I had an interesting conversation this past week about the way I am designing Heroes By Trade. The person I was talking to is much more a roleplayer than a rollplayer - he likes systems like Dungeon World where it is common to make a single roll for the turn and then the GM narrates what happens in response. For example, it is possible to get a result where you are successful in your stated action but there is a consequence and the GM might decide that the consequence is that you fall down, break your weapon, lose your torch, or some other difficulty. In Heroes By Trade that sort of thing isn't written into the rules at all - the GM is going to have to make calls at times but mostly you can predict the results of your actions easily. Hit or miss, damage or not, dead or alive, you might not know *which* will happen, but you know that these are the options.
One thing that was pointed out to me was that the systems that have a lot more making it up in them have the advantage that something happens every turn. You don't have turns going by with "I miss. I miss too. Okay, the monster attacks... and misses. Back to the top of the order." In a game like Dungeon World the fight changes each time people do something, but how it changes is often very unclear. I don't like the unclear part for my games but I do find the idea of something happening every time appealing.
People don't like to miss. They don't like whiffing completely and wasting their turn. So the question I have been mulling over is whether or not I should try to find a way for that to happen in Heroes By Trade. There are some half measures I could employ like simply reducing the base value for people's Dodge and letting attacks hit more often generally - this doesn't guarantee a hit but does make turns where nothing happens much less likely. This really mucks with the balance of the game though because if players are already hitting a lot they will avoid hit bonuses and go for damage instead, reversing much of the gains. Hit bonuses simply can't be that valuable in a system where you start out hitting the great majority of the time and in which the die being rolled is fairly large.
I was also considering the idea of letting people spend Focus to turn misses into hits. This would mean that every attack would hit, but if you roll badly you end up having to spend some of your resources to make it land. That is a possibility, but involves another step in every Hit Roll bogs combat down. That doesn't rule this idea out, but it is a significant penalty to trying it.
The idea I am toying with right now is making every attack hit by default but having the roll determine if the target's Armour applies or not. (The current version has Armour apply to all hits.) The idea is that you always bash on them a little, but on a good roll you can apply your debuffs and ignore their Armour to really lay on an extra beating. This would require some adjustments to the game as damage values would have to drop substantially since people are taking damage each and every swing. It would have a really pleasant side effect though in that it would eliminate stacking all Dodge or all Armour as a broken strategy. Having a massive Dodge value would mean that every hit would have to go through Armour... but that means you need a good Armour value to leverage it! Each point of Armour or Dodge makes the other one more valuable, which means that stacking a single stat doesn't get you to invulnerability.
It also means that I can actually give some monsters truly preposterous Armour or Dodge values if I want without breaking things. Pixies may have 40 Dodge so you can't land a full strength blow on them, but their Armour probably isn't good so you can still beat them down. Same goes for Dragons and other dangerous critters - I can give them enough Armour to be essentially immune to dorks with arrows if I want to as long as their Dodge is something that powerful heroes can deal with.
I don't know if I want to do the quantity of rewriting that would be necessary to balance that but it really does have some appeal. Every turn does something, a few nasty edge cases get fixed neatly, and I think people end up having more fun. Worth exploring, at any rate.