Poll: Armour Class

I think that it is time to make a decision on what we are going to do with Armour Class in HD&D. The discussion that followed my recent update on the subject, was largely of one mind. You liked Damage Reduction, and you didn’t like Damage Conversion. Very well, I’m convinced. Armour Class in HD&D works in the same way that Damage Reduction works in Third Edition. That’s sorted. The question now is how we implement this.

If we’re going to go down the Damage Reduction route, I think there are three easy options for play testing. Of the three, my preference would be option 2. Have a read of the options and see what you think. If necessary, please go back and read the update on Armour Class. Then when you’re ready you can vote below.

Option 1: Translate Armour Class directly from Third Edition

Plate armour gives you +8 to your armour class in third edition, therefore it gives you +8 to armour class in HD&D. The only difference is that in third edition, the +8 was applied to the DC of hitting a target in combat, while in HD&D it’s going to be subtracted from the damage inflicted. This is by far the easiest way to convert things, and I’m willing to give this a go, but you have to be aware for the following problems:

  • A longsword only does 1d8 damage. Physical assaults will often bounce off even lightly armoured opponents. This may be believable, but it will extend combat against heavily armoured opponents.
  • Because AC from armour stacks with Natural AC there is the possibility of doubly potent creatures. Brack Ogrebane’s natural AC is 8. Put him in full plate and it’s 16. Can you imagine fighting a creature that ignored the first 16 points of damage from all physical attacks?
  • Some creatures have ludicrously high natural armour: +39 for a great wyrm red dragon. Is there any point in having a figure that high if even high level characters will have difficulty punching through it?
  • A very high AC in HD&D penalises characters that fight with weapons, and it doubly penalises two-weapon fighters. It doesn’t affect spellcasters at all, as a magic missile is just as likely to damage someone in full plate as if they were just wearing their boxers.

Option 2: Follow Third Edition, but treat monsters differently

With this option we translate the AC of manufactured armour directly from third edition. Chainmail is still AC 5. However, we adjust the natural armour of creatures downward. I’ve already presented these rules in the armour class update, but I’ll reitereate them here.

Take the third edition statistics. Divide natural armour by 5, and divide Damage  Reduction by 2. Add the results together to find the new level. This way a great wyrm red dragon has an armour class of 18 (not 39), a pit fiend has an armour class of 12 (not 15) and Brack has an armour class of 5 (not 8). It just seems a bit saner, and brings natural armour more in line with manufactured armour. It also takes into account damage reduction, which we’d otherwise be ignoring entirely.

However, this option may be seen to shaft creatures that have a high natural armour but no damage reduction. However, I won’t be imposing this formula blindly. It’s just a guide that gets tried and tested and weighed against other monsters. If I think the hide of a giant should grant more than +2 AC then I can change it.

Option 3: Reduce the AC value of all armour

This wasn’t popular in the last post, but it may get more traction here. We can reduce the value of natural armour (probably using the same method as in Option 2), and also the value of manufactured armour. Refer to the table in the previous post for an indication of what the new armour values would be. The disadvantage here is obvious: the difference between the AC values is very similar. There may be no mechanical advantage in choosing one armour over another, for example.

So there we have it. I’m looking at the equipment tables (particularly weapons and armour) as I type, so please vote on this one as it will make my life much easier.

Poll: Magic!

Earlier this month I posted my initial thoughts on Magic in HD&D. That led to some frank and forthright discussion regarding my solution to the thorny issue of spellcasting, namely Recharge Magic. This prompted a longer and more detailed post on Recharge Magic itself, where I attempted (successfully or unsuccessfully: you decide) to justify the need for the new system, and mollify any concerns that it was a bit crap.

Recharge magic is designed to be the default magic system used by all spellcasters who have to learn their powers. This means that wizards, clerics, druids, psions, sonorists, bards, rangers, healers and paladins would uses Recharge Magic. Those character classes who were born with an innate talent for spell use and never had to apply themselves, fell into the category of instinctive casters: sorcerers, mystics and wilders fall into this category.

Now my ideas for Instinctive Casters are far more woolly. I had four broad ideas that I asked you to have a look at and comment upon. Some of these ideas were a fairly radical departure from the sorcerer we knew. Others were pretty tame. Frankly, I need some guidance as the best way to proceed.

A Call to Arms!

Which brings us to not one poll, but two. I think I can say without fear of hyperbole that these are the most important polls we’ve run for HD&D to date. The magic system represents an enormous amount of time and hard word. We can’t really afford to get it wrong.  I don’t have the time to develop the magic system twice.

So please read once more the section on Magic and Recharge Magic, acquaint yourself with the arguments for and against and then cast your vote in the following poll:

And now, having voted in the above poll it’s time to vote again. This time have a look at the post on Instinctive Magic. How do you want to handle the magical powers of sorcerers? Now is the time to make your views known!

As always if you don’t want any of my ideas, please tell me your own. I’m putting magic to one side for a few weeks, but I will be returning to it by the end of May when I start considering the spells themselves. By then we need a definitive answer on this.

Poll: Spellcraft and Spellcasting

For those of you who haven’t been following the discussion in the Knowledge and Magic Skills thread, here’s a brief summary for you.

The proposed mechanic for casting magic is to make a roll on Spellcraft, using your ranks in Spellcraft or your ranks in a related Knowledge skill (whichever is less). Different magical traditions use different related knowledge skills, e.g. Draconic for wizards, Religion for clerics and Nature for druids. This different related knowledge skill is our primary means of differentiating between different spellcasting traditions.

Daniel has taken two issues with this. Firstly, he says that the knowledge skills I have pegged to various spellcasting traditions aren’t justified in the history of Iourn as he understands it. Secondly, he thinks the mechanic a bit clumsy. Now he has a point on both counts, but it’s his second comment I’d like to dwell on here. I’m not particularly attached to this mechanic and, although it looks as though it might work, I can see that it might make for some fiddly recalculation during the game. Daniel was also keen to draw a line between knowledge skills and spellcasting, but still have something that (e.g.) gave a wizard a different skill set to a cleric.

The solution that Jon came up with is quite elegant and, like all the best ideas, absolutely obvious once someone has said it. Instead of pegging different knowledge skills to Spellcraft, why not simply have different flavours of spellcraft? Imagine Spellcraft (arcane), Spellcraft (divine), Spellcraft (pact), Spellcraft (primal) and so on. This represents the spellcasting tradition of a particular class or group of classes. It divorces the spellcasting from the ‘book-learning’ – although knowledge skills could still play a role as prerequisites for certain talents.

Does this penalise multi-class characters? No, not really. Under my first proposal a character who knows how to cast spells from two different traditions (such as Elias, who can cast sorcerer and paladin spells) would need to max-out Spellcraft and two knowledge skills, now he needs to max-our two Spellcraft skills and he can take the knowledges if he wants to. To me, this looks to be a change for better.

So, let’s put it to the vote. Read the thread for yourselves and then vote in the poll below:

Poll: Weapon Skills

There was a fair amount of discussion over the list of weapon skills that I proposed for HD&D. There were a number of different approaches highlighted, and these resulted in varying types of weapons clumped in broader or narrower groups.

In this post, I will announce a definitive list of weapon skills and then invite you to vote on whether we adopt it or not. The revised list includes many of your suggestions, but I am guided by the following philosophy:

Firstly
The game must still feel like D&D. In earlier editions all fighters shared the same base attack bonus, but could then choose to specialise in specific weapons. I want to keep that. The weapon skill becomes the broad base that any character can spend skill points to achieve. Additional specialisation comes through feats and talents.

Secondly
As an extension of the first point, I have decided against replacing weapon skills with fighting style skills. James made a proposal that the style of how the weapon was used in combat is the more relevent skill, not the weapon itself. For example, hammers, axes, picks, clubs and maces all use the same “smash-him-over-the-head” technique. There’s much to recommend this idea, but it would make us rethink our entire approach to the D&D combat system. It would also make the weapons skills very broad. In the end, I decided that I didn’t really want to do that.

Thirdly
I wanted to limit the number of weapon skills. Depsite the number of skills in HD&D, I didn’t want weapon skills to dominate. I wanted to keep the number of weapon skills down to about the number of knowledge skills (twelve). However, it became a apparent that this could not be the case. I have come to agree with Marc, that a larger (and therefore more narrowly focused) list to begin with will help focus specialisation. I now also think that the feat Weapon Specialisation could safely apply to all the weapons covered by a skill, and not just one weapon. There will still be feats and talents that improve upon your character’s skill in one type of weapon, however.

Fourthly
I want to protect the traditional weapon roles of the classes. Wizards have normally been able to use a staff. I don’t want to create weapon groups so broad that wizards also suddenly find themselves proficient with all polearms. The same goes for Picks and Hammers. Yes, they may seem the same but Picks are traditionally gnomish weapons and Hammers are dwarven. A little distinction (even artificial) helps to distinguish between the races. This is good in the context of a roleplaying game.

Fifthly
Thematically similar but mechanically dissimilar weapons cannot be grouped together into a single skill. It doesn’t work in the context of a learned skill set. So good bye to mariner weapons, druid weapons, monk weapons and mounted combat as skills. Characters who want weapons from those areas will have to choose the skills separately.

Sixthly
I don’t want characters to need two different skills to use the same weapon. What this basically means is that I’m ruling out Thrown Weapons as a skill. If you have the Hammer skill, then you can wield a warhammer in melee and hurl a throwing hammer with equal proficiency. A contentious decision perhaps, but one I think is for the best when it comes to creating thematic characters.

Seventhly (and finally!)
Once I realised that I would have to expand the weapon list beyond twelve, I became determined that some weapons would appear under more than one heading. A single weapon in multiple categories goes a little way to broaden choice for martial characters. At the moment, this applies mainly to polearms but as I look more deeply into the weapons available in the game I will expand this principle.

Weapon Skils

So without further ado, this is the full list of weapon skills in the HD&D. I have highlighted a few examples of the type of weapons included in each group, but this is not a definitive list.

Axes
Hand-axe, battleaxe, greataxe dwarven waraxe, halberd

Blades (Short)
Dagger, knife, dirk, punching dagger, claw bracer, panther claw, stump knife, dart

Blades (Light)
Short sword, cutlass, sabre, rapier

Blades (Heavy)
Longsword, bastard sword, greatsword, glaive

Bows
Longbow, shortbow, composite versions of each

Chain
Chains, spiked chains, nunchaku

Crossbows
Light and heavy crossbows, repeating crossbows, hand crossbows

Flail
Light flail, heavy flail, dire flail

Hammer
Throwing hammer, warhammer, craghammer, maul

Lances
Heavy, light, jousting

Maces & Clubs
Club, light mace, heavy mace, greatclub, sap, warmace

Net
Nets, bolas

Pick
Light pick, heavy pick

Polearm
Glaive, guisarme, halberd, ranseur, pike, longspear

Shield (as a weapon)
Buckler, light shield, heavy shield, tower shield

Sling
Sling, catapult, staff-sling

Spears
Spear, halfspear, javelin, longspear

Staff
Quarterstaff, bo, shepherd’s crook

Unarmed
Punch, kick, headbutt, gauntlets

Whip
Whip, scourge, whip-dagger

Which gives us twenty weapon skills. Far more than I intended. If the current poll continues its established trend then we’ll be adding “Supernatural Attack” to that list for certain characters.

Vote Now

I’m not looking for feedback on the type of weapons contained within each group at the moment. That can come later. What I’m looking for is a decision on whether these twenty weapon groups are right for HD&D. A simple yes or no from the poll below.

If you vote no (or even if you vote yes) please leave you comments and tell me why. This isn’t necessarily the definitive list, but it’s time to put Weapon Skills to one side for the time being and move onto something else.

Poll: Supernatural Attacks

In D&D many monsters (and some player characters) have a host of weirdo abilities and powers that aren’t easily classified. I refer to supernatural abilities such as dragon’s breath weapon, a ghost’s frightening presence, a manticore’s tail spikes or a medusa’s petrifying gaze.

In HD&D all of these abilities are attacks. The monster has to roll to hit a character’s defence to see if their power is successful. The dragon has to make an attack roll with his breath weapon against the Reflex Defence of the PCs. But what does he roll?

In HD&D all the attack rolls are derived from the skills system. A swing of a sword comes off the Heavy Blades skill. A magic missile comes off the Arcana skill. But what do you roll to attack with a breath weapon? There are three schools of thought.

1) We have a skill for every supernatural ability. Dragons (and Dragonborn) have the “Breath Weapon” skill, Manticores have the “Shoot Tail Spikes” skill and on on.

2) We have one skill that encompasses all these abilities, called Supernatural Attack. If a creature happens to have more than one supernatural attack, then both come off the same skill.

3) We don’t have a skill at all. All attack rolls with supernatural abilities are based on half the monster (or PC’s) level plus the relevent ability score modifier.

Personally, I would plump for option three. This is by far the simplest option. I think that we should avoid adding extra specialised skills into the system if we can avoid it.

Take the dragonborn for example. We might give Breath Weapon (or Supernatural Attack) to him as a bonus class skill, but we’re not going to give him any bonus skill points. The dragonborn has already spent a Talent to get access to dragon breath in the first place, but that Talent is useless to him until he spends his skill points. We’re effectly asking the player to pay for his breath weapon twice. I don’t think that’s fair.

The counter argument is not withour merit. There is precedence within HD&D for characters having to spend skill points to make use of their talents. It’s how the spellcasting and the combat systems work. Why should supernatural abilities get a free ride? Why shouldn’t a dragonborn have to use his resources to become proficient in his breath weapon?

I’m opening this up to the masses. What does everyone think? Please vote in the poll below and don’t forget to add comments if you have any!

Poll: Saving Throws and Defences

This is a little addition to the rules I have been considering for a week or so. It isn’t particularly revolutionary, but you may think it to be unnecessary. I am in two minds. Part of me believes this would inject a certain amount of fun and tension into the game; part of me believes this is just unnecessary clutter on the character sheet. I’m in a quandary so you can help me decide.

I propose that HD&D can support both fourth edition style defences, and third edition style saving throws. Do you agree? The poll is at the bottom of this post. Before we get there, I’ll enter into a short explanation of what I’m talking about, and a justification as to why I think it’s a good idea.

The Background

Let’s start with an example. In third edition you might have had a +6 bonus to your Reflex saving throw. If a wizard lobbed a fireball at you, you made a Reflex saving throw to avoid the effect. In this case you’d roll 1d20+6 and look to beat the DC of the wizard’s spell.

Fourth edition completely turned that on its head. Instead of a Reflex saving throw of +6, you had a Reflex defence of 16. And instead of you rolling a saving throw, the wizard rolled to hit you. A wizard casting a fireball in fourth edition would make an attack roll against your Reflex defence, looking to roll a 16 or more.

My Preference

As previously stated, I prefer the fourth edition way of doing things. It really does speed up play. Player’s don’t have to work out what their saving throws are every time something nasty is thrown at them. I just have to make a roll against their Will, Reflex or Fortitude defence and tell them if they’ve been hit. Simpler, neater, quicker.

Nothing in this post changes my opinion that defences are superior to saving throws. If we’re only having one mechanic, then we’re having defences. I’m not entering into that discussion. And yet… I have a soft spot for saving throws. Letting a player roll a save puts the future of the character firmly in the player’s hands. It feels right.

There are times when rolling to hit a defence isn’t appropriate even in fourth edition. Players resist diseases by rolling an Endurance skill check. Logically, you would think that the disease would be rolling to hit their Fortitude Defence; but instead the designers created an entirely new skill for the purpose. Why? Because the character was fighting off the disease. They recognised that this was a roll the player should make, not the GM.

Active versus Passive

There is no Endurance skill in HD&D. It didn’t make sense to me. So when it comes to resisting disease or holding your breath, I would have no choice but to make an attack against your Fortitude defence. Which I think is a bit silly. When you add in all the other silliness – such as icy floors having to make attacks against your Reflex defence, and so on, it begins to sound like something I have to address.

4e introduced active and passive skills. You could roll on your Perception if you wanted to spend a standard action doing so, or you could rely on your passive perception, which was your Perception skill modifier +10 (instead of +1d20). This got me thinking. What is a Defence, if not a passive Saving Throw?

So here’s how it’s going to work: all confrontations have an attacker and a defender. By default, the attacker is considered to be “active” and makes a 1d20 roll; the defender will default to “passive” and rely on his static defence.

So generally in combat, it is the attacker that rolls the dice against the defender’s defence. This is exactly the same as fourth edition, and exactly the same as everything I have already written for HD&D. However, there are going to be times when it is the defender who is “active”, and the attacker that is “passive”.

If the attacker isn’t really a creature, then it’s usually going to be passive. So if the ‘attacker’ is a disease, or a slippery floor, or old age, or poison then it is the defender that rolls the dice. What does he roll? He rolls a saving throw.

I think this would work very well. It gives the GM more flexibility. Rather than having to secretly roll a die and then inform the player that something nasty has happened, he can get the player to roll. It just seems more meaningful that way.

Plus there are also times when both the attacker and defender could roll the dice. The attacker rolls to hit, but rather than a static DC, he is rolling to hit the difficulty set by the defender’s saving throw. Attack Roll and Saving Throw effectively become opposed rolls. Now, this wouldn’t happen very often as it slows the game down, but it occurred to me this could be an interesting way to handle the Total Defence action.

Third and fourth edition gave PCs the option to give up their standard action for the round in return for +4 to their Armour Class. What if instead of doing that, a PC could spend a standard action rolling a saving throw for his defence. We don’t call it Total Defence, we call it “Active Defence”. I think that has some potential.

The Poll

A longer preamble than normal. You have read the above, now cast your vote – and leave any comments below.

Poll: Armour and Energy Damage

There has been some considerable discussion in the Hit Points and Damage thread about whether armour should reduce the damage you take from energy attacks such as fireball. I am going to summarise those arguments here. You can vote in the poll at the bottom of the page.

Introduction

In HD&D Armour Class works like damage reduction did in third edition. You subtract the armour class value from the damage dealt before applying the damage to your foe. So if you strike an opponent for 20 damage, and they are wearing Plate Armour (AC 9), then they only take 11 points of damage.

Option One: Armour doesn’t defend against energy attacks

My intention was that armour class should only defend against physical attacks from weapons and other solid objects. The game already has Energy Resistance, which works in a similar way but protects against energy attacks such as Fire, Electricity, Thunder, Radiance and so on.

If we allow armour to protect you against a fireball as well as sword swing then we are in danger of making armour too good in the context of the game. It also weakens energy resistance. A tiefling starts with Fire Resistance as one of his class traits. What’s the point if anyone can also get fire resistance by putting on some chain-mail?

D&D has never allowed armour to do this in the past, and I don’t see why we need to do it now. It just seems unnecessary, and will cause too many mechanical issues just for the sake of closing a loop hole that isn’t really there.

Option Two: Amour must defend against energy resistance!

The counter argument is that armour should defend against energy attacks, because in the real world that is exactly what would happen. HD&D strives for verisimilitude, well here is a big fat example that HD&D cannot afford to ignore.

The instantaneous burst from a fireball won’t penetrate armour. Electricity will arc around armoured foes and damage them less. These are scientific facts, and the game should accomodate them.

The Poll

So there are the options. If you’re still not clear what all this is about, go back and have a read of the aforementioned discussions. Get informed and then vote. Your vote counts, you know!