d20

So, after discussion, reflection, and some playtesting, we’ve decided not to go with Roll Low to Hit in our suddenly-changing Wizards & Warriors homebrew. This decision means we will likely go with ascending armor class and roll against it on 1d20 to hit, using things like character level, STR, and weapon skill as modifiers. Simple, standard, and familiar to those who use AAC.

The next step is to determine how other things, particularly spellcasting, is going to work. I had been planning on a d6-based X-in-Y system, probably using the good old 1-in-6 chance as a starting point. But part of that plan had been based on all checks being some sort of X-in-Y mechanic, including combat. Now that we’re going with a more standard ‘beat target on 1d20,’ I’m suddenly leaning toward making everything use that mechanic.

As someone who’s never played an RPG engine newer than 2e AD&D, this sudden plan to use what I think is more or less the D20 core mechanic comes as a bit of a shock. I don’t even know how all of that stuff exactly works or is written up, but I’ve got my own ideas how to handle it and I doubt they’re that different than what’s been out there for years.

Take, for example, the white warrior Vergalyn from the example characters I rolled up an posted the other night. He’s 4th level (worth +2), has Mace-3 skill (worth +3), and a STR of 10 (worth +1 with a mace). So Vergalyn’s player writes Mace (+6, 1d6) on his character sheet. When he attacks, he rolls 1d20 and adds 6 to the result. If the total is higher than his target’s AC, it’s a hit. The player just calls out the total and the DM knows if it’s good enough and says “hit” or “miss.”

Part of me wonders if this is lame and unimaginative, and part of me likes the all the fiddly different systems in oldschool D&D and Traveller. But I wonder if my suspicion that this might be lame is due to the bias against D20 that’s pretty strong in these regions. Would I have felt the same thing in 1988?

5 Comments to “To the Core?”

  1. enelson says:

    Roll high also works well if you plan to incorporate an active defense (parry/dodge; like Palladium). That way the highest opposed roll wins. With roll low, you are comparing margins of success.

  2. […] night I noted that we had settled (for the time at least) on a 1d20 roll high to hit system in our Haphazard […]

  3. Erin says:

    I’ve struggled with the same bias–is using a “d20 mechanic” like joining the dark side? 😉

    I don’t think so (but maybe I’m saying that because I *do* use a d20 mechanic and have already joined the ranks…MWAHAHAHAHAHA…)

    Anyway, what I found was that in trying to come up with a more intuitive set of mechanics for combat, skills, spell-casting, etc., I was *avoiding* d20 only because I didn’t like D&D 3.x. Turns out that using a d20 across the board works pretty well–you get a consistent mechanic, have plenty of room for modifiers, and it makes things go faster at the table.

    I’m sure I pestered you with these links before, but here’s what I ended up with for B/X–feel free to nick anything useful:

    * Combat: http://breeyark.org/combat-sans-matrix
    * Spell-casting: http://breeyark.org/another-way-spell-casting
    * Saving throws: http://breeyark.org/making-save
    * Skills: http://breeyark.org/ability-act

  4. Timeshadows says:

    I think that designers owe some consideration to the ease of uptake and a sense of unity in mechanism design.

    That the DAC system was based on a naval warfare rulesset and was tacked-on to the Chainmail rulesset should be a clear indication that it was not a systemic design methodology, but an /ad hoc/ one developed over time.
    –Beginning with a clear methodology is generally a sound way to design a ship or aircraft or building, so, perhaps there is something to it after all. 🙂