Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tracking Durations of Effects

I hate doin it, don't remember to do it, haven't liked any of the aides (computer, cribbage board, click counter, paper, dry-erase, stones/glass beads) I've tried to make it easier.

I like the mechanic stunned, blind, ugly, etc until save is made, attempt once at start of round.  Which I believe is from 4ed.  Nothing to track, player is involved, player is "in control" of their fate, and rolling dice is fun (tm).

Lots and lots (all) of the [O|B|A]D&D resources I use measure effects in xdx units, 1d6 rounds, 3d4 weeks, etc.  It would be pain to convert into saves and doing so would alter the effects.

The solution I just thought of while reading a more or less unrelated article on The Mule Abides was, for example, convert lasts 1d6 rounds to lasts until player rolls 6 on d6.  (btw it's '6' instead of '1' cause I want to stick with "rule" roll high is always best).  I dub this max die, and it's used thusly...

stunned max6 rnds - character is stunned until player rolls a 6 at the start of their turn.

wounded 3max4 weeks - each week roll d4, must roll '4' three times before wound is healed.

I don't think I would but you can get complicated like 1max18-20 meaning must roll 18, 19, or 20 on d20.

Now I can throw and forget a (folded into "tent") 3x5 card with word stun at player which they will keep neatly in front of them as reminder until they roll "save".  I can jot down "stun max6" above hp total of monster on the scratch paper I use to track such.  Cross it out when it's saved.

I think I likes it, now just need a game to test it out during.

Oh, and I'm sort of assuming the number of time-units it takes to roll '4' has same distribution as d4 time-units.  I'll eventually write short program to prove it to myself, but can anyone who knows match verify?


  1. I think your basic idea is pretty good, but you may want to adjust the notation. This phrase:

    stunned max6 rnds

    at first glance seems to mean "stunned for a maximum of 6 rounds".

    As long as the system you're using doesn't have another use for the term "Saving throw", you could use a notation like this:

    stunned (save 18+)
    wounded (save 16+ weekly 3)

    These have basically the same meaning as your examples above, except they assume all saving throws are made with d20s. The first one means you have to roll 18 or more on your save. The second one means you have to roll 16 or more on a weekly save, and you have to succeed 3 times. I'm not saying this approach is better than yours, but it's another idea to consider.

  2. "Oh, and I'm sort of assuming the number of time-units it takes to roll '4' has same distribution as d4 time-units. I'll eventually write short program to prove it to myself, but can anyone who knows match verify?"
    It's close, but not the same. Being stunned for d4 rounds means the max time stunned is 4 rounds. Being stunned until you roll a 4 means you potentially are stunned for eternity. Small chance of that, but there's a substantially larger chance that you're stunned for 5 rounds, or 6, and so on.

    In fact, since there's a 75% chance of rolling other than a 4 each time, then the probability of being stunned for 5 or more rounds is: .75*.75*.75*.75=.32

    So 32% of the time, you exceed what would have been the max duration of effect under the other rule.

    That said, I don't think it really matters, and I love the sound of this rule! Anything that takes away the need to track status effects, or makes it easier, automatically gets my preliminary seal of approval. The only thing I'd tinker with is the terminology, which I agree is a bit confusing.

  3. The only hiccup I can see is that an effect which, say, stuns for 1d4 rounds is GUARANTEED to wear off after no more than four rounds. There is a 25% chance (each) that the character will recover after 1, 2, 3, or 4 rounds.

    By changing this to roll a 4 on d4, you get the possibility of a character taking MORE than 4 rounds to get out of jail/stun/ugly:

    * There is a 25% chance the character will recover after one round.
    * There is a 44% chances the character will recover after 2 rounds.
    * ... 58% after 3 rounds
    * ... 68% after 4 rounds
    * ... 76% after 5 rounds

    To compute farther out, use the formula:

    1 - .75^rounds

    Where .75 is the chance of not rolling what you need to save. So, if you were using a d20 with a save from 18-20, the value would be .85.

  4. Instead of looking at how the math is wrong, let's look at how we can make it right.

    Some math to help you out:
    An effect that lasts for d4 rounds lasts for an average of 2.5 rounds. If you roll a save at the end of your turn, what chance of success will give you the same average duration? To calculate this, divide 1 by the duration (2.5):
    1 / 2.5 = 0.4 = 40%
    This would be 13+ on a d20. A similar calculation can be performed for other durations.

    4e D&D also has the term "aftereffect". Using an aftereffect provides a nice way for something to go away progressively rather than all at once. For example, let's say something incurs the following effect on you:

    stunned (save 8+)
    Aftereffect: dazed (save 11+)
    (sorry, I'm using my own notation)

    This would result in stunning you for an average of 1.5 rounds, and then leaving you dazed for an average of 2 rounds. The total average duration would b 3.5 rounds, so if the aftereffect were the same as the initial effect, you'd end up with a stun that lasts roughly d6 rounds, but is guaranteed to last for at least 2. This approach can easily be used to get averages that match any die (and can add an interesting twist when the aftereffect differs from the original).

  5. I would like to submit that all the spell durations are basically arbitrary, aside from being broken up into those lasting for X rounds, X turns, X hours, X days, etc. So you're replacing one arbitrary duration with another (easily tracked) arbitrary duration.

  6. I like this, I like this a lot.

  7. "stunned for eternity"

    You know, Flip, that makes my bastard DM side like this even more :) Thanks for the maths lesson. A personal requirement is to be able to use existing resources unconverted i.e without having to translate 1d6 rounds into a d20 save. So, fine with math being close enough.

    Yeah, terminology is very "norm specific". Wanted something dense and familiar for use in descriptions/statblock. So far I got,

    1d6 regular d6
    1p6 hackmaster penetrating (correct exploding)
    1x6 assploding (incorrect but simple exploding)

    1m6 is one too many single character things for norm to remember. 1max6 is just enough to trigger a spark amongst the mnemonic pathways.

    Aftereffect, I likes it. Thanks.

  8. I like the idea but I just want to say that Escher-esque picture of the dice is way cool.

  9. It will work if;

    1) it isn't too complicated or time-consuming

    2) it doesn't detract from the actual game play

    But in the Dragon Warriors game from the 80s (and 2009) spells have a `spell expiry roll` - no set duration, they just expire when you roll double 6`s. Works well for flavour and uncertainty.


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