Thursday, February 16, 2012, 7:25 PM
Sometimes I read about daily/martial encounter powers, and often the argument "It's immersion breaking!" or the more specific "It's not realistic!" comes up:
"If a fighter can do that, why can't he do that ALL THE TIME?"
The first point is fairly easy to argue:
1) narrative, this is when the spotlight shines on you. When Conan swipes off the giant snake's head in a single blow, Robert E. Howard was using his PC's Daily. It's the PC using his own token of agency to affect his fantasy world.
2) 'realism'. I don't really want to use that word for Fantasy Dragon Dungeoning... but crazy athletic feats can get pretty tiring. Hitting a monster 9x harder than you normally can is one of those tiring things.
When arguing with someone and trying to change their mind though, it's good to have proof, so this thread is about some 'proof'. I remember reading something about how human muscles use 3 energy sources, the time it needs to recharge for peak performance, etc. (I'm a mixed martial arts enthusiast and was looking at training routines)
So I did a little research and found it again. It's about the 3 kinds of energy our muscles draw from and their limitations.
Highlights on the parts relevant to the topic.
Three systems produce energy in the human body, one aerobic and two anaerobic. They are:
· ATP/CP system - anaerobic.
· Lactic acid (LA) system - anaerobic.
· O2 system - aerobic.
The ATP/CP system.
It is anaerobic because whilst using it, oxygen is not supplied from the air breathed in. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a compound necessary for muscular contraction. The compound is stored in the muscles and a very quick contraction, lasting only a fraction of a second uses it all. For an exercise lasting longer than this, another compound called creatine phosphate (CP) is used. CP can provide a muscle with virtually instant energy without the need for oxygen. It is the muscle's emergency system, but it is stored in only very small amounts and so is depleted very quickly.
In an untrained person ATP/CP is exhausted in about 8 seconds. Through proper training it can be made to last only a few more seconds. Anything requiring short bursts of energy at maximum intensity relies heavily on this system. (like an encounter or daily power)
It takes about three minutes of complete rest to get a fairly full restoration of ATP (so, once per encounter). Proper training to maximize ATP/CP would be short bursts of 15 seconds or less at maximum intensity, with rest periods between short bursts of three minutes or more.
2. The lactic acid system (or the anaerobic lactic system) - LA system.
This system can also supply the muscle with energy in the absence of oxygen. But it uses glycogen and because of the lack of oxygen, lactic acid is formed. Intense activity of a muscle causes this system to operate at a high level until eventually the build up of lactic acid inhibits the muscles action and causes it to slow down. The blood system removes lactic acid to the liver where it is detoxified. During a recovery period the muscle regains its ability to function. The period of time that the muscle can support this type of effort is up to two minutes. An example of an activity of the intensity and duration that this system works under would be a 400 m sprint (or perhaps an Encounter with a dragon)
3. The aerobic system (O2 system).
This system utilizes breathed in oxygen in the muscle and thus interacts with the cardio respiratory system. The presence of oxygen in the muscle allows stored foodstuffs (mainly glycogen but also protein or fat for very long duration exercise) to be transformed into muscle energy by a series of reactions which avoid the production of lactic acid. The O2 process can therefore continue for as long as the energy demands of the muscle are within the capabilities of the oxygen delivery system and the food store. Lactic acid may well have been built up in previous work bouts because the LA system may have been used first. But in this case transferring from the LA system to the O2 system will allow the lactic acid to somewhat dissipate.
This can be used to explain the difference between an At-Will and Encounter power.
So we could say a 100meter dasher is somebody with a movement Encounter/Daily power
a 400meter runner is someone who has an at-will movement enhancing power
a marathon runner has skill training Endurance or some other power that enhances daily travel limits.
As for dailies, well note that even with a 3 minute rest you don't get absolutely 100% restored, nor is strain removed. Athletes have some pretty intense, lengthy recovery processes after games like massages and ice baths. The body can only take so much strain, and will fail when pushed too far (For example, power lifters have been documented crapping out their intestines when their bodies can't take the strain of the weights they're trying to lift). There is also mental fatigue to consider.
Ask any physical trainer though, and they'll agree the important part of recovery is to get a good night's rest.
*(In something as stressful as combat sports, it's often months before the fighter's next match to make sure they're close to peak performance)
I'm not saying '4e is completely super realistic', but there is some real-world relevance to how it goes about things. If it helps in the immersion of your fantasy dragon murder-looting, then enjoy.
Sunday, February 5, 2012, 10:07 PM
I believe Save or Die's intention is to create the mood of a good horror film/novel, it's about building suspense. Knowing that jewel shoots an adventurer disintegrating death ray builds suspense, makes you real cautious as a mistake can have the party carting your ashes to the nearest temple. But when you randomly drop dead without much control, your adventurer feels more like "teenage girl no.3 who gets murderized by masked killer" than "gritty pulp hero"
It's that line between good horror suspense and cheap shock (although goofy slaughterfests can be fun if that's your intention, as long as everyone knows they're on the same page) which is trick to aim for. That's the main problem with SoD as it is in D&D.
Another issue is, in the hands of the players, the jarring effect of a % chance, even a low one, of instantly ending a conflict on turn one. Another problem is that hit point damage is nowhere in the equation. If a Fighter spent 4 turns chipping away at the evil baron and on turn 5 the wizard's finger of death succeeds, it doesn't matter if he was at 100% or 10% hit points, he just dies. It makes the fighter's damage feel wasted. These issues snowball into the "Fighters have no use" that culminated in 3e.
Here's my shot at keeping the suspenseful mood
save or die while integrating it into a holistic D&D party experience:
'Save or Die' effects will do hit point damage to characters above 50% health, but when targeting a bloodied opponent THEN the chance of instant death occurs.
In this set up the Fighter whacking away at the dread lord is actually a requirement to set up for the wizard to deliver a big fight ending spell, cooperation! 'Save or Suck' can have similar effects. Say Sleep, it could be in it's 4e form against perfectly healthy, strong willed opponents but when cast against bloodied, strained foes it takes on the power of its AD&D incarnation.
The angle I look at this is that this gives Bloodied a meaning beyond "50% of your health". What this does is, if the enemy can exploit it, make bloodied the feeling of being down to single digit health, the next hit can drop you and you're desparate to survive. This of course can apply to effects other than magic. Say an Assassin's death attack, or a Fighter disarming his foe. The fight-ending power is kept intact.
Say a Warrior has 40 hit points total. That means he has 20 points of "heroic luck" up and running, while the next 20 are 'violins are rising' danger zone. But enemies that don't have SoD's, say goblin goons, aren't going to be one shotting you, SoD is something in the hands of big bads and the most intense dungeon rooms.
Because hit points n' damage dice are so meta-gamey in the first place, we all have our set expecations of what 1 to 100% means. You could view this just as easily as "the hero has 20 hit points until he's at death's door (vulnerable to a death attack), but he has 20 extra to less severe wounds". Or if it was worded "You have 20 hit points, but you can fight until you're at -21, but when you're in the negatives a SoD can drop you immediately", functionally it's the same thing, '40 points of fighting, 20 points of vulnerability' but the wording changes your perception. That's what I mean by expecations, so I ask of you to perhaps adjust your current expectations to see how this rule would set hit point numbers to mean something a little different, yet still expressing the same basic idea.
The heroic stand of the warrior, hewing through goblin minions (gameplay: he's been dropped to bloodied but the gobbos don't gain much of a bonus for that). The Death Knight strides towards the warrior, their blades cross and he cuts down the hero in a single blow with his soul crushing blade (save or die).
That's the kind of imagery that I had in mind when making this mechanic. The tense moment, like taking a step into a dark room, the tense moment of your vision adjusting to the darkness (do you really want to see what's in there?) is what I want players to feel.
*an addendum: On keeping minion type monsters, it could be that foes that are under your level by X amount just count as 'bloodied' for the purpose of your various abilities. So the Wizard can still put those goblin sentries to sleep with a wave of his hand and the Fighter can crush them in swaths, but they won't be one-shotting their hobgoblin boss so easily.
*On the concern that front line warriors may be unfairly hosed for this new lethality added to Bloodied:
Warrior types who have the durability to shield others already have higher hit points/AC to begin with, they have more 'heroic plot points' to whittle through compared to anyone else.
There's also other elements to be fleshed out that exist with such a mechanic. Everything following is just quick thoughts, yet to be fully fleshed out:
Say, if going full defense, even when bloodied, makes you count as a 'non bloodied' state. This is like a reverse way of doing "target is dazed/stunned", but it's based on player choice to take that penalty and the reward is survivability. Or if a second wind mechanic is kept in place, then the warrior spends a round to recover his senses as he reels from the mighty villain's assault, This is effectively another "target is dazed" type effect, and it's player choice (and not a terrible choice either) to trade that potential attack action for survivability, so it's the monster taking away player action with an attack without feeling like the player is not participating for a turn as it is his choice to recover instead of risking death to strike at the villain.
And in that case, if they Do die, it was player choice that did it.
You also have Party tension, the warrior is pressed into a bad situation, how can the other party members bail him out? The cleric most obviously heals. Perhaps the wizard would try to set up a barrier to halt the potentially fatal attack. The thief could have some kind of interrupting/distracting maneuver to avert the medusa's gaze, giving Fighter time to recover.
Sunday, January 22, 2012, 10:11 AM
I enjoy 4e, I really enjoy what they gave martial heroes, but dangit, does some of it feel redundant. Having options is always a good thing, but having easier to grasp, more versatile options is even better. If you can reach the same end result with less moving parts, you've created a better product.
I've pondered this conundrum for a while on my tumblr blog
, but recently I've thought about it more and broke it down into a handful of core maneuvers (hey, its what this post is about!) Here I go!CORE MARTIAL MANEUVER
You can use one maneuver per round (think of it like a Swift action, or minor action+reaction)
The following are riders to landing a basic attack:
deal additional damage
increase accuracy (say, +4 to hit so if you got 20 but their AC is 22, you now hit)
target is marked (-2 to target others than you, and if they do target somebody else you get an opportunity attack on them)
These are immediate interrupts*
increase your AC/Reflex/Fort/Will
: make an opportunity attack against the agressor
*If you use these abilities in the same round you used the 'attack riders' you lose the option on your next turn
Certain characters will still favor certain abilities, but now role isn't immutable, it's a choice to best adapt to the situation at hand.
Archery Fighter? Yeah he'll be doing a lot of power and sure shots, but if he really has to he can jump in with his shortsword to pull the wizard out of trouble.
As a bonus, notice that we also have rather organic "dazing" effects. Say the Fighter is challenging the ogre, but he gets whacked hard by a critical blow. The next swing around the Fighter opts to preserve his hide by Dodging (hey, a dead guy doesn't defend that great y'know?).
As he used up his maneuver action
, he will not be able to Challenge (or power attack, etc.) next round, this means the ogre has broken through the Fighter's guard and can menace the wizard (unless the Ranger steps in to challenge?)
In 4e terms you'd need a specific power descriptor for this to happen like "fighter is immobilized/pushed/dazed/knocked prone/etc.", but with this system it's more organic, the option to save his own hide organically eliminates his option to keep the ogre occupied.
In 3e terms you'd need to take a bunch of feats to begin competently doing some of these things (You know what's funny? It takes less intelligence to learn to cast level 1 magic (int 11) than it does to wield a sword defensively (expertise: INT 13!!)
At the same time, pressure the ogre hard enough with devastating blows and he might go on the defensive or menace you with counterattacks in a death-or-glory showdown!? That's intensity, and it's not a separate encounter power, it's just how these five maneuvers interact with one another.
I'll think about what other maneuvers could be added or how different fighting styles will modify them, but for now I'm pretty happy with how this has turned out.
Do more with less. The difference between "ok" and "Great" is "Great" does the same thing with redundancy removed. I want to make a great system for D&D.
Thursday, January 12, 2012, 1:42 AM
D&D’s next edition has been announced, there’s been a lot of buzz about it, especially over 4th edition’s demise. Some folks blame 4th edition as a failure, decrying it as being untrue to the D&D name. Even 4e seems abandoned Wizards of the Coast, hated and hunted.
But I know better, I know the truth. Let me tell you what 4th edition is:
[Mearls down to where 4th edition lies unmoving next to Rich Baker’s body]
Mearls’s Son: Dad! Dad, is he okay?
Mike Mearls: [relieved as 4th edition slowly pulls himself up to his knees] Thank you.
4th Edition: You don’t have to thank me.
Mike Mearls: Yes, I do. [both look at Rich Baker on the ground] Monte Cook’s won. Baker’s well written and informative articles, everything he fought for - undone. Any chance you gave us at fixing our game dies with Baker’s termination. We bet it all on him. Monte Cook’s took the best of us and tore him down. People will lose hope.
4th Edition: They won’t. They must never know what he did.
Mike Mearls: Five dead, two of them grogs? You can’t sweep that up!
4th Edition: No. But Monte Cook cannot win. [kneels down next to Baker, whose scarred left side is facing up] D&D needs its true hero. [turns Baker’s head so that his unmarred side faces up]
Mike Mearls: [immediately understanding] No!
4th Edition: [quoting Rule of Three] ”You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” I can do those things because I’m not a hero, not like Baker. I killed those grognards. That’s what I can be.
Mike Mearls: No, no! You can’t, you’re not!
4th edition: I’m whatever D&D needs me to be. [hands Mearls his radio] Call it in.
Mike Mearls: They’ll hunt you.
4th Edition: You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me, set the dogs on me. Because that’s what needs to happen. Because sometimes… the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.
[4th Edition runs]
Mearls’s Son: 4th Edition? 4th Edition! Why is he running, Dad?
Mike Mearls: Because we have to chase him.
Mearls’s Son: He didn’t do anything wrong.
Mike Mearls: Because he’s the hero D&D deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Edition.