Splitting up Hit Dice: Mass and Fighting Ability

Definitely. Every 10 hits stopped by armor reduces its AC by 1, starting with the shield. Multiply ## of hits required by the magic bonus (e.g. +1 shield takes 100 hits).

I do think various weapons would have an armor penetration. In fact, judging from my reading of “From Sumer to Rome” and similar books, I’d imagine something like this:

Shortbow: Short Range 1d6, AP 1; Medium Range 1d6, AP 0; Long Range 1d4, AP 0
Longbow: Short Range 1d10, AP 2; Medium Range 1d8, AP 1; Long Range 1d6, AP 0
Crossbow: Short Range 1d10, AP 2; Medium Range 1d8, AP 1; Long Range 1d6, AP 0
Arbalest: Short Range 1d12, AP 3; Medium Range 1d10, AP 2; Long Range 1d8, AP 1

The Guns of War rules I’m working on actually inspired the idea of armor penetration as its absolutely essential for making sense of guns. In general it’s quite helpful in making sense of A LOT of middle ages combat and weapons. D&D lost a lot when it forgot about Weapon v. Armor Class modifiers derived from Chainmail.

Saving at +4 if no Life Points dealt is a great idea! That really helps reduce the absurd deadliness of low-level poisonous critters and ghouls.

I agree that STR probably should apply to penetration rather than to hit. I also agree it’s a raw deal for fighters. On the other hand, in the context of applying these rules to a swords & sorcery world, mages and clerics would also be reduced in power, as are monster’s attack throws, so maybe it makes sense.

It does lead to an odd anomaly in that DEX contributes to DC and missile attacks but not melee attacks. Maybe the solution is that DEX contributes to attack throws, initiative, and dodge class; STR contributes to damage and armor penetration.

Very fair points. I guess I care more about the player-side complexity, though; I can script up “roll me z attacks with to-hit x and pen y against AC n and armor m, and group the rolls into whiffs, glances, hits, and crits”, for either alternative, so I’m relatively ambivalent. I can’t count on all of my players to do the same, though, and we already roll to-hit at the same time as damage, so one more die isn’t a huge deal to us. Maybe a parameterized roll20 macro would solve this problem…

We had one guy’s whole henchman group and PC all fail their poison saves against giant black widows last session… it was bad. Moral of the story: diversity your personal retinue, don’t play all front-liners.

And yeah, dex to hit in melee is the logical follow-on. Sort of troubling from a inter-stat balance perspective, since Dex is already great for everyone, but at least it’s consistent.

I did suspect there was a bit of swords-and-sorcery influence here. I like the idea of separating armor and mobility defenses from a simulationist perspective, rather than a thematic one, which may account for some differences in opinion :stuck_out_tongue:

Alex said: D&D lost a lot when it forgot about Weapon v. Armor Class modifiers derived from Chainmail.

That’s an interesting assertion. Why do you say that? It’s obviously subjective, and varies by one’s preferences, but in practice (in both AD&D and AD&D 2nd, which differ slightly) I never found their impact to be that meaningful, and considered it to be far outweighed by the additional overhead and kludgey feel when it came to monster AC, which were the majority of opponents, anyway. It’s particularly funny to hear you say that when ACKS has adopted nearly the lightest version of the D&D combat system ever published. To me, that’s no bad thing, as it’s immensely playable, and that outweighs any lack of simulation-ism. If it didn’t, I’d be playing RuneQuest, Rolemaster, or (God forbid!) Phoenix Command.

It makes sense of the transition of weapons as armor got heavier, and gives players a reason to not always take the most damaging weapon. On the face of things, a battle axe (1d8/1d8) is a better weapon to carry than a horseman’s mace (1d6/1d4). But if a target’s wearing plate and carrying a shield, the axe is -3 to hit, while the mace is +1, so there’s a 20% shift in the odds of striking the target. Likewise, the club (1d6/1d3) often looks like a better choice than the horseman’s mace, because it’s cheaper (free compared to 4 gold) and lighter (3 pounds compared to 5 pounds), but it’s an inferior weapon against armors of AC 7 or better.
It can also justify the existence of some of the excessive variety of pole arms - the bardiche is good against unarmored soldiers, the bec-de-corbin against plate, and the guisarme-voulge against ring and chain.
With the loss of the weapon vs armor table, the weapons of choice were bastard sword for a fighter, long sword for a thief, and footman’s mace for a cleric (mage players would argue between the staff for damage and the dagger for flexibility). That blend of weapons would tend to get chewed up by heavily armored opponents, since the bastard sword is 0 against plate if used two-handed and -1 or -2 if used one-handed, the long sword is -1 or -2 against plate, and the mace is only +1. Better would be a bec-de-corbin (+2 against plate), a long sword (thieves are hosed against heavy armor in 1e), and a footman’s flail (+2), while the mage should go dagger (-3, compared to -7 for a staff or -5 for darts).

Note also that the Armor Class Adjustment table was only for actual armor, not for “natural” ACs - i.e. attacking a character in chain mail (AC 5) used the table, but attacking a lizard man (AC 5) did not.

If I were to move further towards a simulationist perspective, I’d do it as follows.

  1. Remove “Hero Points” or “Fighting Ability Points entirely” and simply track “Life Points” or Mass. Life Points would be equal to CON (or 2x the values in
    the earlier example).

  2. Increase all damage by 1 die.

  3. Characters have an Attack Throw and a Defense Throw. Attack Throw is as normal. Defense Throw is equal to Attack Throw +7. Reduce the target value by 1 for a shield (more if magical); by 1 for Weapon & Shield proficiency; by DEX mod; by Swashbuckling bonus; and by Graceful Fighting bonus.

  4. To hit, a character must roll greater than his attack throw. A roll 8 or more points greater than his target value is a critical hit.

  5. The target may then attempt to parry/dodge by rolling greater than its defend throw.

  6. An unblocked hit deals damage to Life Points. But damage is reduced by the value of its Armor Class.

  7. An unblocked critical hit does double damage and allows an additional attack against the target (if it is still alive). A critical hit blocked by a normal parry does normal damage but allows an additional attack. A critical hit blocked by a critical parry is blocked. A normal hit blocked by a critical parry results in a riposte from the defender (free attack). The riposte cannot be blocked.

  8. The maximum number of cleaves, dodges, and ripostes a character may make per round is equal to level for fighters, 1/2 level for clerics/thieves, and 1 for mages.

EXAMPLE: A 5th level Bladedancer (DEX 16, CON 9, Leather Armor +1, 2 swords +1, Swashbuckling, Weapon Finesse) has Attack Throw (8-1-1-2-1-1) 2+, Defense Throw (8+7 - 2-1-1) 11+, Life Points 9, Armor Class 3. She has Swift Sword (2 attacks per round) and Striking, so she deals 3d6 damage per attack.

Her 5th level Fighter opponent (STR 16, CON 14 Plate +1, Shield +1, Sword +1, Weapon & Shield Proficiency) has Attack Throw (7-2-1) 4+, Defense Throw (7+7 - 1-1-1) 11+, Life Points 14, Armor Class 7. He deals 1d6+5 damage per attack.

They engage with Bladedancer winning the initiative. The Bladedancer makes her first attack, needing 2+ to hit and 10+ to crit. A roll of 6 is a hit. The Fighter parries, needing 11+. He rolls an 11 and parries. The Bladedancer makes her second attack and rolls a 9, a hit. The Fighter rolls a 9 to parry and fails. The Bladedancer rolls 3d6 for damage, yielding an 8; Subtracting 6 armor, the Fighter takes 2 HP of damage, and is down to 12.

It’s now the Fighter’s turn. He needs a 4+ to hit and 12+ to crit. He rolls an 8, a hit. The Bladedancer needs 11+ to parry, and rolls a 12. It’s now the next round.

The Bladedancer wins the initiative and attacks. Her first attack throw is a 7, a hit. The Fighter’s parry roll is a 20, a critical parry! This triggers a riposte. The Fighter’s riposte is a 3, however, so he misses. The Bladedancer now makes her second attack. Her roll is a 9, so she hits. Incredibly, the Fighter rolls a 19, a critical parry, and ripostes again! His attack roll of 8 hits. The Bladedancer now parries, and rolls an 18–a parry, but not a critical one.

It’s now the Fighter’s turn. He rolls a 16, scoring a critical hit. The Bladedancer attempts to parry, but rolls a 9. She therefore takes double damage of 4+2+5+5=16 points. Even reduced by her armor of 3 points, she is taken to -4 HP. The fight is over.

The Dark explained it as best anyone could.

I’m not saying that the game isn’t more fun or more playable without Weapon v. Armor Class modifiers, but it’s combat system no longer makes as much sense.

D&D’s combat system was built on a foundation of historical medieval combat. Then the foundation was removed. The house still stood and was beautiful but the foundation wasn’t there. Here’s what I mean.

Steps of D&D Combat

  1. To determine if your attack hits, compare Weapon Type to Armor Type. Any hit is a kill against its target. All combatants are assumed to be of equal skill, so we don’t worry about differences in accuracy. And we don’t worry about the weapon’s damage, because any hit is a kill; all that matters is whether the weapon penetrates the armor.
  2. Certain figures, being heroic, fight as if they are more than one figure. They can take more than one hit before they are killed. They can also make more than one attack.
  3. It doesn’t seem realistic that every attack always kills. Let’s replace each kill with “1d6 damage” and allow a creature to take “1d6 hit points” for every man it represents.
  4. It doesn’t seem realistic that superior combatants aren’t more likely to hit than normal combatants. Let’s increase accuracy of attacks for high level combatants.
  5. This is getting complex. Let’s stop worrying about which weapons are better than which weapons against which armor.
  6. Now that we’re stopped worrying weapons v. armor, it doesn’t seem realistic that a dagger is just as effective as a two-handed sword. Let’s make daggers deal less and two-handed swords deal more.
  7. If two-handed swords deal more, shouldn’t an ogre’s club and a giant’s boulder deal a LOT more? Totally should!
  8. This is a lot of attacks dealing a lot of damage at high accuracy. Everybody should just get one attack per round, not one attack per hit die.
  9. How come a giant still has trouble hitting a man in a plate armor even though he could just smash through the armor?
    10a. I don’t know, who cares, game on.
    10b. You are totally right. Let’s invent Runequest/Rolemaster/GURPS.

What they said.

The weird thing is it’s exactly the sort of system-mastery complexity that 3E could have brought back - all that emphasis on tactical movement, AC types and situational combat occurances, AOOs and reach and etc, and I bet a double-digit percentage of corner-case feats introduced in the end of the product line could have been replaced with a Weapons vs AC table with a few additional descriptive entries.

I think this is one of the areas where I like the Conan d20 method of having armor provide DR and limit Dex modifiers to AC, rather than providing AC. With the damage inflation in 3.x and the removal of weapon vs armor adjustments, it’s the best system I’ve seen to handle armor in a 3.x rule set. I’m less fond of the Armour Piercing system, which adds complexity (“if my STR mod plus the weapon’s AP mod exceed the armor’s DR, halve the DR, unless the weapon has AP 0 in which case it never halves DR” has one or two too many clauses in there).

I’ve seen three ways to address the issue:
AD&D1e used the weapon vs armor table, so certain weapons were better against particular types of armor.
RC-era Basic had weapon mastery change the characteristics of weapons as users got better - it didn’t change how weapons interacted with armor, but it changed damage and some weapons provided offensive or defensive abilities.
Conan D20 has armor provide DR instead of AC, so it’s no harder (and sometimes easier) to hit an armored target, but harder to hurt them.

The first or a simplified version of the third are my favorites. They both reflect that certain weapons are designed to fight particular types of armor. The third does a better job of reflecting that armor makes you harder to hurt rather than harder to hit, but in my experience the extra maths can slow down play more than looking at a chart. The second can be fun for players, but doesn’t have any interaction between weapon type and armor type.

#3 is the thing I don’t like about this. I really want to move that part of the equation over to the player side (as a bonus to their roll) but cannot because it’s not always applicable since their AP value may exceed the value of the target’s AC and thus not be required.

It feels like the damage avoidance variable is being overloaded by being both avoidance through dodge and ablation through armor, rather than the ablation being part of the damage resolution after hit success is decided.

It’s three operations (subtract, add, roll) rather than two (add, roll)

The second thing you posted further down having opponents being able to parry/dodge in turn and then using plain Armor as DR feels cleaner, though I’d probably defer to having static dodge/parry values to throw against, rather than opposed rolls, again to reduce the number of operations involved.

I’ll admit being biased towards the latter, however, despite having no idea how to make it work with ACKS’ combat math.

Dipping a bit into the later Weapon Vs Armor table discussion, the ability of creatures to show a Dodge or Parry stance based off of capabilities or armaments can also add in what you’ve built with attack capability due to mass.

If creatures can show a Parry or Dodge stance, their attackers can choose versus an Overwhelm or Finesse stance.

The Ogre, let’s say, has a strong Overwhelm stance due to his mass. The plate-armored fighter, who normally relies on a Parry stance, may want to Dodge in this case, as parrying (putting shield, weapon, or armor inbetween the attack and his soft bits) lets too much damage through due to the Ogre’s strong Overwhelm.

In turn, that fighter, who usually wields a greatsword, and relies on his own Overwhelm stance versus regular human opponents (he either relies on putting Finesse opponents out quickly, or assumes a long slugfest with other highly armored Parry/Overwhelm masters), may have to switch to a spear or something else that grants him a better Finesse stance - the Ogre’s mass also allows him a strong Parry defense, so Overwhelm attacks are less effective. His Dodge stance, however, is weak.

And to drag that back out into magic, perhaps some spells improve Dodge, and other spells (like the classical Mage Armor/Shield) provide Parry. And by extension, things like Haste add Finesse, and Gauntlets of Ogre Power provide Overwhelm.

Here’s a tough mathematical problem I’m wrestling with when it comes to static dodge/parry values.

Assume a 1st level fighter with sword and shield (AC 1, 5hp, attack throw 10+) is attacking a 1st level fighter, similarly equipped. The fighter will hit his foe 50% of the time. On a successful hit, he will deal 1d6+1 damage, with 50% of the blows being enough to kill (and 2 hits will almost certainly kill). It will therefore take 4 rounds, on average, for one fighter to slay the other.

Now assume that the foe is a 2nd level fighter with 10hp. Now it will take, on average, 8 rounds for the fighter to slay his foe.

Now assume that the foe is a 3rd level fighter with 15hp. Now it take, on average, 12 rounds for the fighter to slay his foe.

Note that the increase from level 1 to level 2 is a doubling of survivability, but from level 2 to level 3 is only a 50% increase. From level 3 to 4 is only a 25% increase, etc.

Assume that we want to switch to a system where HP are static and improved odds of survival are based on an increase parry/dodge value (“defense class”).

In order to simulate this, we’d have to give the 2nd level fighter a defense bonus that halves his chance of being hit - roughly along the lines of a +5 bonus, so that it goes from 11+ to 16+. Then from level 2 to level 3 would be a further increase to halve it again, so from 16+ to 18+.

BUT the mathematics are difficult because when armor changes the mathematics change. If the same fighters are in plate (AC6), they need 16+ to hit each other. That means that to double survivability a parry bonus of +2 is all that’s needed.

So to offer our 2nd level fighter the equivalent of “another hit die” what should his increase in defense bonus be…+5 or +2?

Very tricky…

Ah. OK. Yea, I don’t see that necessarily working out without a complex dance between upper AC limits and attack throws, perhaps determined by the comparative hit die of the combatants, else combatants correctly armored or leveled will be unhittable but on a natural 20.

That’s still doubling up on armor as avoidance rather than ablation, however. You’d think there’d be a system somewhere that’s figured this one out.

Randomly, Mutants & Masterminds 3E (SRD available here: http://www.d20herosrd.com/) abstracts Hit Points completely away. An attack throw is made much like normal d20 (Fighting is a ability score here, much like the old FASERIP system) The roll must beat the target’s Dodge or Parry, depending on the attack type/capabilities of the defender.

If the hit is successful, the target must make a ‘Toughness’ saving throw against 15 + the rank of the Damage effect - a sword is Damage 3, so the save is DC 18.

Toughness is modified by your Stamina(Constitution) and armor. Plate is +5 to your Toughness, for example.

M&M isn’t level-based, but I could see wanting to increase Toughness based on level.

Failed Toughness saves (they fail by degrees) start stacking on each other. Eventually you’re just killing yourself with penalties to that save - Back when it first came out there was a bit of concern over a ‘Toughness Death Spiral’, since then I’m not sure if that concern has lessened, but there were several ways to ameliorate that a bit, one of which I used (http://crowbarandbrick.blogspot.com/2012/11/true20mm-static-toughness-roll-damage.html)

The M&M damage system is great! I actually borrowed it for an ACKS-Cyberpunk rules hack I was working on. But I encountered some outrage from players who felt that the game no longer was “D&Dish” without the hit points.

Interestingly, from the point of view of realism, damage saves are much more reflective of how injuries impact the human body. The wound is either slight, and irrelevant; disabling; or mortal. The historical records of duels are full of tales of men who took 5-20 wounds and lived, and then slew their enemies with 1 wound. Since the enemy was often a great duelist himself it’s hard to argue this was “hit points”.

The same goes for gunfights, which is why that seems especially appropriate for Cyberpunk games. Sometimes, some people take 10 or more gunshot wounds without apparent effect, some people are killed or disabled by 1…

Of course, in both cases there’s the chance that one of the wounds that didn’t incapacitate you is bad enough to kill you minutes, hours, or days after the fight.

This isn’t D&D by any means, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to win my D&D-playing friends to play this, but otherwise I LOVE this. Much simpler than the above solution! And makes combat interesting to boot.

What it needs is very rigorous playtest, as I fear it might have unintended consequences.

One could make the long-term consequences bit a part of the healing subsystem; when you go to heal off a significant wound level (I’m thinking Wounded or worse in True20 terminology), you have a small chance of instead dying, developing an infection, or some other complication.

I liked True20’s damage system (basically the same as M&M’s) on the occasions when we played it, and my groups mostly did not object except for the occasional critical failure resulting in sudden PC death. Might have to go cook up an ACKS hack (hACKS?) with it now. Seems quite appropriate for cyberpunk, and I’ve been meaning to build a sort of ACKS-40k sci-fi variant, for which this seems a very reasonable damage system. I’m curious - did you integrate these mechanics into the Death and Dismemberment table rolls?

Three more notes:

  1. The main thing which worries me about armour-as-damage-reduction rules is that it might cause grind, as fights between armoured oppponents do relatively little damage. How do you intend to solve this?

  2. How do ranged attacks work, such as missiles and especially bullets, can they be dodged?

  3. I wonder how lethal adventuring play would be. As lethal as vanilla ACKS? More lethal? Less?