Die Rolls and Averages

For Pencils and Paper Role-Playing Games
Copyright ©2013 J.D. Neal ● All Rights Reserved. This tutorial is mainly comcerned with ordinary dice marked in evenly incremented integers, such as a sixsided or ten-sided die; other die types may give different results and should be analyzed on their own. Some of the following numbers were rounded for convenience; if you need precision, do the math yourself. The probability of a number occurring as a result of a die roll is mainly a concern for success-or-failure situations, or for random picks from a table with unique entries. When creating quantities (such as how much damage a hit does in combat), averages are a bigger concern, in the long run. In some circumstances the probability can have some affect on play: consider using a Quasi-d4 (see below) versus a regular d4. If the referee creates creatures who can take 2 points of damage, then a one-hit kill is certainly easier with a quasi-d4 than with a common d4. But such things tend to be both flukes and the product of unimaginative referees. Varied game play means that such things are not as important. Likewise, if there is a significant difference in the number range created, then the die rolls can be significantly different, even if they have the same average. For example, 1d8 (1-8), 1d6+1 (2-7), and d4+2 (3-6), and d2+3 (4-5) all have an average of 4.5, but the smaller the die used the narrower the number range. Calculating Averages The average (mean) roll of a standard die will be the total of the end points divided by 2. For example, a d6 (marked 1 to 6) will average 3.5 (6 + 1 = 7; 7 / 2 = 3.5) while a d8 will average 4.5 (1 + 8 = 9; 9 / 2 = 4.5) and a d10 is 5.5 (1 + 10 = 11; 11 / 2 = 5.5). Individual rolls will vary from 1 to 8, but when rolling a d8 one expects a final result around 45 for ten rolls. The final total could be anything but 45 (since this is a random roll), but in the long run 45 will be about the expected normal average for 10 rolls of a d8. Note how a roll of d6+1 (a six-sided die plus 1) has the exact same average as a d8: 4.5 (2 + 7 = 9; 9 / 2 = 4/.5). A roll of ten d6+1s will not create the same high and low numbers as a d8 (being limited to 2 to 7) but will give the same general average as a d8 over 10 rolls – barring random flukes. If dice are marked in common fashion, than the average of multiple rolls is also the total of the end points divided by 2. Thus 3d6 (for 3 to 18) has an average of 21 divided by 2, which is 10.5, meaning rolls tend to average 10 or 11. Subtracting a number from a die roll might create a different average than the end points divided by 2, depending on how the subtraction is handled. Consider this: Die Roll 1d6 1d6-1 limited to 1 1d6-1 not limited 1 1 0 2 1 1 Result 3 4 5 2 3 4 2 3 4 6 5 5 Total Avg 21 3.5 16 2.67 15 2.5

If 1d6-1 is limited to 1, the average is not the same as 1 + 5 = 6 / 2 = 3, since 1 occurs 33% of the time. Other methods of Calculating Averages Not all dice are standard dice: some might be marked in unusual ways or interpreted in odd ways. The average may or may not be the sum of the end points divided by 2. (Averaging dice are indeed designed to create a specific average that often does equal the end points divided by 2; but not all die rolls or dice will do that.) Another way of calculating averages is to total the possible numbers and divide by the number of sides on the die, or multiply the frequency of a number occurring times itself to get a weighted value and summing them up. Consider a d6 roll: 1d6 Frequency Number as Fraction 1 1/6 2 1/6 3 1/6 4 1/6 5 1/6 6 1/6 21 Frequency as Decimal 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Total: 21 / 6 = 1+6 = 7 : 7/ 2 = Weighted Value 0.2 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.8 1.0 3.5 3.5 3.5

Below is an “averaging die” (a d6 marked to exclude 1 and 6): a 2 or 5 will occur more often than other numbers; and a 1 or 6 will never occur; but the average is the same as a normal six-sided die.

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Averaging d6 Number 2 2 3 4 5 5 21

Frequency 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Total: 21 / 6 = 2+5 = 7 : 7/ 2 =

Weighted Value 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.8 0.8 3.5 3.5 3.5

d4 # 1 2 3 4

Freq. 25.0% 25.0% 25.0% 25.0% Avg:

Weighted Value 0.3 0.5 0.8 1.0 2.5

Quasi-d4 Weighted # Freq. Value 1 16.7% 0.2 2 16.7% 0.3 3 16.7% 0.5 4 16.7% 0.7 2 16.7% 0.3 3 16.7% 0.5 Average: 2.5

Consider the average of a d4 and a quasi-d4 (a d6 marked as shown):

Following are tables showing averages for a d5, a d6-1 limited to 1, and rolling a d6 and counting 6 as 3. Note how the die roll of 1d6-1 does not create the average of 1+5 (which would be 3): oddly marked dice or certain die roll interpretations can affect averages and probabilities. Weighted 1d6-1 (limited to minimum of 1) Value 0.2 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.8 0.5 3 Number 1 1 2 3 4 5 Frequency 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Average: Value 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.8 2.7

d5 Number 1 2 3 4 5 Frequency 20.0% 20.0% 20.0% 20.0% 20.0% Average:

Weighted Value 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 3

d6 (count 6 as 3) Number 1 2 3 4 5 3 Frequency 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Average:

Median Of a Die Roll The mathematical median of a typical die roll is the “middle number”. If the total of the end points is odd, then there are two mid points, the one before and after the mean. If it is even, then the median is also the average. Consider the following die rolls, their average and median: Die Roll d3 d4 d6 d8 2d4 d10 d12 2d6 d16 2d8 d18 d20 Average 2 2.5 3.5 4.5 5 5.5 6.5 7 8.5 9 9.5 10.5 Median Number(s) 2 2, 3 3, 4 4, 5 5 5, 6 6, 7 7 8, 9 9 9, 10 10, 11

average is 10.5, but they cannot start the concept at 10.5 because said number will never actually occur on any single die roll. Instead, they have to start with the idea that the number 1 to 10 represent 1/2 of the possible number created by the die roll; and 11 to 20 the other half of the number space. A 50/50 chance of success means the character must roll 11 or higher to succeed. Suppose they consider using 2d6 as the die roll to use for the mechanic. The average is also the median: 7. There is no 50% mark: 2 to 7 or 7 to 12 both occupy 58% of the number space available. Best of Two d6s Analysis Some people prefer to simplify their game by using a d6 for damage rolls. Some of them prefer to the following scheme (they aren't interested in creating a variable scale; they want it simple and easy, not complex): Unarmed Standard 1-handed melee 2-handed melee the lowest of two dice one die (d6) the best of two dice

This is a consideration in game design for when the designer wants to know what the middle number(s) are so they can design a mechanic, such as a to-hit roll or saving throw. For example: suppose the referee wants to design a mechanic (such as leaping a chasm) based on a d20 die roll. The

At first glance the best of two d6s is an interesting and novel approach: indeed, the author adored it when he found it. In reality, it isn't much more different 2

than rolling 1d6+1 (one d6 and add 1). If anything, it is a little inferior to 1d6+1 (which gives the same average as a d8 die roll). Yes, it does result in a 1-6 number range versus 2-7, but what is the practical result? After all, with the best of two d6s you have to roll and compare two dice, versus rolling one and adding 1 to the result. Below is an analysis of the two die rolls. A simple grid is used to determine the combinations that the best of 2d6 will generate. The related numbers were then counted, and a weighted average and percentage chance of each occuring was computed. The author both manually rolled two dice and set up formulas in a spreadsheet to compare the equivalent of 100 rolls for practical purposes. Warning: a single test will not necessarily return useful data: sometimes they gave a different weighted average; sometimes they were much the same (as is expected for random rolls, which being random are not predictable). The 1 added to the die for 1d6+1 kicks the overall average up higher than picking the best of two dice. Consider how a 6 occurs 30.5% of the time on the best of 2d6: a 6 or 7 will occur 32% of the time with 1d6+1. A 5 or 6 occurs about 55% of the time with the best of 2d6: while 5, 6, or 7 occurs about 50% of the time with 1d6+1. A 1 occurs occasionally with the best of 2d6 (1 in 36 rolls) while it never occurs with 1d6+1. Table #1: Best of 2d6 Analysis grid d6 #2 d6 #1 1 2 3 4 1 1 2 3 4 2 2 2 3 4 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 6 6 6 6 6 Table #2: Best of 2d6 Statistics # Occs. Weighted Average 1 1 .03 2 3 .17 3 5 .42 4 7 .78 5 9 1.25 6 11 1.83 TOTALS: 36 4.47

Table #3: d6+1 Statistics d6+1 Occs. Weighted Average % Chance 2 1 .33 16.67% 3 1 .50 16.67% 4 1 .67 16.67% 5 1 .83 16.67% 6 1 1.00 16.67% 7 1 1.17 16.67% TOTALS: 6 4.50 16.67% d6 B 4 4 2 5 4 1 1 6 2 1 1 4 2 3 6 2 3 6 4 2 4 1 4 3 2 1 4 5 6 1 4 4 4 6 5 2 4 1 1 1 3 5 1 2

5 5 5 5 5 5 6

6 6 6 6 6 6 6

% Chance 2.78% 8.33% 13.89% 19.44% 25.00% 30.56% 100.00%

Table #4: 100 Random Tests d6+1 (A+1) Best of 2d6 (A or B) d6 A 7 6 6 3 4 2 2 2 1 4 5 3 6 5 5 4 3 3 3 2 2 5 6 4 4 3 3 3 2 2 4 3 3 4 4 3 3 2 2 2 3 1 6 6 5 4 3 3 5 4 4 5 6 4 7 6 6 3 2 2 4 4 3 7 6 6 4 4 3 7 6 6 4 3 3 4 3 3 7 6 6 3 5 2 4 6 3 5 4 4 3 4 2 4 4 3 2 4 1 5 6 4 7 6 6 7 6 6 6 5 5 6 5 5 2 1 1 4 3 3 3 3 2 4 5 3 6 5 5 4 3 3 3

7 3 5 3 2 2 4 2 6 3 7 6 7 2 2 2 6 4 6 6 3 2 4 2 5 7 4 3 4 3 7 7 2 4 3 6 3 4 7 3 2 2 2 5 7 7 5

6 2 6 6 6 2 4 5 5 5 6 5 6 1 2 4 5 3 5 5 2 1 3 6 4 6 3 3 3 3 6 6 5 3 3 5 5 3 6 6 6 5 1 4 6 6 4

6 2 4 2 1 1 3 1 5 2 6 5 6 1 1 1 5 3 5 5 2 1 3 1 4 6 3 2 3 2 6 6 1 3 2 5 2 3 6 2 1 1 1 4 6 6 4

4 2 6 6 6 2 4 5 4 5 1 3 3 1 2 4 1 1 4 1 2 1 3 6 4 3 1 3 1 3 3 5 5 1 3 3 5 3 3 6 6 5 1 2 1 3 4

2 6 4 2 3 6 4 6 427 4.27

4 5 3 3 5 5 3 5 420 4.2

1 5 3 1 2 5 3 5

4 1 3 3 5 2 3 1

Lowest of Two d6s Analysis The lowest (lesser) of two d6s (from the lead-in of the above discussion) creates almost the same average as a d4 roll. The number range is extended past 4 to 5 or 6 - but there is only a 3/36 (1/12) chance of a 5 occurring and 1/36 chance of a 6 occuring. Note how the lesser of 2d6 INCREASES the chance of a 1 or 2 occuring (55% versus 50% on a d4); and reduces the chance of a 3 or 4 (let alone higher number) occuring. d6 #2 d6 #1 1 1 1 2 1 3 1 4 1 5 1 6 1 # 1 2 3 4 5 6 Totals: Freq 11 9 7 5 3 1 36

2 1 2 2 2 2 2

3 1 2 3 3 3 3

4 1 2 3 4 4 4

5 1 2 3 4 5 5

6 1 2 3 4 5 6

Weighted Average .31 .50 .58 .56 .42 .17 2.53

% Chance 30.56% 25.00% 19.44% 13.89% 8.33% 2.78% 100.00%

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d4 # 1 2 3 4

Freq. 25.0% 25.0% 25.0% 25.0% Avg:

Weighted Value 0.3 0.5 0.8 1.0 2.5 Weighted Value 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 3 Frequency as Decimal 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Total: 21 / 6 = 1+6 = 7 : 7/ 2 =

VARIOUS AVERAGES Quasi-d4 # Freq. 1 16.7% 2 16.7% 3 16.7% 4 16.7% 2 16.7% 3 16.7% Average:

Weighted Value 0.2 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.3 0.5 2.5

d5 Number Frequency 1 20.0% 2 20.0% 3 20.0% 4 20.0% 5 20.0% Average: 1d6 Frequency Number as Fraction 1 1/6 2 1/6 3 1/6 4 1/6 5 1/6 6 1/6 21

Quasi d5 (d6 :count 6 as 3) Number 1 2 3 4 5 3 Frequency 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Average:

Weighted 1d6-1 (limited to minimum of 1) Value 0.2 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.8 0.5 3 Number 1 1 2 3 4 5 Frequency 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Average: Value 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.8 2.7

Weighted Averaging d6 Value Number 0.2 2 0.3 2 0.5 3 0.7 4 0.8 5 1.0 5 3.5 21 3.5 3.5

Frequency 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% 16.7% Total: 21 / 6 = 2+5 = 7 : 7/ 2 =

Weighted Value 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.8 0.8 3.5 3.5 3.5

Using a d6 to recreate other dice tends to fail past a d6 due to the narrowed number ranges. This does, though, illustrate how different number combinations can create the same average: Quasi-d8 Quasi-d8 Weighted Weighted Marked Freq Average Mark. Freq Average Mark. 1 16.7% 0.2 1 16.7% 0.2 1 2 16.7% 0.3 2 16.7% 0.3 3 3 16.7% 0.5 4 16.7% 0.7 4 6 16.7% 1.0 5 16.7% 0.8 7 7 16.7% 1.2 7 16.7% 1.2 8 8 16.7% 1.3 8 16.7% 1.3 10 Sum: 27 4.5 27 4.5 33 /6 = 4.5 4.5 5.5 Quasi-d10 Weighted Freq Average Mark. 16.7% 0.2 1 16.7% 0.5 2 16.7% 0.7 5 16.7% 1.2 6 16.7% 1.3 9 16.7% 1.7 10 5.5 33 5.5 Quasi-d10 Weighted Freq Average 16.7% 0.2 16.7% 0.3 16.7% 0.8 16.7% 1.0 16.7% 1.5 16.7% 1.7 5.5

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