Exploding Dice in place of auto success / failure?


Homebrew and House Rules


So something I came up with, is instead of auto success on a nat 20, or auto failure on a nat 1, which means something like Mogaru has a 1/20 chance to miss an attack against a level 1 commoner, and that commoner has a 1/20 chance to hit something like Mogaru, I have a new number to keep track of: The exploding dice number.

Whenever you roll a d20, you reset ED to a value of 0. Whenever you roll a nat 1, you lower it by 1 (even if this puts it in the negatives). Whenever you roll a nat 20, you increase it by 1. If this puts you back at ED 0, act as if you haven’t rolled yet, and start over (for the purposes of whether or not you get a critical threat or get some effect that activates on a specific nat roll value, like a nat 1 with UMD for wands).

When you are done, multiply your current ED value by 20, and add it to the final roll result. This means a negative ED value results in a further and further lower chance to hit, while a positive ED does the opposite.

For critical threats, if you are positive ED AND hit, then you threaten. If you have a higher critical threat range, it only matters if you actually hit on an ED of 0 or lower.

So for example, say you have ED -1, and roll a 19.

That is a 19-20+your bonus to the roll. So -1+bonus to the roll. If you can critical on a 19-20, and you still manage to hit, then you get a critical threat, and roll to confirm.

If you have ED 2, and roll a 5, you get a 5+40+your bonus to the roll. If you hit, then it is a critical threat, and you roll to confirm the critical.

Further clarification, you reset the ED value when you roll to confirm a critical, you do the ED for all d20 rolls, not just attack rolls, and if something actives on a nat 1, like not being able to use wands anymore for 24 hours when doing UMD, or activates on a nat 20, they activate on a negative/positive ED value as if it was that roll.

So what do you think?


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Just feels needlessly complicated. Plus, that 5% chance of failure no matter what keeps players from becoming totally complacent with their strongest abilities.
If a giant monster gets hit by a commoner, he's got so many hit points it doesn't matter. And he's probably immune to the damage anyway, or will regenerate it next turn or whatever.
And if a giant monster misses a commoner with one attack, he's probably got a few more. Or an aura that will kill them.


Quixote wrote:

Just feels needlessly complicated. Plus, that 5% chance of failure no matter what keeps players from becoming totally complacent with their strongest abilities.

If a giant monster gets hit by a commoner, he's got so many hit points it doesn't matter. And he's probably immune to the damage anyway, or will regenerate it next turn or whatever.
And if a giant monster misses a commoner with one attack, he's probably got a few more. Or an aura that will kill them.

This is a roleplaying game. Anything mechanical in the rules should not detract from that objective of being a ROLEPLAYING game. There is no way a giant is going to miss 5% of the time against a commoner, and likewise, no way a commoner is going to hit 5% of the time. Ergo, that rule is bad for roleplaying, thus bad for a roleplaying game, and needs to be replaced. But at the same time, there still is that incredibly small chance that the giant could miss or the commoner could hit. This reflects that, far more accurately, than a flat 5% chance ever will.


Reksew_Trebla wrote:
This reflects that, far more accurately, than a flat 5% chance ever will.

How much experience do you, personally, have with life-and-death combat?

From what I have heard and read, even a master fencer had something to lose in a duel with an amateur; the master obviously has the upper hand, but the smallest misstep could lead to a career-ending injury or death.

5% is unrealistic? According to who? Is 2.5% more so? Howhat about 1.25%? You're talking about an INCREDIBLY abstract mechanic here. The natural 1/20 rule is meant to represent "the random nature of combat". I don't think anyone claimed it was "accurate", because I don't think anyone knows what "accurate" is. It's just that, once they settled on a d20, they figured, eh, 1 and 20. Seems like it'll work okay.

Combat is crunchy enough in Pathfinder without adding extra rolls and extra math. I have never once in all my years from 2nd to now felt that an automatic hit or an automatic miss was unreasonable or unrealistic. If the attack bonus/AC was so high as to make the outcome improbable, then the hit/miss had no impact on the game. If the numbers were closer, then it was no different than a normal hit or miss.


Seems overly complex and doesnt have the same feel as being instantly rewarded for rolling a 20.


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It seems like you're rewarding players who often rolls 20s while punishing players who often roll 1s. I don't see how either behavior would enhance the game in a positive way. As someone who often has bad dice karma, this sort of thing would make the game less enjoyable for me not more.

What is the purpose of this?

I remember in 2nd edition nat 1s were automatically fumbles and nat 20s were automatic crits. My group appreciated the "roll to confirm" rule that 3.0 introduced as it meant that if a kobold needed a 20 to hit you they would no longer always crit when they rolled said 20.

Also, how does this work for the dm?

do they now also need to track an ED for every single creature? or do they get a global one that all enemies use?

The later would be easier to deal with, but it would also mean that swarms of insignificant enemies would dramatically boost the killing power of the final boss.

Dark Archive

Adding additional game-halting complexity to a game whose combats are already very long and complicated isn't really a good thing in my eyes.
If your players enjoy then that's all that matters, happy for you guys. But It's going to be a hard pass from me.


I have seen folks use the rule that nat 20s count as a roll of 30, and a 1 as a -10. Most times this ends up the same as auto success/failure, but in extreme cases it is not.


I feel like a lot of you didn’t read the op. If you did, you wouldn’t be saying half the things you are.

It isn’t complicated. It is in line with the level of complexity of the rest of the game.

It is not difficult to track, as it resets for each d20 roll. Meaning it only comes up on a nat 20 or nat 1, and is unique to each instance of a d20 roll.

It is more accurate. When you are factoring in the fact that some of the creatures are meant to be g*& d@*n Godzilla monsters (the Kaijus), how the f#~& can you say they mess up 5% of the time against commoners? The 5% rule is nowhere near accurate for one reason: the better you are against the same opponent, the less likely they are to hit you, and the more likely you are to hit them. Making it where you always have a 5% minimum chance to miss/hit is not accurate to this. I do not need f#%$ing battle experience to know this, just like I don’t need to go to outer space to know there is no air there.

If you think this rewards players who get nat 20s often, or punishes players who get nat 1s often, how? It prevents auto hits, thus it actually makes players who get nat 20s often WEAKER, and prevents auto failures, thus it actually makes players who get nat 1s often STRONGER. This means it makes the game more balanced when factoring in the bad/good luck of players.

As for Java Man, you gave a reasonable alternative. I still like mine more right now, because it gives that ever so microscopically low chance for something like a Kaiju to miss against a commoner, like how Zilla missed crushing a human due to just how big she was (there was empty space under her feet that he happened to be when she tried to step on him).


Can you please give a better example of how it works then?

The OP, was obviously not clear in terms of an example if many people are misinterpreting how your method works. I did read it and tried to understand it best as I could and what I ended up with didn't sound appealing.

I've looked at it again, came up with about 5 different ways that it might work and found one that seems like what was intended. Tell me if I am correct or not with the following.

I'm playing a fighter my fighter has +5 to hit and the goblin has an AC of 14.

Example 1
---------------------------
I roll a nat 20 against the goblin.

So, I have a 25, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is a 13. This gets added to my original roll for a total of 38. I hit. I now roll to confirm the crit and get an 8 for a total of 13, which means I failed to crit the goblin and just do normal damage.
---------------------------
Example 2
---------------------------
I roll a nat 1 against the goblin.

So, I have a 6, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is a 13. I take the difference of 20 and 13 (7) and subtract this from my roll. I end up with a -1 which is not enough to hit and so I miss. I now roll again to confirm my fumble assuming such a rule is being used.
---------------------------
Example 3
---------------------------
I roll a nat 20 against the goblin.

So, I have a 25, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is a nat 1. This forces me to re-roll I get a 5... At this point I have no idea what happens. Either I

A: have a +30
B: have a +25
C: have a +10
---------------------------
Example 4
---------------------------
I roll a nat 1 against the goblin.

So, I have a 6, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is also a 1. So, I roll again, this time getting an 18. I take the difference of 18 and 20 (2) add that to my 6 and subtract an additional 20. Resulting in a -12. This is a miss and then I roll again to confirm if I fumbled or not (again assuming such rules are being used).
---------------------------

This seems to mainly result in reducing the tension of a situation by dampening the effect of 20s and 1s. While also increasing the length of combats by forcing 1 or more re-rolls of a 1 or 20 just to see if you hit or missed. Crits and fumbles would still need to be resolved separately.

I have played where a nat 20 just adds a flat +20 to your roll instead of being an autohit. I remember our group disliking it because it completely removed the danger from certain situations (well to be fair the munchkin player in the group liked it). A thousand goblins shooting arrows at a armored knight have zero chance of harming him, because they have -6 to hit and he has a 35 AC. It made any character with a high AC completely immune to damage against enemies with a certain bonus to hit or lower. What you're proposing would in most cases exaggerate the problem.


LordKailas wrote:

Can you please give a better example of how it works then?

The OP, was obviously not clear in terms of an example if many people are misinterpreting how your method works. I did read it and tried to understand it best as I could and what I ended up with didn't sound appealing.

I've looked at it again, came up with about 5 different ways that it might work and found one that seems like what was intended. Tell me if I am correct or not with the following.

I'm playing a fighter my fighter has +5 to hit and the goblin has an AC of 14.

Example 1
---------------------------
I roll a nat 20 against the goblin.

So, I have a 25, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is a 13. This gets added to my original roll for a total of 38. I hit. I now roll to confirm the crit and get an 8 for a total of 13, which means I failed to crit the goblin and just do normal damage.
---------------------------
Example 2
---------------------------
I roll a nat 1 against the goblin.

So, I have a 6, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is a 13. I take the difference of 20 and 13 (7) and subtract this from my roll. I end up with a -1 which is not enough to hit and so I miss. I now roll again to confirm my fumble assuming such a rule is being used.
---------------------------
Example 3
---------------------------
I roll a nat 20 against the goblin.

So, I have a 25, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is a nat 1. This forces me to re-roll I get a 5... At this point I have no idea what happens. Either I

A: have a +30
B: have a +25
C: have a +10
---------------------------
Example 4
---------------------------
I roll a nat 1 against the goblin.

So, I have a 6, and then I roll the die again. My second roll is also a 1. So, I roll again, this time getting an 18. I take the difference of 18 and 20 (2) add that to my 6 and subtract an additional 20. Resulting in a -12. This is a miss and then I roll again to confirm if I fumbled or not (again assuming such rules are...

Yeah, you seem to have gotten it. I emphasized the answer for Example 3.

I have to say though, I’m not responding any further. I seem to be getting pissy, because of things happening irl, and don’t want to do that to people, so I’m forcing myself to back off for now.


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Reksew_Trebla wrote:
It isn't complicated. It is in line with the level of complexity of the rest of the game.

It adds one or more extra steps to the mechanics of the game. It is not complicated in and of itself, but it is MORE complicated than the game currently is without it.

Reksew_Trebla wrote:
It is more accurate. When you are factoring in the fact that some of the creatures are meant to be g$~ d$*n Godzilla monsters (the Kaijus), how the f*+% can you say they mess up 5% of the time against commoners?

That auto hit/miss percentage, when you really think about it, can be defined as "the likelihood that ANY entity is able to successfully strike ANY other entity."

That is a pretty enormous and vague concept. In order to find that actual percentage as it exists in our reality, you'd have to pit everything that is capable of what we'd call combat against everything else, and do so enough time to get a consistent average. Toddlers versus bull sharks. Grizzly bears vs. Sword fish. Grandmas vs. Apache helicopters. The idea that there is an "actual" percentage where all potential combatants may automatically miss or hit is absurd.

Also, the rules for fighting a 300ft monster in Pathfinder are just wrong. A rapier is going to do nothing to such an entity. You'd need to look at a game like Shadows of the Colossus for a realistic take on battling something 500,000 times your mass.


More importantly, I ask you: how often do we ask this rules system to (a) simulate an elite few fighting waves of lesser foes and to (b) simulate an extra-big dinosaur stepping on a farmer? Because I'm pretty sure the answers are (a) fairly often and (b) basically never.
A level 5 character can have an AC of 22. That means any foe with an attack of bonus of +2 or less needs a 20 to hit them. Level 5.
Is that really as high as you need to go to fight a virtually unlimited number of skeleton/goblin/zombie-type hordes? Because I think they should pose at least some kind of threat, if you're not careful.


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It's basically the same as Rolemaster's opening up/down system, except that system uses d% which open up/down on 96-00 and 01-05. Once a roll had opened out in one direction it could only open out in the same direction on subsequent rolls, a minor difference. Each individual roll matters more in RM so taking a little extra time is more doable, but it's still a pain especially for people who are s&$$ at doing math in a hurry. If there's anyone among your gaming friends who fit that description I recommend not enacting this. Yeah, I know adding or subtracting 20 should be simple enough but for some people it just isn't.

OTOH when the GM's inclined to add a little flair to descriptions (RM has tables which serve this role) you can get some memorable moments. Sometimes from the negative rolls; a friend's character tried to jump over a campfire, opened out down three times and broke his hip. I don't think Chris will ever forget that...it made it worse that this was an incredibly athletic monk.


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I read the OP. I found it needlessly complicated and said so, as we were asked for our opinion.
Just because people disagree (read: everyone who gave an opinion on it so far) doesnt mean it wasnt read. People just don't like it.


I'm not sure that I understand.

If a level 1 commoner hits Mogaru, does it matter?
If Mogaru misses the level 1 commoner and he escapes to safety, does it matter?

If the commoner shouldn't hit or Mogaru shouldn't miss, why are you rolling? If a creature can't hit even if he gets an extra +20 bonus to his attack, what is the likelihood that his attack will be significant even if he does hit? If your player can't miss even if he gets an extra -20 penalty to his attack, what is the likelihood that his opponent will put up enough of a challenge to even warrant rolling? Why aren't you just handling it narratively?

DM: Commoner Joe comes at you with a knife. <rolls> Hey, a 20. <rolls again> A 5. Does a 24 hit?
Fighter: Nope.
DM: He tries to stab you but he misses. His face is pink with frustration and anger. What do you do?
Fighter: I punch him in the stomach to discourage him. <rolls> Ugh. A 1. <rolls again> 12. That's 15 total. 11 subdual if it hits.
DM: He doubles over and hits the floor.

vs

DM: Commoner Joe comes at you with a knife, futilely trying to stab you. His face is pink with frustration and anger. What do you do?
Fighter: I punch him in the stomach to discourage him.
DM: He doubles over and hits the floor.

Is the first significantly better than the second? If the commoner hits or the fighter misses, would it add to the scene? Is the fight really the point of this scene, or is it just there to tell the story of the scene?


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Kitty Catoblepas wrote:


DM: Commoner Joe comes at you with a knife. <rolls> Hey, a 20. <rolls again> A 5. Does a 24 hit?
Fighter: Nope.
DM: He tries to stab you but he misses. His face is pink with frustration and anger. What do you do?
Fighter: I punch him in the stomach to discourage him. <rolls> Ugh. A 1. <rolls again> 12. That's 15 total. 11 subdual if it hits.
DM: He doubles over and hits the floor.

vs

DM: Commoner Joe comes at you with a knife, futilely trying to stab you. His face is pink with frustration and anger. What do you do?
Fighter: I punch him in the stomach to discourage him.
DM: He doubles over and hits the floor.

IMO the more interesting scenario is the one that happens if you don't modify things at all.

DM: Commoner Joe comes at you with a knife. <rolls behind the screen> Hey, a 20. <rolls some more> he slashes you for 5 damage
Fighter: <looks at his 60 hp> uh, ok...
DM: What do you do?
Fighter: I punch him in the stomach to discourage him. <rolls> Ugh. A 1.
DM: When you go to punch him in the stomach your foot slips causing you to miss wildly.

Now the scene has tension. Who else is around? Joe is feeling pretty pumped and fighter can't simply ignore Joe. I agree though, if the DM feels that there's no chance of hitting and/or missing then dice shouldn't be involved. Unless, you're checking to see if something unexpected happens. 1s and 20s are the unexpected.


LordKailas wrote:


IMO the more interesting scenario is the one that happens if you don't modify things at all.

DM: Commoner Joe comes at you with a knife. <rolls behind the screen> Hey, a 20. <rolls some more> he slashes you for 5 damage
Fighter: <looks at his 60 hp> uh, ok...
DM: What do you do?
Fighter: I punch him in the stomach to discourage him. <rolls> Ugh. A 1.
DM: When you go to punch him in the stomach your foot slips causing you to miss wildly.

Now the scene has tension. Who else is around? Joe is feeling pretty pumped and fighter can't simply ignore Joe. I agree though, if the DM feels that there's no chance of hitting and/or missing then dice shouldn't be involved. Unless, you're checking to see if something unexpected happens. 1s and 20s are the unexpected.

Yeah, that's a really good point. Assuming the DM has left enough information to let the Fighter know that he shouldn't end Joe for good, that last scenario creates a sense of urgency. The Fighter could even get a sense of false danger out of the exchange, making him feel that if he doesn't make the right decision, he might have to kill Joe.


If it works for your group then great. But in the general case it involves more dice rolls and more maths which slows combat down and for most groups that is considered bad.


Reksew_Trebla wrote:

I feel like a lot of you didn’t read the op. If you did, you wouldn’t be saying half the things you are.

It isn’t complicated. It is in line with the level of complexity of the rest of the game.

I'm honestly baffled how you can say something like this given how wrong it is. Even as someone who is mostly a player and not a DM, just keeping track of this for my own character seems needlessly complicated and tedious for no reward.

This is especially true since I have next to zero luck with anything RNG or luck based, like rolling dice or gambling, but I find tabletop games fun because of the group aspect of it. This 'mechanic' would make me quit quickly, as my penalties for the Nat 1's I constantly get would screw me over.

As for a master or large monster somehow missing a commoner, it's possible, and the chance of it happening via dice roll can rationalized (if need be) in many ways. For example, the commoner either being really lucky at that moment and moving in a way that was unexpected, flailing wildly and their untrained motions happened to slip through the defenses, or whatever. The master fighter's grip on their weapon slipped a bit, a bit of dust got in their eye, a random thought/memory struck them, or in the large monster's case, their own gigantic hand/body got in the way of them seeing the commoner and then misjudged where the commoner was.

Combat in these games isn't static, every round the characters are 'moving, bobbing&weaving, shifting positions, etc' within their space, striking and being blocked, parried, or trying to open up their foe to be able to get in a strike. The rolls are basically just the results of the actions of the character put into 'game form'.

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