I have been the worst dice-roller in my party as far as I can remember. Be it D&D 3.5, 4th Edition, or any other dice based system, the goddess of luck has always been mean to me.

To give you an example, I currently play a fighter in D&D 3.5, and as we are low level, when I do hit something, I dominate it. The problem is, that I rarely hit. Anything.

This, apart from being frustrating big time, renders me useless in a fight, and thus useless in general (lets face it, fighters in 3.5 just fight) to the point that a Dread Necromancer with a bastard sword who always, always, has good rolls, actually makes a better fighter than I do... when he is not summoning undead that always hit with their three attacks per round.

So, my question: are there any ways of balancing rolls between a player that always sucks and a player that always passes the roll (attack rolls, skill rolls, everything).

Note: I am not overreacting, and it is not a phenomenon that happened once. I seriously noted this difference in 5-6 sessions straight, with my average rolls being six to seven and the necromancer's rolls easily reaching sixteen to seventeen.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried replacing the d20 with a 3d6? \$\endgroup\$ – Pureferret Jan 31 '12 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ 5-6 sessions rolling without success? Wow, your next rolls will be really lucky! \$\endgroup\$ – Wilerson Feb 1 '12 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry to put this so bluntly but, is it possible that you do not understand statistics and suffer from information bias (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_bias_(psychology))? Have you ever written down all(!) your rolls for a period of time and checked if they are really (significantly) below average? Or have you just skilled your character in a way that trades of DMG for chance-to-hit? \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin reinstate Monica Mar 7 '13 at 10:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ You need a new d20... \$\endgroup\$ – Antonio Apr 25 '13 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @fgysin is most likely correct. There is a player in my group who purports to have the exact same problem, but as a relatively impartial observer, I can say that it's simply not true. This particular friend has the same problem in many aspects of his life: winning in non-dice based games (eg, Magic: the Gathering), computer troubles, monetary issues, etc. He always remembers the bad things that happen, and believes that those events are the only ones happening to him. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian S Feb 26 '14 at 14:45

11 Answers 11


My personal recommendation is to use a dice roller. If you have an iPhone, I recommend Dicenomicon ($5), dynamicDICE ($1) or Dice Bag (free). I have heard that Pip ($1) is also pretty good. I have found that the luck associated with physically rolling dice is dissociated from digitally rolling them.

If you find that you still think that a dice roller is giving you below average rolls, try one of these solutions:

Pre-Generated Dice Roll List

This is very similar to using the dice card decks suggested in another answer, but relies on a computer rather than a deck of cards.

  1. Generate a list of 1,000 random integers between 1 and 20. Do not look at the individual numbers.
  2. Average the numbers.
  3. If the average is between 10.0 and 11.0, your set is not necessarily smooth, but is going to have a fairly even distribution.
  4. Whenever you need to roll a die, instead use the next number on the list.
  5. Continue to use this list until you have used all 1,000 numbers before generating a new list.

Point Buy System

  1. Choose an average dice roll - 9, for example. This is the roll that you get if you do not apply any points to the roll. Important rolls are not every roll - instead, they are rolls that your DM feels are important enough for it to matter if you subtracted points from them. For everything else, you roll manually.
  2. Whenever you need to make an important roll, you instead get to use the "average dice roll." You can accept a lower dice roll. Based off of how low you reduce your roll, you get that many points to add to future rolls. For example, 8=>1, 7=>2, 6=>3, 5=>5, 4=>7, 3=>9, 2=>12, 1=>16
  3. You could instead choose to use points you have accumulated to increase your roll. For example, 10=>1, 11=>2, 12=>3, 13=>5, 14=>7, 15=>9, 16=>11, 17=>14, 18=>17, 19=>20, 20=>24

Alternatively, have this system apply to every roll, but let the DM rate the importance of given rolls, with a multiplier of anywhere from 0.5 to 3. Adding or subtracting points to such rolls costs or rewards the multiplier times the cost/reward.

Point Buy Modifier System

This system is identical to the one above, but you instead modify your actual roll. This modification may be required to be before your roll or may be after it. Alternatively: It costs half as much and rewards twice as much if the change is determined before the roll rather than after.

Narration System

You are encouraged to narrate your actions in exquisite detail. Doing so (before rolling) in a way appreciated by the DM and other players grants the acting player either a +4 bonus to his/her roll (if the roll is between 8 and 13) or the ability to re-roll if the roll is below 8. Alternatively, base the bonus off of how effective your narration was.

Pure Narration System

As above, but the DM determines your success based on the quality of your narration.


If you forgive me, the odds are that this is a perception thing, not a reality thing - unless you own biased dice.

The sane way to determine which is true is test, test, test: take a dice, and roll it a thousand times. Keep a tally of how many times you roll each number.

That will do one of two things:

Most likely, it shows that there is no substantial bias in your rolling, in which case you know that the problem is one of perception.

The other possibility is that it shows a bias - at the end of the thousand rolls, not after the first twenty - in which case you have two scenarios:

Scenario one, you have some metaphysical curse that results in predictable, non-random rolls. In this scenario you then go to Vegas and make millions from your ability to play the odds, knowing that your rolls are not actually random.

Scenario two, you know that your dice are biased. You borrow dice from the Dread Necromancer, then repeat the test. Then you buy yourself some dice from the same manufacturer or something.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm personally hoping for "metaphysical curse" answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Ashterothi Jan 31 '12 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. Be happy if you roll a 10. If you hope for a 16 or 17 every time, you're going to feel unlucky when you almost never get one. If you can't hit the monster with a 10, use enchantment bonuses, flanking, etc to improve the odds. Don't rely on the dice to get it done. \$\endgroup\$ – RMorrisey Feb 1 '12 at 2:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Khaal - if you can prove it, other than getting rich in Vegas, you can probably talk your DM into letting you swap the numbers - roll a 2, count it as 18 - at least to find out if you suddenly start rolling only 20 ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Pittman Feb 1 '12 at 22:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Really, a 40-roll sample and a good statistical analysis should be plenty fine for a given die. We did that for a friend's dice, and found that, in fact, they were biased. (Ran a chi-squared test, and showed his dice were significantly biased towards 5's...) \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Feb 2 '12 at 1:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Khaal - It doesn't have to be time consuming to record all dice rolls in a session. Write 1 to 20 on a pad of paper and then make a single tally mark for each roll. The 5 bar gate neatly groups them in blocks of 5. I bet it won't take many sessions to get a statistically significant number of samples. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth Feb 26 '12 at 1:53

Clearly you need new dice! And dont let the old ones sit in the same dice bag as the new ones, or the bad luck will rub off on them. Thats a mistake a lot of gamers make. I recommend a complete, fresh change of dice.

But dont throw the old ones out. Make them watch as you game with the new dice. After a while you'll break their spirit, and you'll be able to re-integrate them with the othes. When I GM, after a couple bad d20 rolls, I set that one aside and move on to the next one.

Shrug... always works for me.

What I'm really saying is... You dont have bad luck with dice. What you are seeing is your perception of your luck given a small sample size, limited to the relatively low number of dice rolls. By changing dice, you are 'resetting' the sample of rolls you are basing your perception of your 'luck' on. If you suddenly roll a couple of good rolls, it will appear your luck has changed and you wont be so convinced you have bad luck.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The thing is that i am talking about gaming through years, with several dice sets, that is why i do not feel perception is my problem. There are many variables as to what you roll, but clearly luck is one of them. Assuming that the dice sets are not "bad" (they may have been), it is either luck or bad rolling conditions, but on the conditions pretty much all players have the same. That is why i rule them out and think luck as the basic factor of bad rolls. \$\endgroup\$ – Khaal Jan 31 '12 at 21:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perception can be tainted, especially if its across the years and you are working from the pre-conceived notion that you have bad luck. Keep a tally of the next 500 d20's you roll like Daniel Pittman suggests. See what the average roll result is after that. It will be darn close to 10.5. \$\endgroup\$ – GrandmasterB Jan 31 '12 at 21:46

There are alternative methods to generating random numbers that have the same distribution over time, but remove any perceived clumping, such as yours.

The Dice Deck: Randomness Smoothed

Consider a Dice-deck approach: Each result is on a single small card, and instead of rolling you draw from the deck. For a d20 deck, there will be only one 20 and one 1 to draw. Most folks add a 21st card, which is blank. Drawing this card causes the deck to be reshuffled (re-introducing some non-predictability to the process.) Positioning of the blank card varies: sometimes folks position it 1/4 up from the bottom of the deck while others just shuffle it in.

If your DM allows it, this is trivial to implement on smartphones (It's probably out there already.) That way you don't even have to deal with 21 little cards.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I found a related product online (discontinued, apparently?) that could be used for this purpose. dicecards.com/bits Playing cards where each of the cards has a d4 - d20 on it, as well as other random elements. Only 40 of the cards have a d20: you could keep any number of those (3 perhaps) and use those to trigger the reshuffle. \$\endgroup\$ – corvec Jan 31 '12 at 21:18

In addition to various suggestions about stats and dice, you can try to make a character that's less dependent on dice rolls. Think attack-granting warlord in 4e, or buffing cleric in 3.5. This type of character is not for everyone, but can be very efficient.

As an entirely different type of solution, when a player in my game has suffered from consistent bad luck throughout the first 10 levels of the campaign, I've had him discover he was cursed at birth by a witch whom his parents offended. Sadly, the player went overseas before having a chance to confront the witch, but it would have been fascinating to see if his luck would have improved.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In my current 4e game, one player got frustrated with his ability to hit on his Runepriest, so he rerolled Cleric/Warlord hybrid, trying to build in as few actual attack rolls as possible. To be fair, the Runepriest would have been more playable had he picked up more to-hit boosting feats/equipment. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian S Feb 26 '14 at 14:47

I have had players that claim to have problems such as this. What I recommend is if you have a higher percentage of lower rolls (which is kind of hard to believe) make fast strike characters instead of hard hitting ones. If your character attacks 3 times a turn you have an increased chance of SOMETHING making it through. The problem with hard hitting characters is often one miss costs you the entire turn.

Balancing that, say bah to lady luck and look at spell casters that have powers that are not as random in their functionality.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have thought about both of these, but my prefered character is a katana weilding death machine, so it's dicerolling failure VS what i want to play. \$\endgroup\$ – Khaal Jan 31 '12 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Alliteratively you could ask your GM to roll for you... Or device some solution where you hit a percent of the time, but that's up to you and your GM. \$\endgroup\$ – Ashterothi Jan 31 '12 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect that this might be why you're noticing the misses more. If nothing else, you'll be rolling far less dice than the GM. \$\endgroup\$ – deworde Mar 5 '13 at 9:58

Here's an online Chi-square calculator for dice: http://bit.ly/chi-sq-dice

Go forth and roll. You don't have to do it "a thousand times," but you do have to do it enough to get a good sample, 30, 50, or 100.

I think you'll find, as many have said: it is dice bias found in poor balance or bad center of gravity in the polishing process.

I know many players that do chi-square tests in store with dice before purchase... 10 or 20 rolls is enough to convince them to purchase or pass.


When the dice seem to have it in for me, I try to make as many rolls as possible. Don't just roll the dice in combat. Have your character do a few tasks that require skill rolls. Seek to find ways to make more rolls, especially in situations where the outcome isn't critical. Have your PC play a dice game against one of the other PCs. Roll to jump over the fence between two farmer's fields. As Daniel suggests, the more rolls you make, the more the odds will even out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I once got 3 nat 20s in a row out of game, then when it was my turn to swing... 2. That's more insulting then just missing! \$\endgroup\$ – Ashterothi Jan 31 '12 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrodante Yep, been there, done that. \$\endgroup\$ – Khaal Jan 31 '12 at 19:38

I have always seamed unlucky too, and I don't think it was just my perception, it was notice by everyone I played with (*). What I did was buy a new GameScience Precision dice set. Weirdly the problem as gone away. What I think is that I had a bunch of dice that may be where basically flawed, not all dice are well made, whatever they say.

I have considered several luck balancing game designs over time. The Mid 3d20 is probably the best but it is biased to the players, which is not a bad thing IMO. The d20 card idea should on paper be a good idea but in practice what happens is players will card count and try to do actions that it does not matter if they fail, if the deck is against them to use up the bad cards and get a reshuffle. I like the idea of the some how balancing your rolls (ie you get a 1 so your next is a 19) but I don't see how you can make it work with out the same problem of the d20 Deck.

(*) strangely as a referee I always seamed lucky ;)


If you can manage it, maybe switch to a more forgiving rule set, like GURPS (strong bell curve) or Savage Worlds (with plot points / bennies you can throw in to add dice or bonuses)?

Otherwise, focus on leader characters that help others do well.


To borrow from a different system (Edgewalkers - UK indie game), one possibility is to roll 3 dice instead of 1. Discard the highest, discard the lowest and use the remaining die to work out your success/failure. It means you get less Critical Hits, but also less Critical Failures. It also means that when you do get a Critical, it's even more dramatic because it's not a 1 in 20 chance, it's a 1 in 400 chance (I think).


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