Sunday, March 27, 2016

This doesn't have grappling rules, does it?

That was a question from a player, during a game of Into the Odd. They had run out of the Underground and into Bastion, having stolen an Arcanum from two old doddering cultists. They had gone to a local bathhouse and met a contact, Grer, who they knew could move Arcanum, but Grer lowballed them (they felt). Grer said they could always take it over to Laugher, Laugher pays well, but he's crooked and a double-crosser. So to Laugher they went, and almost immediately (after an offer of 45 silver), began shooting Laugher and his two men.

Laugher had Tyrant Rod'd one of the PCs into fleeing, and his men were in turn forced to flee - via stealing said Rod, using a Pain Wire oddity. Laugher got the drop on the remaining PC and their two companions. All were down, but above 0 strength. The last PC came back as Laugher was humming to himself and sharpening a long knife, comatose people slumped about his office.

"Oh, there are grappling rules," I said, "what're you trying to do?"

Well, throw Laugher out the window of his top-floor tenement building. I figured this was just a strength save, rolled up Laugher's strength (14), and watched as the dice said he passed a strength check. He grabbed the window frame to keep himself from falling out, and tried to do this to the PC in turn, who made a strength save as well to stay in the room and alive.

(Laugher went back to stabbing with his knife, won, killed the companions, and sold the PCs into slavery. They awoke shaved, branded, and in a mine. My first TPK - though everyone kept their strength above 0, so no PCs really died.)

This is a real strength of Into the Odd - if you can figure some way to grapple and throw a human NPC (or a reasonably-sized nonhuman) into instant death, you can try - but you're not guaranteed to succeed. Whereas damage is going to happen, against unarmored people, but it's going to take longer. Slow but reliable, faster but chancy. To me they're very well-balanced, different approaches. I don't want combat maneuvers to be 'sweep the leg' or the like, unless that's done the way DCC does it. Warriors (and dwarves!) can sweep the leg and do damage. And at higher levels, the leg is gone.

To me that makes combat feel real, like, really dangerous. When I've had rounds where all players and I whiff, it makes combat droll. I mean, if you're enjoying everyone just missing, that's fine. It just makes me feel like I'm doing something horribly wrong. It should be quick and tense. Whiff rounds take it in the opposite direction.

And then I try to figure out how to take this and stick it in my DCC campaign

Even with the absence of to-hit rolls, I want combat to always be moving somewhere dramatic. Maybe I just need something like Detect Magic's Scary Combat Choreography, or, for DCC, a modification to +Claytonian JP's super-sweet Things Hurt and Armor Soaks houserules. Clay has been running it with the soak roll going on in every round (every round a 1 HD monster rolls a d8 to see how much damage it absorbs). I was thinking of it like soak being your 'not getting hit' points, restorable with an Into the Odd short rest, and your Con being your static HP. Pretty sure a Star Wars RPG has been set up this way.

(I also really like how Clay's rules mean you crit on rolling max damage! No more 2-hp-damage crits.)

The problem might be scaling - how does a 3hd monster in chainmail roll soak? 3d12? Averaging, what, 18? I just don't want soak to become another HP inflation. I'm also leary of computing a constitution score for every monster. Probably some will just have soak, and one hit past that, they are DED. Others will get CON scores and take wounds like the PCs.

Other people who have thought about this: B/X Blackrazor has a good post about auto hits in B/X DnD where armor changes the damage die an attacker rolls.

Necropaxis might've done this in the simplest way with Damage Symmetry. Every miss means the enemy hit. Unlike Clay's rules, this will not Make Daggers Great Again (1/4 chance of a crit!), but it does mean less thought goes into changing things up. Maybe. Or maybe since low-level PCs miss half the time, it makes Everything a Meat Grinder.

For now I'm going to get through level 1 before hacking the DCC combat rules much - I feel like once we got away from a massive 0-level funnel of scrubs, combat has been more interesting. But we'll see.

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