I have been reading D&D 5e for a forthcoming campaign and I have a small concern with bounded accuracy: Proficiency bonus growth at a low rate (a level 20 character has only a +6 proficiency bonus. whereas in previous incarnations of D&D, this would be a higher bonus in almost any case). Also magic weapons were nerfed (a Holy Avenger is a +3 sword, where in previous versions, it was a +5 sword).

All in all I think that the designed outcome is that a high level character has a lower bonus to their rolls. I have read the benefits of this and while I agree in some points my concern is that since the bonus have shrinked the d20 has a bigger weight in the action outcome.

Does bounded accuracy increase randomness compared to previous editions? If so, are there any mechanisms in-game to control it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Is this a real problem or I am overthinking?" — could you please describe the problem itself? "d20 has a bigger weight in the action outcome" isn't a problem, it's a fact \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jan 20, 2020 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that StackExchange is not a typical forum; all questions must ask a clear, answerable question. General/opinion-based discussion prompts may be better suited to a forum. If you ask "Does bounded accuracy increase randomness compared to previous editions?", that seems answerable given the clarification of what you mean. "Is this a real problem" seems kind of vague, depending on what you mean, but could be justified as connected to the previous question. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 20, 2020 at 8:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Designer-reasons questions are no longer allowed here. And "how do you overcome this" is an entirely different question that assumes that it is a problem to begin with. You may want to edit your question to narrow it down and focus it a bit more. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 20, 2020 at 8:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The best advice I got for D&D 5e is "forget all previous editions and pretend it is a new game." I had a similar worry when I began this edition. Let it go. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 21, 2020 at 1:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Completely agree. I went from 3.0 to 3.5 to Pathfinder so I got used to "new" systems being more or less the same as previous versions with any changes being more of a "bug fix" than a rework. 5e has introduced actual new mechanics that make it so the intuition you have from previous versions may not apply to the new game. I think this question is a good example of that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Barker
    Jan 21, 2020 at 17:36

3 Answers 3


Yes, the d20 has a higher impact than it might've had in earlier editions. Regardless of what level you're at, a bad roll can make you fail at something you're good at, whereas a good roll can make you succeed even in something you're mediocre or bad at. This is intentional. You're not really meant to overcome it. It's just part of how the game works. This is the reason for the common advice to not let the outcome of a campaign or the party come down to a single skill check.

Note that some classes (notably Rogues with Reliable Talent, barbarians with Undomitable Might and any caster if they have the right sort of spell for the situation) do have ways to pretty much always guarantee success for certain things, but for the most part it is normal and accepted that there is an element of chaos and things might not go as expected.

If this is a big problem for you I'd suggest looking into games that are less reliant on dice rolls (or even eschew dice entirely).


Only if there is a level disparity

As the rules not only affect PC stats, but all creatures are designed in this framework, against a level-appropriate enemy this does not change much. The AC and DC-s of a creature are lowered roughly the same as the opposing attacks and saves. Chances to hit or save should be in the same ballpark.

It has an effect when you are facing something of a different CR. Lower CR enemies might have a chance to hit you, where, with a higher bonus from level, they previously practically could not. This also means that you also have a better chance at dealing with something that is a bit stronger. This could, technically, be seen as randomness: where the outcome was nearly certain, now it is uncertain.

The thing is, these probabilities to hit/save can also be achieved in other editions, but with a narrower variety of enemies. If the DM wants to include eg. kobolds for story reasons, they do not have to be on magical steroids just to present a challenge, even if your DM is not called Tucker. Enemies become obsolete later and approachable earlier. They focus on this range of probabilities because this is the interesting part of the scale.

Thus what it changes really is the feel of it. Those monsters you have 70% to hit and that have 35% to save versus your spells now can have the appearance and name of a creature that used to be cannon fodder at the same level. This is not something to "control" and more something to "get used to". You are no more at the mercy of numbers than you were before.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this holds. Coming from 3.5, it's more than possibly to pump your chance to hit or save DC well above any reasonable defence, which means you're only missing on a 1 or they only save on a 20. 5e downplays the scaling of stats and keeps a tight binding between player and monster capabilities at CR. In 3.5, past about 10th level there are very few equal-CR monsters with the AC to keep up with scaling attack bonuses, which isn't at all the same in 5e. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarah
    Jan 20, 2020 at 20:23

While an argument can be made either way, my general experience is that 5e is actually less random than previous versions and when it isn't, it is generally due to the choices of the GM. Previous editions did have much higher modifiers, but the DCs for challenges is also much different than in previous editions. For example the table of DCs for 5e puts "very easy" tasks at 5 and "nearly impossible" is set at 30. In the same table for 3.5e "very easy" is at 0 and "nearly impossible" is at 40. So why are these DCs so different?

Earlier editions effectively tried to overcome the randomness of the dice using high modifiers, thus making the roll contribute less to the overall score. The problem with this is even when you have a very high bonus, the dice still makes up more than 50% of the range of scores you can get. With a reasonably high +10 bonus you are equally likely to barely squeak past in a task of "average" difficulty as you are to complete a "Heroic" feat. With that same +10 it also means that someone with a +0 in that same skill will do as well or better than you 13.75% of the time, which is pretty frequently considering this is basically someone trying something for the first time and beating a trained professional.

5e took a completely different approach by changing how and when you roll the dice. Rather than just taking straight dice rolls 5e uses the system of advantage and disadvantage to actually change the distribution of the dice, making high numbers much more likely in favorable conditions and much less likely in unfavorable ones. This means that you are unlikely to have a party member who has never been to your home town know their way around better than you as you would have advantage and they would have disadvantage. This generally makes the game a lot more flexible so that if you should succeed on a skill check, you generally will rather than the newbie beating the pro scenario we described earlier.

The second place 5e changed things is in when you roll dice with the introduction of passive skill checks. This basically acts like Pathfinder's concept of taking a 10 (though under slightly different conditions) where you can skip rolling for routine or repeated tasks and just add 10 to your modifier. Since you don't roll, you know exactly what your check will be and it avoids the all too common scenario of having the eagle eyed ranger who you sent to scout rolling a 1 and leading everyone into a trap.

One of the major themes of the changes in 5e is giving more power back to the GM than the last few editions. This does mean that the "feel" of the game will depend a lot on how your GM decides to run it. If they choose to be selective with applying advantage and disadvantage or ignore passive checks, then the game will feel much more random. If on they go to the other extreme, applying advantage to one side and disadvantage to the other in every scenario and using passive checks liberally, the game will feel almost predetermined with nearly no randomness at all. In general though, I think it is relatively easy to make the system feel "right" where things you "should" succeed at are very likely to certain, things you "shouldn't" are very unlikely to impossible, but most other things fall in the middle keeping the excitement of "will this work?".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that taking 10 is present in previous editions long before Pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25, 2020 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil I know it was in 4e slightly before Pathfinder (which I should add to my answer, I like many just skipped 4e) but I'm pretty sure all uses of taking 10 before that were house rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Barker
    Jan 25, 2020 at 22:03

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