around for decades. My general attitude is that there is little reason to create a new language instead of building off an existing one.

So far, however, Swift has impressed me. I can’t really find much to complain about.†

You could argue that in many ways Swift does build off Objective-C rather than being a new language, but that argument sells Swift short. This is a very impressive design.

†OK...here’s a...observation: It seems like having some kind of cycle-detection to augment ARC ought to be there.