Exploding dice (“Aces” in Savage Worlds) can seem almost unmanageable to players and GMs that are new to the concept. At first, exploding dice might seem like nothing more than a fancy “natural 20” in D&D – a small chance to get a big result – but it’s something else completely.
It’s unpredictable, but in a predictable way
When you roll a d20, there’s a 5% chance you’ll get a natural 20, so on average, it happens once every 20 rolls. When you roll an exploding d6, what are your chances of getting a 14? Well, erm… eh.. wait, let me calculate this.
Pffft, just kidding! Only hardcore players are gonna bother calculating chances for possible results. However, that doesn’t mean we’re completely surprised by every roll. We still have some general guidelines we can use.
We know that getting a 7 or an 8 isn’t likely, even if you’re good at what you’re doing (that is, you have a d8), but getting an 11 or a 12 is certainly harder, and getting 16 or 17 is quite rare. We also know that the higher the die type, the better are your chances of scoring high results regularly. Even a d4 might be able to get to a 10, but not on a regular basis.
So while it’s hard to calculate exact chances, we get the gist of it, with the obfuscation of exact chances actually adding an air of mystery, which builds excitement.
You’re always vulnerable
You know what else builds excitement? The risk of injury. With exploding dice, any creature that attempts to hit you with a sword or influence you with magic, might not only hit you – they might even take you out of the fight completely. You need to be careful and act smart, and more importantly, you need to come to terms with losing.
It’s going to happen, one day you’ll be at the receiving end of an exploding punch of some sorts. And that’s a good thing! Defeat is not the end, and you’ll come to see the adventure as a dramatic back-and-forth, instead of as a series of constantly escalating successes; the former is generally more interesting and satisfying than the latter.
Dare to try
Savage Worlds is a system for heroic, pulp action – it’s almost always better to act than to play it safe. You might not know how to drive the sky-kite, but as the giant bats approach from behind, you’re certainly going to try! With exploding dice, there’s a chance for you to succeed this once, even if generally you have no idea how to do that thing.
This is your monthly reminder – check out the full Savage Worlds rules, for only $10.
Two Players and Up is a weekly podcast in which we talk about the gaming highlights of our lives, with Aviv’s Factoid of the Week, the Patron Song, and an unpredictable number of raises.
Every podcast episode we sing praise to our patrons, using their names. BUT NOT THIS TIME
We talk a bit about how exploding dice look on this page (10:16), but since uploading it on Monday we had a re-think: while there was something fun and explosion-y about the original design, it had the (fairly major) problem of not being clear enough, especially to people who don’t already know how exploding dice work. There’s now a new version of the page, which we think works better in conveying what is actually happening when dice explode. You can see the old one here for context and nostalgia.
The intro and outro are taken from “Vivacity” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)
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