Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fighting More Often

I've had a few days break since this, but let's continue.

As I was saying, there's this constant need to add more and more damage to whatever the leveled characters are doing.  I felt at this point it might be a good idea to know upon what we're improving - since I've been using the same damage-dealing standard for characters for nearly 35 years, and I have no problem with it.

First, however, THAC0.  I realize that many don't like it, that it's a mechanical name that takes away from the fantasy substance of the game, etcetera, which they claim breaks immersion.  What I know is that it enables me to calculate hits and misses very quickly for dozens of combatants, meaning that my game moves faster, there's less opportunity to be bored, the players get answers back immediately and they even gain a better conception of what they can manage to hit - so all around, THAC0 is a practical mechanism for me. If the acronym, however, is all that it takes to break immersion from your game, well . . . that's all I need to say.

I use my own THAC0 table, based primarily on the original tables in the DMG, except that I've smoothed out the improvements so that instead of the cleric's attack jumping two points in three levels, it jumps incrementally over that time.  Also, I've gotten rid of the monster tables for half a hit die, 1-1 hit die, 1+ hit die and so on, which we should all admit was pretty stupid thinking from the start.  I must presume the creators thought that splitting those low numbers fine would somehow improve the game?

Here's the THAC0 table I've constructed:

Simple, nyet?

Given this table, let's ask ourselves what damage could we expect a fighter to do in the space of three rounds, on average, against armor class 6, using a spear.  The answers are in this table below:

This is quite simple.  A 15 strength (or less) offers no damage bonus to the weapon, a 16 strength offers a +1 bonus to damage but none to hit, a 17 strength is +1 to hit and +1 damage, so more average hits than a 16 strength.  18 is +1+2, 18/01 is +1+3 and 18/51 is +2/+3.  I recognize this is old AD&D percentile strength rules, but try to adjust.  For the table above, I have made the assumption that no critical hits occur - everyone does those differently and I'm not in the mood to do the math to include my numbers.

The three rounds need not be consecutive for the table above to apply, nor does it matter if the fighter was hit or not between attacks.  The average of the weapon was multiplied against the chance of hitting, then that number was multiplied by 3 in order to get the above result.  The purpose for viewing this as three rounds rather than one is to emphasize the clubbing power the fighter would have in the space of a short combat.

Note that our fighter has been limited by a few things.  First, it assumes he never upgrades to a long sword or morning star, both of which have higher average damages.  It also assumes the fighter never gets a magical weapon of any kind.  However, to see what a 15 strength fighter does with a long sword rather than a short sword, one need only compare the next line of figures over - so that a long sword at 1st level causes - on average - 1.05 more damage in three rounds.  Taking a 16 strength over a 15 means that - assuming 10 rounds of combat per session and two sessions per month, your fighter (mysteriously remaining 1st level) will cause an average additional 84 damage (exactly, as it happens) over 240 rounds.  A number that will expand as you go up levels.  Something to think about.

The terrific jump at 7th level is due, as some will remember, to the fighter now receiving 3 attacks every 2 rounds; the similar jump at 13th level is due to the fighter now gaining 2 attacks per round.

Of course, some readers will think the combat numbers above are paltry.  A 13th level, however, would probably have a +2 or +3 sword in my campaign, which gives increased chances of hitting and damage, so the numbers get up there.  And I think killing a couple of ogres in three rounds on average is fair.  The fighter has support from henchmen in my campaign and on the whole I think the combat effectiveness rises quickly enough.

The first problem I see is NOT that the fighter doesn't do enough damage - but that the fighter's attacks don't increase more incrementally, as the THAC0 does on my adjusted table.  That shift is too stark and the fighter shouldn't have to wait that long for an improvement.  The monk gets 5 attacks every 4 rounds at 4th level; I see no reason why the fighter shouldn't enjoy some incremental improvement like that.  I've run many monks and keeping track of the extra combat is not that difficult - but then, there are way more fighters at the table than monks, so perhaps some sort of physical system would need to be put in place.

I would suggest, perhaps, the following smoothing out attack improvement, as shown on the right.  5/4 would be five attacks in four rounds.  This would mean attacking once for three rounds, then twice in the fourth round.

The proposed results would slow down the fighter at 7th level, but the players may be willing to take that slow down if they get more attacks at an earlier level - which they would.  Three earlier levels in fact, as early as the monk gets it.  The monk improves much faster, however, getting 3/2 attacks by 6th level - so the monk's superiority is not lost in this instance.

Except for possible clerical problems, I feel this system would provide some benefit to the fighter in the face of the extra abilities I am adding to other classes with recent sage tables (but then, I've been convinced to include such tables for the fighter too, but that's another post).

How would this adjust the above table of average damage?  Well, it wouldn't have been fair not to include an updated table, so here it is:

The jump at 13th level is still extravagant, but the overall improvement level by level is better, I think.  I should implement this, see how hard it is to keep track of the total number of attacks and who does what when (remember that my stunning system will stagger the second attack for everyone involved) and then take steps to manage that additional difficulty.

It isn't enough to say, "it's too difficult to manage" - what we need to do is design a system by which everyone can easily and comfortably keep track of those extra attacks, including the DM.  Won't it be fun when the party is attacked by a team of 4th level fighters?


  1. With your heavy use of excel docs and turn by turn records it shouldn't be too hard to track.

    I've just started having a greater longing for a laptop in the game I run. If not for the ability to record everything that happens and track information in the long term easier.

  2. Takes too long to track by screen (which is full of other material) and it is too solitary. I will pursue a tactic which enables the players to keep track themselves - perhaps of each other.

    I was going to also mention the possibility of increased numbers of attacks for clerics - but perhaps it will all be put into the fighter sage abilities.

  3. Well you could always just do the stacking of coins/tokens.

    Props are always helpful for that.

    I'd avoid dice as they inevitably get grabbed for rolling.

    Personally I have a bunch of old pokemon damage counters, spare change, arcade tokens and 'plastic ice' that I use as counters whenever necessary. It operates as great reminder tools and is very visible to everyone involved.

    Given the target number of swings changes by level it should just be a matter of stacking or piling coins and tokens over and over again.

  4. I had thought of that - but given the henchman system, some players are occasionally running three, even four fighters at once; the ranger with her followers has 7 fighters of fourth level or better now, to keep track of.

  5. Couple questions, Alexis:

    1) I read the recent post on stunning when it was published, but I'm not sure what you mean here when you say "the stunning system will stagger the second attack for everyone involved."

    2) What was it that changed your mind on doing sage tables for Fighters, Thieves, etc? You seemed pretty dead-set against it a few months ago (I think that's how long it was since you started the new cleric ones.)

  6. Maxwell,

    1) In standard D&D combat, going back and forth, we could keep track easily as every 4th round, every 4th level fighter would attack twice. However, since some fighters are 'losing turns' due to being stunned, rather than attack-attack-attack-attack their rounds go attack-stunned-attack-attack-stunned-stunned-attack, or some combination thereof.

    By the fifth or sixth round, different fighters of the same level are getting that extra attack at unpredictable times. That's what I meant by 'staggered'

    2) Simply put, my players went to work on me. They harangued me, they presented arguments, they suggested possibilities and so on. THEY CHANGED MY MIND. So now I've been rethinking it.

  7. Understood and understood. Frankly I think Fighters getting sage tables is a fine idea. Many times on the blog you have said something about telling Fighters who the most competent or dangerous enemy in a group is, or sizing up for them an individual enemy. Handling this kind of thing with the Fighter's version of a sage table seems to be the way to go. Is this the kind of thing that said table will handle, or is it still too early to tell? (I assume that you might have a few ideas even if nothing's appeared on the work blog for that yet.)

  8. Just at present I don't wish to make any definite statements about the fighter, or the ranger, paladin and so on - except to say that knowledge will reach into places where the game has never properly gone. I am finding this sage system is perfect for working out things that long-term campaigns need, but which are given very little consideration - such as the rules for how a cleric gets people to join his or her church. The fighter studies should be along those lines.

    Still in druid now, though. Thinking about the druid.

  9. Not to say that the cleric HASNT covered this, but it seems much less oriented in that direction.

    A good chunk of the druid sage items are long term.

    I'm guessing there will be a review and update of the cleric stuff?

    (Not that I want to slow any of the progress towards mage)

  10. Yeah. It's good to think of the cleric as first draft and the druid as second. I'm a little worried I'm giving the druid too much power; but tweaking a system like this is a necessity. I swore I would go all the way around the barn before coming back to the cleric again, and I will. That's going to be a long trip.

    Already I have some people urging me to publish this system as both pamphlets and as an entire book. I'm concerned about changes I will want to make in the future and the amount of stolen material from the original D&D that would be included in the formatting.

    Food for thought.

  11. It took me three days or so to decide to finally buy the Advanced Guide, and I'd been planning to since last year.

    I'd buy the pamphlets as soon as I saw them, without question. The sheer giddiness involved in thinking about acquiring a wizard lab and cooking up Owlbears is too cool.

    That said, if proprietary information was too much of a bear to get around, then I'd be equally happy to get whatever winds up here on the blog.

  12. Out of curiosity, who claims that THAC0 breaks immersion in the game? The arguments I've heard is that it's "too complicated."

  13. Ozymandias,

    Yes, subtraction is such a bitch. That is why we do not teach it until grade one.

    I have no idea where to send you for immersion vs. THAC0. I did not take notes.

  14. Heh, looking for pictures of THAC0 on the internet and find this post.

    Also see the part about busting your balls on Sage abilities...


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