D&D.Sci June 2022 Evaluation and Ruleset
This is a followup to the D&D.Sci post I made ten days ago; if you haven’t already read it, you should do so now before spoiling yourself.
Here is the web interactive I built to let you evaluate your solution; below is an explanation of the rules used to generate the dataset (My full generation code is available here, in case you’re curious about some detail not explained below). You’ll probably want to test your answer before reading any further.
(Note: to make writing this easier, I’m using standard D&D dice notation, in which “4d8+3” means “roll four eight-sided dice, sum the results, then add three”.)
There’s a moderate positive correlation between the Otaku trait and the Nerd trait, and a strong negative correlation between the Office Worker trait and the Hikkikomori trait (it would be stronger still, but remote work from a home office allows these traits to coexist). The Sociopath trait doesn’t correlate with any other.
In addition to the five recorded traits, there’s one the angel and the goddess aren’t equipped to detect: a random 19.2% of heroes are Fated to win regardless of their choices. Being Fated also doesn’t correlate with other traits.
A hero’s Aptitude – that is, how well-adjusted they are to being isekai’d – is (by default) given by 2+1d8. Traits modify this as follows:
Sociopaths get +1 Aptitude (empathy is a net liability when fighting a Demon King)
Nerds get +2 Aptitude (scientific/mathematical knowledge is a real boon in another world)
Otaku get +4 Aptitude (nothing helps an otherworldly hero like knowing isekai tropes)
Office Workers, instead of generating their starting aptitude with 2+1d8, generate it with 4+1d4 (white-collar workers are lower-variance)
Hikkikomoris get +1d4 −1d4 Aptitude (isolation makes them higher-variance and longer-tailed)
Choices of Cheat Skills are informed by both Traits and Aptitude. In particular, Fated heroes tend to be at least dimly aware of their good fortune, and are therefore liable to pick cheat skills optimized for smoothing the path to an inevitable victory; when given a choice, they’re much more likely to select Enlightenment, Radiant Splendor, and Uncanny Luck than un-Fated champions. (This causes those skills to appear more useful than they are.)
Power is found by taking Aptitude and adding to it based on the cheat skills chosen.
Before any other skill is applied, Hypercompetent Dark Side raises your Power to 11 if your Aptitude wasn’t sufficient to get you there; it then grants a further +1 Power.
Anomalous Agility, Monstrous Regeneration, and Barrier Conjuration each grant +5 Power, but they’re mostly redundant with each other (i.e. they’re all “awkwardly but reliably ensure I won’t be hurt by an attack I’m prepared for” skills); if you already have one of these skills, adding a second only grants you an additional +1 Power.
Radiant Splendor grants +2 Power. Sociopaths make best use of this superficial charisma; they get a further +2.
Enlightenment grants +2 Power. If you also have Radiant Splendor, the combination of these skills grants you a further +4 Power. (synergy makes you a six-sigma leader and/or cult founder in a way that neither cheat does on its’ own)
Shapeshifting grants +2 Power. It grants a further +4 for Sociopaths (who can think of lots of creative ways to decieve allies and enemies), and a further further +5 for Otaku (who know lots of fantasy monsters they can transform into).
Temporal Distortion grants +2 Power, and grants a further +4 for Nerds (buying time to think is much more valuable when thought is your strong suit)
Uncanny Luck grants +4 Power, unless you’re a Nerd, in which case it only grants +2 (knowing too much about probability decreases its capacity to rig itself in your favor).
Rapid XP Gain grants +3 Power, and grants a further +2 to Office Workers (they’re used to doing mindless, repetitive tasks with minor variations, so a cheat skill which increases the benefit from level grinding is a natural fit).
Mind Palaces grant +4 Power, but guarantee failure when given to un-Fated Hikkikomori (they hide inside their own heads and refuse to come out)
Success and Failure
If you’re Fated, you win automatically. Otherwise, success is decided by rolling [Power]d10 dice; if the total exceeds 90, you win.
Your character is a Nerd and an Office Worker. The success-chance-maximizing tactic is therefore to select Temporal Distortion, and combine it with a 5-Power skill: Barrier Conjuration, Anomalous Agility, Monstrous Regeneration and Rapid XP Gain are all equally valid choices.
Gameplay-wise, the mission statement for my first challenge this year was “tricky but accessible”. I think I succeeded at this: indeed, I suspect I made it too tricky (I somehow failed to consider that players might put differing success rates down to sabotage on the part of the goddess’ collaborators, and had to awkwardly clarify partway through the challenge that the Chaos Deity is 100% legit) and too accessible (Jay Bailey reached a perfect answer remarkably quickly, and aphyer dissected the world remarkably thoroughly; this speaks well of them, but perhaps poorly of the puzzle).
Thematically and pedagogically, I’m on more solid ground. The reader will have deduced that the intended takeaways from this game were along the lines of “A smaller unbiased dataset can be much more useful than a larger biased one”, “Randomized Controlled Trials are Randomized for a reason”, and “When reality hands you a relevant natural experiment, don’t ignore it”.
They . . . may also have learned some lessons I didn’t set out to teach. The combination suggested by “filter using literally every explanatory variable, then average” tactics happens to be one of the optimal four: more sophisticated methods do nothing but confirm the solution provided by a sensibly naive approach, and offer alternate points along the efficient frontier. On one hand, this produces an unsightly discontinuity in the gradient of effort vs outcome; on the other, it communicates the correct insight “A smaller dataset specific to your situation can be much more useful than a larger more general one”, and reflects the realism of advanced analysis confirming simpler suspicions; as such, I’m torn between embarrassment and wishing I did it on purpose. Feedback on this point, and on all other points, would be greatly appreciated.