[HR] Active defense

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[HR] Active defense

Postby Zapp » Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:38 am

I'm thinking about ways to add hit locations and active defense to Dragon Age. Comments welcome!

(I know this makes the game more complex, but I also know what my group likes :) )

I was thinking along these lines:
* When you deal a critical hit, you roll for hit location, and the opponent needs to make a parry or dodge roll to avoid taking crippling damage to that location. When you don't, no such rolls are made, making combat move on just as usual.
* Critical hits should be able to incapacitate or even kill even a creature at full Health. In fact, this goal is the main impetus for having the system in the first place.
* As a compromise between keeping things simple and yet having these features, my main idea is that only when you roll a double (when you generate stunt points) will these mechanisms come into play. In all other cases (60%?) play simply and quickly moves on. (This proves to be slightly problematic since if you crit your opponent, stunting him becomes a secondary issue. Hmmm...)

This would mean several things:
1) Since you can die at maximum Health, this value would now stand for tiredness, stamina, vitality or what have you. Not "life points" or "hit points" anymore.
2) My initial thought is that a breather (five minutes of rest) resets your Health to the maximum value. Critical injuries would take much longer to heal (unless you have healing potions/magic etc of course).
3) The value of armor would (should) be reduced somewhat. Protecting against Health loss is not as valuable as protecting against critical hits. I'm not sure I need to reduce the actual armor values, however. (You might not bother with heavy armor if you can get knocked out even by attacks that deal 0 Damage after armor absorption) Perhaps certain armors should even provide a bonus to parries/dodges (the idea is that it is easier to parry if you can deflect onto a sturdy patch of heavy armor and that it is easier to dodge if you can accept "near misses" thanks to wearing light armor)
4) The need to focus on maximum damage weapons/attacks should be lessened. Even a dagger should suffice, if the primary goal is to inflict critical hits rather than to wear down Health. For a game that wants viable combat Rogues, this can't be a bad thing.
5) The TN of a parry/dodge attempt should definitely be dependent on how good the attack was. But what option is best? 1) vs the attack roll (an opposed roll) 2) vs the attack damage (keeping damage as an important number) or even 3) "battle of the stunt points" (the more stunt points the attacker pours into his attack the more stunt points the defender needs to use up too). At this point, I think I'll start with the straightforward option one: making the parry/dodge into an opposed roll vs the incoming attack roll (which will always be good to stellar, since it was a hit and a stunt, remember).
6) Warriors should be encouraged to parry. Rogues should be encouraged to dodge. (Mages, well, they should be encouraged to use magic :) ) How to implement this? The straight-forward solution would be to make dodging in heavy armor or when encumbered harder. Problem is, this is not a very realistic limitation. I would much prefer another solution. Here are two ideas: a) make light armor give dodge bonuses and make shields give parry bonuses b) make dodges cost "action energy" and have rogue power-moves (stunts) cost such energy.
7) Perhaps even made "action energy" = Health? This would allow me to give Rogues as much Health as Warriors, only they need to use it for both staying conscious AND moving about the battlefield. Including dodging. Warriors could focus on other stuff, and thus remain more resilient, since they can save their Health to taking a beating (and be the tank). (They're welcome to dodging if they prefer that).
8) I briefly thought about making Mana = Health too, but I think that's going to far. I will keep Mana as a separate score, and keep Mages Health low. (Besides, the Mana = Health idea is already "taken" by the cool Blood Magic concept.)
9) Yes, I realize that if you insist on wearing different armors on different body parts you should roll for hit location even on vanilla (regular non-stunt) hits. But you know what? I think I'll rationalize that any "glancing hit" like that could be interpreted to bounce of the body, or be partially taken by the shield arm etc. In other words, use your torso armor rating for all unexceptional hits. (This also "allows" a character to go without a helmet, or without leg protection, which is something I would like to encourage. In my game, heavily armored tanks should not be the only survival strategy)

Now then, you make an attack and you roll a double. What now?

At first, I considered making "you deal a Critical Hit" into a Stunt. But I realized that would mostly mean a "stunt tax" since you would (should) ALWAYS want to deal out critical hits (otherwise they're not critical enough! >:) )

So at least at first "dealing a critical" will effectively cost 0 Stunt Points, in that you automatically deal one (but you still need to roll that double).

Then you roll for Hit Location. At its simplest: 1 - L Leg 2 - R Leg 3 - Torso 4 - L Arm 5 - R Arm 6 - Head, you get the idea. (I will probably lift a less crude table, perhaps 2d6-based, from another game eventually)

Then the defender gets to parry or dodge. I probably need rules that impose penalties/restrictions on making several parries/dodges in the same round (to make the twin strategies of "ganging up" and "avoiding being surrounded" good ones), but I'll get back to that. I probably should avoid making it into a talent (being allowed multiple defenses), since that would probably be seen by players as a "must have" (and thus a "talent tax"). What I most definitely won't do is to make 1 attack = 1 Parry, i.e. allow characters to give up their attack(s) to make more parries (or dodges). Not making attacks might be the sensible thing, but it is boring and slows down combat.

Now then, should parrying/dodging be easy? For PCs fighting "fodder" creatures, probably yes. Since even a small risk of taking considerable damage is exciting, most crits made by rank-and-file monsters should be parried/dodged.

On the other hand, those rank-and-file monsters should probably not even attempt to parry/dodge themselves. Maybe have *one* parry/dodge attempt, if it is a weak one. This speeds up play, and makes "boss monsters" (who take as much care about their personal safety as the PCs do) stand out that much more. I'll probably make a distinction between "human" opponents (such as guards, bandits etc) and "animal"/"darkspawn" opponents. Humans care about living and thus attempt an active defense. Animals usually can't and darkspawn wouldn't think of it.

What is the severity level of a Critical Hit then. Instant death or a cosmetic scar?
(Note - the severity of the crit should NOT be dependent on which weapon you use. The temptation to make a great sword more deadly than a knife is always there, but should be avoided if Rogues should remain a competitive combat archetype. Having big weapons do more Health damage is plenty enough. Having longer weapons give an Initiative bonus (when conditions aren't cramped) is another possibility, which I have decided to not add to DA for now).

I'll probably have three levels:
I) Minor/Cosmetic: the attack leaves a scar and/or impedes you. The opponent is humbled/embarrassed in a duel. In pitched battle it may have to make a Morale roll to not consider fleeing/surrendering. (Perhaps a small penalty to actions that use the body part, although I am careful handing out penalties.)
II) Serious: The body part is punctured/broken etc. Generally you can't use it (say -5 to actions and -5 Health per action if you're forced to use it). A serious hit to the head stuns you and you're incapacitated until you recover.
III) Grievous: You're incapacitated and dying (you die at the end of combat unless cared for). A head wound kills instantly. Essentially the "game over" result for you (although PCs should hope to survive if their allies win the day).

The straightforward idea is to have you use Stunt Points to "up" the crit level of your attack (handily you will have some to use, since you just rolled a double). But this probably won't work - why would you ever want to use another stunt than "defeating your foe"?

Probably level II (Serious injury) needs to be the default - otherwise things aren't lethal enough (or there's too much of a Stunt Point "tax").

Going down to level 1 should then be voluntary (the "zorro effect"). Perhaps you even get a bonus Stunt Point (to use on stuff like making the embarrassed foe fall on his stomach etc) as a reward. One possibility is that a "near parry/dodge" can reduce the crit to this level (making it a real possibility even in situations where "honor" plays no part).

Going up to level 3 is the tricky bit. As I said it can't cost Stunt Points (it would then be the best Stunt you could buy). Perhaps make it the "overkill" bonus (when you exceed the Defense rating of your foe and/or the foe's active parry/dodge by a goodly amount).

Btw, I am toying with the idea of a fourth crit level:
IV) Killing. You die. Messily!
This would then represent those cool "kill combos" you see in the computer game :) Here you spend an entire round, but end up massacring the foe in a most impressive (and bloody) manner :) The exact routine is up to you to describe - feel free to use the hit location, your choice of weaponry/spell and other circumstances to guide you! :) This would probably be a stunt you would want to spend SPs on.

I'll probably lift the cool "bloodied" concept (from D&D4 in my case) and make it count for two things:
1) you can't suffer a killing crit unless you are bloodied. This preserves the notion that you need to wear down Health at least somewhat before you can go for the kill. Important: you can still win a fight with your very first attack. You just can't get to shower yourself and your opponent in blood... ;)
2) as you go up in level (and meet badder boss monsters) I will probably lock down the more powerful combat stunts (the ones unique to a certain foe or specializion) to when you yourself is "bloodied". Yes, the Hulk Hogan effect. It simply is too cool/dramatic not to use! :)

I am writing this partly to organize my own thoughts, but also to expose my ideas to you. This is the rough planning stage, but still: Do you see any major flaws? Do you have any cool improvements to make? Have I forgotten something important?

Feel free to comment /Zapp
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Zapp » Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:52 am

As you might have gathered, while I wrote up the post I realized crits probably work best if completely decoupled from stunts.

Then there should (of course) be a stunt for "called shot" (allowing you to choose instead of roll for hit location); since you probably always would choose "head" its probably best implemented as a "nudge". With the simple 1d6 hit location "table" I showed this could mean "Called Shot (variable SP cost): you can move the hit location result one step up or down for each SP you spend. Example: Spend 2 SP to turn a "4" into a "6" and get your head shot".

I should probably also clarify that I'm thinking of hard coding morale checks to criticals:
* When a NPC gets a serious crit it must roll for Morale or leave the fight.
* When a character suffers a "kill combo" (a level 4 crit) that counts as an "area fear effect": every ally that witnesses this bloodbath needs to roll for Morale or leave the fight.
This is powerful yes, but an important advantage, especially since I mean to make killing combos take your entire next action (simulating the slo-mo effect of the CRPG).

Now then, how to determine criticals if I can't/won't/shouldn't use the "rolling doubles" mechanism...?
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Loswaith » Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:40 pm

A few potential ideas as to crit indication
1. Defeating the TN by 5+; This likely isnt going to be all that common to begin with but will be more frequent as characters progress. Unlikely to occur often on mooks as they tend to have lower bonuses to rolls. You could change the threshold if you want it more/less frequent. Can show up at any point and its not tied directly to stunt point generation and wont influence it either.

2. The dragon die coming up a 5 or 6 on a successful role; This is likely to be more frequent however isn't directly correlated to how successful an attack will be. Again altering the indicator will change frequency. Can show up at any time, though will always show up with the larger stunt pool rolls.

3. Tripples on a successful roll; not very common at all (typically about 5 in 216, figuring tripple 1 as 1 failed roll), will always show up with stunts (possibly defeating the purpose of breaking away from stunts in the first place). Stunts can show up without causing a crit too.

4. Having a crit die; a spin on 2, but throw in another d6 it's role to purely to indicate a potential crit. Keeps it entrely independant of the roll. Completly independant of influencing stunt outcomes in anyway, though can show up with or without stunts.

Options 1, 2 and 4 can also allow for dynamic scalling, in that properties to effect crit potentals can be added/subtracted from magic, training and/or weapon qualities.
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Zapp » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:46 am

First off, I am aware there is a limit on how much information you can extract from a given dice roll. But reading the critical right off the dice is to me integral. So I would like to avoid extra dice in this instance.

Perhaps you can say you get a critical whenever you roll, say, 14+ on the dice themselves. I need to check the math to see how often you then would get a crit without a stunt and vice versa.

Perhaps simpler to take one of the two non-dragon dice and make it the "crit die"; scoring a crit on perhaps a 5 or 6.

Edit: I thought about it and it would be interesting to see the statistics of having one of the non-dragon dice turn up even for a crit to occur (if the attack is a hit at all, of course). That is: 2, 4, 6.

That's 50% of all rolls. But less than that against actual opponents. Roughly speaking the '2' should only help against mooks and not difficult opponents. Another way of saying that is that the crit chance is increased vs weaker opponents (since the '2' is only "helpful" in those cases) which I like. The '4' and the '6' should result in a hit (and thus a crit) much more often. (For exact numbers I would have to consult Troll or somesuch probability calculator).

Hmm...
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Zapp » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:27 am

One other thing I think I better clarify: even if I were to compare your attack roll versus the defense of your foe (such as with the "if you beat the TN by 5 you got a crit" idea), that would be the static Defense rating of said foe.

Comparing two actively rolled values (such as Attack vs Dodge) would vary too wildly IMHO. Meaning that if you roll very badly on your active defense roll (ie Parry or Dodge) that would actively increase the chance of the attacker getting a crit, and that's a bit too rich I think. Specifically: it would mean you made a roll that made things worse than if you didn't roll at all, and I don't like the "gamer's psychology" of that. There simply shouldn't be cases where not having a skill (or focus or whatever DA calls it) turns out to be better than having (and using) it.

I know I could say things like "even if you roll low on your active defense you can't get lower than your passive Defense Rating". But I prefer to make active defense rolls focus on the core question: "Do you match the incoming attack roll to avoid a crit, or do you fail to avoid the crit?"
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Loswaith » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:42 pm

Having one of the other dice indicate crits is a way to go too that I hadn't considered and is not a bad way to go, it would mean needing 3 different dice but for d6s thats usualy not that hard to do for most gamers.

As to the frequency it would be whatever the odds are of that number coming up as a base, but with opposed rolls that can skew matters as any roll can effectivly be a hit (pending on if both attacker and defender roll poorly or well togeather), and for a rough idea can likely be ignored what the other dice will show up because both sides (attacker/defender) have equal chances of what can be rolled, it more comes down to comparitive offencive skill vs defencive skill then.

So typically about 16.67% per side of the crit die to show up is a rough guidline of how often crits will occur.

There will always be the factor of being able to roll worse than if you didnt roll at all because of removing the static value from defence for a roll (though its typically only a factor if it is actually a choice to roll or take the static option when using defence), but with the steap bell curve offered by 3d6, it shouldnt occur too often to realy be of any major issue, though for crit indications any chance may be too much for what you are after too.
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Zapp » Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:33 pm

Thank you for making me realize I need to make it more clear that Defense works as usual - only attacks that actually hit require Parry/Dodge rolls, and then only if the attack is a Crit:

* If you miss the "crit die" is meaningless.
* If you hit, but do not roll a crit, you simply score damage as usual (plus any stunts). No parry/dodge roll. No hit locations. No nothing.

The idea is that in most combat rounds, play continues as quickly and as simply as in regular Dragon Age. But there is now a real risk of getting critically wounded, regardless of your Health total. Only when you do score a crit will the "active defense" come into play; this should be in the minority of attack rounds, and thus take up little time.

Fodder NPCs simply take the crits they get (allowing PCs to feel good about themselves).

Boss-level NPCs and Player Characters have good protection against crits, and for them the actual lethality of combat isn't supposed to go up that much.

The goal, after all, is to make combat feel unsafe and risky while not
1) making combat too complex or slow
2) actually jacking up the lethality rate that much - the psychological risk should ideally be greater than the mathematical risk

:)
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Loswaith » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:02 pm

Ahh ok.. so parry/dodge rolls are more akin to a resistance roll for the crit than a base defence roll.

The threshold (eg. the 5+) could work with that as the threshold for the actual roll for hitting (as an indicator a crit occurs) rather than the opposed critical resistance roll as that only happens once a critical is indicated.
The crit indication method would depend on whether you want it to occur on any hit as more a luck based factor or an individuals skill based factor.
A die (random indicator) to determine if the hit is potentially critical is likely better for a random ocurance while a threshold would likely be better if you want the attackers skill to play a part in indicating criticals.

Once a critical is indicated a flat TN to resist the critical may then be the way to go too rather than an opposed roll (though the opposed roll could be a factor for an individuals skill, but adds extra complexity).
While using a higher TN for more sever crits could also enable reduced severity, for getting close to a target number, rather than negating the critical entirely too. IE. TN 14 for one level reduction 16 for 2 levels of reduction and 18 for 3 levels of critical reduction.

You could also give armour the ability to reduce the TN to resist the critical too (or give bonuses to resist), if you wanted armour to have some effect on critical occurance.

Damage could also be a factor in determining resistance TN or chance of a critical occuring though that would tend to favour higher damage potential weapons.
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Zapp » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:57 am

Loswaith wrote:Ahh ok.. so parry/dodge rolls are more akin to a resistance roll for the crit than a base defence roll.

Yeah... if this subsystem was worked into the game from scratch, the natural order would of course to have ALL attacks be defended by an active roll.

But that would double the amount of dice rolls right there. And so I opted to keep much (some?) of DAs streamlinedness.

Once a critical is indicated a flat TN to resist the critical may then be the way to go too rather than an opposed roll (though the opposed roll could be a factor for an individuals skill, but adds extra complexity).

That's probably right. Thanks.

Otherwise even a lowly genlock could roll three sixes and present the adventurer with a nigh-unavoidable critical.

I'll probably have to devise a (static) "Attacks" value then. Just like Defense is the TN to beat for your attack, Attacks will have to be the TN to beat for your defense.

This keeps randomness down - and as you all know, randomness hurts the PCs (since they're supposed to fight loads of enemies while any given enemy probably is expected to have only one fight in its life, the one where the PCs kill it).

Then the question is if parrying or dodging should be equally hard vs all opponents. Having a static value does offer the opportunity to split the value, and let the "vs Parrying" and "vs Dodging" vary between different kinds of opponents. (You don't want to parry a giant's club. Agile animals are probably much easier to parry than to dodge. Tentacles or chain weapons by their very nature can't easily be parried. And so on) Of course, this is (slightly) more complicated and thus perhaps not worth it. What do you think?

I should reiterate the basic idea: the TN to dodge/parry "monsters" (such as Darkspawn) should be much easier than the TN to dodge/parry the attacks of, say, the adventurers.

In game, the reason is of course that some foes value their lives much more than others. Out of game, this is to ensure PCs aren't randomly killed off again and again by weak monsters -- and to ensure it means something when a player rolls a crit. (If a player played a genlock he would be understandably frustrated when almost all crits against a hero amount to nothing... luckily, catering for the play experience of random Darkspawn is pretty low on the list for a Dragon Age game... ;) )


You could also give armour the ability to reduce the TN to resist the critical too (or give bonuses to resist), if you wanted armour to have some effect on critical occurance.

Well magical armor then. My personal preference is not to force characters into armor - supporting a more varied number of character archetypes.

The idea is sound. I just don't want lightly or unarmoured PCs to miss out on stuff like this.

Damage could also be a factor in determining resistance TN or chance of a critical occuring though that would tend to favour higher damage potential weapons.

Possibly - but I probably will restrict it to NPCs, and the more hard-hitting ones at that. (Think tree-wielding Giants)

Otherwise the game again will steer PCs towards heavy weaponry, and I wish to retain the dagger-wielding sneaky thief archetype. Not dealing lots of damage still means enemies won't collapse from sheer fatigue, so it is still a disadvantage.

Just not a game-changing disadvantage such as "less likely to deal out criticals" :)

Thank you for your valuable comments!
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Re: [HR] Active defense

Postby Zapp » Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:22 am

Coming back to this...

I'm toying with the simpler idea that if you hit your Target Number (i.e. the enemy's Defense) exactly, that's when you score a critical hit. No more dice mumbo jumbo!

The thing is this is more probable for "medium" Tests than "easy" and "hard" ones, since rolling 10 or 11 is the most common result of 3d6. This means that you are more likely to score a crit on an opponent with "decent" Defense. Interpret that as you will; I'm merely noting that for weak critters not-rolling-crits isn't too much of a problem since you're about to win anyway. For boss-level monsters (difficult ones), it might be more of a concern, though.

---

Then I read the Esoterica and the Injuries rules therein. And an idea struck me: why not use the idea about Constitution to key off the Injury's (=Critical's) severity level?

That is, if you recieve a Crit but only for 1 point of damage it will be "minor" and not fatal. If you take 10 points of damage, that very same crit could be fatal.
(I'm using a general assumption that all Ability scores of less than 2 count as 2, for XP costs and now this; so 10 points of damage will be five times your Constitution, even if your score is -1 or whatever)

The thing is, of course, that for the purposes of this fight, all crits are serious. It's the long term debilitating effects you get with more severe crits. (After all, "death" is pretty much the most long term penalty there is...)

You have "random" injuries. I "need" hit locations. But the step up to rolling for location isn't so large...
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