The 3d6 System and Why We Love It

So, last month, we released our first episode! The episode was very straightforward: why should you play Dragon Age?

We all had fun answering that question of questions. We covered most of the big points; the game is easy to pick up for new players and is fun to master for more seasoned players. If you like Dragon Age, then this game will be easy to slip into. The game creates strong emphasis on all aspects of adventuring rather than focusing most of the rules on a single aspect like combat. The Stunt System helps the game remain exciting and unpredictable. The world of Thedas is big enough to accommodate endless ideas and character concepts.

I feel like those were good things to say, but I wanted to go into more detail about the benefits of the 3d6 system, specifically. We’re gonna get into some math here; hold on to your silly hats!

Seriously, Anders, what is that thing?

The Dragon Age RPG came out about a year after Dragon Age: Origins did, and the game was meant to be a kind of companion to the video game. The Dragon Age RPG was made using much of the terminology of the video game Origins, but it was also made accessible to people who hadn’t played a tabletop RPG before.

Instead of making the game a d20 system like many of the other popular games of the time, the folks at Green Ronin decided to shake things up by making the game using three six-sided dice, or 3d6s. The primary benefit of this new system is that, when the dice are rolled, the statistical variation in outcomes is significantly lessened, making for more balanced play and increasing the relevance of static die roll bonuses. What does that mean? Well, for those of you who are gaming veterans: Remember that time (or those last fifty times) when you had a +20 bonus on a roll and still failed, because you rolled a 1? That happens much less often in a 3d6 system.

Yes, there are seven here, but it never hurts to have extras!
To elaborate, the dice create a kind of mathematical bell curve; the “average roll” of a six-sided die, assuming that all numbers are equally possible to roll, is 3.5. Sounds kind of weird, I know, but that’s how it’s supposed to add up. If you roll three of these dice, the average total number to roll falls around a 10.

Now, anyone who plays games with dice knows that you can’t always count on a die to do what you want it to, but this bell curve allows you to rely on the dice averaging out into a certain number range, meaning that the game has less chance of being noticeably affected by… well, chance. A d20 has the same possibility to roll a 1 and a 20 on any given roll, but with 3d6s you would be very lucky to get an 18 and very unlucky to get a 3. Because those two rolls require all the dice to roll the same number, you can still count on the dice rolling closer to 10.

What this translates to at the table is: you can do more stuff. If the dice are going to generally fall into a curve of possible rolls, then your character can try more things outside of their comfort zone with less fear of failure. If your character is good at something you can generally feel safe knowing that you will likely be able to succeed at what your character has worked very hard at. More success around the table means more heroism , more exciting stories to be told, more danger from the GM, and just more fun for everyone!

Now that we can rely more on those dice, we can just wait for those doubles to roll and choose how to spend those Stunt Points!

Do more of this! Have no fear!

Author: Portal-Crafter Reyn

I'm an amateur sound designer, gamer, game-master, and I love to bring people grand worlds and rich stories through several mediums.

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