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Testing the Theory
I ran a little test last weekend with Jenn as my guinea pig. She probably hates it, but she's perfect for getting usability opinions from, as she knows roleplaying but doesn't have much history playing D&D. Thus she already understands all the concepts, but isn't fettered by nostalgic ideas or ingrained practice from years of playing the game.

So I created three quick and dirty character sheets on some spare paper. Each detailed the same level 2 fighter with the same stats and gear. Here's one sample of what he looked like:

2nd Level Fighter
Str: 15 +1
Int: 9 -
Wis: 8 -1
Dex: 12 -
Con: 11 -
Cha: 10 -

HP: 10
AC: 3
Attack Bonus: +2

Gear: Full Plate, sword +1

That's all the detail included. The three characters differed only in what version of AC/Attack Bonus they used. The first was straight B/X, meaning instead of the above +2 attack bonus, he had the attack matrix written out. The second looked like what you see above, which is essentially Delta's Target-20 system. The third had 3.0 style ascending AC, and thus looked just like the above but showed an AC of 17 instead of 3. My test subject (Jenn), however, had no background in any of these systems and thus was unaware of what was being simulated. All she saw was what was written on each page.

I then proposed the following fictional situation: You are playing the fighter above in a one on one battle with an orc. On your attack you roll an 11 on a d20. Which is easier:

a. You add your +1 from Strength and +1 from your magic sword to get a total roll of 13. You look this up on the little chart and tell the DM 'I hit AC 5'.

b. You add your +1 from Strength, +2 from base attack, and +1 from magic sword. You tell the DM 'I rolled a 15' and he tells you if you hit or not.

c. You add your +1 from Strength, +2 from base attack, and +1 from magic sword. You tell the DM 'I hit AC 15.'

The difference between b and c is perhaps not immediately obvious here, but consider the fact that in example c the player has his own AC of 17 on the sheet for comparison. Thus, the player has some inkling of how likely he is to hit by comparing the AC he hit (15) to his own AC (17). Of course, in example b you can probably just consider how close you rolled to 20 to be some indicator of how likely you are to hit, but I personally think example c is just a little more in your face.

So which did she choose?

She went with a. If I recall correctly (and I'm sure she'll comment with corrections if I get this wrong), she felt that example a had less elements to contend with. Even though all three have exactly three elements, example a has two additions plus a table look-up while the others have three additions. It seemed to her that example a had less things she had to remember (add Strength and magic sword). The use of the table just seemed so obvious, it would be hard to forget.

She was pretty strongly against example c. Not only did it have more math, but she didn't like the high AC values. She didn't give a real quantitative reason, but it just rubbed her the wrong way. One could hazard a guess that AC 3 is just much easier to remember than AC 17, but I was simply glad to see that my own feelings about lower AC values validated. I was worried I only preferred lower ACs because that was the way we played when I was 10.

So there you have it, another reason to stick with by-the-book descending AC in B/X or LL. I may though try using Target-20 behind the screen. As a DM, I think the difference between asking a player 'What's your AC?' and 'The orc hits AC 5, does that hit you?' is pretty moot. In fact, if anything the previous question is more straight forward and nobody would care what system you used behind the screen when you ask that question and once answered come back with 'The orc hits you!'
November 10th, 2009 - 09:15 am | Comments (4) | PERMALINK

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