member, 54 posts
Sun 18 Dec 2016
at 19:08
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
I'm going to be starting a Pathfinder group on Wednesday night and we're looking to record it for a podcast. Some of the things I as GM am looking into are ways to speed the game along, one of which being exploding damage dice.

For those that don't know, damage dice "explode" when you roll the maximum possible number on a damage die (4 on d4, 6 on d6, etc), you keep that result and roll the die again, increasing the damage. I've googled for opinions on the matter, and I've found about 50/50 for and against and when I've asked my group, they were also 50/50 for and against.

Pros- Faster combat, it feels awesome doing really high damage. Cons- enemies can also deal lots of damage. We'll be starting at level 2, any class as long as it's not 3rd party, looking at a group of 5 or 6.

Thoughts and opinions? Any other suggestions for helping to speed up the game?

This message was last updated by a moderator, as it was the wrong forum, at 04:15, Mon 19 Dec 2016.

 member, 10 posts
Sun 18 Dec 2016
at 19:22
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
Best advice: keep combat rounds under 5 total rounds for most combats. Unless the creature or fight is a big climax, once you get to round 3, start thinking about having enemies retreat and regroup, or trying to chase off the PCs by using tactics or damaging attacks. Remember also to include options that aren't always kill everything.  Hold a spot for 3 rounds, until reinforcements... Grab the thing and run.... defend the priest while he casts something....  Surrender to fight later. It will encourage creative solutions that won't necessarily always end with hunting all the minions, mooks and baddies down.

If you can always keep the number of combat rounds around 5 or less, combat will be quicker and the game's pace should stay fine.

This message was last edited by the user at 19:23, Sun 18 Dec 2016.

 member, 97 posts
Mon 19 Dec 2016
at 00:16
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
Can't speak to speeding up the game (though the advice above is good I'd think) but keep in mind that anything at all that increases the randomness of the game favours the underdog. Unless you're out to kill your PCs, the underdog is the enemies, so that's not going to contribute positively (statistically) to the well-being of the characters.
 member, 173 posts
Mon 19 Dec 2016
at 04:06
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
Concur with the points above. The issue with exploding dice is increased by the fact that characters tend to be outnumbered by their opponents, which means that the enemy has a lot more chances to get lucky.

- If your fights are mostly one big boss and a group of players, the players are more likely to trigger an explosion and move ahead successfully. On the other hand, these fights tend to be quick because the players can focus fire and are active most of the time.

- If your fights are mostly hordes of minions, the minions are more likely to trigger an explosion and flatten a character or two. This reduces player participation, not a good thing, and it's for the fights that tend to drag the most, as the GM needs to roll and act for each member of the swarm.

Incidentally, using exploding dice can also skew your damage curve in weird ways. And it makes players want to use smaller dice sizes, so they can enjoy them exploding more. The table below shows the odds of rolling Damage or more with an exploding die. For instance, you have a 25% chance of rolling 5 or more damage with an exploding d4.

Note what happens with 6 damage: you have better odds of rolling 6 or more damage with an exploding d4 than with an exploding d6! Not too critical when large amounts of hit points are in play, but possibly undesired.

Damaged4 probabilityd6 probabilityd8 probability

Looking at things yet differently again, an exploding N sided die has an average value of X, and we have:

X = (N + 1) / 2 + X / N

Which gives:

(N - 1) X = N (N + 1) / 2
X = N * (N + 1) / (2 * (N - 1))

The average for an unexploded N sided die is (N + 1) / 2, so we get:

d4: normal 2.5, exploded 3.33 (+0.83 per die)
d6: normal 3.5, exploded 4.2 (+0.7 per die)
d8: normal 4.5, exploded 5.14 (+0.64 per die)

So the bonus you get from an explosion decreases as your dice become bigger - and on average you'd get more by adding 1 damage per die.

Edit: fixed the math. Explosions are worth even less.

This message was last edited by the user at 08:42, Thu 22 Dec 2016.

 member, 1394 posts
 I should really stay out
 of this, I know...but...
Mon 19 Dec 2016
at 04:49
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
I like exploding dice (Because Earthdawn), but I've seen a couple of systems that use that mook/major player difference to mitigate Meschlum's point.  If you're importing it into a system like Pathfinder, it does seem easy and reasonable to do it in just that way -- only `important' people, the PCs and major NPCs, get exploding dice.  Hoards of random enemies don't, because they don't have that same heroic potential.

It's a little bit artificial, but more cinematic, and for faster pacing, cinematic is a good feel to go for.
 member, 737 posts
Mon 19 Dec 2016
at 08:57
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
Exploding Dice is a pretty good way to make PCs feel more powerful, when I use that method I only allow the PCs to have it similar to mooks being one hit take downs.
 member, 1415 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Mon 19 Dec 2016
at 13:36
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
Why not restrict the exploding to principal characters -- PCs and bosses and their primary minions? Players become awesome, mooks stay mooks, and principal bad guys are a real danger.

Lucaswolfox's 5-round rule is also great! Mooks should rarely fight to the death.
 member, 174 posts
Tue 20 Dec 2016
at 04:35
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
And to finish the math above: the average gain you get from an exploding die over a normal one is:

1 / 2 + 1 / (N - 1)

d4: 1 / 2 + 1 / 3 ~= 0.83
d6: 1 / 2 + 1 / 5 = 0.7
d8: 1 / 2 + 1 / 7 ~= 0.64

Confirming the decreasing returns from bigger dice and the narrow range of the boost on average. If you're doing D&D, you might want to just increase the critical threat range and multiplier for PCs and named enemies - getting to roll three times as many dice feels a lot stronger, and having it happen on a 19 or 20 instead of just a 20 means it's about as common as a single explosion with a good roll (or a bit less. Crit on 18-20, and you're doing it more or less as often as you'd get an explosion otherwise).

Edit: corrected averages. They're lower than I indicated.

This message was last edited by the user at 08:47, Thu 22 Dec 2016.

 member, 391 posts
 May the hair on your
 feet never fall off
Tue 20 Dec 2016
at 20:17
Pathfinder- Exploding Damage Dice?
Looks to me like adding the option to have your damage dice explode is about comparable to the benefit derived from a feat. If 1/2 of your group likes it and 1/2 don't, you could add a custom feat and make it available to those who want it.

Realize that this does favor certain styles. Two smaller weapons might now be much better than one big one. Weapons that deal 2d6 will suddenly be much more powerful than those that deal 1d12. Similarly, caster-types will be doing much more damage with spells: Magic Missile uses d4s so it would get a significant boost and most other damage-causing spells do multiple d6s.

I'd be interested to know how unbalancing this might actually be. But ultimately, if it's fun for your group then it's probably worth at least trying.