In my last Design Journal entry for Heroes of Legend I talked about mechanics for combat. I’m going to continue on that train of thought here.
In an article I wrote some time ago about general design concepts for tabletop RPGs I talked about the nature of hit points and the idea that you could create a system wherein all attacks reduced a character’s hit points by exactly 1. You can read my arguments about the merits of this idea in the article here. One of the reasons I like this idea is because in games where you have variable weapon damage it can sometimes be frustrating to roll a “hit” and then roll a dismal amount of damage. The concept of “1 hit = 1 hit point” takes away that possibility and makes damage consistent every time you hit.
However, right now I’m thinking about doing sort of the opposite with HoL by removing any roll to see if you hit with an attack and instead just having you roll to see how much damage you do. The reason for this is because I think people find attacking and missing annoying and uninteresting. I think people would be much more willing to accept rolling a low amount of damage if their hitting the target was automatic. Conceptually, this can make sense with the way I’ll be making combat in HoL a bit more abstracted than in some games. If a single attack action actually represents a few quick blows with your weapon instead of a single swing of your sword, it seems reasonable to assume that at least one of those blows would connect. The damage roll just tells you how many of your blows connected, and with how much force.
What will these variable damage rolls look like? Well, for melee weapons I think I’ll divide all weapons into three categories: light, medium and heavy weapons. As a general rule, light weapons will deal 1d4 damage, medium weapons will deal 1d8 damage, and heavy weapons will deal 1d12 damage. For ranged weapons there will only be two categories, light and heavy weapons, with weapons in each category dealing 1d6 damage and 1d10 damage respectively. Magical attacks might deal damage along the whole range of die sizes depending on the specific power being used.
Of course, with this basic scheme players will always gravitate towards heavy weapons, which I don’t really want to be the case. To balance this out will be the critical hit mechanic. If you roll the highest possible result on your weapon’s damage die then you score a critical hit and get some extra benefit to your attack. Because dice with fewer sides have a better chance of rolling their highest possible value, you’ll score a critical hit more often with light weapons than with heavy weapons. Essentially, light weapons are more likely to score a critical hit, while heavy weapons have a higher potential damage output. Now, which category of weapon you choose has more to do with your personal preference and play style than with any clear-cut advantage. On a related note: the effects of a critical hit could depend on the specific weapon being used, which would be a fun way to create differences between weapons in the same category.
So, what do you think of automatic hits with variable weapon damage? I’d love to get your feedback on this project. Share your thoughts in the comments.