I am currently running a campaign with D&D Next playtest packet released at September. My player has been complaining about his terrible attack rolls (He didn't prevail because of fumbles, even at Easy encounters!), and monsters' decent attack rolls (20 does not look like 20 anymore). So, I am going to implement this bell curve roll from Unearthed Arcana 3.5, and accomodate rule changes in Next from previous editions. I currently expect the following to change.

  • Natural hit and miss. You automatically hit at 18, and miss at 3.
  • Base critical hit. Without any enhancement or class features, you score critical hit at 16-18. However, you do not guarantee automatic hit for 16 or 17.
  • Advantage and Disadvantage. You roll 4d6 under advantage or disadvantage. You drop the lowest for advantage, and the highest for disadvantage.
  • Ace in the Hole. (Rogue class feature) Now holds to 18 instead of 20.
  • Improved and Superior Critical. (Warrior path feature) Improved Critical scores critical at 15-18, and Superior Critical scores critical at 14-18

My question is:

  1. According to the "Monster Challenge Rating" section, plural monsters get their CR reduced. To reflect that change, I thought about regarding Large Numbers of Monsters section (from DM Guidelines) as invalid, or adjusting the XP bonus (e. g. 3 on 1 becomes moderate rather than tough from easy). Should I keep this section, adjust it (2 on 1 is the same, while 3 on 1 gets tougher), or wipe out it entirely?
  2. Above are the exhaustive list of what I remember to be largely impacted by this decision. Are there any other rules, class features or feats I should change?
  3. +1 weapons are currently listed as uncommon. Actually, my player's character already has +1 long sword. However, they are likely to impact the game greatly under this new rules, and I had been using the random loot rule in the DM Guideline. Are +1 weapons still appropriate for this category, or their rarity should get a boost?
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to ask what the level of play is and what the mods in question are? I'm playing a level 2 paladin that Only has str 3 and cha 3 but is still very capable within system at making melee attacks and casting spells. Could you be using monsters outside the abilities of the party? Next has a very loose and unfinished balanace aspect with XP values of monsters and their level only a loose guide. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith Two fighters at level 2 at that time. Unfortunately, the dice roll actually favored the monsters' side very often. They scored successful hit too often given how hard it is for low-level monsters (to hit +2 to 4 as I remember) to hit someone with AC 20 (Chain mail+shield+fighting style). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


Bell Curve Rolls will add some predictability to the game and favor player choices over random rolls. I would just use the tables from the variant to determine any changes, and I would suggest just rolling 3d6 twice for Advantage/Disadvantage to keep the mechanic the same, although as SevenSidedDie points out, the probabilities are similar. Ace in the Hole's equivalent would be 16-18, though since it's a 20th level ability and 18 equates to "automatic success" in the Bell Curve Rolls, 18 is probably appropriate. Otherwise, I think your changes make sense. In the end, equally applied to NPC and PC alike should go a long way in making this variant work.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you may have skipped the part in the OP that says they're contemplating using 4d6 drop lowest/highest for Advantage/Disadvantage. If you didn't, then I'm not sure "neuter" is warranted, since the change in probabilities is quite comparable. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, 2d20 drop lowest is going to be a slightly better bonus over 1d20 than 4d6 drop lowest is going to be over 3d6. But D&D Next designers didn't pick 2d20 for its ability to precisely produce the math they were looking for, they picked it because it had to use d20s and they accepted the math it produced. The difference between 3d6 and d20 is already far more, so the fine difference between their drop variants is negligible and will have minimal impact on the system compared to using 3d6 in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you please clarify what do you mean by "Ace in the Hole should be 16-18"? This is an ability which forces a failed ability check to be the highest value on the dice (and namely 20 in the d20 system), and well, I don't know how to implement a random chance upon such a thing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 5:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Arle - 16-18 in 3d6 is the "equivalent" of 20 in d20. Since you "treat the d20 roll as 20" with this variant, you would treat the 3d6 roll as 16-18. If you wanted to treat it as an automatic success, then it should be 18 as the OP mentions, otherwise, 16. In retrospect, since it's a 20th level ability, the 'automatic success', that is 18 is probably more appropriate. I'll update my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 20:32

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