Saturday, April 13, 2013

Goodbye Damage Dice

Damage dice are totally unnecessary, yet the majority of gaming system has them (or at least some random damage component).

The reason they are illogical is because when you have damage dice in a system you are taking a random component in your effectiveness twice. This places damage dice in the similarly bad philosophical position of taking an ability score modifier or skill bonus twice in the same mechanic. It's illogical, and is unnecessary duplication.

Also it fails to model reality, which is essentially what games try to do. I'm sure many players are familiar with the feeling of scoring a really great hit, exceeding the AC by many points and rolling a 1 for damage. Alternatively when you try and explain combat to non players, and how you roll to hit and then roll damage, sometimes they just balk and say "Ummmm but that doesn't make sense?".  This is because of the dissonance between rolling to hit and then even if you hit really well, or only just hitting, your damage component being unmodified by the whether the hit was good or not.

A better way of modelling weapon damage is to apply them a set amount of damage.

For example:

A shortsword (commonly d6 in d20) we could say has a Damage Score of 3.

A longsword (commonly d8) we could say has a damage score of 4.

D10 = 5
D12 = 6
2d6 = 7
2d8 = 9
2d10 = 10
2d12 = 12

...and so forth.

When you hit a target (by equaling or exceeding their AC) you deal this amount of damage plus 1 point of additional damage for each point you exceeded the targets AC by.

In d20 this would make your damage:

Strength Bonus + Weapon Damage Score + (Attack Roll - Targets AC)

The additional benefit of this system is that whilst big weapons hit much harder on low hits, on a really good hit, small weapons are just as deadly, and this models the capacity a dagger or short sword has to really maim somebody if it gets in a vital spot or through armour.

It also increases the benefit of heavier armour, as it makes you not only harder to hit, but more likely to take less damage (which is kinda cool in d20 because heavy armour is pretty bad considering the penalties).

This would require a bit of hacking to make it work for spells, but you could potentially leave their damage as is, as this does not work for area of effect attacks (or any attack that doesn't roll to hit though you could base the damage off how close to the epicenter of the attack the target is, which is what I'm doing). You could also mess wit the mechanics for Called Shots and the like by giving them extra damage for better hits. I would suggest critical hits double the weapons damage score and the Strength Bonus of the wielder, but not the extra damage points, but this is all up to you.

I am sure their are games out their that have set damage for weapons like this. I'm just young and I haven't read them.

My groups are currently using this set damage with my homebrew system, as well as having hacked it into Rogue Trader. In both it is working super well and has been well received.

Because who doesn't want a Damage 22, Pen 12 inferno pistol?


  1. I did this for a couple of games. But my players like rolling the dice, and I always needed to know the to hit number- no '20!'--"roll for damage!" Sometimes there was that pause when I checked to be sure of the exact to hit number.

    But, if your players like it-why would you play any other way? [Until a better idea comes along, at least.]

  2. But the damage isn't set. The role reflects whether or not the hit is solid. Essentially you're cutting the potential in half and making it less fun and more analytical.

    Why not average the d20 to hit roll as well? It seems just as arbitrary to the game as the damage rolls. And for that matter, do away with all the skill rolls too?

    A roll is vital to the game. Any roll. If it didn't have a roll, then the book would have set a precise damage for each weapon, no more, no less. You're taking an essential part of the game out and saying "here, half half of what you possibly could have". Sure, you could roll really crappy, but that's the risk.

    I find this view of it very clinical and dry.

    1. I certainly don't think that chance should be eliminated from the game. Merely i think that in the circumstances of rolling to hit, and then rolling for damage, we take randomness twice (similar to taking a statistic twice in a check). The alternative of having set damage means one could eliminate this 'double up' of chance if they wanted to. This way a critical hit doesn't have a chance of rolling a double 1 for damage, or a hit by 20+ points rolling 1 for damage. A hit that just hits always just hits, a hit that hits well does more damage, which to at least me, makes sense.

      It's not a change for 'half of what you could have' because (as far as im aware the maths doesn't work out exactly that way) rather it is a chance that reduces some of the randomness to the system.

      Randomness is probably essential part of a D&D like system, but i tend towards a philosophy that whilst required, less randomness (to a point) is desirable. That's my philosophy, and that is why I think that damage dice aren't necessary.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.