Uber Scientific Optimal Dice Rolling Method Survey

Inspired by various discussions about various dice rolling methods being “easy” or “hard” in RPGs, I decided to put it to the test, using my eight year old daughter just done with second grade.  She was eating breakfast and watching some Avatar: The Last Airbender and I sat down by her with some dice.

“Try rolling each of these kinds of dice and tell me the sums, I’ll time you.  We’ll do each one three times.  Then tell me which ones you thought were easier.”

None of the methods took a “long time” even when an interesting part of the cartoons that were also playing was on.  Short means about 2 seconds, medium means about 4 seconds, long means about 6 seconds.

Results in the order she rated them as “easy:”

  1. d6 dice pool:  5d6, count 4+ as successes, tell me how many successes you get: ranked as easiest, but took a long time.
  2. d6-d6: 1d6 (green) – 1d6 (red) + skill of 5.  Took a short amount of time.
  3. 2d6 (pips): Adding 2d6 whose numbers were represented with pips plus a skill of 5.  Took a short amount of time.
  4. d20: d20 + skill of 5.  One error (no errors were made with other methods), was medium speed.
  5. 2d6 (numbers): 2d6 that are printed with actual numbers + skill of 5.  I did this on a whim because I had both kinds of d6es, and strangely ones printed with numbers were considered harder than ones with pips.  Took a short amount of time.
  6. 3d6: Add 3d6, compare to skill of 5.  Considered hardest and took the longest.

When I asked “So if daddy was to make a game for you to play in, what of those ways was your favorite?” the answer was “the one with the good die minus the bad die.”  When asked if she knows why it’s her favorite, she says “Not really, I just like it and it’s pretty cool.”


Interestingly, speed != sense of easiness != error rate, and none of those directly translate to favorite, though it could be argued that her favorite was based on an optimal mix of speed and easiness and lack of errors.

Dice with pips were considered easier than dice with numbers, at least in the smaller die ranges.  I imagine because “counting up” is easy and probably practiced in school at this age, or maybe because it’s easy to do intuitive multiplication because matches are obvious.

If you consider any of these dice rolling methods “hard”, you need to go back to second grade.  Interestingly, the first time I asked her to rank them from 1 to 5, she just rated them from 1 to 5, and basically she rated 3 of them as easiness 1, two as easiness 1 1/2, and one as easiness 2 on a 5 point scale.

She doesn’t know negative numbers.  I had her do a couple d6-d6 trials with a lower skill, and she unhesitatingly just said “zero” when confronted with a sum that came out to -2.  “Fair enough!” I said.

I actually love the d6 – d6 method, it was used in Feng Shui and apparently is used in ICONS – so perhaps preferring dice mechanics is genetic?

5 responses to “Uber Scientific Optimal Dice Rolling Method Survey

  1. Interesting. I tend to prefer dice methods due to number of dice rolled at once vs randomness. I like rolling huge handfuls of dice (SW d6, sometimes Wushu) but I also like having a 1/10 chance of something zany happening, so I enjoy d20.

  2. Interesting! Did you have any expectations going into the ‘uber-scientific experiment’?

    Oh, by the way, how long was long? The number seems to be missing in the post.

  3. Whoops, 6 sec., I corrected the post.

    No preconceptions, though it was prompted by a guy complaining on RPG.net about d6-d6 and how that’s so hard and slow. A couple people said “we should try it out on our seven year olds” and I thought “Hmmm, how about a more controlled test with a variety of methods… And I have a test subject right here eating waffles…” Though I like d6-d6 it’s never come up, and I presented it in the middle of the various options (for the record, d20, 2d6#, 2d6dot, d6-d6, 3d6, dice pool) and didn’t play it up or explain it any more than anything else.

    Interestingly she always added the skill and the +d6 and then subtracted the -d6 from the total. I always reckon the dice then apply to the skill, but actually if you’re not comfortable with negative numbers I imagine her method makes sense.

  4. I encourage everyone else to do the same with random other samples of kids and/or people!

    It’s pretty simple, I gave the short spiel above and had her do each three times. I wrote “+5” on a piece of paper so she’d be able to refer to the skill. Then I wrote the types in order (d20, 2d6#, 2d6.,..) and when it came up would explain “you roll these two and add them and the skill together. Go.” Then when done, I said “rank in order of how easy they were” (and the list is on the paper). I had to re-explain ranking from 1 to 5 after she had rated them all 1-2 on a scale of 5 because “all of them were pretty easy” (I thought it was funny that she, like adults at work when presented with ratings, immediately started putting 1/2s on things…).

  5. 1/2s are as important to 8 year olds as office workers. This is a great truth~

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