Building Something New: Introduction and Damage

I have long been dissatisfied with my home system. Or really, I feel like my system doesn’t actually appeal to players as a toolset, or entice them to explore the mechanics or whatever you want to call them. I feel like the mix of wanting to build something new while also being recognizably D&D is leading to a lot of friction in how the game is designed.

I mean, look at the GLOG. Simplified (and more to the point, simple) and it’s got a casting mechanic that people in this sphere can’t seem to get enough of. Everyone wants to make GLOG wizards, and GLOG classes in general. Meanwhile, a lot of D&D is basically a holdover from when the creators were either playing wargames or trying to adapt their wargames to heroic games using the most obvious, direct path possible. I think there is myriad ways tabletop gaming can be improved that haven’t been explored because the obvious system or solution was also taken as the best.

So for the next few posts, I’ll be posting mechanic ideas that have been bouncing around my head. Fantasyworld problems and Distant Lands also, but I just want to see what mechanics I can come up with, what seems good, and what doesn’t. Hopefully this all ends up in the next “edition” of Fornax, if I think the idea is worth pursuing. Some will be minor, a couple will be major, and at least one is probably transformative. But the point is to get the ideas out there, and get other people thinking about this kind of stuff.

First up: damage. Here’s my idea: damage thresholds. Your damage roll isn’t how much damage you do, at least not directly. Instead, 1-6 on a roll is 1 damage, 7-12 is 2 damage, and so on. Bring down the max health of everything to compensate. The toughest humans shouldn’t have more than 10hp. Incredibly tough monsters may have 20.

What does this accomplish? First, it keeps threats threatening, and does so in a way that immediately communicates the threat. 1 damage is dangerous, always. Getting hit by an attack is always impactful. In the old system, even if you only have 20HP, a giant can throw a boulder the size of a cow, hit you, and deal like 5% of your total health. Blech. Boring.

Second, it regularizes the amount of damage going in and going out. It solves the d12 issue – okay, yeah you could roll a 12, but you could also roll a 1, 2, or 3. In play the huge fucking axe seems better but in reality there are like four lackluster damage rolls, and then six decent ones, and two good ones. Now players won’t be disappointed by crap damage rolls, because 1 damage isn’t crap anymore, and they’ll appreciate the 50-50 chance to deal an extra damage.

This is sort of a dumb trick but it seems like one that’ll increase player satisfaction a lot. Note that average damages relative to the max HP and such remain pretty much unaltered. I didn’t actually thoroughly check this, just did a few quick calculations, and it only starts to really matter at the higher end; the average damage between d6 and d12 doubles in the old system, but only increases by half in the new. But regulating the damage of high dice may be preferable, so it doesn’t bother me.

It can also simplify bookkeeping, despite the apparently needless complication. The majority of NPC d4 and d6 rolls can just be ignored. Some PCs too, but I think I want to put effects on the sides of the damage die.

I’m also realizing that a lot of this makes more sense in the context of the health system I’m thinking about (don’t get hit points vs meat points, actually a fairly well explored mechanic already) so that’ll be the next post.

Also, my sibling posted for the first time in a while, check it out.

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