I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, May 10, 2019

Knives, armor, and a solution (3 random thoughts)

Some random thoughts I had this week.

1. Knives (and fists)

Have you ever held, or even seen, a fighting knife?

Goggle it if you want. This thing is REALLY dangerous. I'm pretty sure any random person could stab a trained fighter to death with ease.

In fact, I have recently heard a jiu-jitsu champion say exactly that.

AND Eddard Stark is held by a knife to the throat in A Game of Thrones.

So it's both true in real life and in TV.

No 1d4s, hit points or saving throws.

One good stab and you might be dead before you can do anything about it.


No so much.

Even professional fighters might have a hard time knocking someone with a punch.

Or club.

But sometimes a single hit is enough.

Who knows...

2. Armor

On the other hand...

Seeing someone in armor really makes you think combat is survivable.

Again, not only in TV, but even in youtube channels that study the issue seriously.

Even in medieval manuals of arms, a longsword (1d8? 1d10) would require special technique to wound someone in plate armor.

Killing an ironclad warrior would usually require some grappling and a long dagger.

Or just a mace.

3. A solution

The easiest way to combine both in a D&D context would be having some small damage that would get MULTIPLIED against little or no armor.

Say, hit 10 points above AC means "critical damage".

12 points: double damage.
13 points: triple damage.
14 points: quadruple damage.
... etc.

If your armor is not that great, you're always one good hit always from being killed.

Blunt weapons would deal more damage, probably, but the "criticals" might be less dramatic.


Maybe slashing and piercing damaging have different "crit" number.

So, a dagger would be d4 (crit d8), and a longsword d8 (crit d10), for example, and a mace simply d6.

This manages to both make knives very deadly against opponents with no armor WITHOUT requiring repeated rolls, while also making decent armor very useful against blades etc (but not impervious).

Of course, the chances of rolling AC+10 are not usually that great.


A better solution - for other RPGs - would be using a d100.

Say your "dagger" skill is 70, and you hit 70% of the time.

Treat "doubles" as crits. So, 11, 22, 33, 44, 55 and 66 are criticals.

And you get to double (22), triple (33), quadruple (44), etc., your damage.

This stuff happens very often - about 10% of the time you hit.

A skilled knight could kill a dragon with one blow.

Armor, of course, would REDUCE incoming damage... up to a point.

So, instead of taking, say, 10 points of damage, the wearer would take 3... Not that much, EVEN if you multiply by four or five.

Starting HP would be at least 40...


Of all the systems I have played, GURPS comes closest to this.

Unfortunately it has too much die rolling and a critical hit table in which "nothing happens" is the most likely result.

But I reckon a simple "critical hit" table would take care of most of this stuff, even in D&D.

I've been there already... Oh well.


  1. I would use the roll-under idea, if I was rolling under. Now that I don't, I have a critical hit give +1d10 damage (instead of X2). In other words, a huge bump for a small weapon, and a (relatively) smaller bump for a large.

    While not a perfect match, I think it approximates the effect you are describing while also being easy to remember.

    1. I like it. I definitely feel that a dagger should be able to do awesome damage with a critical hit.

  2. It depends on what hit points mean. I do not consider loosing hit point is the same as being wounded, otherwise it would also mean loosing effectiveness in combat. OTOH if you are down to 3hp, one strike of a dagger can kill you. So the system woks and does not need any modification as long as you accept the hit point abstraction.
    In GURPS, the points you loose actually model wounds (and loosing point have consequences on your effectiveness), so it's not really comparable.

    1. Yeah, the whole "what does HP mean in D&D" is an endless debate, but I agree it is mostly an abstraction.

  3. I really should sit down with all my ideas and compile it.

    As usual, the idea of treating Hit Dice as meat points works well for me. You lose a number of HD equal to dice rolled on damage dice. So all crits do at least 2 wounds. You then only recover HP from spells and spending HD. The only thing recovered on a long rest is HD.

    Then instead of death saving throws, use the Exhaustion track, and have that represent 0 wounds, 0 HP and the final stage of the fight. The nebulous saves are replaced with levels of exhaustion. The 6th failed save is what kills you. A blow at this stage counts as a crit or 2 level of exhaustion.

    I would rule that choosing to drop allows one to add Con mod to the check.

    A note that this makes Boromir a 6th level fighter ("A normal man would have been felled by 1 arrow! He was pierced by 3."). He just rolled poorly on death saves even with a CON boost to rolls.

    1. Interesting stuff, if you do compile it let me know!

    2. Will do. It may be a while.

      A thought I've had on HD. Instead of it being a set 1 per level, with the value of the die being different, but more nebulous abstract point system, where you spend various time and points for healing. As a class, you get a maximum amount of points spent for healing per time interval.

      That's terribly nebulous, so here's an attempted example.

      Each die size has a point score: let's say d4=1, d6=2,...,d12=5. Each class gains a number of points each level equivalent to their HD. When you short rest, you can spend points to roll the associated die to recover HP. You can spend 1 minute to spend up to your HD value in points to recover. So a commoner, wizard, and barbarian recover at most 1d4, 1d6, and 1d12 HP after a minute of rest. For every minute of rest after the first one, you can spend more points to roll 2 dice. What this means is that over longer time frame, you can use law of averages to boost your recovery.

      So the commoner, wizard, and barbarian example are all level 3, with 3, 6, and 15 WP respectively. If they rest for 3 minutes:

      -Commoner: Can roll up to 3d4 (7.5 healing), or 1d6 + 1d4 (6 points healing)

      -Wizard: Can roll up to 3d6 (10.5 healing), or 5d4 (1 for each minute +2 extra minutes after the first), for 12.5 points of healing

      -Barbarian can roll 3d12 for 19.5 points of healing, or perhaps 5d8 for 22.5 points of healing.

      This is messy, and would need to be cleaned up to work better, but this idea resolves a few objectives for me:

      1) Eliminates the two systems of damage reading I had with my original idea (roll dice, vs. number of dice). In this case, I would say double dice against HP, regular dice roll against WP (if specifically targeted), and a straight bleed through if you go from 1 to the other.

      2) Allows a means to have variable short rest recovery mechanisms, and a means of showing the difference between hardy and frail party members.

      2b)Continuing on the above, variable short rests can mean that you have 'recovery mode' and 'light work' modes that can all be done by different characters.

      This would have to be tabulated to probably clean it up a bit, and maybe have different time increments, but I like the premise better.