Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stat damage and critical hits

One thing that arose from the play testing I did that I like very much is how the critical hit table drove the mechanics of weapon and armour maintenance.  In the beginning of Beacon I thought that it would be good to have weapons and armour be destructible, for armour to be very expensive and for things like disarms or broken weapons to happen, because at the level of grittiness I wanted in a game, it was interesting having to deal with these things.  It's good to have to get your expensive chain mail repaired, it gives you a reason to spend money and visit the armorer.  I think you will value armor more if it feels like a maintainable resource instead of just an AC value.  Dropping a weapon or having it break creates an interesting complication in a otherwise mundane series of rolls to hit.  Unfortunately the mechanics of keeping track of this kind of thing tend to be terrible.  I think there is a need for record keeping in a gritty game, counting ammo, counting torches, counting money is all a part of the attrition and resource management that I find interesting.   For that to work however, for players to be willing to do that record-keeping, you have to make sure that you limit record-keeping as much as possible.  I hadn't planned on armour and weapons breaking down over time and I certainly didn't want to keep track of material durability or item fatigue, so it was a great joy to me that a couple throw away lines in the critical hit/fumble table to spice up combat wound up frequently sending players off to the smithy to get things fixed.  Having to replace and repair weapons and armour tended to make the players more aware of these items and they actually spent some time on customizing and talking about their gear where in other games the gear was just a means to a number on the character sheet.

That was unexpected synergy.  Everyone loves unexpected synergies and and they also makes you look good when it happens.  I think that I would like to try to utilize that same kind of strategy to deal with stat damage.  That would be anticipated synergy.  There is a shade of difference between these approaches so I've included a graphic to illustrate it.

Unexpected Synergy
Anticipated Synergy
So the problem I have is that a majority of the time when players take stat damage they are taking STR damage either by falling below 0 HP or by choosing to take some damage instead of using HP to soak it up.  The other main source of damage is potions, again most of which impact the Strength stat.  Although the intention (and implementation) was to have some monster special attacks and a few poisons and disease effects doing damage to the other stats there is still a majority of that attrition that impacts STR.  And in Beacon loss of STR is how you die.  From the player feedback there was a feeling around the table that tying death and damage so much to the loss of STR points was a little unfair to the fighter class who rely on a high STR score the most and are the most likely to loose it.  Magic classes generally use MIND for their spell bonus and rogues use DEX for many of their bonuses and so it did seem like a wounded fighter was getting more disadvantage than those classes since having some STR damage didn't impair their performance as much.  There were some suggestions made to address this, most notable having damage apply to all stats or a random stat, having death come at the loss of any stat - or all stats.  I had problems with all those approaches.

Now I believe that the way to deal with this is to once again leverage the critical chart.  I'm going to rework the critical hits and I'm going to remove all the STR damage effects and load it up with additional effects that impact other stats.  Critical hits are supposed to be exceptional and there is nothing exceptional about taking STR damage.  This was already being done where the Brain Burn had casters loosing 1d6 MIND points or a Disable arm/hand crit did 1d4 STR/DEX which would have to be slowly healed over time.  I'm going to have more crits that impair DEX or MIND or even CHA.  I'll also try to mix up the poison and disease effects so that they do a little more heterogeneous stat damage.  Monster, item and spell damage that impact other stats, like vampires draining CHA or Feebleminded spell dropping the target's MIND to 1, can be managed on a case per basis, there's no need to have a comprehensive list of these since GMs make it their bread and butter imaging new ones.  I might comb through and look for improvements to what 's there now however.   Lastly I'm going to consider new mechanics that deal with stat loss.  As always less is more when it comes to the mechanics.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds inspiring. Can't wait to see what you come up with!