Random Thoughts: 3D6 in 3.5

Some days I wake up in a hyperactive state, usually (as was the case today) in the early hours of the morning. The best treatment is to get up and have a cup of coffee, the stimulant being how I self-regulate the hyperactivity alongside my early morning meditation. These mornings generate random thoughts.

Waking up today, and having mused over the fear of making stat blocks, I was suddenly struck that (other than GURPS) I wasn’t aware of any 3d6-rolling game that I like. Then the thought arrived: what if you used 3d6 in D&D instead of 1d20? It’s not a new thought – not by a long chalk – but this time it sparked a connection to search for applications of this in published works.

I had never owned “Unearthed Arcana” for D&D3.5 back when we played it, but this is where I found the brief but useful optional rule for playing that edition of D&D with 3d6 instead of 1d20.

Of all the editions of the game, Wizard’s 3rd Edition was my favourite and it occurred to me that pulling out those old books, combined with the .PDF of the UA book, I could easily adapt to the classic prescription to roll with 3d6.

The fear of being labelled “heretic” for that admission almost stopped me in my tracks, but I decided to read the guidance. Of course, I loved the outbox “Behind The Curtain” explanation of what introducing a bell curve does to D&D3.5:

In general, this variant leads to a grittier D&D game, because there will be far fewer very good or very bad rolls. Not only can you no longer roll 1, 2, 19, or 20, but most rolls will be clustered around the average of 10.5. With a d20, every result is equally likely; you have a 5% chance of rolling an 18 and a 5% chance of rolling a 10. With 3d6, there’s only one possible combination of dice that results in an 18 (three sixes, obviously), but there are twenty-four combinations that result in a 10.

D&D Unearthed Arcana (3,5e), 2004, p 132

Am I about to run off and start playing D&D3.5e in this way? Probably not, truth be told, but the idea appeals to me for a solution to the biggest I have always disliked about Dungeons & Dragons: rolling 1d20.

There’s something ironic about using the d20 System rules but not using the d20 that makes me smile. And, of course, it lets me use the Monster Manuals with their glorious stat blocks without worrying about having to make up my own.

Game on!

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