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Vitality/Injury System, mk2

For Draz's rebuild of 3.5 D&D.

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Vitality/Injury System, mk2

Postby Draz » Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:23 am

I've been advised to make this topic easier for newcomers to read by starting a new thread with each major revision, rather than editing the previous thread's Opening Post. So, here it is.

Hit Points just don't satisfy me. I want combat to feel a little more realistic, a little more dangerous at high levels, and a lot more cinematic.

For example, in the Fellowship of the Ring film, Gimli gets hit by a troll and goes flying across the room. He's certainly not dying; he's not even seriously hurt or fatigued; but he definitely had something more happen to him than just losing "hit points." I want things like that to happen in my RPG combat, and I don't want the troll to need some fancy feat for it to happen, either.

To that end I've worked hard to make an attack/damage system where a wide variety of consequences can result from just a few die rolls. I'll warn you, this is the most complicated part of the CRE8 ruleset. But hopefully I've managed to build it in a way that won't actually slow down gameplay much, once people are used to it.

It's called the "Vitality/Injury System" because you have a pool of Vitality that mostly protects you when you get attacked; but when you run out of Vitality Points, you start saving vs. getting real Injuries (or just knocked out of the fight). It also draws some inspiration from the Damage Threshold mechanic from Star Wars Saga Edition.

Behind the Curtain: Saving vs. Mundane Attacks
There was an odd dichotomy in D&D, up until 4e: nonmagical attacks were mostly determined by a die roll from the attacker (attack roll), while magical attacks were largely resolved by a die roll from the defender (saving throw). That's ... workable, but highly counter-intuitive IMO.

4e took the logical step of removing this dichotomy, by basing all attacks on an attack roll. While I appreciate the sentiment behind this change, I think they got it backwards. Personally, I feel more involved in the game when I'm rolling a die to save my own skin than I do when I'm rolling a die to hurt someone else. And watching someone else roll a die to hurt me ... just doesn't even compare. Especially if I'm not badly hurt, a monster attacking me makes me think, "Oh, he declared an attack, but there's still a chance -- totally outside my control -- that the attack won't actually be hazardous at all." Psychologically, having defenders roll the most important dice gives the combat more of a dangerous feeling, like "Every attack is perilous. You'd better roll well or else that attack the goblin just made might destroy your lung."

So that's why I settled on getting rid of attack rolls and having all attacks provoke a save instead.

1. Attacker rolls Impact
The attacker rolls 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, or 1d10, depending on the weapon wielded. This die roll may be affected by Brawn Synergy Bonuses, size modifiers (based on the attacker's size), or special abilities. Special abilities can also add bonus dice to this roll (e.g. +1d6).

2. Check for Off-Guard
Whether the target is more or less able to defend themselves will make a big difference in the result of the attack. Barring special abilities that give or prevent the Off-Guard condition, there are three main times that a target will be considered Off-Guard:
  • The target is surprised; that is, the attack happens during a surprise round. Note that a target should almost always get a Perception check or something similar to avoid being Surprised.
  • The attack Impact exceeds the target's remaining Vitality Points.
  • The target is paralyzed, unconscious, or otherwise helpless to defend itself.

3. Target rolls Save
The defender rolls a Defense Save against the Accuracy DC of the attack. The Accuracy DC is equal to 10+the attacker's Fighting Level+miscellaneous modifiers.

Discussion topic: Should I keep the rule where the target uses a Fortitude Save instead of a Defense Save if it is Off-Guard?

4. If the Save is successful, and the target is not Off-Guard:
In this case, the attack generally has no effect unless its Impact beat the target's Armor Value.

If Impact > Armor Value: The target loses 2 Vitality Points.
Discussion topic: Is this too small an effect? Probably can only be determined by playtesting.

5. If the Save fails, or the target is Off-Guard:
In this case, the target loses Vitality Points equal to the attack's Impact, and the attack counts as a "hit" for the purposes of injury poison and similar effects.
If Impact > Armor Value: The attacker chooses a Hazard to inflict upon the target.

6. If the Save fails, and the target is Off-Guard:
In this case, the target loses Vitality Points equal to the attack's Impact, and the attack counts as a "hit" for the purposes of injury poison and similar effects. Also, the attacker chooses a Hazard to inflict upon the target.
If Impact > Armor Value: The target is Dropped.

7. Hazard Menu
none (available by default)Target is Clobbered, i.e. if this attack is interrupting an action, target loses that action; otherwise, target is Staggered on its next turn.
Attacker is bigger than target (in size categories)Push target a number of grid spaces equal to the size category difference.
Attacker is bigger than target (in size categories) and target StaggeredKnock target Prone.
Save natural roll is below weapon Peril rating, or target Off-GuardWound target.
Target has MomentumGain Momentum.
Target Off-Guard and WoundedThe target is Dying.
Target Off-Guard and DyingThe target is Dropped.

Discussion topic: Should any of these options be modified? Keep in mind that special abilities can, of course, add options to the Hazard Menu; but this current draft is for default attack resolution. Note also that there will be separate rules for coup de grace, tripping (when the attacker isn't intending to deal damage), bull rushes (when the attacker isn't intending to deal damage), and other special attacks. Still, I'm sure some small improvements can be made to what I've written.

8. Condition Definitions
  • Dead: should be mostly obvious. A dead creature cannot take actions, including free actions such as talking, and is considered an object rather than a creature. Also, Dead is relatively difficult to cure, compared to most other conditions.
  • Dropped: a Dropped creature is "out of the fight" and cannot take actions. A Dropped creature is also Prone.
  • Dying: a Dying creature is also Staggered. If a Dying creature takes a strenuous action (e.g. attacking, casting a spell, or running), it Drops unless it passes a DC 15 Fortitude Save. If not treated, a Dying creature must make a DC 10 Heroism Check every 10 minutes or die.
  • Prone: a Prone creature cannot move more than one grid space per movement without first spending a move action to stand up. Prone will also give other various penalties, but I don't want to deal with detailing them quite yet.
  • Staggered: a Staggered creature does not gain a Move Action on its turn (unless it sacrifices its Standard Action in favor of a Move Action).
  • Wounded: a Wounded creature takes a -2 circumstance penalty to all Saves. (This may not be severe enough. The penalty might have to be upgraded to -5. Playtesting is needed.)

Behind the Curtain: ChangeLog
This version of the Vitality/Injury system has two major innovations, compared to previous drafts:

1. Fixed VP Damage on a successful save, if Armor is beaten
This is a simple way to make a high Impact roll still have meaning even if the target Saves (or, conversely, a way to make the target care about its Armor Value even when it successfully Saves). It also allows a well-armored, good-Save-rolling target to be completely unaffected by an attack, which some previous drafts didn't make possible.

The VP damage in this case is a constant rather than the result of a die roll. This will hopefully keep combat from taking too long to resolve, and it also (I hope) adds to verisimilitude of attack "Impact" -- because dodging a heavy mace shouldn't actually tire out the the target any more than dodging a similar-sized wooden club.

2. Wounding and other lasting Conditions have become options on the Hazard Menu, rather than being triggered by separate rules
This makes balance between different Hazard Menu Options more difficult, and more important; but hopefully it's also a good simplification to the system.

Since the Wounded condition does involve some bookkeeping (including some circumstance penalties to die rolls), I'd like to make it relatively rare. I think this system does that, since characters will usually find it more advantageous to Clobber their foes rather than Wounding them, unless:
  1. the foe is already Staggered, or
  2. they're expecting the foe to be a many-round problem, e.g. a boss fight.

So hopefully, mooks and minions will often get Dropped without having to deal with being Wounded, while PCs and bosses will get the extra drama of dealing with Wounds.

OK. If anyone is willing to run some playtests on this, definitely let me know! :mrgreen:
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Re: Vitality/Injury System, mk2

Postby Draz » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:23 am

It occurs to me that the new attack results rules can, once again, best be summarized in the form of a table. Hopefully a table that's simple enough to not scare people away, though.

Attack ResultEffectAdditional effect if Impact > Armor Value
Missno effectfixed VP damage (2)
HitVP damageHazard
Critical HitVP Damage, HazardDropped
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Joined: Tue Nov 23, 2010 3:09 pm

Re: Vitality/Injury System, mk2

Postby Draz » Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:52 am

Playtesting has left me quite satisfied with this arrangement, other than a few minor modifications for specific situations or creatures:

  • The formula for the "Peril" rating of an attack needs review, and probably modification.
  • I've been working on rules for "Hit Points" instead of Vitality Points for things that don't get tired, such as Undead and Constructs.
  • The 2 VP fixed damage for a successful save vs. an attack that beats Armor comes up often enough (e.g. in special abilities that prevent it) that I might want a specific game term for it. "Attrition damage" or something. Suggestions welcome.
  • I'm working on ideas for how to have creatures Resist certain attacks, e.g. a Fire Giant resisting Fire damage, or a Werewolf resisting all non-silver weapon attacks.
  • More corner cases like incorporeal creatures and swarms still need work.

Hit Points
Creatures with "Hit Points" instead of Vitality Points:
  • tend to have Kits that grant them a rather generous amount of Hit Points
  • are immune to "attrition damage" (or whatever I end up calling it)
  • do not have to make Fortitude saves to avoid being Dropped, if they act strenuously while they are Dying

More playtesting is required, but I think that should simulate combat against (corporeal) Undead or a Golem pretty decently.

The traditional method of resistances to certain attacks -- ignoring a certain quantity of damage from each attack -- is messy. It tends to slow the game down a bit, and it also tends to lead to situations where a creature can survive being pounded on by certain attacks indefinitely, which is poor game design.

(I am open to the possibility of true immunity in certain corner cases, e.g. a fire elemental vs. fire attacks. But these should be rare.)

So my current line of thought for simulating resistances is simply to allow creatures a different (superior) Armor Value against attacks that they resist. So they can still be worn down by such attacks (slowly), but it's pretty hard to inflict a Hazard or Drop them with such attacks.

I wanted to avoid adding another stat to characters' stat blocks to represent their Resistance Armor Value, but no pre-existent stat really works. (I was tempted to say your Awesome Check Modifier is also your Resistance Armor Value, but I think that's a little too weak. It's not really hard to exceed a low-level Werewolf's Awesome Modifier with an attack's Impact.)

So the current thought is to include an extra stat for Resistance after all. My current idea is to just make it equal to normal Armor Value +5. So a Skeleton's Armor Value could be listed as:
Armor Value: 4 (9)

Then the skeleton would have an ability that specifies that its Resistance AV applies against Piercing attacks, for example.
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