Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alternative die-rolling methods for fighters

I'll get back to the other NTRPGCon stuff tomorrow (probably). I'm debating on posting some of the things I heard due to the content and the individual who said it. Not to be cryptic, but sometimes it's better to not add any fuel to an already burning fire.

Anyway, an idea I had earlier concerned the notion that fighters are mechanically bland in D&D-like games, generally because they have no real special abilities. Except kicking ass, of course. DCC adds the Mighty Deeds mechanic, which is great, but I wanted an option easily backported to simpler games that gave fighters something tactically interesting to do in combat. The full blown 3.X D&D tactics system is right out for obvious reasons (namely that it's a huge pain in the ass unless you also use feats) as is something like GURPS or HERO. Drawing inspiration from BRP (and DCC [seriously, buy that game]) I came up with the following:

At 1st level a fighter uses 1d20 (like all other characters) to determine attack rolls which increases thusly:

Level 1-3: 1d20
Level 4-6: 1d20+1d10
Level 7-9: 2d20
Level 10-12: 2d20+1d10
Level 13-15: 3d20
Level 16-18: 3d20+1d10
Etc.

This sort of follows the multiple attacks table in AD&D (sort of) and is easy to extrapolate. The use of the d20 is obvious, as should be 2d20 or 3d20: at 13th level a fighter can make three attacks, rolling a d20+STR bonus for each. At 4th level, a fighter may make two attacks, one using a d20 and one using a d10, adding STR bonuses to each roll. Thus a 4th level fighter with a 15 STR (+1 bonus) would roll 1d20+1 for his first attack and 1d10+1 for his second attack.

Fighters (and only fighters) can split their attack die roll during combat as they see fit. This means specifically they may make multiple attacks, albeit at a lesser chance for success. d20 attack dice are split in the following manner:

1d20->2d10->3d6->4d4

d10 attack dice cannot be split.

At 1st level, instead of rolling one attack using 1d20+1, a 15 STR fighter could instead choose to perform two attacks, both at 1d10+1. Or three attacks at 1d6+1. It should be obvious a 1st level fighter has little to no chance of hitting using d6 (or even d10 in many cases), and a 20th level fighter can mow down hordes of goblins rolling a handful of d4s.

This system really only works well if you use combat tables (pretty much all of the old versions of D&D). Open-ended AC systems make it more difficult to determine the mathematical advantage of multiple attacks if there is an implicit "a 20 always hits" rule. If you do use that rule, even with combat tables:

When using attack dice less than d20, if the attack roll and damage die both come up as maximum values, then the attack automatically succeeds.

This does require both dice (hmmm..if die is singular and dice is plural, do I still say both dice...both dies is obviously wrong...English, how does it work?) to be rolled simultaneously to determine hits which we all know is Extremely Difficult (tm). At the low end, this gives less than 1% chance of success, with a high end of 6.25%. If high level fighters want to run around with daggers so they can gain a bit of an edge, so be it.

If you use crits, the same system can be applied as generally a 20 results in a critical hit. If you use some other system, work out your own math. Actually, say the crit is a "confirmation", per 3.X. The confirmation can merely be a success on an additional attack roll of the same die. It's mathematically equivalent (not precisely but close enough) without adding any more complication.

Some general examples to explain better:

1) A 1st level B/X fighter with 16 STR (+2 hit) and a +1 sword (obviously a Monty Haul campaign) faces off with two goblins. The player realizes he can split his d20 attack into two d10 attacks, with a 10% chance of hitting the AC 6 goblins with each attack (attack roll total 13 necessary). Or he can roll one attack against a single goblin with a 55% chance of success. The player is not stupid and elects to attack one goblin.

2) A 6th level AD&D fighter with 18/00 STR (+3 hit) and a +2 sword (that damn Monty Haul DM) squares off against three orc bodyguards with AC 4. Knowing he will hit the orcs on a roll of 12 or above (40% chance), he decides to split his d20 attack, giving three attacks using d10, each directed at a different orc.

3) Douglas the 10th level Mentzer D&D fighter with 17 STR (+2 hit) and a +1 sword (part of a much more reasonable game) is confronted with an adult white dragon and two orc minions. Douglas' player begins questioning his DM's rationale behind this encounter, but figures what the hell, XP is XP. Douglas didn't get to 10th level being an idiot and does a quick calculation. He has a 40% chance of hitting the dragon using a d10, or 70% using a d20. As the orcs do not pose much of a threat, he attacks the dragon three times.

4) Bill the 18th level AD&D fighter with 18/51 STR (+2 hit) and a +3 longsword is attacked by 20 orcs. The DM has extrapolated the idea about "20 always hitting" above and decided to make "1 always misses" a rule as well. If both dice, attack and damage, (stupid English) come up 1s, the attack is an automatic failure. Otherwise, Bill would never miss the orcs (needs a -2 to hit). Bill's player is annoyed at such a stupid encounter and chooses to split his 3d20 into the maximum number of attacks. This gives him 12 attacks using 1d4 and one attack using 1d10. If any of his attack rolls come up as 1 and the longsword damage for that attack is also a 1 (little over 3% chance), the attack misses. Otherwise Bill will obliterate the orcs in about two combat rounds. Bill's player asks why he's rolling so many fucking dice.

5) Robert the 3rd level B/X fighter with 10 STR (+0 hit) and a normal longsword (3d6 down the line!) is attacked by two earth elementals with AC -2 (only a natural 20 will hit as it is the second 20 entry in the table). Robert's player complains to the DM about not even having a magic weapon, much less being attacked by multiple opponents of a ridiculous power level relative to his character. The DM says he rolled it up that way, but if Robert can hit the elementals, he'll damage them, even without a magic weapon, because he's feeling nice today. Knowing he has no chance to win, Robert splits his d20 into three d6 attacks, one at the first elemental, two at the second. Getting a 6 on each attack, he rolls d8s for damage, getting two 8s. Both elementals are hit for 8 points of damage, pissing off the killer DM.

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