Sunday, February 2, 2014

Roll dem dice: Poll on rolling damage

I am monkeying with some of the mechanics in Heroes By Trade.  I have found that the current way I set up damage dealt in combat is mechanically very precise and generates the right numbers but it is clunky and sometimes confuses people.  I swung a little too far into 'make the numbers beautiful' and too far away from 'make the game fun'.  Keeping that in mind I want to change the way I do damage determination.

I still intend to have a hit roll that determines if the attack lands or not.  The question is, what system should I use for damage?

Option 1.  Everyone rolls 1d10 for damage and adds modifiers to that damage.  Weapons and Aspects plus miscellaneous bonuses will be added on.  For example, someone with 8 Strength using a Greatsword would do 1d10 + 12 damage.

Option 2.  Damage is fixed.  It is still possible to get a critical hit and ignore the opponent's Armour but otherwise every hit does the same damage.  Note that opponents have different Armour values so the actual damage that ends up getting through is not the same on each opponent.  For example, someone with 8 Strength using a Greatsword would do 18 damage.

Option 2 looks really weird at first glance.  I am used to rolling damage in every system from DnD to World of Darkness to Cyberpunk but nonetheless there is no particular reason why it needs to happen.  Removing the damage roll certainly speeds things up and makes it very simple but I wonder if something is lost.  In particular I am concerned about whether or not people will find that it lacks the proper feel.  I am currently leaning towards Option 1 but I don't want to do so just because of tradition.  It is pretty hard to separate myself from so many years of that tradition though!

So, poll time.  Do you like rolling for damage or fixed damage?  If you have an opinion or any thoughts at all please do reply and let me know.


  1. Go with option #1.

    Option #2 turns combat into straight math. And it makes it less fun. One of the reasons Magic is so successful is the variance - on any given day, anyone can win. You don't want that kind of variance, but you don't want no variance.

    I played a space MMO where damage was fixed and you always knew who would win combat and by how much, within a very small range. It was nice to know, but less fun.

  2. While the Combat Pool in the current system is a little bit weird, it does have the advantage of having a unimodal rather than a uniform distribution. The problem with option 1, to my mind, is that it's a little too random; your greatsword wielder would do an average of 17.5 damage, but is as likely to be at the high end as in the middle. Having 2d6+10 or 3d4+10 would be the best of both worlds: you're still getting a range (and hence there's the excitement or disappointment of a damage roll result) but rather more likely to end up in the middle of the range (which helps make the system predictable from the perspective of gaming out potential encounters).

  3. @Matt V

    The combat will never be very predictable because even if damage totals don't change hit rolls do. You roll a die and either do 12 damage or 0. Rolling dice and doing between 7 and 17 damage or 0 is more variable but both are definitely subject to variance.

    @M. in the Hat

    3d4 is definitely tighter than 1d10 but I am not too worried about that. Right now people are doing 3d10 and that range is just too huge. 1d10 is tight enough that people aren't just going to see their HP pool vanish due to a single huge roll. If 4.5 extra damage above the mean is enough to take you out you weren't exactly in good shape anyway. It is just the 13.5 damage above the mean that really was getting problematic. I like the 1d10 because less rolling and adding is a good thing I think. People seem to spend forever counting up dice and a primary goal of HBT is to reduce the time and mental effort it takes to resolve actions so I am willing to make small sacrifices to achieve that.

  4. @M. in the Hat

    I am actually working on some general changes to reduce the swinginess of combat in general - not too far I hope, but I want to tighten up the predictability a couple of notches. Getting rid of 2d10 and 3d10 rolls down to 1d10 is a part of that but there are other things too.

  5. One issue you want to avoid is having an orc with n-7 hp and me having an attack which does 6 damage or an attack which does 2 damage and debuffs the enemy, and my friend who goes next having an attack which does 7.

    In general, I think you want to avoid player solving the knapsack problem. You could do this by ensuring that orc don't have a standard number of hp, or that the players never learn what it is, or something else.

  6. @Pounder Yeah, that is a potential issue for sure. At the moment I am strongly leaning towards rolling Option 1 where everyone rolls 1d10 for damage to avoid that level of planning that you are describing. It could be avoided by making sure enemies have different stats or trying to hide information from the players but the first problem is a headache for the GM and the second is not palatable for a variety of reasons. GMs play too!

  7. I'd get rid of hit rolls before damage rolls. I'm sure that's super unhelpful.

  8. The difficulty of getting rid of hit rolls is that the system is based around powers that impose conditions. If someone could do minimal damage but always land conditions like stunned, immobilized, etc. then they could fairly easily beat encounters that they have no business being involved in. In a system where you are just attacking for damage I think getting rid of hit rolls is a fine idea but doing so in the system I have built is just not workable.

  9. Well, you could solve that by having the monsters resist conditions with a saving throw or something. Or by forcing a certain threshold of damage to be done to cause the condition to occur. You may be swinging for 4d10 damage or whatever but only stun if you deal at least 25 damage. Or a different ability could swing for only 2d10 damage but stun on an 6 or higher.