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(This question is inspired by by Neil Slater's answer here: What are the acceptable limits for questions using the probability tag?. Other related questions are: Rules for increasing ability scores in Basic D&D?, Help Needed With Probability Math for 2d10, and this one on SE.Mathematics)

In my OSR game, I implemented two different systems for increasing attribute scores. Every four levels, the characters get to choose one ability score to increase by a point. (This was stolen whole-cloth from D&D 3.X) I also implemented a fractional ability score system. (This was stolen from Unearthed Arcana.) Each ability score has a fractional rank from 0 to 100. When you level up you roll 2d10 to generate a number from 2-20 and add that to the fractional ability score. When that gets to be 100, it resets and the ability score goes up by a point. (To be clear, there are six dice rolls involved for just this rule.)

So far, so good. The PCs have gained a couple of levels and recorded their fractional totals. However, I looked into the math for the fractional ability scores and realized that it's going to take a long time for the PCs to make any progress with it. The specific numbers:

  • Upon reaching 9th level, there's a 15% chance that a fractional ability score has gone up by a point.
  • Upon reaching 10th level, there's a 48% chance that a fractional ability score has gone up by a point.
  • Upon reaching 11th level, there's a 79% chance that a fractional ability score has gone up by a point.
  • Upon reaching 12th level, there's a 94% chance that a fractional ability score has gone up by a point.

To throw another wrench into the plan, I ruled that when you use the +1/4 levels ability increase, it resets that ability's fractional score to zero. My thinking was that I didn't want the player's to stack the "once every four levels" bonus with the fractional bonus and potentially increase a score twice upon gaining a level.

The campaign is limited to 20 levels and we most likely won't even reach that. This fractional ability score thing seems like a lot of extra accounting with very little payoff.How do I tell the players "This house rule sucks and we shouldn't do it anymore?" I don't want them to feel like they are missing out, but at the same time I don't want them to be doing a bunch of extra paperwork and accounting for no reason.

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Have you considered giving 0.25 ability score points every level instead of 1.0 every four levels? That could make the other house rule worth something. –  Martin Epsz Mar 31 at 18:27
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How do I tell the players "This house rule sucks and we shouldn't do it anymore?"

That's exactly how you do it! Say, "This house rule sucks and I think we shouldn't do it anymore."

If they object, well... then they don't mind the paperwork. If they agree, then you don't have a problem. Either way they don't feel cheated, because they're part of deciding the change.


This case is particularly simple because the extra work is not actually much, and the rule isn't actively causing you, the GM, any problems. You just think it's not really worth the payoff, but really, they can decide that.

In the case where the rule you want to eliminate is actively causing you trouble running the game, then the approach is still the same, but you also lay out that it's causing you trouble and sucking up time/energy that you really ought to be putting into making the game go well and be fun. If you're playing with reasonably mature players, they will consider that downside and try, just like you, to agree on a way forward that has the most benefit for the game and their overall play experience.

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Line one was going to be my headline as well. –  CatLord Mar 31 at 17:09
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Only thing I'd add is to show the players the math you've done and how unlikely it is for the fractional ability scores to give them any results anyway -- just a little extra evidence to back up your "this house rule sucks and we shouldn't do it anymore" conclusion. In my experience people are much more willing to accept mid-game house rule changes when there's a solid reasoning behind it. –  Kromey Mar 31 at 17:56
    
Player paperwork becomes DM paperwork when a player loses their sheet. Which in my experience happens about 1 out of 3 sessions. :( –  starwed Mar 31 at 18:44
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@starwed That's a different problem that should be solved at the source, though, not allowed to affect how the group chooses their houserules. –  SevenSidedDie Mar 31 at 18:52
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@starwed Yeah, but there are still solutions to that problem that don't require ideal perfection. Losing character sheets is an age-old problem. Bending the game around the problem can be done, I suppose, but you can't expect every answer here to accommodate it, right? Just like not every question bothers to mention "oh and if your players are young children..." Unrelated things that cause complications for the issue at hand, but are wider in their scope, are really separate issues. –  SevenSidedDie Mar 31 at 18:58
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Give them something better.

If you're removing the rule because it's not worth it, why not just replace it with something that is worth it? That way they won't feel cheated.

Like, every two levels, pick an ability score. Roll 3d6, and if it's higher than your current score, it goes up by one. Lets you improve your crappy scores, but prevents you from getting godly stats in the ones you've already min-maxed.

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If the players like the rule, there are two things which occur to me in this specific case:

  • Allow players to roll 2d10, six times, then allocate them to preferred stats. That will lead to faster progression on stats that each player wants first, whilst keeping most elements of the rule. There is one minor mechanical problem - PCs with 18/xx strength will progress quickly through the strength bonuses (that were originally intended to be granted very rarely), so you might want to cap Strength improvements to maximum 1 bonus increment per level.

  • Grant an occasional +1d10 as an in-game reward - e.g. as a Divine boon for rescuing the High Priest, or in general for any PC behaviour that you think is deserving of credit. In essence you have a minor alternative experience system here. You could do this on average 20 times before it is likely to result in a +1 stat. so you can use the players' enjoyment of tracking and caring about these numbers and build upon it if you plan to dish out +1d10 roughly 20 times over the course of say 10 levels.

I think the general case answer to the question is:

  • First discuss with your players to explain your problem with the rule, and to try and understand why they like it. Just be honest about why you don't like the rule, no need to dress up the argument or approach it in a round-about way.

  • If possible, try a minimal fix to the rule so that both you and the players are happy with it. It pays to be cautious (over-compensating might be a problem, so check your numbers).

  • If a fix is not possible - or perhaps too much work / too complicated - then you could accept player preferences that essentially do no harm to the game.

  • If a rule in your opinion would do major harm to the game, but the players are not accepting this, then consider playing with the rule with a pre-agreed way to opt out if it doesn't work out.

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Have you considered re-designing that rule so that it does what you intended? If you wanted them to gain a point of everything every 10 levels on average, you could play with the random number generator so that that's what they get (10+2d10, for example), or reduce the randomness of the amount they get to add. (10+1d10)

If you just think it was a bad idea, chances are you can get the players to agree that it isn't worth the time, so they won't really mind losing it, but if they do, then getting it to where you want it to be will definitely make them happy.

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Personally I'd remove the advancement every 4 levels and automatically give them 20 points each level to assign to one stat of their choice.

You can give them those 20 points retroactively so they won't feel cheated, in fact they will see an immediate gain so feel like you are being generous.

I suggest 20 points (rather than 25) since you said you don't want to accelerate advancement too much.

1 advancement per 4 levels is 25 points per level divided by 6 stats is 4 points.

2d10 is giving them far more than that (average of 10 per stat) however it is spread out over all the stats so will take longer to have an effect and cannot be focused.

The big problem with this scheme though is that on average all stats are advancing equally. That means that at 11 points per level no stats will advance at all for 9 levels and then on level 10 they will all advance!

Really you need to do something to spread out those advancements over a number of levels.

One way to do that may be to not award 20 points per level at all and remove the gain at 4 levels - but allow them to move up to 5 points from stats to any other stats.

i.e. if you have fractionals:

9, 24, 35, 7, 54, 19 after rolling for advancement you might choose to:

-5 -5, +10, -5, +10, -5 to get

4, 19, 45, 2, 64, 14

This keeps some randomness to the advancement, but also lets them focus it into the stat or stats they really want.

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