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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

More Dark Souls WEAPON MADNESS for 5e D&D

Tonight we are going into mega-crunch levels of madness! Bring out your pocket calculator because this is getting fiddly!

Nah, not really. In fact this is quite easy, but probably too fiddly for D&D 5e.

Take this as a though exercise.

I wouldn't use as a replacement for the actual rules, but maybe as an option for some players. Why not? If you do the math, you'll see they are getting +1, +2 damage at most...

But I digress.

Here is the deal: we are not messing with "to hit" bonus for now. Just weapon damage.

As you know, in modern D&D, your damage bonus is based on your Strength (or Dexterity, but let's start with Strength): subtract ten, divide by two, round down, and add to damage. So a 1d4 weapon in the hands of a Strength 16 or 17 fighter deals 1d4+3 damage.

I suggested some weapons should get twice this bonus in GURPS D&D, but we'll leave that aside for now.

My suggestion is something less extreme, although a bit crunchier: instead of  subtract ten from ability and dividing by two, some weapons will divide your bonus by three or four, or even multiply it by 2/3 or 3/4.

Dark Souls calls this "scaling":

The Parameter Bonus rating, also known as Scaling, is a gameplay mechanic in Dark Souls. It indicates the level of bonus damage one can do with a weapon, based on the associated stats. This rating can be S, A, B, C, D or E (in order from most to least bonus for the associated skill). Strength and Dexterity will increase the physical damage...

So, an "Strength A" weapon will benefit greatly from Strength, while a "Strength E" weapon will barely benefit from it.

In this regard, Dark Souls is more interesting than 5e: depending on your "build", you might favor a greataxe over a greatsword, for example, something that is near impossible for the 5e fighter (although a greataxe might be slightly better for a barbarian).

Let's play with the concept.

We will use the letter "C" for the usual bonus to damage (i.e., Strength-10/2), and add some new possiblites:
Letter Scaling Formula
A 0.75 Ability-10*3/4
B 0.66 Ability-10*2/3
C 0.50 Ability-10*1/2
D 0.33 Ability-10*1/3
E 0.25 Ability-10*1/4
Complicated? Not that much. Most weapons get a C, which means Strength 16 adds a +3 bonus... But if you have a Strength 16 fighter with a B weapon, he gets a +4 bonus instead, while a D weapon will only give him +2.

Here is a nice table showing the exact numbers, up until that Barbarian with Strength 24:

8 -2 -1 -1 -1 -1
9 -1 -1 -1 0 0
10 0 0 0 0 0
11 1 1 0 0 0
12 1 1 1 1 0
13 2 2 1 1 1
14 3 3 2 1 1
15 4 3 2 2 1
16 4 4 3 2 1
17 5 5 3 2 2
18 6 5 4 3 2
19 7 6 4 3 2
20 7 7 5 3 2
21 8 7 5 4 3
22 9 8 6 4 3
23 10 9 6 4 3
24 10 9 7 5 3

Notice that the "C" column is the "ability modifier" you're used to.

So, let's get some of the worst weapons from 5e: the mace, the clubs, flail, morningstar, war pick and trident. Give them a "B" rating and, voilà: now the barbarian will pick the morningstar over the rapier!

Add great to the list... and now a Strength 20 fighter will pick the greataxe over the greatsword!

But wait - you might say - I actually LIKE my barbarians using rapiers, and I WANT the greatsword to be better than the greataxe!

Well, here is the deal: you can add Dexterity scaling to the weapon in addition to Strength scaling!

Say, for example, that you add "Strength C / Dexterity E" for all finesse weapons, all swords, and spears. The "finesse" trait just mean you can switch the two around (Dexterity C / Strength E).

Which means: the Strength 16 warrior will usually prefer a morning-star over a rapier. BUT if his Dexterity is 13, both weapons will have equal damage. If you have BOTH Strength 16 AND Dexterity 16, the rapier (or spear) is definitely better. And so on.

Of course, at this point you might be picking up you calculator...

Some perspective on damage

If you haven't read this, take a look.

In short: the +1 or +2 bonuses to damage these rules will give you are a lot smaller than they look, and only barbarians will get a few +3s.

Also, keep in mind that in most cases 1d6+4 is worse than 1d8+3 because of critical hits, specially for barbarians.

What's the point?

This solves a decent amount of problems:

- Does away with "useless" weapons.
- Creates more interesting, varied weapons,
- Strength is always useful, even with finesse weapons.
- Dexterity is useful for all fighters - even if you have high Strength.
- Odd abilities (11, 13, 15, 17, 19...) gain some utility.
- Encourages stronger characters to pick heavy weapons, and dexterous characters to pick lighter ones.
- More specifically, monks get additional reasons to use lighter weapons, barbarians get additional reasons to use heavier weapons, and fighters will be encouraged to use different weapons in accordance to their specific build,s most of which will be very flavorful.

My head hurts from the math! Let's see some actual examples!

Mace, Greatclub (Strength B)
There is little to no reason to use these weapons in 5e: the quarterstaff is versatile, in addition to being cheaper/lighter. With these rules, anyone with Strength 13+ will pick one of them over the quarterstaff.

Sickle (Strength C / Dexterity E)
You'd usually pick a handaxe over a sickle, but if you're dexterous enough, this weapon might be a better choice.

Greataxe (Strength B) 
Once reserved to barbarians, now the greataxe is useful for anyone with Strength 13+. Because of how critical hits work, the greatsword has an almost identical damage, unless your Strength is REALLY high.

Greatsword (Strength C / Dexterity E)
Now the greatsword requires good Dexterity for maximum effect. Nice!


As you can see, I used only the letters B, C and E. You can easily add "Strength D/Dexterity D" to some weapons that require an equal amount of Strength and Dexterity, and even "Strength A" for GIANT weapons.

Maybe SIMPLE weapons would have Strength D as an option, to allow Strength 9 wizards to cause damage without a penalty.

Two weapon fighting? Maybe Strength letters get degraded by one level in the main hand, two levels in the off hand... Or something. The ideal is that Dexterity scaling allows dexterous characters to gain more benefits form dual wielding.

Ranged Weapons? Let us give them some Strength scaling, shall we? Or try this.

In Dark Souls, some weapons scale with "mental" abilities. A nice addition to spellcasters! Or check this out.

The 3/4, 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 progression is arbitrary: you could easily use something less extreme (for example, 0.7, 0.6, 05., 0.4, 0.3).

Here is a smoother table if you want it. I think I actually prefer this one:

8 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
9 -1 -1 -1 0 0
10 0 0 0 0 0
11 1 1 0 0 0
12 1 1 1 1 1
13 2 2 1 1 1
14 3 2 2 2 1
15 3 3 2 2 1
16 4 4 3 2 2
17 5 4 3 3 2
18 6 5 4 3 2
19 6 5 4 4 3
20 7 6 5 4 3
21 8 7 5 4 3
22 8 7 6 5 4
23 9 8 6 5 4
24 10 8 7 6 4

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Encumbrance armor - minor update

As I mentioned in my post about "encumbrance armor", the idea, as written, is a bit prone to abuse.

To avoid all PCs to walking around in heavy armor, 5e limits the three heaviest kinds of armor to PCs that have minimum strength of 13 or 15.

Heavy Armor
Ring Mail30 gp14Disadvantage40 lb.
Chain Mail75 gp16Str 13Disadvantage55 lb.
Splint200 gp17Str 15Disadvantage60 lb.
Plate1,500 gp18Str 15Disadvantage65 lb.

There is no rhyme or reason to these numbers, apparently. A Str 12/13/14/15 would make a lot more sense and work perfectly well for gaming reasons.

But why not make Strength requirements for ALL kinds of armor? This is an idea I've got from Dragon Heresy. But I prefer formulas to tables. So:

The maximum number of slots you can fill with armor (including shields) is equal to half your Strength score (rounded up); otherwise, the armor reduces your speed by (at least) 10 feet.
Crisis averted!

This works quite well. For starters, to wear the equivalent of plate armor (AC 18), you'd need... Str 15!

This also bars anyone with Str less than 9 to have AC 15 armor, although light armor (and most kinds of medium armor) is still available for (almost) everybody that has proficiency in it.

You also require a bit extra Strength for using shields, which makes sense IMO, although you could always stick to the original rules and say shields have no Str requirements.

You don't have to apply this rule to monsters - maybe armor is lighter for them because of their dimensions - although it seems to work well enough as written.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Giant Monster versus Angry Mob

Take a look at this great post from Cruel & Unusual Punishment:

[...] I don’t appreciate the lack of tactical variety arising from combat with foes drastically larger in size than player characters.
This is not about pushing an agenda that large creatures should by rights be tougher to beat, rather that, as a challenge, they should feel different and require a distinct approach rather than the mended old hat of getting the cudgels out and whacking away at the ankles of the Hp piñata until it keels.
[...] In DnD all that is absent: the gameplay surrounding combat with large monstrous opponents mostly plays like Times New Roman twelve, wrong-headedly reduced to a slugging match with a large juicy bag of Hit-points saddled with a bad action economy, leading to the mechanical juncture of monstrous foes, due to being single targets, being actually easier to face than an equivalent challenge made of multiple smaller ones (the DMG’s guidelines on CR copping admission to this very fact). Occasional legendary and lair actions feel like just a tacked-on mitigation device.

Great points there.

To be honest, while I like 5e, I am a bit disappointed about bounded accuracy going too far - a tribe of goblins should be a bit weaker, I think, and the tarrasque A LOT tougher.

It bothers me that "the most dreaded monster in the Material Plane" feels a bit like it could be taken down by a hundred determined, well-positioned 1st level fighters with the Sharpshooter feat (no, I have no idea how accurate this is).

And I like the idea that armor might be less useful than Dexterity against huge foes - although I wouldn't want it to be completely useless, since Dexterity is already a bit better than Strength in 5e as it is.

So, if you want to know his solution, click the link above.

Here is mine - largely inspired by his, but a bit simpler.

When a huge creature makes a melee attack against a target, the target and up to 1d4 random  creatures within 5 feet of it must make a Dexterity saving throw (the DC is equal to the attack roll) or suffer an amount of damage equal to half the creature's Challenge. A gargantuan creature affects all creatures within 5 feet of the original target and 1d10  random  creatures within 10 feet of it, instead. 

A sufficiently large rock, piece of rubble or weapon hurled by the creature might have a similar, but smaller and rarer, effect (GM's call). Likewise, a large creature with a big two-handed weapon can occasionally deal damage in the same way.

Even easier if you use minis....
In short, if an angry mob of villagers decides to take down a giant, they are going to have a bad time. Godzilla is coming? Better bring out the big guns.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Encumbrance armor! For 5e et al. D&D

The concept is really simple.

The main downside of armor is encumbrance; it slows you don't, makes you tired, etc. However, it is extremely useful in combat.

Now, nobody likes dealing with encumbrance. Okay, some people do, but it seems enough people dislike the concept since 5e added an alternative to encumbrance when describing armor: minimum strength of 13 or 15.

Which, curiously enough, seem be be pulled out of thin air, having no relation to the armor's weight:

Heavy Armor
Ring Mail30 gp14Disadvantage40 lb.
Chain Mail75 gp16Str 13Disadvantage55 lb.
Splint200 gp17Str 15Disadvantage60 lb.
Plate1,500 gp18Str 15Disadvantage65 lb.

Also like the weapon's list, most of the armor list seems to be useless once you have a bit of coin to spare.

The ideal armor list would be concise, simple, but with enough nuance to provided cahrachters a lot of variation... not an easy thing to do.

But we will!

Here is the deal: you have as many SLOTS of encumbrance as your Strength score. Each  slot is about 8 pounds, but this isn't meant to be exact.

Let us start with Strength 12 as our example.

You can add as much armor as you want... keeping a limit of +8 AC, like in 5e.

Let's try adding +4 AC:

You can still add your Dex bonus to AC, but for that you have to leave EMPTY SLOTS; one for each +1. Other slots can be filled with gold, water, weapons, etc. Probably two slots for heavy weapons, one slot for two light weapons (don't get me started on the meaning of the "light" and "heavy" properties).

Of course, you can combine the two:

And a shield! The shield is +2 AC as usual.

Of course, this is a bit prone to abuse and must be fine tuned.

One would think that in most circumstances PCs would have little space for abuse, since everybody will be carrying other stuff anyway.

Maybe a strong barbarian could carry lots of armor... but armor is of very limited utility to barbarians anyway. Other classes do not benefit from having BOTH dexterity and strength.

And with that, we get rid of the whole armor table, and replace it with this:

Light Armor: +1.
Medium Armor +2 to +4.
Heavy armor: +5 to +7.

Cost is the AC bonus, squared, times 10 gp. So, 10, 40, 90, 160, 250, etc.

Clumsy armor halves the cost (disadvantage to stealth). Any armor with AC 15 or more must be clumsy.

Fancy armor allows you to add +1 to AC to the maximum but quadruples the cost (i.e., AC 15 medium armor costs 500 gp; start with 250 gp, multiplied by four to 1000 gp, but halve that cost because it is clumsy). So you can have +2 light amor, or +8 heavy armor (640, divided by two, times four... 1280 gp).

Nonmetal armor is limited to AC +2.

Now that you got the idea, you can play around with it. Let anyone that has less than half their slots filled get an automatic +1 to AC, for example, or take a -1 AC penalty if you are carrying more weight than your slots would allow. Maybe require empty slots for AC bonuses from Wisdom or Constitution, forcing the monk to travel light (which is probably too harsh) and avoiding abuse from the barbarian. And so on.

Minor update here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

(More) flowers for D&D - 5e et al.

First part here.

In first part, I thought about the intersection between abilities. Now, let's try a different spin: active and passive abilities.

Check the first part to see why I chose this order of abilities; but, basically, Str relates to Con, that relates to Cha, etc.

The physical/mental divide is pretty intuitive.

Now, the active/passive part might be obvious, but then again it might not.

In D&D 3.x, this is easy to see (from the SRD, emphasis mine):

Strength (Str)
  • Melee attack rolls.
  • Damage rolls when using a melee weapon or a thrown weapon (including a sling). (Exceptions: Off-hand attacks receive only one-half the character’s Strength bonus, while two-handed attacks receive one and a half times the Strength bonus. A Strength penalty, but not a bonus, applies to attacks made with a bow that is not a composite bow.)
  • ...

Dexterity (Dex)

  • Ranged attack rolls, including those for attacks made with bows, crossbows, throwing axes, and other ranged weapons.
  • Armor Class (AC), provided that the character can react to the attack.
  • Reflex saving throws, for avoiding fireballs and other attacks that you can escape by moving quickly.
  • ...

Constitution (Con)

If a character’s Constitution score changes enough to alter his or her Constitution modifier, the character’s hit points also increase or decrease accordingly.

Intelligence (Int)

wizard gains bonus spells based on her Intelligence score. The minimum Intelligence score needed to cast a wizard spell is 10 + the spell’s level.

Wisdom (Wis)

Charisma (Cha)

Now look at this part:

Saving Throw Difficulty Class
A saving throw against your spell has a DC of 10 + the level of the spell + your bonus for the relevant ability (Intelligence for a wizard, Charisma for a sorcerer or bard, or Wisdom for a cleric, druid, paladin, or ranger).

This is pretty straightforward: Strength, Intelligence and Charisma are the more "aggressive" abilities, either trough attacks (Str), skills (Cha with deception, intimidation, feinting, etc.) os spells (Int and Cha). Dexterity, Wisdom and Constitution is the more "defensive" ones. 

But there is some nuance.

While Constitution has basically only defensive uses, Dexterity and Wisdom may be used to attack. With some caveats: Dexterity does NOT get added to damage in 3.x, and Wisdom is used for some spells. And Strenght can often protect through armor - although it won't help you with saves or avoiding "touch attacks".

Now, the first thing we learn from this is: sometimes, you can safely dump TWO aggressive stats, provided ONE of them is good enough. And you can dump ALL THREE if you can use one of your passive stats to attack. However, dumping ANY defensive stat is dangerous, because you can choose how to attack your foes... but not how your foes attack you!

(Side note: people might be thinking "but what about skills?!" at this point. Well, most Int and Cha skills - knowledge, diplomacy, gather information, etc. - can be tackled by a single PC. Unlike, say, Reflex saves - if the whole group is hit by a fireball, everyone is rolling dexterity!)

This is the case for 3e. What about other editions?

For TSR-D&D, it varies, but there are hints of this. See the RC, for example:

Ability Scores and Saving Throws In the standard rules, the only ability score that can affect a saving throw is Wisdom (affects saving throws vs. spells). The DM does, however, have the option to apply ability score bonuses and penalties to other saving throws: 
Strength: Modifies saving throws vs. paralysis and turn to stone.
Charisma: No bonus to saving throws.

Two things to notice: Wisdom is, "In the standard rules, the only ability score that can affect a saving throw"; and Charisma is the only ability that doesn't affect ANY saves even in the variant rules.

4e avoids the issue by making each PAIR of abilities enhance one save: you could use EITHER Str or Con to gain Fortitude, for example. While this sounds a good idea, it encourages you to dump one of each pair, making for somewhat non-archetypal characters. I would probably favor some kind of average instead. And IIRC you can use pretty much any ability to attack, depending on your class.

But my main concern here is 5e, the edition I have been playing recently.

Dexterity becomes a fully developed attack ability: you can add it to "to hit" and "damage" rolls, and Dexterity weapons are almost as good (or better, in the case of ranged weapons), than Strength ones. On the other hand, Strength protects you through armor, and you can use either ability to escape from a grapple.

Strength and Dexterity, then, become REDUNDANT: like 4e, if you have one, you can safely dump the other. Which creates the absurd situation that makes most fighters EITHER strong OR dexterous, BUT NOT BOTH.

5e also has SIX saves, one for each ability, but they aren't created equal; the three "defensive" abilities are used more often, but Strength is not far behind in fourth place.


What can we use this for?

First, for home-brews and house rules.

It is usually okay to replace one aggressive ability for another aggressive ability

In one of my games, I made a Int-based sorcerer that was really a "Tony Stark" tyep of cahrachter. An Int-based warlock would work too, or even a Cha-based wizard. Your druid is a Cha-based forest nymph or satyr? Sounds awesome to me! Str-wizard? Well, maybe, unless your trying to multi-class into fighter.

It is also cool to use an aggressive ability instead of a defensive one. 

You might want your Cleric to be an Int-based religious scholar or a charismatic religious leader, and base your spell saves on Int and Cha.

Strength and Dexterity are mostly interchangeable. A Str-monk and a Dex-barbarian (with some caveats) are both easy to create.

In short: if you don't use this to intentionally break the game (which includes using this ideas to better multi-class), the game will probably not break by itself.

On the other hand, the opposite isn't necessarily true. You should avoid using Wisdom (or Constitution) to create an alternate version of the wizard, sorcerer or bard, or EVERYONE WOULD DO IT, since they would have one extra stat to "dump". 

For example, if every sorcerer could use Wis, they would be able to dump BOTH Int and Cha.

Of course, if you're trying to give a boost to a certain class, that might be a good idea - I once seem someone suggest creating a Con-based Pact of the Blade Warlock to make the subclass stronger.

And, second, if you're planing on rewriting the game or writing your own, these idea might come in handy while you decide which ability to use in any given situation. For example: should Intelligence and Charisma be near-useless for a Cleric, os Strength a good dump-stat for a detrous fighter? And so on.

For me, personally, one idea comes to mind: each "pair" of abilities could be used in conjunction to defend or attack. BOTH would count, but you might choose one to count MORE.

See what Douglas Cole said in the first post as one possible example:

One of the interesting things here, especially with 5e, is the concept I use in Dragon Heresy a bit, where quantities are based off of one raw stat plus the bonus from another.

For example, Charisma plus a Wisdom Bonus would be personality modified by perceptiveness, a good stat for bluffing and con jobs. Dexterity plus perception bonus is probably a better stand in for initiative. 

So, potentially, you could use Intelligence to boost your Dex saves a bit, and vice-versa. Or Wisdom to give you a boost to Intelligence related skills. Maybe you are so fit that you can use your looks to deceive, despite your shy nature. Or very charismatic, courageous and iron-willed, despite desperately lacking wisdom and common sense!

Maybe even a Str bonus to skill, and dump the whole concept of "hit dice"? Everyone gets 1d6+Con+Str, or  1d6+Con+ some small bonus from Str.

All based on that original chart:

This allows for a greater range of archetypes (the thief isn't knowledgeable, but man he thinks FAST!) and also an useful boost to 5e saves at high levels.
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