Gaming Thursday: More on the Bell

Something came to me recently that’s worthwhile adding to my earlier thoughts on why I am in favour of bell-curve dice systems:  With the clustering of results, and their lack of swinginess, they greatly reduce the dreaded “streaks of suck” where one poor roll is followed by another… and then another… and then another…

With a linear die system, such as a d20, you’ve got the same chance as rolling a 1 as you do a 10 as you do a 20.  Rolling a bunch of bad rolls in a row isn’t all that difficult to do.  And sure, sometimes those strings of bad rolls can be kinda funny in their own, peculiar, way.  But more often than not it creates, at best, difficulties for your character and, at worse, puts them into great peril.  And it can be frustrating as heck, a thwarting of self and an affront to the idea of competence.

(What about the opposite end?  That can also be annoying… rolling several great rolls in a row where they are not useful, or having a string of them and then not having them for what feels like a very long time…)

But with a bell curve of results, even if your chance of failure may be the same on the whole, the distribution of those bad rolls is much more evenly distributed over time.  Because the results cluster to the middle, rolling a bad roll is more likely to be followed by a middling roll than having an equal chance of having yet another bad roll.  Which leads not only to less frustration but also to that greater sense of competency as well as confidence which allows for greater planning and, ultimately, more meaningful choices.

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