Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Called Shot Mechanic

Problem: in most kinds of D&D, the cooler the stunt you made up, the less practical it is to try to do it.

At least playing by the book.

Like:

"I want to cut the chain in mid-air so the morningstar ball goes flying"

"Ok, that's minus 2 for a called shot..ok, roll..."

______

Solution:

Naturally if you roll a natural 20 you do whatever awesome extra cool thing you were thinking you'd do, so...

Here's the deal: if you want to do something real specific--like hit the orc's torch and knock it on the floor, you can if you roll a crit. You can also extend your crit range as much as your heart desires: natural 19-20, 18-20, 16-20, all the way up to 11-20. Your choice.

The only catch is you then have to extend your fumble range from one by the same amount.

So you really want to knock the Necronomicon out of the cultist's hand? No problem, you want it on a 15-20? Ok. But on a 1-6 you trip and accidentally stab the baby he was about to sacrifice. Or yourself. Or your dad. Or whatever your DM's cruel little heart devises.

34 comments:

Cole said...

i think they key would be to make the fumble a cruelly ironic inversion of the desired effect

Jez said...

yeah nice; players setting the risk is always great.

Michael Moscrip said...

I like it. Also agreed that the fumble would have to be something really bad.

Jez said...

Do you let the DM, the fumbler, the rest of the players, or some random table/deck of cards choose the fumble result?

liza said...

Yeah, I'ts what we do in our hacked version of d20: we call it "betting" and "raising the stakes" and is a hell of fun.

TOILET WORLD! said...

think I'll totally use this if I ever run some D&d hack

Gregor Vuga said...

I was planning to do pretty much the same except with a penalty to the roll, but raising the fumble chance definitely sounds better.

Mark Harris said...

I like it. Makes perfect sense that the more you stretch yourself to try and do something the more chance of screwing it up big time.
And it means either way something suitably dramatic happens! win-win

Simon Forster said...

I used something like this in my last campaign, before they all died at the hands of ghouls (or should that be claws?).

If they rolled a natural 20, the rollee could say something awesome happened (I even let them kill zombies with head shots); but, a natural 1 means the opponent gets to choose what mishap occurs. It worked really well.

Now I'm using ACKS, I'm considering allowing the 'special attack' option to allow such things: -4 to hit, save vs paralyse to avoid.

Mike Monaco said...

The problem from a player's perspective will be: a really skilled swordsman or whatever (a higher level fighter) is no better at called shots than a clumsy newb -- it's all in the die roll.

mordicai said...

Mike hits the nail on the head; I like this mechanic, but it could do with a twist, like, fighting classes getting half their level in "free" crit extension or something?

It reminds me of what I understand of Legend of Five Rings...I haven't played it but they have a system of "Raises," where you can say "I want to do X," & you bid how many successes you think you can roll.

SirAllen said...

Agreed with the two above posters; this is why I don't like critical hits/fumbles. D&D is level based, and the higher level being is effectively penalized.

I do like the idea of multiple successes being required though. That works.

Gene Sollows said...

I think your mechanic is a certainly a fun place to start, then modified on an ad hoc basis. Say the orc is surprised -- you might reduce the fumble chance but keep the crit chance the same.

I could also envision using a to-hit roll, followed by a contested ability check mechanic. Each of those would reward PCs that could hit and have the appropriate ability.

Viktor Haag said...

It also rewards "run in and swing for the moon" type activity, which is cool and all. But I have met players in the past who want to make called shots that are better than bare minimum results that result from *very careful planning*. This is, essentially, the expert sniper who spends all of his time and patience so he can make that head shot, with minimal risk to himself. Ratcheting up the consequences of failure might not be what we want for those kinds of situations...

Glaurung_Quena said...

I'd amend the rule to say that you have to roll a successful attack in order to do any special stuff.

So a low level character who needs to roll a 15 to hit can, at most, have a 25% chance of doing something special (and a 25% chance of suffering an awful mishap, the other 50% being a simple miss). A higher level character who needs an 11 to hit would be able to go for as much as a 50% chance of achieving an awesome result (with a 50% chance of maiming themselves instead).

And perhaps, for high level fighters only, I'd allow them to have a better than 50% chance of an awesome result (so if they normally hit on a roll of 6, then they could have as much as a 75% chance of success) but the disastrous result if they roll a 1-5 would have to be extra horrible to compensate.

Professor P said...

I like this. To address Mike and Mordicai's comments above, I would give fighters an extended critical range as they increase in level. Level 4 fighters crit range = 19-20 and Level 8 fighters crit range = 18-20. Thus, a level 4 fighter could call a shot on 15-20, but would fumble on a 1-5 instead of 1-6.

Michael Moscrip said...

"an extended critical range as they increase in level"

Or maybe just subtract a 3rd (or 4th or whatever) of their level from the fumble end?

Zak S said...

Well of course, this mechanic wouldn't replace other situational modifiers, that would be stupid.

You spend a whole round aiming, you get a different kind of bonus, naturally.

BigFella said...

Or you could just have their level be the limit of how much they could adjust the crit range. I guess that means it'd even out at 9th level (11-20 = crit success, 1-20 = crit fail, this is assuming that at 1st level they're adjusting the range by 1).

Then again, you could have the crit success range push into the crit fail range past level 10 (i.e. a 15th level character could have crit success between 6-20 and crit fail of 1-5. Call it the reward of having a high level.) Thus a lvl 20 character could call for an awesome full dice of crit success (probably with a 1 still counting as a fail, otherwise why roll the dice at all?)

All my blathering aside, I like this rule a lot, and will probably incorporate it in play next chance I get.

Danny Peck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danny Peck said...

I also love the sound of this rule, but definitely understand where some of these guys are coming from. Here's my modified version.

Fancy Maneuver(tm) Rules:

-You can increase your Crit range by an amount up to your level.(Max 9 aka Name Level)

-Fighting Men/Warriors/Fighters only have half(rounded up) of the amount added to their fumble range.

-The Fancy Maneuver only occurs if the number rolled would normally be a hit.

Example: A Level 4 Fighting Man could attempt to do a Fancy Maneuver by betting up to 4. Thus they succeed on a crit of 15-20 and fumble on a roll of 1-3. The fumble chance for anyone else would be 1-5 at the same level.

There's probably some failing to this that I'm completely missing, but it works for me, since Fighters are supposed to be particularly exceptional at fighting. It's also easier for my players and me to handle mentally since it's just adding and halving.

Lum said...

This is very similar:

simple stunts

but, it allows for higher level fighters to be more likely to succeed. The risk is still there without having to fiddle with the math.

David said...

Yup, I've been having similar ideas let people do something cool if they roll a crit, not have to declare it and adjudicate the penalty or whatever before they even roll, never thought about extending the fumble range as well, cool idea that...

Callan S. said...

Kinda depends on how detrimental that fumble is? A GM who is "a fan of the PC's" would seem likely to ask alot less than they'd give.

Particularly if it's a 'win the entire battle' kind of move. So, does the fumble become a 'lose the entire battle' move, and would other players dig losing to someone elses roll? Or does it become less than losing the entire battle and so a 'hey, do stuff, it's on the house!', making rolling kinda moot?

Zak S said...

As with so many things, it depends on the GM.

I don't have to worry about it, since every GM i play with is awesome.

If your GM is not awesome, trouble may ensue.

richard said...

I used to do something similar but less coherent. This is better. Thank you.

Also, I just did something rude and posted the off-the-cuff psionics system you wrote a couple of weeks ago, without asking you first. I did credit you, though. Is that OK? If not I'll take it down forthwith.

Brendan said...

Hey, thanks for the mention!

For people who don't like to click through, this is how my system works: stunt succeeds on a hit, but any miss counts as a fumble.

Thus, characters get better at stunts as they increase in attack bonus just as they get better at standard combat.

Brendan said...

The obvious thing to do here is make the fumble about as anti-awesome as the stunt would be awesome (perhaps slanted slightly in the PC's favor; I don't want players to never attempt decapitations, for example).

WPTunes said...

Used this in my 4E Dark Sun game today for arena combat. Awesome. It provoked actual flavor in describing combat and added some real fun on both the success and fail side. Thanks!

Zak S said...

excellent.

LeThink Tank said...

Omg Omg Omg Omg Omg Omg Omg Omg Omg! This is awesome! I've been wondering how to balance called attacks like this! I have an open crit mechanic I'm running with right now, but for extending the crit while also opening up failure is a very tasty twist!

Well played sir. Well played indeed.

Callan S. said...

I think I'd be inclined to use a variant with a set amount of self inflicted damage (say 5 points, or 2D6 or such).

That way the judgement your making is conversely, how much potential advantage should the risk of 5 self damage gain you? Or maybe players could set the amount of self damage themselves, even.

Otherwise, by my totally subjective experience, the more a mechanic requires an awesome GM, the more that mechanic isn't actually adding to play and is instead riding on the coat tails of the afore mentioned awesome GM. An awesome GM can make any rule, no matter how bad, work well. But its kind of a waste of an awesome GM to do that.

Zak S said...

I assume an awesome GM. Or at least one able to handle this mechanic. Otherwise, I don't play and don't know why anyone else would.

It is not a waste because, assuming that GM is good, this mechanic is useful because it puts and interesting choice in the _player's_ hands.

The player knows and trusts the GM will balance the risk appropriately and if s/he does not then s/he should not play with that person ever and we all regress to the brainless assume-bad-GMing-game-design-ethos which leads to the most boring game designs.

Callan S. said...

Any mechanic where only the GM can fail in using it is obviously going to be an awesome mechanic. It's absolved itself of all capacity for fault.