18 January 2014

Dungeons and Dragons and Dyscalculia

I have a friend with dyscalculia. I got her to play D&D. She told me that she has had other friends who play D&D that have told her that she wouldn't like it, or some other such rot.

From wikipedia.
Dyscalculia is difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning maths facts. It is generally seen as a specific developmental disorder like dyslexia.
Dyscalculia can occur in people from across the whole IQ range, often, but not always, involving difficulties with time, measurement, and spatial reasoning. Estimates of the prevalence of dyscalculia range between 3 and 6% of the population. A quarter of children with dyscalculia have ADHD.

I, on the other hand, was minoring in mathematics until just recently when I hit a wall hard, and realized that differential equations were more trouble than it is worth for me to learn.

Both my wife and another friend have taken first or second year calculus.

All of us are intelligent people with the level of imagination required to desire to play a game of make-believe using dice and rules.

So why do I bring up math skills? Does this really have any bearing at all on the simple arithmetic needed to play Dungeons and Dragons?

Of course it does. Even if you discount the opinions of some of the posts on /tg/, a vile hive of scum and misogyny on 4chan, they are people that could be encountered in real life. Aside from that, I wonder how many potential players have been scared away from D&D because they have over heard or read someone saying people can't do simple math easily shouldn't be playing? And there other people who unknowingly make the assumption that everyone can easily do arithmetic in their heads, every couple of minutes, like every time their turn comes up in a combat.

Now me, I had actually forgotten my friend has dyscalculia until it was time to calculate the party's encumbrance before leaving the dungeon. She originally thought that me thanking her for reminding me that she has dyscalculia was sarcasm. That was kind of painful, but even worse makes me wonder how many times someone has mocked her, or other people with dyscalculia, for having a hard time with abstract math (ironically she works as a cashier and says she have no big problems making change). 

Some non-/tg/ opinions about combat algorithms:

What is the Best Combat Algorithm?
The entire post and the comments are very interesting as Delta is pondering the what makes a best way the best way from the standpoint of someone who teaches college level math. 

My D&D Was Different (Not Old or New But Middle School*)
This point in the post is the kind of attitude I am talking about (bolding mine):
 Thac0 is easy. Seriously. Subtract your roll from your thac0 and that's the best AC you can hit with that attack. How the fuck is that difficult? It strikes me as much easier than rolling d20+34.
A question posted on the OSR G+ group
I'm not calling this guy out because he knows math is easy for him but not equally easy for everyone, just highlighting the kind of assumptions people have:
I think part of the problem I'm having is I'm good enough at the basic math that I can't figure out what's difficult for people.
This raises the question:

How do we as game masters and players make our games open and inviting to people with dyscalculia? Or other learning or developmental problems?
Or is this even really a problem?
I know for me it is. I don't want people to feel they can't play our games because math is hard for them.
Which is the best combat algorithm?

Common Combat Algorithms:

To Hit Armor Class 0 (which has 3 general methods): 
  1. Roll a d20, add ability score modifiers, add descending armor class compare to THAC0; if it greater than or equal to THAC0 it is a successful hit.
  2. Roll a d20, add ability score modifiers, compare to THAC0 minus armor class; if greater than or equal to it is a successful hit.
  3. Roll a d20, subtract it and your ability modifiers from your THAC0, this tells you the AC you can hit.
Target 20: Roll a d20, add ability modifiers, add level based combat bonus (base attack bonus or fighter level), add descending armor, compare to 20; if greater than or equal it is a successful hit.

D20 Method: Roll a d20, add ability modifiers, add level based combat bonus (base attack bonus or fighter level), compare to ascending armor class (which is generally 10 plus a bunch of other modifiers); greater than or equal to the AC it is a successful hit.

ACKS Attack Throw: Roll a d20, add abilit modifiers, compare to attack throw value plus armor class.

Suggestions and Advice:

Play another game?
Don't play Exalted?
Let your playing group know that you have more difficulty with math than the baseline and would like help?

Figure out which method of determining success is the easiest? THAC0, Target 20, Ascending AC with BAB?

Don't play a game that tosses lots of bonuses and penalties around like 3.x or Pathfinder? Seriously who wants to constantly add half a dozen bonuses from 1 to 4 while making sure they do or don't stack?

Advice from Tumblr:

allandaros answered: Having a matrix handy for “roll X, hit Y” is handy. Also, GMs should be able to help out with parsing combat math.