Saturday, December 28, 2013

Combat Prowess and Critical Hits

I have this idea. It involves modelling an increasing fighting capacity beyond the improvements on the "to hit" matrix and improving hit points. I am calling it Combat Prowess. It also goes fist-in-glove with a basic critical hit system. In a nutshell, a critical hit is basically scored on a to-hit roll of a natural "20'. In this case the attack does maximum damage. The Combat Prowess options to follow improve on this.

Combat Prowess
Essentially, Combat Prowess is a pool of points that may be spent to modify attacks in various ways. The options available are limited by level, as is the number of times they may be used in a given turn. The options are:

Most of them are pretty self-explanatory. It is worth noting that any points used apply to only one attack in a given round. That is not to say that points may not be spent on more than one attack, however. So, if you spend 1 point for an additional attack, giving you 2 attacks, you may spend one point on each attack for a +1 to-hit on each. In this case, you would be using a total Prowess of 3 points.
Effect C,  -1 enemy "to hit", applies to a single enemy, but it does apply to all attacks from that enemy.
Effect D, +1 to critical range, improves the critical range. +1 improves the critical range to 19-20, etc. A critical hit will be indicated by any natural roll within the range.
Effect E, Additional attack, grants the combatant an additional attack. Additional attacks are not modified by Prowess unless points are allocated specifically for them.
Effect F, +1d6 on a critical hit, allows an additional d6 to be rolled and added to the damage total in the event of a critical hit. Note that Prowess must be allocated for this effect before the attack is rolled, so it is a bit of a gamble, though the bet may be hedged by also allocating Prowess to Effect D.
Effect G, +1 Initiative, is added as a general bonus in group initiatives. That is, all bonuses from all characters are added together, then divided by the number of characters to arrive at an average Initiative bonus. Of course, in an Individual Initiative situation, it is added directly and unmodified.

Prowess is gained differently for each class. The following table illustrates when each class gains points, which effects they are eligible to employ, and how many points may be allocated to a given effect each turn.

* The number of times a letter appears indicates the number of points that may be allocated to that effect in a given turn. For example, a 7th level fighter has 4 Prowess points, and access to effects B, C, and E. In any given turn he may spend 2 points on A, 4 points on B, 2 points on C, 2 points on D, or any combination not exceeding the total of 4 points.

I hope this isn't too confusing. It is one of those things where I know what I mean by all of it, but it isn't that easy to communicate. My goals here are twofold:

  • Higher level fighters should be rightly feared. When a party goes into a brawl with a creature with 6 HD and a d4/d4/2d6 attack routine they are rightly fearful. So, too, should someone be when facing a 6th level fighter.
  • I want players of fighter types to have some tactical options during combat. Even though fighters are my favorite class to play, it can turn to drudgery when a drawn out combat turns into a monotonous succession of nothing but "to hit" and damage rolls. To sit quietly waiting for the DM to shift his attention to you and your "turn" is over in all of three seconds is not very satisfying. It often leaves me feeling a bit powerless and at the mercy of the dice.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that I have no group, so these ideas are untested. I'm not a number-cruncher, I eye-ball these sorts of things and just do what "feels" right to me. As always, I welcome comments and feedback, especially from the mathematically inclined, who may have some insights into how these bonuses feather in with the "to hit" matrices and anticipated damage outputs, in the RAW.


  1. A +1 to hit will only affect the outcome of the roll (i.e. turning a miss into a hit) one time out of 20 or 5% of the time. Since a high level fighter will only have 5 or so prowess points, odds are he'll spend them all and get nothing out of them. Same is true with +1 AC.

    I think you need to boost these number to a more significant value, like +4.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      I tried to eyeball the scale of the +1 "to hit" and +1 damage effects against the percentile strength bonuses, which max out at +3/+6. An 8th level fighter has 5 points and can spend up to 3 of the on "to hit" bonuses. I don't want this ability to come to dominate everything in combat. I just don't like the idea of fighter players having so few options to "play" with.

    2. I'm sorry, I misread the rules. I thought the points were per day not per rounds.

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  3. I respect your ideas and your blog, so I don't want to be labeled as some sort of curmudgeonly troll. But I just think it's just too complicated. :) At bottom one has to ask the philosophical question: why do you need to add choices about HOW you progress in levels? It's not merely about simplicity versus complexity (although that's a factor). The game should be about choice, but at some point adding more choices devalues the importance of the already existing choices or elements, if that makes sense. So, for example, if you have a magic item that does one of the above things, the fact that you can select it anyway diminishes the specialness or value of the item. Maybe that's not the best example, but the point stands. At the end of the road you end up with the characters of 4e, who aren't anything in particular (though they may be called one thing or another), but are rather just a list of bonuses and abilities. Now, for certain games that might be okay (I'm thinking of Call of Cthulhu) but I don't think that's the strength of OD&D. Take this with a grain of salt. I prefer not even to use the enhanced ability bonuses and penalties of Greyhawk. :) :)

    1. Thank you for the kind words and honest critique of my idea. Oddly enough, your reasons for not liking are some of the motivations for my wanting to do it in the first place.

      " . . . if you have a magic item that does one of the above things . . . "
      I don't want fighters (especially) to be dependent on magic items. While I love the rules for intelligent swords, I don't like it when they are the fighter's only THING, which means that if he is without one, his player is SOL. As a DM I feel limited by this, because it pretty much forces me to include magic swords at some point, likely early, in the campaign. (Not that I wouldn't anyway, I just chafe at being so compelled to do so).

      " . . . who aren't anything in particular (though they may be called one thing or another), but are rather just a list of bonuses and abilities . . . "
      I feel like fighters are already like that in OD&D. The other classes have options each round in combat, based on their class abilities. Magic-users have spells to choose from, same with clerics, thieves can choose to slink around looking for an exposed back to stab. Fighters attack. Over and over.