Friday, August 12, 2011

More About The Negative Modifier

Following a very interesting discussion with one of my offline players, I thought I'd write some notes about how certain facets of the game might operate under the modifier rules I proposed on the last post.  Some of this was discussed in the comments yesterday.

Starting off, I proposed that two units be employed in order to keep track of the negative modifiers adding up due to the exhaustion from combat, adding that each player could keep a store of pennies and nickels to keep track of these.  To clarify:

3 pennies = 1 nickel = -1 to hit modifier

So for each nickel you gained, your chance to hit would drop by 1.  Neither your damage from a hit, nor your overall movement, would not be modified.  This is for two reasons: one, to Keep It Simple Stupid; and two, to allow players to continue to be somewhat combat effective for a longer time, thus promoting the playability of the idea.

Core gains in pennies and nickels then would be as follows:

Missing with a hand-held weapon:  1 penny added.
Hitting with a hand-held weapon:  1 nickel added.
Resting one round without attacking, moving more than 10' or otherwise performing any sort of labor:  1 penny removed.

Three misses would then equal one hit.  Eventually, whether you hit or missed with a weapon, you would begin to feel so exhausted by the process that you had to fall back from the combat and rest.

It has been proposed that some players could opt for 'combat training' that would increase their benefit in the face of this system.  I would argue that fighters obviously already have this benefit, in that they start with a better 'to hit' table, and are therefore already up on other classes.  There is no present 'to hit' bonus for fighters who are more fit that other fighters right now, so no benefit would be invented in my system.

There is always a tendency on the part of D&Der's to invent additional bonuses and exemptions for special circumstances which are invented out of the air to apply to every new system that comes down the pike, and I say that if said circumstance DID NOT EXIST BEFORE, there's no reason why it should exist now.  Said new exemption would be another proposed rule entirely, and if it isn't something that would be applies to the combat system as it stands now, without the new rule I'm proposing, then, ipso facto, it should not apply to the new rule I'm proposing.

A few additional elements, then, that came up in last evening's conversation:

Mounted characters:  There's no reason why a mounted person on a horse should find attacking less strenuous than an standing person - again, there's no special existing premise in the game, so why should there suddenly be one now that a new rule is proposed?  However, since the horse can carry the mounted rider away more easily, and since the rider is not taking strenuous action while riding the horse (and not fighting or galloping), the it is obviously easier for mounted persons to escape the combat, rest, and get back into the combat very quickly.  Getting away from the combat to rest could take three or four rounds, with another three or four rounds before being able to return to the combat.  A mounted person could accomplish escape and return in just one or two rounds.

Archers:  Firing a bow (or any missile attack) would have the same effect as swinging any other kind of weapon, except that hit or miss requires the exact same amount of work.  Unlike a swinging a sword against a shield, there is no shock from the blow (which is why a hit would gain a nickel, but a miss only gains a penny).  Therefore, all attacks with missile weapons, hit or miss, only gains the participant a penny.  This vastly increases the importance of archers in a battle without having to apply more damage to the weapon itself.  It is simply more accurate over a longer period of time.

Casting of Spells:  Unlike the Player's Handbook, my spells all require one round to cast per two levels of the spell.  I don't use segments.  Some might be like to say that a caster gains one penny per spell level, but I can say for my system that the caster gains one penny per round of casting (or per two levels of spell).  Thus, a 3rd level spell would take two rounds to cast and cost a penny per round.  A 6th level spell would take three rounds to cast.  Discharging a spell would not cost any pennies, as it is really a sort of 'relaxation' as the caster gets rid of the energy they have accumulated through casting (that's how I see it, anyway).  However, if the spell was one that required concentration, such as a wall of fire or phantasmal force, then the caster would continue to gain one penny each round the spell was in effect.  If the caster wanted to hold the spell after casting, before discharging (which is possible in my world), then a penny would be gained for each round of continuing to hold the spell before letting it go.

Additionally, if the caster were controlling a golem or some conjured creature, or some other character were using a device of some kind that required concentration, then this concentration too would gain one penny per round.  It would not affect the creature's chance to hit, but if the spell or device required the caster/controller to roll to hit according to their own ability (such as a Melf's Acid Arrow or a Spiritual Hammer) the caster's present exhaustion WOULD be relevant.

Maximum Exhaustion:  Since 20 nickels would equal a -20 chance of hitting, I propose that this be accepted as the base maximum amount of activity that can be performed before the individual MUST REST before performing any other attack or casting any other spell.  This would naturally be increased if the player had an inherent strength bonus for hand to hand weapons, or an inherent dexterity bonus for missile weapons.  20 nickels is the equivalent (assuming 12 second rounds - hey, its my idea, its my world) of successfully slamming a heavy weapon against an opponent for six minutes ... roughly the equivalent of hitting a moving target with a sledge hammer for an equal period of time.  As I said, applying the K.I.S.S. rule, the character could still move away from combat at full movement rate (though perhaps not being allowed to run at triple or quadruple speed), they just couldn't swing, shoot or cast a spell (or concentrate on one).

Swinging for Less Damage:  It was proposed that if a character were to poke with a weapon, rather than swing for the weapon's full force, the amount of damage - and of pennies gained - could be reduced each round.  In other words, if a short sword does 1-6 damage on a full swing, gaining the player a full nickel and thus a full -1 modifier, then the player could opt for the weapon causing only 1-4 damage this round (intentionally not swinging hard) and thus gaining only 2 pennies, or causing only 1-2 damage, and gaining only 1 penny.  This could be very important if the player sees that it will only take 1-4 to probably kill the present opponent, and wishes to conserve the character's strength.

At present, I have not decided to incorporate any of these rules into my campaign, and obviously none of them are tested.  Hell, I just invented them this last week.  But I think there are some interesting angles here that deserve being examined, and I think at some point I might be inclined to include some or all of them into a campaign.


James C. said...


The only aspect of the system that doesn't quite work for me is the concept that a "miss" expends less energy than a hit. In D&D a "miss" could be one swinging a sword full force into an upraised shield, expending quite a lot of damage and absorbing quite a bit of shock. Conversely, a "hit" could be one deftly sliding a blade past an opponent's flailing parry and in between a gap in the armor.

I'd recommend that any attack should expend the same amount of energy for the sakes of simplicity, game-ability and what one could reasonably expect given how the D&D combat system runs.

Alexis said...

That is a very fair argument, James, and very nearly convinces me. I tend to think that a sword slamming flat on a shield Hollywood fashion IS a hit, whereas a miss would be the weapon sliding off the shield or armor at a deflective angle and causing no shock to attacker or defender. Hits don't tend to draw blood in my imagination except at the end, and in those cases it is often a matter of the attacker being thrown off balance by getting the sword wedged between the armor plates or the opponent falling down.

It is a matter of interpretation. I would go with your suggestion, James, except that I love the bonus it gives to missile weapons if hand-to-hand is more wearying, along with the added angles of not causing as much damage on a hit in exchange for less exhaustion. Those elements are too cool to give up, and would have to be if your proposal were accepted.

You see that I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm saying it might be more fun to play it this way in spite of your being right.

Chad said...

One thing I forgot to ask in the previous post but which you sort of mentioned was numbers: if the PCs end up fighting some sort of monster that the fighters can take abuse from for two rounds, they can quite easily pen it in, alternate falling back for healing, and re-engage, all the while diminishing that monster's ability to hurt them. Is there some sort of balance for this?

Also somebody asked about undead/constructs: does this system apply to them, and if not, are you worried about it making them too deadly, especially in large numbers?

James C. said...

So that I understand your first point, in your mind's eye the sword slamming into the shield wouldn't be a miss but rather perhaps a low roll on damage or a normal roll on damage vs. a tough character?

I also like the idea of melee being more taxing than missile... but perhaps a missile gets a penny and a melee gets a nickel?

As for the trade-off between hitting and becoming more fatigued vs. missing and being less, I agree. A very cool element and one my approach wouldn't use.

Alexis said...


It would certainly mean that some large monsters would have to back away from combat, fleeing when their own negative modifiers started to add up. Some of those large monsters start with impressively able 'to hit' abilities, though, and the DM would have to judge at what point would be impractical - when the giant, for example, needed a '10' to hit AC5, or a '14'?

With regards to undead, non-corporeal creatures, elementals, oozes and so on, I see these as creatures which do not suffer from exhaustion. Undead for example don't breathe air or have blood pumping through their veins, so obviously they can't suffer from a weak heart or breathlessness. Therefore, they would continue to attack at the same ability, regardless of how long they were at it.

Supernatural means, after all, beyond nature, and they would have the benefit of that in this system.

Oddbit said...

Also, don't forget large creatures can have that marauding damage in Alexis's campaign that inflict damage for just being too close... So one big critter can still be a royal pain. How does that effect the penalties?

Alexis said...

Thank you Oddbit. I love that damage, by the way; the offline party is entering a Hill Giant lair at the moment and it does add up.

The incidental damage, as I call it, doesn't depend on a 'to hit' roll; it just gives a 50/50 chance that if you're within combat range of a massive creature, it will cause you damage from a stray leg, tail, shoulder, flank or whatever that slaps up against you.

But the main combat from even a large creature would still rack up the creature's negative modifiers ... unless the creature, too, was intelligent enough to realize it doesn't need to do 3-30 damage with a bite, if 1-10 will probably do.