The Transparency of Damage Dice Irrelevance

Frequent readers of The Id DM likely know the site started as a result of my interest in analyzing data related to combat speed in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. To satisfy that curiosity, I coded episodes of the Dungeons & Dragons Penny Arcade & PvP Podcast Series and presented the results. One of the more intriguing results was the findings related to the behavior of the DM, Chris Perkins. Here is what I wrote back in March 2011:

I analyzed the behavior of the DM. I was unable to break down the DM’s actions in the same two categories (Roleplaying & Tactical Decisions; Rolling/Calculating & Results) because the DM – quite frankly – moved too fast for me. The DM does not appear to be rolling for his attacks, and may be using an automatic dice roller . . . [and] takes significantly less time to take the monsters’ actions when compared to the PCs. Considering the DM is managing the actions of up to seven monsters, this is impressive.

And here is an excerpt from Mr. Perkins’ latest The Dungeon Master Experience column series:

As much as I like rolling dice to achieve random results, as a DM working behind the screen, I prefer to roll as few dice as possible. In fact, I usually keep only two dice behind my screen. That’s two dice total . . .

Two dice behind the DM screen, you say?

Why the heck not. I know how much damage (on average) a monster’s supposed to deal — I have a spreadsheet that tells me (with numbers derived from a fairly straightforward formula). Should my players care that I’m rolling 1d6 + 25 instead of 4d8 + 10, like the Monster Manual says I should? Why should they care? The only measurable difference is a narrower damage range with results edging closer to the average (26-31 damage instead of 14-42 damage), and my players have more important things to worry about than whether or not a monster’s damage range is wide enough . . .

If I have a choice between rolling 3d10 + 11 damage or 1d6 + 24 damage, I’ll take the single die and the big modifier. It seems like an insignificant thing, but it’s the kind of no-brainer shortcut that keeps overworked DMs like me alive and kickin’.

I informed you thusly. I so informed you thusly.

“The dragon breathes a hellacious plume of fire. You all take [rolls 3d10 + 4d6 + 2d8 and adds modifier] . . . hey, wake up! You’re fighting a dragon!”
I have considered alternatives such as pre-rolling attack and damage dice to reduce the number of rolls a DM needs to complete while running an encounter. But one person like myself offering alternative mechanics through an independent blog seems vastly different from the DM of Wizards of the Coast– the company that designed and published D&D 4th Edition – writing on the company’s website that dispensing with the damage-dice mechanic is a “no-brainer shortcut.”

The column by Mr. Perkins – regardless if you agree or disagree with him on the importance of damage dice – is noteworthy. Below, I attempt to explain why I find his column so intriguing and – in some ways – pleasantly shocking.

Continue reading “The Transparency of Damage Dice Irrelevance”

Ego Check: Scott Rehm of The Angry DM (Part II)

If you missed it earlier in the week, I posted Part I of my interview with Scott Rehm of The Angry DM. Today I present Part II of the interview. I’m going to preface this half of the interview with the following comments: We both enjoy 4th Edition! Outside of a recent D&D First Edition session, it is the only game I play. So while some of our discussion of 4th Edition is critical, we are not “bashing the game” but looking for ways to improve our experience.

I compare discussing a game system to talking about your favorite sports team. Sometimes you complain about the players on the team. You might call for the coach or general manager to be fired because of management decisions. You may want your team to trade for another player or sign free agents to improve the product. You pick apart the team endlessly over beers at a bar with friends or through blogs and other websites. But you love the team, and you’ll likely defend your team against other competitors. It can be quite tribal now that I think about it, and probably explains why people get so defensive when a game system is criticized. Regardless, D&D 4e is my team. I love it, but I’m always looking for a way to make it even better. I don’t hate the product, and I know Scott doesn’t hate it either.

With that disclaimer out of the way, please enjoy the second half of my interview with The Angry DM. In this segment, Scott discusses topics such as player choice and interactive storytelling. He also discusses how 4th Edition’s success/failure system influences roleplaying. We conclude with a discussion related to resource management and attrition. I realize this interview is lengthy, but it may give you something to do if you are not – like me – attending GenCon.

I think the popularity of Angry illustrates something rather important that is often ignored. The DM role can be a thankless job at times, and the vast majority of the tips and advice available are geared to making the players’ experience more fulfilling. I have benefited from tools and applications to make my preparation easier, more enjoyable and interesting, but where are the resources for improving the DM’s level of enjoyment during gaming sessions? What type of content would you like to see more of for DMs to ensure we are enjoying the game as well?

Now that I am out from behind the curtain, I don’t want to seem too down on DMing. Obviously, I love it, or else I wouldn’t have been doing it for over two decades. Anyone who sticks with DMing for any length of time has to find something to love about it because it is a lot of work. If the negatives outweigh the positives, the DM stops – if he’s smart. If he’s not smart, he forces himself to keep going until he burns out. And then, no one is having any fun. And I think that’s part of why you don’t see much advice about how to increase enjoyment during the game.

Continue reading “Ego Check: Scott Rehm of The Angry DM (Part II)”

Ego Check: Scott Rehm of The Angry DM (Part I)

I have mentioned a few times that one of the first blogs I started reading when I turned online for DMing advice was The Angry DM. The articles made a big impression on me because they did not only offer advice for improving the game, but also advocated for those toiling in the DM role. When I started the Ego Check series, I was hopeful that I could eventually reach the writer of The Angry DM for an interview.

Fortunately, Scott Rehm, the writer of The Angry DM, agreed to share his time with me for an interview. The interview covered so many topics and I’m happy to say it’s the first Ego Check that will require a Part I and Part II. In the first half of the interview, I speak with Scott about the creation of The Angry DM and how “Angry” has connected with the D&D community. Please take some time and enjoy the first half of an extensive interview with Scott Rehm. And remember, Angry’s not a system, he’s a man.

Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I want to get the most obvious question out of the way immediately, “Why are you so angry?”

I think the better question is: why aren’t you more angry? Look at what DMing entails. Really look at it. You spend hours every week creating worlds, characters, and stories. And you can’t do that without truly getting attached to what you create. You become invested. Heavily invested. Hell, you have to be invested just to put in the time to begin with. Even learning all of the rules is a huge time commitment. And, even if you’re not running a homebrew campaign or writing your own adventures, you still need to study the adventures and bring them to life. The most inexperienced, laziest DM still puts enough time and creative energy into every game for it to qualify as an unpaid, part-time job.

Continue reading “Ego Check: Scott Rehm of The Angry DM (Part I)”