Wednesday, September 18, 2013

D6 Damage for All Weapons... Until You're a Badass

I have been, at one time or another, on both sides of the "d6 damage for all weapons" debate. Over time, I've come down on the side of  "it's a good idea because it shuts up the rules-lawyers and munchkins so we can put the lists of weapon stats away, and finally play the damn game." I don't know about you guys, but the majority of time that I see wasted during sessions is spent on all the shopping. It's an RPG book, not fucking SkyMall.

A rules-lawyer, in his native environment

I still understand the players' need for something more, though. That's why I have a (very) light skill system in my home game which allows players to increase the value of their damage die based on their character's skill with a particular weapon, rather than just what type of weapon it is. That seems to scratch the itch of players wanting to murderize things harder, while still maintaining the abstract combat of OD&D. It's not that the character only scored one hit that did more damage because they have a Two-Handed BonerShank sword, it's that they've become skillful enough with whatever weapon they're using to make every hit during their action count just a little bit more. 

Character creation flies by, and the first game session still gets off the ground quickly, because all beginning characters start out at a set damage level, regardless of what kind of weapon they want to use. Nobody gets to increase their skill (or damage) until they've leveled up. Simple.

How to decide on what that starting damage should be? Just use their starting hit die. Clerics and Thieves start the game doing d6 damage. Fighters start at d8. Magic-users can sling whatever weapons they want in my game, but they're only going to do d4 damage with'em. Why? Because "Warriors are fuckin' METAL!, and Wizards are degenerate reprobates.

You sick fuck

From there, the progression goes:
Fighters - d8, d10, d12
Clerics/Thieves - d6, d8, d10
Magic-Users - d4, d6, d8

I like the way that this maintains the Fighter's badassery over time. Even at their utmost skill level, a Wizard can only do as much damage with a weapon as a 1st level Fighter. Besides, why is a Wizard wasting skill points on weapon proficiencies anyway? Don't they need to be learning more about blood sacrifices and infernal pacts? Even so, a first-level Wizard can still lay enough smack down to potentially snuff out a fellow magic-user with a single strike. That's the kind of lethality that I like to see in a game. The Clerics and Thieves get closer to the Fighter, but they're still not quite there. I might even upgrade the Fighter's d12 level of damage to 2d6 instead, just to give it that little extra bell-curve "oomph!"

If any of this offends the simulationists' sensibilities because they think that knives don't do as much damage as swords, or whatever, then they clearly haven't done an image search on "knife wounds." Seriously, make them Google that shit. It is grim.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Progress on Movement

I love old-school D&D. I effing loathe the retardulous movement rates, though. I know, I know; movement has been done to death. Prepare to watch me whip that dead horse to shit.

Here's the thing; it's not about how slowly the characters move. That's the typical gripe against D&D movement rates, but I'm totally down with the slowness. Those more versed in the ways of the Force than I have played out real-world experiments in this realm before. I can feel the versimilitude of cautiously creeping through dark, enclosed spaces full of monsters and scrotum-rending traps. Scrotum-rending would jack up anybody's day. Slow your roll, and put some ice on that, bro.

No, the thing that bothers me is the idea that everybody wearing the same amount of gear moves at exactly the same speed. Nobody buys that. Somewhere out there is a dude who sent five thousand dollars to a down-on-his-luck, Ethiopian prince based on nothing more than a poorly-spelled email. Even that sucker would call bullshit on identical movement rates. Some people run faster than others. It's a fact.

One of these tools is faster than the other. I'm guessing it's the guy who still has a pair of eyeballs to see where he's going.

I know that there are pursuit rules in some versions of D&D and its various clones/simulacrums. I've just never seen one that put the issue up front and center. Chases happen a LOT in OSR games. We tend to kick hornets' nests on a regular basis, and those encounters are not even remotely "level appropriate." Running away is often your best bet. Sure, the DM can just house-rule something, but that's the case with almost everything in the game.

Generally, DM's just rule that the highest Dexterity wins, but I'm not of the school of thought that being handy with a lockpick makes someone a world-class sprinter. It really seems like Strength, a major indicator of athletic prowess, should be a factor as well.

This fellow would like some clear-cut chase rules. Also, a fresh set of underpants.

Never let it be said that I'm one to complain about a problem without trying to contribute to its solution. My simple solution is this: a 7th attribute by the name of "Speed." You roll it up with 3d6, just like every other attribute, but a character's starting Speed can never be lower than the average of their Strength and Dexterity scores. That way, it's entirely possible for a PC to be randomly faster than either his Dex or Str would indicate. We've all known that stringbean, weakling-looking kid in gym class who can run like a damn gazelle. Still, strong, dextrous characters have the advantage most of the time. Like the man said: "The race doesn't always go to the swiftest, nor the battle to the strongest... but that's the way to bet."

A character's SPD attribute is the number of squares/hexes/whatever that they can move in a given round of combat while still being able to take a regular combat action. If they want to give up their regular attack, then let'em move two times their Speed for that round.

In my games, this works out beautifully. Since I use a 10-second combat round and 10-foot squares on the maps, Speed ends up being exactly how many feet a PC can run in one second. So, multiply SPD by roughly .68, and you've got the speed a character can reasonably move in miles-per-hour. Double that for all-out panicked fleeing (with the requisite Constitution checks and exhaustion that such things result in.) That means that hexcrawl overland travel is already sorted out as well. Factor in whatever system you're using for encumbrance to slow the poor bastards down, and you're all set for pretty much any situation involving movement.