Request for comment: average damage

At OrcCon 2012, the Living Forgotten Realms games—or the Battle Interactive at least, where time is of the essence—used average damage instead of rolled damage. That is to say, instead of doing NdS + M damage, monsters did N(S+1)/2 + M damage. Instead of dealing 2d8 +9 damage with his trident, for example, a kuo-toa lash would deal 18 damage. (That’s just an example out of Monster Manual 3, not necessarily a precise example from the games.) Critical hits, of course, still dealt critical damage.

How do you feel about using average damage? It sure speeds things up, but does taking away the monsters’ chance to really nerf a damage roll (as well as their chance to get a big devastating hit) detract from the fun (and from PC survivability)? Players, would you like or dislike it if the DM used average damage at your table?

13 Comments on Request for comment: average damage

  1. During the Battle Interactive, I think it is brilliant – but should be applied to the player’s attacks, too. Anytime you know time is of the essence, this is smart, but in general, let the dice decide.

  2. Agree with Rob above.
    Imo, rolling damage is not the bit that takes time at the table, I notice it is usually decision making and rules questions, so the time saving from average damage is not as significant as having a visible initiative tracker for the table so people pre-plan their turns.

  3. This something other games have neen doing for years. It is even built in to some games like Cinematic Unisystem.

  4. I am in favor of letting the dice decide as well. I think there are better ways to speed up play.

  5. Especially for the players, I think rolling dice for damage is important even if it slows the game down a little bit. Rolling dice is fun.

    For my own games, I use MapTool and a projector, so I just click one button and get the attack roll and the damage roll together. It helps, and I’d be fine if DMs wanted to take this approach by going with average damage every time.

    That said, I agree with Glen. It’s the decision making that takes so long. The Id DM did an interesting analysis of this for the Penny Arcade videos.

  6. Even though the original post is about average damage from the DM’s side, I want to say that I’ve used is as a player for numerous levels for now, and I like it.

    I feel it makes my turns more fluid and personally the important roll for me is the to-hit roll. On that often hinges, in addition to dealing damage, the important effects and conditions.

    Also, at least on my characters, the dice usually contribute from a fifth (think Slayer) up to a third of total damage, so it is a lot of rolling for relatively small results. The static bonuses seem to be usually much more important in that regard.

    These are my experiences with paragon and epic characters.

    That being said, I understand it is not for everyone, but for me this is better, at least as long as static modifiers outweigh the dice in the damage expression.

  7. Philo Pharynx // February 21, 2012 at 8:30 am // Reply

    I would not have a problem with monsters doing that as a player. As a DM I have too much fun when a monster rolls well, especially when dice have a big swing, like d12′s.
    Though to speed things up, I encourage people to kill their character sheets. Power cards are not an efficient way to organize power information. Having to flip pages and have your eyes dart all over the place makes it hard to choose. I keep them in a table with name, action, type, to hit, and then hit/miss/effect lines. (it helps to format this landscape) That way they are all there and you can scan them one one sheet (okay one and a half for epic characters). People should figure out their own ways to abbreviate so they don’t need to look them up often.

  8. Philo, I very much like your suggestion about recording power options in a tabular format. I actually put together just such a quick-reference sheet for my son at the convention we went to last weekend. It’s a little bit time-consuming the first time you set it up, but after that it flows very smoothly.

  9. As a DM, I like the idea of average damage for a couple reasons.

    First, I think there would be a small speed gain especially if I was using monsters with different numbers and types of damage dice. A small note on the monster card(or whatever sorting system you use)saying monster X does Y damage is neat and clean.

    Second, average damage would help me create the level of difficulty I was going for with a particular encounter. I am sure we have all run/played encounters where the monsters fizzle because of poor rolls or things turn out a lot more deadly than intended because the DM has a hot hand that night. Average damage would go a long way to creating the desired amount of tension I think.

    As a player, I wonder if it would be frustrating or ruin my suspension of disbelief. If I have to roll my damage and accept the poor rolls, but the monster always gets 9 on a hit, would that start to feel unfair if I was having a bad day with the dice? Would it get boring or feel too gamist if monster damage was always the same? While I very much enjoy the tactical style of play, would knowing how much damage each monster can do create an artificical process of choosing who to attack simply based on damage output?

    In the end I think this comes down to a ‘your group, your choice’ scenario. If the players are up for it I think the gains outweigh the drawbacks, but it should definitely be a point of discussion, not something a DM just drops on the players.

  10. Fair warning: This is slightly off topic.

    But before I get into that, let me at least say that I do like the idea of using average damage, for both the NPC’s and the players (though it could be harder to calculate given additional damage die as modifiers through things like class effects and magic items).

    But it’s the calculation that leads me to my slightly off topic-ness. I’m no math major, but if I recall my algebra correctly, your formula of (N + NS)/N + M would reduce to ( (N)(1 + S) ) /N + M and then to simply 1 + S + M.

    Using either the original formula or my simplified version gives the same result for any die type, no matter how many are used. For example, using 1d8+9 in either version of the formula results in 19. So does 3d8+9 as well as 10d8+9.

    I think what you might have meant was (N + NS)/2 + M.

    I am not trying to be a troll – I do understand the gist of your post and, as stated near the beginning of this reply, like the idea. I just didn’t want someone who might not yet understand dice averages to try this idea and have it go horribly wrong.


  11. Oops, my example math in my previous post is wrong. Using (N + NS)/N + M results in 18 for any number of d8+9, not 19 as I originally stated. It never fails that those who correct others often make the same type of mistake in their correction, does it. :)


  12. Thanks for the correction, Z! I’ve edited the original post to provide the correct formula: N(S+1)/2 + M.

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