Response to “Some Thoughts On Criticals – Curving the Scores”

Erik at Tenkar’s Tavern has Some Thoughts On Criticals – Curving the Scores.

In short, he isn’t so keen on the common approaches (maximum/double damage on a natural 20, or natural 20 plus confirmation roll).  He suggests an alternative rule where if you roll five or more above the number you needed (in D&D 3.x, hit an Armor Class five points higher than the target’s) you can roll a d10 to determine the critical effect.  Critical effects can include a bonus to your next attack on the target, a bonus to Armor Class against the target, or a free attack against the target.

[Or for the truly masochistic, I suppose you could break out the Rolemaster tables…]

Lately I’ve had a huge interest in ‘qualitative, not quantitative’ effects.  I can get behind the idea of replacing ‘bonus damage’ on a critical hit with ‘special effect’ on a critical hit.

I’m not entirely happy with the implementation, though.  Potentially three rolls for each attack seems a little much, and I’d like to have the option of ‘better qualitative effects’ for more-skilled fighters.  This could be done with three rolls by having a modifier on the critical die (the d10), but… that’s getting even more complicated.

Long ago, in the before times (mid-90s, in other words) I considered a critical system where the bonus damage was based on the number rolled… but counting down.  The lower the number on the die on a successful hit, the more damage you could expect to do.  This also took some of the sting out of the natural 20 rule (automatic hit) rule commonly used because I ruled that if you needed that rule to hit the target, you did only half damage.

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Boom! Head Shot!

A few months ago I posted about a different model for hit points and healing, then followed up a few weeks ago with a post considering some of the implications of making those changes.

One of the lingering thoughts I’ve had is that it comes close to modeling desired behavior for undead, but doesn’t quite get there.

What I am looking for:

  • Undead are tougher than they should be.
  • Head shots for the win!  General damage probably shouldn’t really do much, you have to do them some severe trauma.
  • Given the right circumstances, they pop pretty easily

The rules presented come close.  Removing the ability for undead to take normal damage (criticals only) means that you’ll be targeting critical areas (head shot!) because nothing else really works.  Giving them lower hit points than usual handles the ‘pop pretty easily’ element — once you can do them real harm.

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Implications of Changes to the Hit Point Model

A couple of months ago I posted some thoughts about hit points and healing .

This is playable model, and the martial artists I discussed it with said that while it’s not exactly realistic, it has the shape of something believable.  That is, the relationship between ‘hard to kill’ (or ‘hard to beat down’, more likely in a real fight) and ‘real damage’ is about right, even if the odds of someone taking only ‘minor injuries’ from a sword or shotgun are probably smaller than the model suggests.

(I’ll just mention this is more or less corrected in my view because most ‘real people’ are going to very low level, and even a ‘real’ third-level fighter with twenty or thirty hit points can be taken out of a fight pretty fast if he’s hit with a sword or a shotgun blast.)

It seems a workable model.  It is playable and doesn’t seem to inherently offend the senses.  In fact, I suspect it actually explains things better than most of the explanations I’ve seen to date.  The reason a human fighter has more hit points than a horse and is harder to kill is not that he has more meat and can take more damage, but he better able to avoid real damage in the first place.  The horse is naturally bigger and inherently tougher because of its size, but the human fighter probably knows better how to deal with situations that would lead to injury.  I have seen this idea mentioned in describing hit points a few times, but I think most people overlook or forget it, and it never seems to come out explicitly in play.

However, even though this is likely a workable for handling damage normally, I realized a few more things it might let me do, or do better.

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On Hit Points and Healing

I’ve been thinking recently about healing out of combat, and it’s led me through some strange places.

Overall, though, I think they could make for longer ‘days’ and simpler play overall, and reasonably get rid of that stupid healing stick that it seems like everyone carries in his pocket… which can only, in my opinion, be a good thing.

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