Modern Crits and 'Weapon Finesse'

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Modern Crits and 'Weapon Finesse'

Postby CatKnight » Sun Feb 26, 2006 1:10 pm

Hi folks: I'm new to the boards and wanted to say Hi. I picked up the pdf a few weeks ago and am really happy to see an active community!

I have a question and a house rule I'd like feedback on:

First: Modern Weapons:
The chart on the revised PDF page 93 gives damage for generic pistols, heavy pistols, rifles, shotguns and frag grenades. Fair enough.

The critical simply says "20". I'm assuming that means 'roll a 20 to activate' rather than '+20 damage.' Assuming I'm right, what is the damage bonus for critting with a firearm or grenade?


Second: I'm not crazy about dexterity controlling all aspects of hitting in combat. Oh, I understand the reasoning...it's perfectly sensible, but I think it overbalances dexterity. (In True20 it controls whether you hit, whether you DON'T get hit ... dodge always works if one isn't flat-footed and has feats to back it up, parry doesn't. ... initiative...)

So my thought is to return melee combat to strength. However, all characters are assumed to effectively have the 3.5 Weapon Finesse feat for free: In other words - anyone can use a light melee weapon or rapier off of Dex rather than Str.

Does that sound reasonable to you? Or am I worried about nothing?

Thanks!
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Postby JBowtie » Sun Feb 26, 2006 1:38 pm

The default critical is 20/+3 unless otherwise specified; so the answer to your first question is +3. Of course, there may be errata in this specific case.

The DEX vs STR question has spawned several threads in the past. In practice I can't recall there ever being a problem.

If you're going to switch back to STR then your suggestion is fine. Just be aware it gives the high STR guys a slight edge as they will hit just as frequently as the high DEX guys but do more damage when they do hit.
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Postby Ether » Sun Feb 26, 2006 4:00 pm

Another thing that might have been overlooked is the defensive value of the Strength score (in terms of the parry bonus for melee attacks). Switching Strength back to an attack bonus gives high-Strength characters an edge in attack, defense, and damage, which (IMHO) might shift the scales in the other direction. If you're running a modern game, however, where melee combat (and thus, parrying) isn't quite as common as ranged/firearm combat, it probably won't be much of a problem at all.

I like the idea of a free Weapon Finesse equivalent; it seems like a good way to go if you switch back to Strength. Your tweaks sound very reasonable to me.
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Postby DnDChick » Sun Feb 26, 2006 5:19 pm

I just made a feat like weapon finesse, using Strength instead of Dexterity.


Brute Force
Prerequisite: Str +1 or better
You use your size and strength to your best advantage. When using a battleaxe, sword, club, or warhammer, you add your Strength instead of your Dexterity to attack rolls. You cannot make a finesse attack when using the Brute Force feat.
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Postby DnDChick » Sun Feb 26, 2006 5:34 pm

You might also be interested in borrowing some combat ideas from A Game of Thrones. In that game you don't automatically add ANY stat to your base attack bonus. Instead, there is a separate feat for five of the six stats that you can use to define your combat style:

Bravado = Add Charisma bonus
Brute = Add Strength bonus
Finesse = Add Dexterity bonus
Tactics = Add Intelligence bonus

There is one for Wisdom as well, but I don't remember right offhand what the feat name was.

You can take each feat multiple times. Each time the feat adds to a different individual weapon with which are are proficient.

This way if you have a low Dex, low Str character with a high Int, he can still be competent in melee because he is a smart fighter and uses sound strategies in combat (i.e. has the Tactics feat for the weapon he is using).
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Postby Jonathan Moyer » Sun Feb 26, 2006 6:52 pm

Let's take two first level warriors and, not counting feats, position, or any other extraneous factors, compare them against each other. Aside from Str and Dex, they all have the same ability scores, weapons and armor (let's make the weapons and armor both +2). Warrior A has the following stats:

Str +0
Dex +4
Con +2
Atk +5
DDef +5
PDef +1
Dmg +2
Tough +4

Warrior B has the following stats:

Str +4
Dex +0
Con +2
Atk +1
DDef +1
PDef +5
Dmg +6
Tough +4

A hits B on a 10 or higher (55% chance). B hits A on a 14 or higher (35%)

B's attack has a save DC of 21. A resists B as follows:

No effect 17+ (20%)
Bruised 12-16 (25%)
Dazed 7-11 (25%)
Staggered 2-6 (25%)
Unconscious 1 (5%)

A's attack has a save DC of 17. B resists A as follows:

No effect 13+ (40%)
Bruised 8-12 (25%)
Dazed 3-7 (25%)
Staggered 1-2 (10%)

After 10 attacks, A hits B about 5 or 6 times. Of those hits, about 3 or 4 do some kind of damage.

After 10 attacks, B hits A about 3 or 4 times. Of those hits, about 2 or 3 do some kind of damage.

Given these battle conditions, these results suggest that Dex is slightly more useful than Str in a straight up fight (nothing that the use of Conviction couldn't manage IMO). However, I didn't really factor in the carrying capacity benefits of Str, namely the ability to carry bigger weapons, wear bigger armor, and carry shields. If the high Str warrior weilds a longsword, has a shield, and has scale mail armor, things slant toward the high Str warrior (50% of the time, the Dex warrior's attack won't even hurt the Str warrior).

I guess the Dex warrior could wear heavy weapons and armor and not lose his ability to hit the Str warrior. However, the Dex warrior will quickly lose his Dex bonus to defense and will be hit more often by the Str warrior, who still hits a lot harder.

Out of armor, the high Dex warrior looks better (the Str warrior should probably try to grapple the Dex warrior in this case), and if the Dex based warrior can get the drop on his opponent either through ambush or a feint, that helps.
Last edited by Jonathan Moyer on Sun Feb 26, 2006 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby skywalker » Sun Feb 26, 2006 6:57 pm

Jonathan Moyer wrote:Let's take two first level warriors...


It is also worth noting that as levels increase Dex becomes less relevant as it is overtaken by Combat bonus. As Damage and Toughness only increase through feats, they remain as important if not more important over levels. So though Dex seems best in a fight between 2 1st level warriors, it is not as importnat at 15th to 20th level.

Personally, I think the stats are balanced and make sense.
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Postby Jonathan Moyer » Sun Feb 26, 2006 7:06 pm

skywalker wrote:
Jonathan Moyer wrote:Let's take two first level warriors...


It is also worth noting that as levels increase Dex becomes less relevant as it is overtaken by Combat bonus. As Damage and Toughness only increase through feats, they remain as important if not more important over levels. So though Dex seems best in a fight between 2 1st level warriors, it is not as importnat at 15th to 20th level.

Crap - I knew I forgot something. :) Yes, at high levels, Dex isn't quite as useful as it once once, but Str is still very handy.

Also, regardless of the level, it seems to me that in a straight up fight, Str is the combat stat to have. If you can sneak up on an opponent and catch him unawares, Dex is the best combat stat.
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Postby DnDChick » Sun Feb 26, 2006 7:35 pm

skywalker wrote:
Jonathan Moyer wrote:Let's take two first level warriors...


It is also worth noting that as levels increase Dex becomes less relevant as it is overtaken by Combat bonus. As Damage and Toughness only increase through feats, they remain as important if not more important over levels. So though Dex seems best in a fight between 2 1st level warriors, it is not as importnat at 15th to 20th level.

Personally, I think the stats are balanced and make sense.


This also makes perfect sense if you don't think of the game mechanics and simply think of it as their skill at combat is overtaken by sheer natural talent. That's what's happening in what you describe. The combatants are so good that it is a contest of skill rather than just who is the most nimble fighter.
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Postby Jonathan Moyer » Sun Feb 26, 2006 7:43 pm

Jonathan Moyer wrote:Crap - I knew I forgot something. :) Yes, at high levels, Dex isn't quite as useful as it once once, but Str is still very handy.

Actually, because the combat bonus for the two warriors is the same at any given level, I'm not so sure Dex's value decreases too much, if at all, with level. For example, at 15th level (all other things being equal, not counting feats, etc.), the Str based warrior and the Dex based warrior have attacks and defenses of +15. Because they have the same attack and defense, they cancel out, reducing it back to the 1st level case (the big difference is that at level 15, characters have more Conviction).

So in my example, you could change the levels of the two warriors any way you want and it wouldn't make a difference. The Dex based warrior still has a 55% chance to hit the Str warrior, while the Str warrior still has a 35% chance to hit. Their Toughness hasn't gone up, so they each damage the other in the same manner.

That's actually kind of a cool thing about Combat - it scales with level. So two 20th level fighters going at it is a lot like two 1st level fighters going at it.
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Re: Modern Crits and 'Weapon Finesse'

Postby Jonathan Moyer » Sun Feb 26, 2006 8:04 pm

CatKnight wrote:... dodge always works if one isn't flat-footed and has feats to back it up, parry doesn't.

How about "Uncanny Parry"? :)
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Postby CatKnight » Sun Feb 26, 2006 8:19 pm

Mmm....well, let's look at a few different options:

Here is the 'basic' D&D model, and I'm guessing Blue Rose:

Melee Attack: Strength
Melee Damage: Strength
Ranged Attack: Dexterity
Ranged Damage: Can be Strength, but usually none
Defense: Dexterity
Initiative: Dexterity
Hit Points: Constitution

In a melee fight, Strength has the obvious advantage - but dexterity's still useful in avoiding getting hurt and going first. We're also ignoring Reflex saves as being another benefit of Dex. Carrying capacity in D&D is incredibly useful.

Here's the True 20 model:

Melee Attack: Dexterity
Melee Damage: Strength
Ranged Attack: Dexterity
Ranged Damage: Usually none
Defense: Dexterity. Strength possible in melee.
Initiative: Dexterity
Toughness: Constitution

Again, ignoring the other factors: Dexterity receives a major boost in now controlling all attacks. Strength can be useful for defense now, but only a little (melee). Dodge is still superior since there are feats that can back it up.

We can certainly argue whether D&D has properly balanced the use of the physical stats, but as that's the only basis of comparison around... it appears Dex has an extra boost in True20 comparatively.

The above 1st level combat does suggest it's only very slight, and I'm sure that's true if no feats get involved. Again, there are dodge feats our Dex friend can take. There are no parry feats for our Str character. Further, this is a melee. In missile combat, Dex warrior clearly dominates. True, switching Melee attack back to Strength doesn't change that...but it does give the Strength warrior an advantage to counterbalance the Dex warrior's clear advantage in missile combat.

As for future levels - I think Jon's right. A combat between two 1st level warriors and a combat between two 20th level warriors comes out the same, as the combat bonuses cancel out. (Again, ignoring feats and such.) We will see the exact same ratio: Dex with the slight advantage barring feats and such as in Jon's initial 1st level warrior example. At 1st or 20th level, Strength boy will do the same amount of damage (barring other modifiers) and Dex will hit more often. I don't think it gets worse at higher levels, but I don't think it gets better either.

DnDChick: Your feat is interesting (Brute), and I DID consider something similar. (Or something like the exact opposite of my 'Weapon Finesse' modification - strength with two handed weapons.) Making it a feat raises the question of why a strength warrior should have to 'waste' a feat though. Couldn't we also argue that a dexterity warrior should have to waste the feat on weapon finesse if it's that important to them?

I suppose my worry is there's no combat situation where Dexterity isn't incredibly useful. Being able to defend in melee and having a damage bonus doesn't seem to balance it. Especially once you go beyond combat and realize Dex controls more skills as well as the Reflex save. Carrying capacity does help the Str warrior somewhat in True20, but given the wealth system I don't know if a True20 character would have as much equipment as a D&D one. I could be mistaken there - insufficient testing.

I HAVE AGOT...and I actually like it a lot. The combat system feels about right, and when my noble was off doing something else the GM and my group had a lot of fun cutting our teeth on the combat rules with a bar room brawl involving our guards. :)

Being able to use different stats for combat (Int, Wis, Cha, etc.) is a neat idea and I found it interesting. Of course...AGOT doesn't really do much with magic, whereas we have the Adept to worry about. Do we want the adept to be able to throw everything in one or two stats, and be a great spell wielder as well as combatant?
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Postby DnDChick » Sun Feb 26, 2006 8:27 pm

Being able to use different stats for combat (Int, Wis, Cha, etc.) is a neat idea and I found it interesting. Of course...AGOT doesn't really do much with magic, whereas we have the Adept to worry about. Do we want the adept to be able to throw everything in one or two stats, and be a great spell wielder as well as combatant?



I hadn't really thought that far ahead. I was just kicking out ideas. :)
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Postby Jonathan Moyer » Sun Feb 26, 2006 8:45 pm

CatKnight wrote:Again, ignoring the other factors: Dexterity receives a major boost in now controlling all attacks. Strength can be useful for defense now, but only a little (melee). Dodge is still superior since there are feats that can back it up.

As written, yeah, Parry doesn't have feats backing it up. I don't think it would be too hard to make some up, though. An Uncanny Parry style feat would be appropriate, perhaps an auto-disarm feat, or a deflect/redirect feat.

I suppose my worry is there's no combat situation where Dexterity isn't incredibly useful. Being able to defend in melee and having a damage bonus doesn't seem to balance it. Especially once you go beyond combat and realize Dex controls more skills as well as the Reflex save. Carrying capacity does help the Str warrior somewhat in True20, but given the wealth system I don't know if a True20 character would have as much equipment as a D&D one. I could be mistaken there - insufficient testing.

It's not hard to get really nice equipment in True20. For example, at character creation, it's not unreasonable to assume characters have spent plenty of time shopping for stuff, so, if the GM agrees, they could take 10 or 20 on their wealth checks to get nice gear. With a starting wealth of 5 + Cha, characters could buy half plate armor (+7, 24 purchase DC). In Blue Rose, it was really easy for PCs to increase their wealth each level through skill checks, so they didn't have a problem buying stuff. And of course, characters can always find stuff lying around.

Again, I think if the high Str warrior has heavy armor, heavy weaponry, and a shield, he would dominate in a fight against the high Dex warrior. But outside of that situation, I agree that Dex is the better stat to have.
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Postby Ether » Sun Feb 26, 2006 10:38 pm

I don't know... as I said, I don't think it's a bad idea to switch back to Strength as the modifier for melee combat, particularly with the "auto-Weapon Finesse" idea given (a nice tradeoff, IMO)... I'm just not sure I agree that (as is) Dexterity is, hands down, the most useful ability score in combat.

Other posters have touched on this, and I just want to add a little... Dexterity is great for hitting things, but it's much easier to counter attack rolls than it is to counter damage bonuses.

Consider the following:

A) Combat bonus, Canny Dodge, Defensive Attack, Dodge Focus x, Conviction, etc. are available for Defense improvement. The Combat bonus provides an additional benefit, Canny Dodge can be a fairly large bonus for some, and there's really no limit to the number of times Dodge Focus can be taken (though armor can artificially limit this value).

B) For Toughness improvement, however, we are pretty much limited to Constitution, Defensive Roll, Great Toughness (x5 at most), and any armor worn.

Notice that the feats in the former category are General feats, where the latter category contains feats that require particular roles. Beyond Great Toughness (limited to to +5, remember) the only other option is Defensive Roll (which requires Expert levels... which, in turn, will diminish Attack and Defense bonuses).

Furthermore, it's much easier to augment attack rolls than damage bonuses. A damage bonus in True20 means a great deal more than it does in D&D. High-Strength characters essentially have something that's very difficult for anyone else to attain (possibly a +3 or +4 to damage; similar to giving a D&D Fighter a longsword that always deals double damage).

Characters desiring to increase their damage output need Strength. The only other option might be one of two feats that I can remember off the top of my head (Point Blank Shot and Surprise Attack); both have limited utility, and one requires Expert levels (which, again, are going to siphon off a fighting character's offensive and defensive capabiltiies in the form of a reduced Combat bonus). In my opinion, Strength is just balanced differently. Its power lies in the inability of much else to duplicate its effects.

I don't mean to seem obstinate or (God forbid... I certainly don't want to insult anyone) abrasive about this, CatKnight. I think your tweaks will work just fine. I just wanted to express why I really like the way GR did handle Strength... :)
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Postby CatKnight » Mon Feb 27, 2006 5:27 pm

:D Oh, I'm not insulted or angry at all, Ether! If I didn't want to hear opinions, I wouldn't have posted on the board!

I do like the ...idea behind Dex governing to hit rolls. It makes sense. Any swordsman will tell you it's really wrist movements and such that determine how well you hit. A Str supporter could argue that his warrior can crush through any defense, but in True20 (as opposed to D&D) that sounds a lot like weapon damage vs. armor/shield bonus to toughness.

And as Jon mentioned earlier, the idea that combat at higher levels turns into a test of skills, so that two equal warriors of any level will have a battle similar to two first level warriors .... is good. I like it a lot!

I'm concerned with stat balance. Ether, you do take some steps to ease my mind with your argument though! I definitely need to test my theory a lot more. (My players and I are currently limping through AGOT d20.) I'd be curious if, in BR where Str is dominant in melee, they find Str to be too powerful.
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