Damage Progression

I’ve been examining damage charts, especially the damage for increasing monster size and weapon sizes.

This is post is largely analysis and comparison. I’m not done with this topic. I think I’ve got something (several somethings, in fact) that are better than the RSRD version, but I’m not satisfied yet that it’s done.

RSRD Damage for Increasing Size

According to the RSRD, when increasing damage through increasing size, the following table is used, once for each size increase.

Old Damage (each)

New Damage

Old Mean

New Mean

Delta Mean

1d2

1d3

1.5

2

0.5

1d3

1d4

2

2.5

0.5

1d4

1d6

2.5

3.5

1

1d6

1d8

3.5

4.5

1

1d8

2d6

4.5

7

2.5

1d10

2d8

5.5

9

3.5

2d6

3d6

7

10.5

3.5

2d8

3d8

9

13.5

4.5

I don’t want to have to apply the changes iteratively, once per size change. Following the guidelines above makes for some weird results. What happens when you go from 2d6 to 3d6, then from 3d6 to… what? As far as I can see you’d have to split the 3d6 into 2d6+1d6 and apply the changes separately, for 3d6+1d8… I’d be more inclined to make it 4d6 instead, which could then lead to 6d6 (2d6+2d6 -> 3d6+3d6), which should scale about right. Similar can be done with 2d8 -> 3d8 -> 4d8 -> 6d8.

Hmm. I’ll look at this as an option later. I hadn’t considered it when I started my analysis.

Monsters in the RSRD don’t always follow these progressions, though they usually come close. Specifically, dragons don’t fit.

Dragon Natural Damage, from RSRD

Size

Bite

Claws

Wings

Tail Slap

Crush

Tail Sweep

Tiny

1d4

1d3

Small

1d6

1d4

Medium

1d8

1d6

1d4

Large

2d6

1d8

1d6

1d8

Huge

2d8

2d6

1d8

2d6

2d8

Gargantuan

4d6

2d8

2d6

2d8

4d6

2d6

Colossal

4d8

4d6

2d8

4d6

4d8

2d8

The progression used in all cases is 1d4 -> 1d6 -> 1d8 -> 2d6 -> 2d8 -> 4d6 -> 4d8, which is not what was presented above. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to overrule the standard progression with this one, but it’s a little awkward.

Old Damage (each) New Damage Old Mean New Mean Delta Mean
1d3 1d4 2 2.5 0.5
1d4 1d6 2.5 3.5 1
1d6 1d8 3.5 4.5 1
1d8 2d6 4.5 7 2.5
2d6 2d8 7 9 2
2d8 4d6 9 14 5
4d6 4d8 14 18 4

The deltas of the means do not increase consistently. This itches.

Solutions

I’ve got a couple possible solutions in mind.

Solution 1: Revise RSRD Damage for Increasing Size

I didn’t initially consider this option because I don’t like having to apply changes iteratively. I think it might come close to what I was thinking in the first place, though, and it’s closer to the core rules.

Old Damage (each) New Damage Old Mean New Mean Delta Mean
1d3 1d4 2 2.5 0.5
1d4 1d6 2.5 3.5 1
1d6 1d8 3.5 4.5 1
1d8 2d6 4.5 7 2.5
1d10 2d8 5.5 9 3.5
2d6 3d6 7 10.5 3.5
2d8 3d8 9 13.5 4.5
3d6 4d6 10.5 14 3.5
4d6 6d6 14 21 7
6d6 9d6 21 31.5 10.5

I’ve split the 1d10 progression out because it’s uncommon and doesn’t really interact with the progression above.

Old Damage (each) New Damage Old Mean New Mean Delta Mean
1d10 2d8 5.5 9 3.5
2d8 3d8 9 13.5 4.5
3d8 4d8 13.5 18 4.5
4d8 6d8 18 27 9
6d8 9d8 27 40.5 13.5

This is getting weird again, though. And I still don’t like having to apply the changes iteratively.

Solution 2: Unified Damage Progression

Instead of having rules that get applied iteratively, what if there is a damage progression that grows in a consistent manner and increases in damage just move down the chart?

The simplest version of this is 1d6 per rank, scaled into the smaller dice when below 1d6.

Rank Damage Mean Delta Mean (between ranks)
1

1

1

2

1d2

1.5

0.5

3

1d3

2

0.5

4

1d4

2.5

0.5

5

1d6

3.5

1

6

2d6

7

3.5

7

3d6

10.5

3.5

8

4d6

14

3.5

9

5d6

17.5

3.5

10

6d6

21

3.5

This is pretty simple. If a medium creature (human, say) did 1d6 points of damage, a giant (huge human) would do 3d6 (rank 5, moved down 2 for the size change). It’s kind of boring, but it would work.

A more complex advancement that is perhaps a little more interesting might look like

Rank Damage Mean Delta Mean (between ranks)
1

1

1

2

1d2

1.5

0.5

3

1d3

2

0.5

4

1d4

2.5

0.5

5

1d6

3.5

1

6

1d8

4.5

1

7

1d10

5.5

1

8

2d6

7

1.5

9

2d8

9

2

10

2d10

11

2

11

3d8

13.5

2.5

12

3d10

16.5

3

13

3d12

19.5

3

14

5d8

22.5

3

15

5d10

27.5

5

Without getting into Epic tier I think we don’t need this many ranks… but it was an interesting problem filling them out. I appreciate the simplicity of just using an increasing number of d6s, but this makes a curve that better fits lower-tier damage.

There are some alternative values that are close but will throw off the monotonic increases (1d10 -> 1d12 instead of 2d6, etc.) if desired. I like the above table, though.

Application of Damage Progression

The progression described above can be applied to weapons and to natural attacks. In fact, it lets me define a natural attacks matrix.

Natural Attack Matrix 

Basic Expert Heroic Master Champion Legendary
Fine

1

1

d2

d3

d4

d6

Diminutive

1

d2

d3

d4

d6

d8

Tiny

d2

d3

d4

d6

d8

d10

Small

d3

d4

d6

d8

d10

2d6

Medium

d4

d6

d8

d10

2d6

2d8

Large

d6

d8

d10

2d6

2d8

2d10

Huge

d8

d10

2d6

2d8

2d10

3d8

Gargantuan

d10

2d6

2d8

2d10

3d8

3d10

Colossal

2d6

2d8

2d10

3d8

3d10

3d12

Colossal+

2d8

2d10

3d8

3d10

3d12

5d8

Weapons often run a few steps above this, which might seem unfair… except that I’d rather view it as “the Champion martial artist can hit as hard as someone wielding a greatsword”, which is pretty impressive.

How does this match up to some of the existing natural attack progressions?

Natural Attack Matrix vs. Monk Damage

The damage below is for a medium creature. Tiers are approximate (Monk goes up at the top of each tier rather than at the next tier; close enough).

Tier Monk Damage Natural Attack Matrix
Basic

1d4 (not in RSRD)

1d4

Expert

1d6

1d6

Heroic

1d8

1d8

Master

1d10

1d10

Champion

2d6

2d6

Legendary

2d8

2d8

Epic

2d10

2d10

Okay, this looks pretty close. The natural attack matrix lags by one level.

Natural Attack Matrix vs. Dragon Damage

This table is copied from above.

Size

Bite

Claws

Wings

Tail Slap

Crush

Tail Sweep

Tiny

1d4

1d3

Small

1d6

1d4

Medium

1d8

1d6

1d4

Large

2d6

1d8

1d6

1d8

Huge

2d8

2d6

1d8

2d6

2d8

Gargantuan

4d6

2d8

2d6

2d8

4d6

2d6

Colossal

4d8

4d6

2d8

4d6

4d8

2d8

I’m going to make the following tier slot assignments, based on damage done by size.

  • Bite is Heroic
  • Claws are Expert
  • Wings are Basic
  • Tail Slap is Expert
  • Crush is Expert
  • Tail Sweep is Expert
Size

Bite

Claws

Wings

Tail Slap

Crush

Tail Sweep

Tiny

1d4

1d3

Small

1d6

1d4

Medium

1d8

1d6

1d4

Large

1d10

1d8

1d6

1d8

Huge

2d6

1d10

1d8

1d10

2d8

Gargantuan

2d8

2d6

1d10

2d6

2d10

2d6

Colossal

2d10

2d8

2d6

2d8

3d8

2d8

Without increasing the tier of the attack, the damage is a little lighter than the RSRD version.

However, I have to say that I like this. The damage is reasonable in that it is consistent with what other creatures can do (remember, dragons are already a little more powerful than their CR really indicates), but there is room for improvement (up to or perhaps exceeding the RSRD damage). I can also imagine a dragon that lacks some of these attacks (a wingless dragon shouldn’t have wing attacks) or a dragon that takes them in a different order (claws without a bite attack, or a dragon with a long sinuous tail learning the tail slap or tail sweep earlier).

Something I really like is that the additional attack forms are added as the dragon has lower-tier slots available. It starts with a bite attack (perhaps with claw attacks) because it has only limited slots, but can fill with more slots as it gets older (and bigger) and has more slots available.

This brings up multiple attacks per round. I’ll have to consider that later.

Alternate Natural Attack Matrix 

Basic Expert Heroic Master Champion Legendary
Fine

1

1

d2

d3

d4

d6

Diminutive

1

d2

d3

d4

d6

2d6

Tiny

d2

d3

d4

d6

2d6

3d6

Small

d3

d4

d6

2d6

3d6

4d6

Medium

d4

d6

2d6

3d6

4d6

5d6

Large

d6

2d6

3d6

4d6

5d6

6d6

Huge

2d6

3d6

4d6

5d6

6d6

7d6

Gargantuan

3d6

4d6

5d6

6d6

7d6

8d6

Colossal

4d6

5d6

6d6

7d6

8d6

9d6

Colossal+

5d6

6d6

7d6

8d6

9d6

10d6

This works out somewhat higher than the first matrix provided, and leads to the following Monk chart.

Tier Monk Damage Natural Attack Matrix
Basic

1d4 (not in RSRD)

1d4

Expert

1d6

1d6

Heroic

1d8

2d6

Master

1d10

3d8

Champion

2d6

4d6

Legendary

2d8

5d6

Epic

2d10

6d6

I can’t say I don’t like it. It gives a bit of a tune-up to the Monk, which harms nothing.

Given the tier slots chosen for the dragon above, we get the following Dragon chart.

  • Bite is Heroic
  • Claws are Expert
  • Wings are Basic
  • Tail Slap is Expert
  • Crush is Expert
  • Tail Sweep is Expert
Size

Bite

Claws

Wings

Tail Slap

Crush

Tail Sweep

Tiny

1d4

1d3

Small

1d6

1d4

Medium

2d6

1d6

1d4

Large

3d6

2d6

1d6

2d6

Huge

4d6

3d6

2d6

3d6

3d6

Gargantuan

5d6

4d6

3d6

4d6

4d6

4d6

Colossal

6d6

5d6

4d6

5d6

5d6

5d6

Again, a slight tune-up, which given how I’ve been trimming dragons back might not be unreasonable. While the multiple-d6s approach is a little ‘boring’, it was also dead easy. Again, I can’t say I don’t like it.

Conclusion

I don’t have a conclusion, in the sense of having a decision which way to go. I like what the unified progression does for designing monsters (natural attacks) and weapons. I’m more comfortable with things growing slower at the lower end and will probably go this way. The multiple-d6s approach is viable as well, and something I may consider if I feel the need to increase damage output.

This needs refinement yet.

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1 Comment to "Damage Progression"

  1. hadsil's Gravatar hadsil
    October 6, 2010 - 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Aesthetically I don’t care for the d6 progression. It’s boring. Even in 3E I find it boring when some new damage spell is just another version of 1d6 per level. Even Book of Nine Swords uses the d6 model. I don’t hate d6’s; I just prefer the variety. As such I like Rainbow Blast in Spell Compendium that starts at 5d6 to 5d8 to 5d10 to 5d12 even though the over all average over time is better for Lightning Bolt. In Book of Nine Swords, Divine Surge stands out for using d8’s. It’s certainly a lot of damage for a 7th level Crusader, which is not inherently a bad thing, but I really like that it’s in d8s and not d6s.

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