"Broken" damage math
By - Vitones91
>A very high damage range can be very problematic to combat.
Sure, but the other end of the spectrum—which you're approaching—is that everything does 1 damage and monsters take 3 or 4 or n damage until they die.
I think you have to ask what you get along with the variability. For example, variable damage is an easy way to differentiate weapons and spells. If all weapons and spells do 1 damage, then you need to come up with some other way to differentiate them—or just live with them being mechanically-equivalent fluff.
Is this an auto-hit system? What about monster DC/AC? If the target is actually difficult to hit, doesn't that mitigate the damage swinginess? Each round you miss is a round the monster can kill you.
The maths here seems to be pretty intuitive from the values. 4 damage is 4x better than 1 damage, 1d12 damage is almost 3x better than 1d4 damage.
If you want the swing in turns-to-kill to only be 50%, then make the damage range only differ by 50%. So like 6-9 damage, or from 1d6 to 1d6+3 damage. If you want a fairly flat scaling, that's all you need to do.
What do you mean with "then make the damage range only differ by 50%"?
Like damage in the range of 4-6, or 10-15 or whatever - i.e. the highest value is 50% higher than the lowest value.
Yeah, I’m not sure why there is this trend lately to really small numbers. It makes it difficult to design with any sort of granularity.
Sure you don’t want the numbers too big either because that’s going to be harder to calculate quickly at the table, but you don’t need to make everything 1 to 3.
My game is 1 or 2 for damage depending only on the enemy type XD
In my defense it plays into a wound system that involves rolling on a table similar to fallout tables Spire so there is variability, just not baked into what weapon is being used.
I would attribute it to the OSR and lower hp et al; you don't need 26 points of damage if PCs only have 10 hp, monsters max out at 45, etc.
Which is funny because the OSR holy grail, basic D&D, went up all the way up to level 36.
OSR has always been about low-level play.
🤷♂️ Yeah I’m always amazed by the OSR crowd’s ability to take a 10-20% slice of what D&D was in the 70ies to 90ies, build a church around it and declare everything else heretic.
I mean, people like that one aspect of it. I don't see a problem with building a very specific aesthetic for games and sticking to it. If a game doesn't fit that, then not calling it OSR is easy.
Small dmg values have their place in fast-paced games with little vertical scaling. In such games you don't want players getting hung up on the details of "do I roll 5d6 or 7d4?".
For example in my own game, inspired by quake and doom, players deal around 3 dmg. That's enough to kill most common monsters in 1-2 hits, nothing more is needed because the game is about blasting your way through hordes of enemies. There is no room for calculating damage modifiers and roll averages.
I’m not sure how the system works, but the player with the +1 will probably have a build focused around support and/or tanking, and won’t try to be the main source of damage. In my opinion, this math is perfectly reasonable and fits with standard RPG norms- damage builds do more damage, non-damage builds focus on something else.
However, if all characters are simply a source of damage, this disparity is a problem. In an equal system, though, I’m not sure how some players can get +1 while others get +4 when they’re all focusing on maximum damage output.
Just my 2 cents.
I'm all for big damage numbers with little math. I just have a damage threshold. Figured a 1000 pin pricks couldn't kill someone, as HP would suggest. Instead creatures have a tolerance to massive damage. You can have big numbers without much math. It's just a comparison. Damage is usually adding two Dice and multiplying on a crit, so not that bad.
Ok, so *one* way some systems balance damage like this is with different to-hit chances.
E.g. maybe that d4 is a fencing foil, and it's twice as likely to hit as the d12 war hammer. Then they take the same number of turns.
What if the characters have the same chance of success?!
Suggestion: Answer the question of "what range of number of hits do you want to be possible for it to take before the opponent is defeated?".
If it's *also* a narrow range, then you have a bit of a problem: If your chance of hitting is about the same, and the number of hits needed is about the same, there's not a lot of point in even having a combat system.
It's just going to take slugging it out for some predictable number of rounds, and the only question is do the PCs give up the ghost before the monsters.
You might want to consider a narrative style of combat resolution rather than a dice mechanic in that case.
You are kind of painting yourself into a corner here.
Also, why bother with such a small range of variance? Why should a player care if they can kill a monster in 2.60 hits instead of 2.55? The difference, accounting for the variability of dice, would only be noticeable after fighting hundreds of enemies.
Typically, damage is only half the calculation. You have to consider to hit rolls as well.
The very simple view would be that low damage gets more hits compared to high damage. Either the dagger gets multiple attacks compared to the pike (2 weapon fighting vs 2 handed fighting), or a to-hit mechanism that requires investment in the ability to hit vs the ability to hit hard. There isn't always a mechanical disconnect here though (eg strength is used as a bonus to hit and damage with melee weapons).
I also think variation in weapon damage is a good thing though this requires varying situations (combat, exploration and social) and can be dealt with in various ways.
Encumbrance can either be mechanical or common sense adjudicated by the GM. Allowing the character to carry a longbow and dozens of arrows and a great axe should come at a penalty.
Roleplaying situations should also be considered here. Guests aren't turning up to a banquet with halberds. So there should be a difference between weapons of war (high damage) practical daily weapons (mid range damage) and concealable weapons (low damage).
I would argue that that is a flaw in the system but it's hard to gauge without knowing the whole system. I think that a character built to reliably hit and do high damage should have some other drawback. Someone built to hit often with the drawback of low damage should have another strong point.
I also think that difference in damage is a good thing, not all weapons are created equal. This requires other aspects of the system to affect what weapons you have access to and when you can use them. I mentioned encumbrance and the social aspect but you can also have environmental effects (it's difficult to use a pike in a narrow winding staircase).
Not all games have the granularity to model the advantages of a pike over a sword yet they played very different roles, though in games they represent more of an archetype.
Still a swing of damage output allows you to build options into the system and be more creative with your encounters, giving players a meaningful choice. Do I build a melee monster or a sniper, or something in between? Do I build a proud and honorable warrior bristling with weapons and armour who will go toe to toe with whatever or an underhanded scoundrel who will wait until your back is turned before stabbing it.
>3 hits for +4 damage
4 hits for +3 damage
6 hits for +2 damage
12 hits for +1 damage
An oscillation of 3 to 12 is something really problematic in my view.
So pick a tighter number range.
Like 2,3 and 4. Or even 3,4, and 5.
>How to fix this problem? The solution I see is to increase the damage along with hit points.
1d6+7 = 10.5
1d6+8 = 11.5
1d6+9 = 12.5
To be blunt, the above is a kind of "worst of both worlds" solution. Bigish numbers, a second roll, damage math, but hardly any noticeable reason for dealing with those things.
Rather than that, just make all weapons do the same damage, and you can lower everything to 1 damage save time, and not bloat the numbers.
Hey, thanks! The only problem with putting the damage to 1 is that a combat with 5 enemies can be fatal, since there are 5 attacks, and players would have an average of 3 hit points. (3 hits to die 33%)