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).
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