The way the combat rules are shaping up, I need to revise hit point calculations. Again.
I still don’t want to roll hit points, especially given how many levels are involved (though rolling hit points per tier has a certain appeal for dirty, gritty kinds of games… but no).
After a bit of noodling with regard to potential damage, I found a pretty simple formula.
- Hit points = (level + tier*tier)
That’s it, as far as baseline hit points are concerned. However, not all creatures are the same toughness. There should be some room or option for increasing this.
As with so many things, it looks like talents can serve this purpose. In addition to improving rolls, various talents can add one to three hit points per tier to the creature’s total. A talent that increases hit points as a more or less incidental thing (many martial traditions might fit here) could give one additional hit point per tier, a talent with bonus hit points as a significant part of their benefit might give two hit points per tier, and a talent whose purpose is to make the target hard to kill could grant three hit points per tier. I expect one or two points per tier for these talents will be the most common.
As always, you apply only the best (most effective) talent of each type. A character with a master-tier martial tradition granting one hit point per tier (+5 total) would probably choose to use the expert-tier martial tradition that grants three hit points per tier (+9 total).
Thus, a starting PC (level 9) would have 18 hit points. If this character chose to focus all the top-tier talents available on hit point acquisition (expert cornerstone, expert common, and heroic capstone, each at +3/tier) the character could have 27 hit points… half again as many as the norm. I’d rather have the option of doing interesting things, myself, but this isn’t about my preference.
Given 18 hit points, I expect that a determined opponent (expert tier wielding a longsword, damage = 2d6) could kill this character in four or five hits, or perhaps two or three if they are unusually good (high margin of success) hits. This might be a little more durable than I really want between peers at this level, but remember that this is an untrained attacker. A trained attacker will have higher margin of success and hit quite a bit more often, so while there might be a few hits involved a fight will probably be pretty quick.
An untrained attacker will hit about half the time, killing in about four or five hits. This means a fight is likely to end within eight to ten attacks, or four to five rounds. A trained attacker will hit almost every time and do slightly more damage each time (higher margin of success), finishing things in four or five attacks (two or three rounds).
Of course, a legendary character with a longsword, even untrained, will almost certainly hit (85% chance) with a high (almost +10) margin of success expected, doing an average of about 19 points of damage. An expert going up against even an untrained legendary character is going to have a bad, if short, day.
Okay, that suits me.
A legendary character (level 25) will have 74 hit points before considering other talents. An untrained peer will do d20+d6 with a longsword on a successful hit, still averaging about 15-16 points of damage (about 11 for the base roll, and because the attack is a d20 with linear odds will probably have a margin of success of about +5 if there is a hit at all). The more-trained combatant (4d20) will have only a slightly higher expected margin of success, but is almost twice as likely to hit.
Again, four to five hits to kill. Fully-trained characters will take about as many hits to kill their opponent, but the higher success rate means they’ll be able to do it twice as fast.
I kind of like that combat will likely be resolved pretty quickly. Between tiers, you very much want to be the higher-tier combatant, even if you’re not actually trained. Lower-tier combatants still stand a chance if they’re adequately (i.e. quite well, actually) trained, but the hit point differences will make up some slight equality in ability to hit.
A good model to start from, I think.
What way do to-hit rolls, damage rolls, and armour work?
Into the Odd has a single combined roll for damage and assumes to-hit is incorporated in that (justified since we often treat hit points as abstract hard-to-kill points rather than literal damage). The victim’s armour is just a modifier to that roll.
My current model has an attack roll vs. target’s defense (which is their combat roll: hitting unskilled targets is easier than hitting skilled targets). If successful, damage roll is your tier die plus weapon die plus modifiers (such as ‘flaming’ adding another weapon die and you can treat the entire thing as fire instead of weapon) plus margin of success. Armor is probably damage reduction, but I’m not sure if it’s a straight roll, an advantage roll (with tier die or tier die), or static number. I’m leaning toward advantage roll without tier die (but talents can add to it).
So, heroic character with a longsword rolls d8+d6 base, potentially plus a “heavy-hitter” talent, and adds the margin of success (how much he exceeded the target number). The target subtracts armor value (let’s say chain mail is d6, and if the target has ‘armor mastery’ the talent die can come in too). If the armor offers spell resistance it has no effect on regular hits (but adds to saves vs. magic), but mithril armor probably means it’s 2d6 armor instead of d6 armor.
… or something like that.
At one point I considered having armor add dice to the defense check, but decided that would get beyond the four-dice cap I want to maintain. I’d rather have the armor be damage reduction, which I think increases its value overall (doesn’t fully prevent the hit, but should have greater effect via damage reduction than by reducing margin of success when hit).
So every attack features an attack roll, a defense roll, a damage roll, and an armour roll? That’s quite a lot of rolls.
Yeah, I was just thinking that. Though I’d be quite happy to allow fixed results on the defense side. That removes one or two rolls right there. I’ve removed and readded the tier die from the damage roll several times now. It’s still an advantage roll, but it’s based on the weapon. Flaming weapon? Add another die. Margin of success should cover a lot of the “higher tier is more dangerous and does more damage” aspect.
So, two expert swordsmen are battling it out. Each rolls 2d8 (common talent for their combat style; defender can choose to ‘take 6’ here, attacker has to roll) for attack and defense, each rolls d6+margin of success for damage. One is wearing chain mail (medium armor, d6, can ‘take 4’), the other wears a mithril chain shirt (light armor, augmented, 2d4, can ‘take 4’).
I might instead go back to the dice pool attack model, where the attacker basically is the one that decides they’re fighting, and both roll. Whoever rolls a hit does damage, with margin of success (tie means they both hit and both do damage, but margin of success is 0). Keep armor as DR (fixed result or rolled), though, the number of dice in the dice pool version got ridiculous.
WH40K 2e had a related idea in its close combat system: both parties roll, either can take damage depending on who wins the roll. I liked that it progressed quickly and there was no whiffing: SOMEBODY’s gonna come out of the turn affected.
I liked how it turned out when I ran an analysis on the dice pool mechanic. I found that even without bonuses or penalties due to flanking or the like, even if you were allowed to ‘attack’ each of them back, being surrounded was bad. Even if you were a tier higher, two on one was not a happy place to be, and four on one was not at all good for your health.