Attack Rolls

In the comments on my first draft of a spell school, Dustin makes an interesting observation:

Ah, I prefer not to have a ‘to hit’ roll at all, just have the variance be in the magnitude of the effect. As you say, it feels ‘off’ to kill or significantly affect something on a ‘miss’. I just think some of the least fun gameplay happens when a person waits for their turn, plans something, and then nothing happens because of a bad roll (which at least in part describes every single miss in the game). And if I fudge something as DM because they were extra excited, that sends a message that if you ask really nicely, anything will work (which leads to BAD NEWS).

You could pretty easily just have damage rolls, and if there is an ‘effect’ attached to it, decide on a watered down version if the damage roll is below a threshold (watered down could include ‘doesn’t happen’, as long as other stuff, like damage, does happen).

Incorporating this into the core mechanic would mean dumping quite a bit of groundwork, but I have to admit I’m thinking about the possibilities here.  Because I plan on having a pool of health called “fatigue” or “stress” that gets chipped away before you actually start taking damage, an attack that doesn’t hit you might still cause you some stress, or wear you out as you parry, etc.

So, some of the stuff I planned to do with the 2d10 mechanic would make this a little bit less practical.  I was thinking on having triggers of powers off one die, and have the second die represent damage in some way (this kind of efficiency of die rolls is something I really like in well-designed games, but it sure is difficult to make the math work with it sometimes!).  The concept of a bell-curve distribution making it more and more difficult to actually best someone with more skill than you starts to fall away a little bit if you don’t have a binary “miss.”  On the other hand, I like the idea that, surrounded by a sea of goblins, that Paladin is going to succumb at some point, because each goblin is wearing him out further and further.

Has anyone here played any games that utilized this mechanic?  I feel like my fatigue system, that is restored automatically to full after a “minor rest” during the day works well with something like this.  What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Attack Rolls

  1. connorbros

    I can only relay my experiment with something like this, though I’m not sure how much it helps. I was trying to cut away not just at attack rolls but the whole idea of slugging away in combat (combat was very much not the focus of the game I was trying to run and my players knew it). As such, I tried to imagine a system that was almost but not quite ‘one-hit can kill’. I’ll freely admit it was an experiment, but sort of worked in this case.

    I did away with HP and damage of any variety. Each character could have three states: disadvantaged, stagger, wound. A wound was essentially incapacitated for the purposes of combat, and whoever was inflicting the wound could decide what sort of flavour it took on (including death, though early on I tended to let players live in favour of taking potentially character-defining wounds). Disadvantaged would lead to staggering, which would lead to wound, and the attack roll would decide whether the target progressed zero, one, two or all three states. Disadvantaged and staggering only lasted until that character’s turn, when characters would go back to normal. They would additionally lose their turn if they were stumbled.

    It was still possible to miss (progress zero states), but only for characters or enemies who really had no combat training (we had one player who was just a shepherd) and only on a very low roll (something like 5-10% chance). Combat skill decided how high one had to roll to jump a target multiple states (an especially proficient character could flat out wound an enemy something like 25% of the time, stagger 50% of the time and at minimum disadvantage them). Every attack tended to bring a target closer to that wound, and teaming up would often quickly wound a character. One-on-ones sometimes had a bit of a fencing-like back and forth until someone rolled extra well or additional factors decided the battle (which did not usually take long).

    Anyways, this was just one example that I had the opportunity to test out for several months and enjoyed, but not sure what you’ll take away from it if anything. I planned to have enemies which were more monstrous and large take a few wounds to actually incapacitate and change their strategy or behaviour with each wound, but the players tended to fear for their lives enough such that anything big enough to qualify had them scrambling for ways to avoid, slow down or generally not engage (which ended up being pretty fun).


  2. wylliamjudd

    I haven’t exactly been your yes-man, but I actually love this idea. I’ve been playing a bit of D&D Next, and as much as I love every single change they’ve made, I will never love rolling a d20 to hit. It wouldn’t be D&D without the d20, so I can’t blame them.

    My game essentially uses the mechanic you’re talking about for melee attacks and I think that it works well, though ranged attacks can miss completely. What makes this especially interesting in my game (that you could use or not) is that getting into position for a melee attack is a task in itself. This is also the mechanic that games like WoW and LoL use, and I think it is a fine mechanic for modern designed fantasy combat games.

    I like the concept of stamina to explain this mechanic. To support that concept you might want to think about how armor interacts with it. I would think that armor would not come into play until the player starts taking physical damage, since I would think that stamina damage would represent avoiding the attack. Come to think of it, wearing armor could make it easier to direct an attack into a glancing blow (not penetrating the armor), while it would take more effort to avoid an attack completely as you would need to if you weren’t wearing any armor. But then armor is heavy, so, I don’t know how you want to conceptualize it.

  3. Pingback: Defenses | Lost Worlds

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