Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rolling for Defense
I hope these buildings can make defense rolls against cannons
There are lots of ways to play D&D, and it's hard to say any one way is "right". Even steadfast traditions can be broken, usually in the form of some kind of alternate ruleset or Unearthed Arcana set.

I recently saw an Unearthed Arcana rule that would allow players to roll for defense. That intrigued me, partially because the first system I played in used that mechanic, but also because it could potentially undercut a growing concern at my table: clutter.

When playing D&D, there's a lot that goes on the table. Playmats, minis, books, character sheets, dice, snacks, computers, etc. Any chance to lower the amount of crap that sits around is good, especially when players have dice lined up on the table and only plan on using 25% of them.

With the Defense Roll mechanic, we could maintain the same number of rolls at the table (2 per attack) while eliminating damage dice - meaning each player would really only need 2d20 at any given time.

Additionally, this gives the players a chance to roll on the enemy's turn, and the DM a chance to roll on the player's turn. And because those rolls can occur simultaneously, it also cuts out the time requirement for damage rolls.

So, how could we implement such a ruleset?

Defense Rolls
Master of defensive maneuvers
The basic roll would be as follows:
Roll bonus = Dexterity Modifier + Armor Bonus + any other modifiers

Which means we'll need a new table to calculate armor bonuses.
  • Padded/Leather Armor: +1
  • Studded Leather Armor: +2
  • Hide Armor: +2, Dex limited to +2
  • Chain Shirt:  +3, Dex limited to +2
  • Scale Mail/Breastplate: +4, Dex limited to +2
  • Half Plate: +5, Dex limited to +2
  • Ring Mail: +4, Negates Dex Modifier
  • Chain mail: +6, Negates Dex Modifier
  • Splint: +7, Negates Dex Modifier
  • Plate: +8, Negates Dex Modifier
  • Shield: +2
The total bonus would be written in the AC section of the character sheet, and when rolling for defense, it could be simply added to a d20.

Another cool feature for this ruleset is the option of gaining advantage or disadvantage on your defense roll. This means an attack and defense roll could have advantage, disadvantage, or one of each. This means gaining the tactical upper hand on your opponent could give you a huge bonus! However, if you're on the receiving end of such a maneuver, your plate armor becomes essentially useless.

I think it would be a cool system to use for duels.

If you couldn't tell by the art I'm using for this article
Anyway, to get back to the clutter issue, we'll also need to get rid of all those other dice at the table. I would do this by simply taking the average damage of each weapon and adding the relevant modifier.

In case you didn't know, or haven't read DMG page 276, here is the average damage for each type of die:
  • d4: 2.5
  • d6: 3.5
  • d8: 4.5
  • d10: 5.5
  • d12: 6.5
  • d20: 10.5

And with that in mind, we can calculate the average damage for each weapon, rounding down of course.
  • Club: 2 damage
  • Dagger: 2 damage
  • Light Hammer: 2 damage
  • Sickle: 2 damage
  • Dart: 2 damage
  • Sling: 2 damage
  • Whip: 2 damage
  • Handaxe: 3 damage
  • Javelin: 3 damage
  • Mace: 3 damage
  • Shortbow: 3 damage
  • Scimitar: 3 damage
  • Shortsword: 3 damage
  • Hand Crossbow: 3 damage
  • Quarterstaff: 3 damage, or 4 damage with two hands
  • Spear: 3 damage, or 4 damage with two hands
  • Trident: 3 damage, or 4 damage with two hands
  • Greatclub: 4 damage
  • Light Crossbow: 4 damage
  • Flail: 4 damage
  • Morningstar: 4 damage
  • Rapier: 4 damage
  • War Pick: 4 damage
  • Longbow: 4 damage
  • Battleaxe: 4 damage, or 5 damage with two hands
  • Longsword: 4 damage, or 5 damage with two hands
  • Warhammer: 4 damage, or 5 damage with two hands
  • Glaive: 5 damage
  • Halberd: 5 damage
  • Pike: 5 damage
  • Heavy Crossbow: 5 damage
  • Greataxe: 6 damage
  • Lance: 6 damage
  • Greatsword: 7 damage
  • Maul: 7 damage

For other damage-dealing effects, such as spells, sneak attacks, and the like, the player will have to calculate the damage beforehand. However, this still saves time at the table! Knowing that a Fireball is 28 damage (with an additional 3.5 damage per higher spell level) is much faster than rolling 8 or more d6s.

Ready to fight offensively, defensively, and seductively
One rule you will likely want to include is that each damage source is rounded separately. A Magic missile does 9 damage (3 per dart), not 10 damage (3d4 + 3). A 5th-level Rogue's sneak attack with a dagger does 12 damage (2 + 10), not 13 damage (2.5 + 10.5). This will let the player simply write a number next to their spells/abilities and not have to worry about rounding half-numbers in the middle of combat.

Now, some players will argue that you're stealing that extra bit of damage from them. Mechanically, this actually doesn't make a huge difference. Hit Points and Damage in 5th Edition scale massively with player level, and a few half-points of damage here and there won't change that.

But the other thing you can add will probably convince your players to accept that loss: critical damage. In this system, a critical hit deals double damage. That means the ability score modifier is counted twice, granting an extra 3-5 points of damage on a crit. That should make up for the small discrepancy.

Also, if a player has the Brutal Critical feature (Barbarian) or the Savage Attacks feature (Half-Orc), they simply upgrade their critical hit modifier from x2 to x3. Yes, that means a 17th-level Half-Orc barbarian has a crit modifier of x6. Like I said, hit points and damage scale in a huge way in 5th edition.

Now, will I actually use this system? Perhaps. I think it would be good for a game involving swashbucklers, duelists, or sword masters, as getting that coveted attack with advantage while the enemy has disadvantage combo would mean the end of the fight.

However, I definitely will use it with larger groups, as the lack of damage rolls, simultaneous rolling, and lower levels of clutter would be ideal for such a group.

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment