Is it time for a defensive roll?

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I had a discussion with another long time player the other night about why the game doesn't include a defensive roll.

Think about it. We roll for an attack because there's some element of "chance" in how the attack comes off. Then, we roll for damage, because again there's an element of chance in how much damage a weapon might do.

Why is it then that when we defend, there's no chance involved? Yes, armor doesn't change, but we're basically saying that our Dex bonus and base armor (10) allow us to make the same level of defensive maneuver EVERY time. But for attacks, it's always random. Seems a little against logic.

Wouldn't it make more sense to have a base defense level in the same way we have a base attack level, and this level would advance as the character advances (the same way an attack does).

We have opposed rolls for skill checks, why not attacks? Doesn't it make sense that a defensive manuver might get flubbed up in the same way an attack might?

I know, I know, this is adding more rolls/calculations to the game, but if we're really looking to "fix" and "enhance" the game, it seems more realistic that if attacking and damaging have some chance associated, then defense should too.

This would give a better chance of hitting something very powerful with some luck and vice versa for the little Kobold that might roll a 20 on defense and manage to survive a sure kill.

Just a thought.
While it would make the range of "hittable" creatures wider. I think this would come at a tradeoff in slower play from all the rolls. I know that I, as a GM wouldn't be looking forward to rolling every single attack..whether a player is making it or not.

I personally doubt the tradeoff would be worth it.
I'm not totally familiar with Star Wars Saga myself, but in that game (which has influenced 4E) there is a Defense roll you make or something. Then your "AC" would be a dynamic point range rather than staying static.

Your wish will come true, dadocollin
I'm not totally familiar with Star Wars Saga myself, but in that game (which has influenced 4E) there is a Defense roll you make or something. Then your "AC" would be a dynamic point range rather than staying static.

Your wish will come true, dadocollin

Your SAGA defenses (Reflex, Willpower, and Fortitude) are all static numbers that aggressors act to beat.
I had a discussion with another long time player the other night about why the game doesn't include a defensive roll.

Think about it. We roll for an attack because there's some element of "chance" in how the attack comes off. Then, we roll for damage, because again there's an element of chance in how much damage a weapon might do.

Why is it then that when we defend, there's no chance involved? Yes, armor doesn't change, but we're basically saying that our Dex bonus and base armor (10) allow us to make the same level of defensive maneuver EVERY time. But for attacks, it's always random. Seems a little against logic.

Wouldn't it make more sense to have a base defense level in the same way we have a base attack level, and this level would advance as the character advances (the same way an attack does).

We have opposed rolls for skill checks, why not attacks? Doesn't it make sense that a defensive manuver might get flubbed up in the same way an attack might?

I know, I know, this is adding more rolls/calculations to the game, but if we're really looking to "fix" and "enhance" the game, it seems more realistic that if attacking and damaging have some chance associated, then defense should too.

This would give a better chance of hitting something very powerful with some luck and vice versa for the little Kobold that might roll a 20 on defense and manage to survive a sure kill.

Just a thought.

The concept of defensive rolls exists in other games. If you look at the math, its only effect is to convert the chance of success from a linear scale into a bell curve.

The advantage of a linear system is ease of understanding and consistent effect from modifiers.

Opposed d20 rolls is functionally identical to the attacker rolling 2d20 declaring success if the result is over 21.

The advantage of having the attacker roll all of the dice is speed of play.
There are indeed defensive rolls, but only against special attacks like trip, disarm, grapple, sunder, bull rush and overrun. They are called opposite checks, but conceptually they work as defensive rolls.

A simple attack is IMHO too ordinary and way too frequent (although the number of attack per round may become very much less than in 3e...) to make it interesting to roll defensively.

It could be an interesting special ability or feat tho.
I guess the main point I'm trying to make is that an attack (attack roll and damage roll combined) is very random regarding whether it will hit and how much damage it does (to a lesser extent).

The defense of a character is set in stone . . . like you're literally attacking a stone. I guess you could argue an attack roll is taking into account the randomness of the defensive maneuver as well as the attack, and the bonus from Dex or whatever is affecting this roll in the same way an attack bonus is, but you're essentially putting each roll in the hands of the attacker then.

I can certainly understand how this makes the encounter longer (although much of what they're adding/changing seems to be making encounters longer). I just hope they really look at the current rules instead of just changing them to something different for the sake of something different, and think about realism in an encounter.

For example, that dragon encounter, with the dragon having several actions in a round, seems like they're stretching reality and logic.
You don't roll Defenses in most "simulations", generally, because Defense isn't an action, it's a state. You're always dodging around and trying to avoid getting hit. Your AC reflects how successful you are at that. It's not an inherent action that you can decide to do or not do, and a significant portion of your attention is already devoted to defending.

So, you can look at like this; you're always taking a full Defensive Action every round unless the regular Action you take precludes it. That Defensive Action sets your passive defense because you're constantly moving with a certain level of skill and precision, which is reflected by a static number.
I had a discussion with another long time player the other night about why the game doesn't include a defensive roll.

Think about it. We roll for an attack because there's some element of "chance" in how the attack comes off. Then, we roll for damage, because again there's an element of chance in how much damage a weapon might do.

Why is it then that when we defend, there's no chance involved? Yes, armor doesn't change, but we're basically saying that our Dex bonus and base armor (10) allow us to make the same level of defensive maneuver EVERY time. But for attacks, it's always random. Seems a little against logic.

Wouldn't it make more sense to have a base defense level in the same way we have a base attack level, and this level would advance as the character advances (the same way an attack does).

We have opposed rolls for skill checks, why not attacks? Doesn't it make sense that a defensive manuver might get flubbed up in the same way an attack might?

I know, I know, this is adding more rolls/calculations to the game, but if we're really looking to "fix" and "enhance" the game, it seems more realistic that if attacking and damaging have some chance associated, then defense should too.

This would give a better chance of hitting something very powerful with some luck and vice versa for the little Kobold that might roll a 20 on defense and manage to survive a sure kill.

Just a thought.

Do as my DM does and houserule it in.
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Anytime I happen across this sort of topic, I try to respond.

A few extra rolls in combat are no big deal, so long as the character sheet is well laid out, the players/DM know where to look for applicable modifiers, and the modifiers are already calculated.

This, of course, requires a lot of drudgery under the current rules. In the hypothetical 4E rules, the designers could iron certain issues out.

The sheer number of 'types' of bonuses (enhancement, luck, inherent, deflection, divine, profane, racial, size, etc.) is staggering, not to mention temporary bonuses from spells and effects/items that may or may not stack.

If a system of refining and simplifying these types of bonuses were in place within the structure of the rules, I believe the opposed rolls of Defense vs. Attack would be just dandy.

Without a working system, it would be a nightmare.

I'm running (quite successfully) a game that combines Iron Heroes, Saga, Conan, and standard D&D with some house rules that works pretty well for us, though as the DM and creator of these rules, the work on my part was taxing....but the result was smooth.

Basically these are the core components of my current game:

Skills: Basically the same as SAGA, with a few variations and expansions to the list.

Feats: I'm using an adapted version of the Iron Heroes Feat system.

Classes: Iron Heroes classes, modified with flavor classes as well. Various class features from WotC and a few SAGA talents are included as class features in some classes.

Saving Throws I'm still calling them this out of habit, but they work like SAGA for the most part. 'Saves', however DO NOT include your 'Armor Class'. 'Base Saves' are figured as in SAGA, by class, with the same rules for multi-classed characters. They are level-dependent, as well.

Defense Here's where it get's fun. I took Conan's Dodge and Parry Values and modified them just a bit. Each class has a Base Defense Bonus, determined by class, much like in Conan. This bonus is NOT added to a static 10, but instead is added to a d20 roll that opposes an Attack Roll. Ties go to defender (even on a Natural 1 or 20). A natural 1 on a Defense Roll is an automatic hit; a natural 20 is an automatic miss (assuming no ties). This is also another reason I called the SAGA 'defenses' 'Saves', to avoid confusion.
Parry = Base Parry + Str mod + Size mod + misc mods.
Dodge = Base Dodge + Dex mod + Size mod + misc mods

(I, and my group, like the idea of being able to avoid or parry attacks, representing an active defensive style- and as we also are into Amtgard and the SCA, and various martial arts, we feel this is more realistic.)

Defense Modifiers: Here's the balancing factor. You have only the following types of Defense modifiers: Deflection, Enhancement, Circumstance, Size, and Luck. Deflection modifiers are provided by SHIELDS, some feats, and some spells, and are added TO BOTH YOUR DODGE AND PARRY DEFENSE. Enhancement modifiers are provided by spells or magical abilities. Circumstance and Luck modifiers are self-explanatory, and swallow Luck/Divine/Whatever bonuses.

Flat-Footed: a flat 10 + your Size modifier. dON'T GET CAUGHT FLAT-FOOTED.
.....more to come.......
.....second half.......

Touch: You can only dodge Touch Attacks.

Armor: Armor provides Damage Reduction (not variable, but static). You apply your armor check penalty, if any, on Dodge Defense Rolls.

Weapons: All weapons have an Armor Piercing score (AP) like in Conan. A heavy pick will punch through armor more easily than a wooden club.

Damage: You gain a level-dependent bonus to damage rolls, as in SAGA.

Finesse Fighting: Using Conan's rules for dextrous fighters that wish to bypass DR of armor entirely.

Called Shots: We're using a system from a 3rd party book called the Ultimate Game Designer's Companion, originally used in their low-magic, easy-to-die combat system.

Critical Hits: Natural 20 always confirms, threat ranges remain, must roll to confirm.

Magic: We've made a weird, but fun amalgam of Iron Heroes and standard Vancian magic. Originally it was straight IH, but it wasn't varied enough for the non-combat situations, so we took a cue from the 4E developers' hints of 'per day/per encounter/at will' abilities, and created our own hack system.

Leveling up: Feat every odd level, 2 at first level. You gain a +1 increase in any ONE ability at 2nd level, and every 4 thereafter; you gain a +1 increase to any TWO ability scores at 4th level, and every 4 thereafter (these bonuses cannot be applied to the same ability score at the same time).

Equipment: We do not like the idea of relying on equipment to be an effective hero/adventurer/scoundrel/etc. So magic items are more rare or less flashy.

Races: Fantasy races with the mechanical flair of SAGA.

Combat: SAGA's simplified rules for graplling, etc, and diagonal movement....we kept the 5-foot step, and added a simple (really!) flanking/facing system.

Token Pools: Only some classes, such as Archer, Armiger, and 'Warlord' (IH Hunter + Marshal from Miniatures HB) have token pools from IH. Some feats provide Token Pools.

Condition Track: Yup, we liked it too! *snatch*


So, yeah. one more post............
Last one....


The reason I don't feel Reflex Defense (from SAGA) should be combined with Armor Class is they represent two different things.

Armor Class (Defense in my game) represents your ability, in combat, due to training, skill, talent, and a bit of luck (the d20 roll) to actively defend yourself in combat.

Reflex Saves/Defense represents your ability to 'intinctively' or reactively avoid danger.

I'll even concede to having FOUR 'Defenses', as follows:

Reflex (or Dodge) Defense:(DEX) Ability to avoid damage/danger, actively and reactively.

Parry Defense:(STR) Ability to deflect, in melee, attacks.

Fortitude Defense:(CON) Ability to endure, physically, massive trauma, resist disease/poison, etc...standard stuff.

Will Defense:(WILL) Same as it currently is.

I still feel that these 'Defenses' should be a tallied number that is added to a d20 roll, not a static number.

Conversely, I feel that all Attack Rolls and 'Magic Attack Rolls' should be d20 rolls as well, and not a static DC (as many spells are currently). However this is done is fine- I just vote for simulated combat, even at the expense of a few seconds of rolling on both sides.

Heck, a group of monsters could even make less attack/defense rolls to represent the group. 20 orcs? 5 rolls....each for 4 orcs. This is for those who would see things sped up.

As a medieval combat/sport enthusiast and martial artist myself, I know that you do not have a static 'defense', and that you can change from 'doging' and 'parrying' in combat.

I'm probably going to rant if I don't end this soon, but I hope I got my major thoughts out there.

Also, as everyone knows, these are just my views, take them or leave them, and I do not mean to imply they are right/better. I just feel that opposed rolls in combat, with the proper rules system in place first can (and does from experience....though the magic system is still a bit wonky ) work, and doesn't detract much from play in terms of time expenditure.

-Good Gaming.
OOPS!

I almost forgot...I did NOT throw out size bonuses in my game, I just forgot to add them above- they still work normally. (Though I've been toying with the idea of size modifiers to HP....?)
The defensive roll is built into the system. That's why you start with an AC of 10. Essentially you take 10 with your defense.

If it's that big a deal, just subtract 10 from your AC and roll a d20.

The main reason opposed rolls aren't done is because every extra roll adds time to combat. If you've played roll intensive systems that do attack, defense, hit location and damage rolls you'd know what I'm talking about. The simplicity of combat is one of the things that make DnD what it is.
A straight d20 roll versus a "take 10" defense (all other modifiers aside) creates a 20-point rectangular probability density function (-9 to +10) with a slight advantage (-9 through -1 miss/fail, but 0 through +10 hit/succeed). Also the scale of this range plays nicely with the scale of skill points, ability modifiers, etc. In fact, at high levels, skill and ability modifiers outweigh randomness, which IMHO is as it should be.

Opposed rolls create a 39-point triangular probability density function (-19 to +19, with a peak at zero). You get a range of numbers that varies by 38 points, so the random aspect pretty much overwhelms any contribution made by skill points, attribute modifiers, which is bad.

This is all abstraction anyway. Rolling for defense is just the player's way of feeling like they have some influence on the outcome of being attacked, but in point of fact it is determined by the roll of the die. Who rolls it is irrelevant. Whether the DM rolls, the player rolls, or each roll is irrelevant. Unless they are cheating, who rolls the dice has no effect on the outcome of the rolls.

You might as well just say that the d20 roll represents the interaction of BOTH players, with 20 representing PC success, and 1 representing NPC success. (What we really need are d20's that go from -9 to +10.)

So, when characters attack, their players roll to overcome the "take 10" defense of the NPC (saving the DM from having to roll). When the NPC's attack, the players can roll their defense against a "take 10" attack roll of the NPC (again saving the DM from having to roll).

Either way, it works out identically but gives the player the illusion of having some influence on the outcome and takes some burden off the DM.

Oh, and if you're interested in the statistical theories, click here.
Radazim-
I'm still of the mindset that if opposed skill checks work (i.e. Sense Motive vs. Bluff) with a d20 roll + modifiers, then it will work for Defense (AC) and Attack rolls.

If we lose skill points and gain a SAGA-like skill system, that is level dependent, then a level-dependent Defense (AC) bonus would work the same way, but vary in progression based on class.

Thus the opposed d20 rolls would not be very different from the skill system, just governed by a separate category of rules with the same function.

1d20 + 1/2 Level + 5(if trained) + Misc. Modifiers = Skill Roll

This is opposed by the same formula.

likewise:

1d20 + BAB + Ability mod. + Misc. Modifiers = Attack Roll

This is opposed by: (ties always go to defender)

1d20 + Base Defense Bonus (BDB?) + Ability mod. (Str for Parry, Dex for Dodge) + Misc. Modifiers = Defense Roll

note: A natural 1 on a Defense roll is an automatic hit unless attacker also rolls a 1. A natural 20 on a Defense roll is an automatic miss even if the attacker also rolls a 20. This could be house ruled of course..... (perhaps a natural 20 on an Attack ALWAYS hits, but a natural 20 on Defense doubles your DR or something?)


So, regardless of statistics, bell-curves, percentages, dice theory, etc....., if you go this route, it works the same in practice as the SAGA skill system nearly everyone is so happy about.

As in an earlier post, I would also be okay if 'Dodge' defense and Reflex Save were rolled together, as long as we also keep 'Parry' Defense, thus having 4 'Defenses'- an amalgam of Conan and SAGA....?

Anyway, if you keep a static 10 as the base of your defense, then there is no variation- and from personal experience with medieval combat, there IS a lot of variation.
Also, you really can make the number of attacks in 6 seconds (and more- but it usually reduces their effectiveness- not just to hit, but impact as well....) that is allowed for in D&D....but donning/removing armor takes an insanely longer time......digressing.

So- if you're against opposed rolls from a mathematical standpoint, fine- great......but also be opposed to the current opposed roll skill system (if you aren't already?).

I still think ALL rolls should be opposed when available- Magic roll vs. Save/Defense....Attack v. Defence...Skill vs. Skill....etc. Makes it more dynamic, more involved.

Of course, ARMOR no longer contributes to your 'Defense', but instead provides DR....what the heck is with the Fortitude Defense and Armor in SAGA??? I understand simplicity, but that's just plain silly.

-Good Gaming
As I understand it, opposed rolls are typically more random, but not by much. I don't think it makes a significant difference.
It may not.

Again, just personal preference of mine (and of my gaming group), who also participates in medieval combat and martial arts. Due to such experience of 'real' combat, I believe the opposed rolls are a better simulation of combat.

Also, I wanted to put in my two bits that it is a viable system, and works in play with minimal time loss once everyone gets used to it....and as long as the rules support it.

Now- if you're playing with advanced firearms and whatnot, by all means, use a fixed defense- good luck dodging that....lol.


side note: I should probably also let everyone know that when it comes to gaming, I prefer good role-playing in social encounters and in regards to story elements, but when it comes to combat I prefer the tactical aspect of the game, with all its nuances. Just so everyone knows where I'm coming from, and why I don't prefer simplifying every aspect of the game for 'ease of play: especially for the DM'.
Well, as it doesn't make a huge difference, you can mix and match as you please.

Epic duel? Go for opposed rolls.

Murdering goblins? Try to roll as few dice as possible.

Be a little careful, though. Opposed rolls do increase randomness somewhat.
I agree it increases the randomness a bit- as it should.
A house rule we've been recently using with this system is that NPCs, other than major opponents, have to confirm on a natural 20...unlike PCs, who always crit.
A 20 is still an automatic hit for the NPCs though...

I hadn't thought about not rolling for the mooks, but it could work- I just make one Defense roll per 4 of the same creature, if it ever crops up in numbers of that sort. Area effect/mass-target spells are usually the only time this happens.
Cleave has a max of 8 targets with a non-reach weapon (not including super-feats) so, 8 rolls isn't all that bad.

I've also done this before when a swarm of baddies attacks a PC, make 4 attack rolls for 8 goblins or whatnot, and figure the results accordingly.....this speeds up play sometimes, just as the converse would...and I'm sure many do this in their home games already.
(What we really need are d20's that go from -9 to +10.)

I think they tried that with normal d20s. It was called thac0. ;)
I think they tried that with normal d20s. It was called thac0. ;)

FOUL! FOUL! FOUL DEMON! THAC0 IS THY NAME!

Yeah, let's not revive that monstrosity again... It was hard enough to kill the first time... Now you want to make it some kind of undead creature to haunt us once again... By the Light, I beg you.... NO! NO! NO!

Back on topic when we were still playing 3E we change from the static 10 defense to an opposed roll plus modifiers. Everyone who says that represents real life more adequately is completely correct imho. However, it slows the game down significantly.

So we ended up going back to static 10 and we have stuck with ever since. If your group can handle the extra time spent "in the dice" at the game table then this rule is for you. If you're trying to maintain the streamlined quick game play of the system then stick with the static 10.
Hi All,

As my first post in this forum, I thought I'd choose a topic I have pondered over quite a bit.

I like the idea of Defensive rolls, but like to leave it to the individual player, if you want to just 'take 10' and not roll, fine, for those that want to actively defend, roll a d20 +Armour Rating (Not AC) + Mods and live with the result.

The way I play combat is this though: BAB I call Combat Skill, and however much of it you have, you can assign to Offence/Defence However you want to split it (I thought the need of a Combat Expertise feat to get equal points added to defence for each subtracted from offence was a joke, but if you really want to keep it - do so; or maybe allow it to mean you can utilise all your Combat point for defence - rather than just up to 4 or 5).

I even allow a mode of attack (Make it a Feat if you want) called All Out Attack. When choosing this mode a player must take a full attack action for the round, and can detract his Dex Mod from his AC. and add it to his attacks (Possibly gaining an extra attack as well), but also increasing his own chances of being hit. Essentially, he has thrown caution to the wind and is raining blows down on his opponent as hard and fast as he can. It can be a good opening round move in a fight, or a last minute desperate attempt to drop that opponent before they drop you!

ON another point - dare I touch one of the greatest sacred cows of all? (it is called a d20 system after all!) Personally, I don't like the concept of such extreme randomness as given by a d20, especially when it comes to skills. and suggest using 2d10 (where a 2 is a failure or critical failure).

OK The randomness in combat can be fun, but I find it frustrating that someone that can be fairly highly skilled can still fail almost as often as they succeed - to me, if you are good at something, you are good at it most of the time (we all have our bad days!). It also makes higher DC checks that bit more difficult. Of course the other option, as mentioned by someone previously) is to simply Take 10 on skills more often, but that is removing any element of randomness altogether.

Whew! anyway, after my long first post rave (sorry guys - got carried away there!), I would just like to say that, many of the things we can argue endlessly about all come down to personal choice and how we like to play the game.

What I hope for most out of 4E is a set of core functional rules that ease flow of game play, and have a core of mechanics that can easily be tailored to personal play style, without breaking.

I love 3x because, most of the time, it gives me just that. I only hope 4E can be as big an improvement out of the box as 3x was to 1 and 2E (yes, I have been playing since BEFORE the first Advanced Edition books were even out!!

Cheers,

Ged the Bard
The defensive roll is built into the system. That's why you start with an AC of 10. Essentially you take 10 with your defense.

If it's that big a deal, just subtract 10 from your AC and roll a d20.

The main reason opposed rolls aren't done is because every extra roll adds time to combat. If you've played roll intensive systems that do attack, defense, hit location and damage rolls you'd know what I'm talking about. The simplicity of combat is one of the things that make DnD what it is.

This.

If you want to add another roll to practically every combat turn, be my guest. I don't think it's vital enough to go changing the rules over.
If you really want to do opposed rolls I think the whole d20 thing needs to be looked at. As someone already stated giving both opponents that d20 roll creates a much larger spread of numbers.

I am all for a more realistic combat for the most part, but in general real combat between skilled combatants isn't totally random. The non-opposed rolls are more realistic in that character skill is a larger factor than random luck. Unfortunately in 3.5 AC doesn't scale with level so essentially you never actually become more skilled at defending, just more laden with magic and / or heavy armor.

Regardless of that, if you wanted to add a defender roll, I don't think a d20 is the way to go (d20 system be damned.) Make base AC a 2 + 3d6; giving a wider spread of mid range numbers than a d20 roll gives you, so the basic balance of encounters is less likely to be upset by random luck. Really I think just making AC scale with level is a better option in representing defender skill though.
Unfortunately in 3.5 AC doesn't scale with level so essentially you never actually become more skilled at defending, just more laden with magic and / or heavy armor.

This is perhaps the biggest flaw in the D&D combat system. And that's saying something! In D&D, it takes above average intelligence and special practice to figure out how to defend yourself. Without Combat Expertise, the naked 20th-level fighter has AC 11 or so. He better hope he doesn't run into a mob of angry commoners...
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