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Death of a Thousand Cuts

 
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Zadmar
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Joined: 10 Nov 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:23 am    Post subject: Death of a Thousand Cuts Reply with quote

One complaint about Savage Worlds that I've seen mentioned a few times is the "whiff" factor in combat, as blows can strike an opponent with no mechanical result (until suddenly the enemy drops dead). In fairness this is almost always due to the GM not properly balancing the opposition and/or the players not understanding or utilising the available tactical options, particularly if they're used to roleplaying systems where combat consists of standing toe-toe-toe with your enemy and gradually grinding down their hit points like a lumberjack chopping down a tree.

However it does occasionally come up, and it can be a bit disappointing to make a fantastic attack roll and then end up inflicting no damage. Or, as the concept was phrased in a recent discussion on another forum, "you're rolling dice to see if you get to roll dice, rather than rolling dice to determine what happens".

The same issue has been discussed here before, and there have even been some interesting proposals for combining attack and damage into a single roll, although I have some reservations about that concept.

But I do like the idea of a successful attack roll always having some benefit, and have been wondering about using a rule like this:

Death of a Thousand Cuts

If your attack hits, but your damage roll fails to meet your opponent's Toughness, you may give them 1 Flesh Wound token, or 2 tokens if you reached or exceeded half their Toughness. If this would take the victim above 4 tokens, all tokens are removed and they are immediately Shaken (this can cause a wound).

Anyone damaging the target may remove any number of Flesh Wound tokens from them and add +1 to the damage result for each token. This is done after rolling damage, so that Flesh Wound tokens are never wasted, and it may turn a failure into a success (although in this case you won't then add additional tokens, because the final result is no longer a failure).

All Flesh Wound tokens are removed at the end of the combat. Note that they don't necessarily have to represent literal flesh wounds, they could be scratches, bruises, or even just being on the defensive, but you may only give tokens to someone you are physically capable of wounding (i.e., you can't give Flesh Wound tokens to someone with Heavy Armor unless you've got a Heavy Weapon, and so on).

To minimise token tracking (and because this is mostly for the benefit of players) only Wild Cards can inflict Flesh Wounds, but Extras under the control of a Wild Card may still remove them for the bonus.

This does still mean additional work (less "Fast"), and is probably only suitable if you're using miniatures, but it means that no successful attack is ever wasted. Even if your damage roll is terrible, you're still contributing to the downfall of the enemy, much like a cooperative roll.
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SeeleyOne
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It looks interesting.

So as I read it you are saying this:

1 flesh wound on a successful attack
2 flesh wounds on half the Toughness
4 flesh wounds, being one Shaken, on Toughness.

The only thing that I am not liking is the mental image of a small damaging weapon, such as a rat bite, taking down a dragon. The rat bite inflicts 1 damage, and regardless of actual Toughness, inflicts 1 flesh wound. After four turns of successful nibbling, the dragon is Shaken.

I would suggest this pattern instead:
1 flesh would on half the Toughness (fractions rounded up).
4 flesh wounds, being one Shaken, on Toughness.
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SeeleyOne wrote:
So as I read it you are saying this:

1 flesh wound on a successful attack
2 flesh wounds on half the Toughness

Right.

SeeleyOne wrote:
4 flesh wounds, being one Shaken, on Toughness.

Not quite. If you rack up more than 4 flesh wounds, they're all removed and the victim is automatically Shaken, regardless of their Toughness.

SeeleyOne wrote:
The only thing that I am not liking is the mental image of a small damaging weapon, such as a rat bite, taking down a dragon. The rat bite inflicts 1 damage, and regardless of actual Toughness, inflicts 1 flesh wound. After four turns of successful nibbling, the dragon is Shaken.

I don't think I've seen the stats for an individual rat listed, but if they only inflict 1 damage then that would come under the "you may only give tokens to someone you are physically capable of wounding" disclaimer. Aside from that, it would also need to be a Wild Card rat in order to inflict flesh wounds, and the dragon would have 4 rounds to recover before the rat could shake them again.

But the rule is primarily intended for the benefit of players. If the GM wants NPCs that are too small to hurt the players (or too large to be hurt by the players), it doesn't really need extra mechanics, you just say "no damage".
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Clint
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:51 am    Post subject: Re: Death of a Thousand Cuts Reply with quote

Zadmar wrote:
However it does occasionally come up, and it can be a bit disappointing to make a fantastic attack roll and then end up inflicting no damage. Or, as the concept was phrased in a recent discussion on another forum, "you're rolling dice to see if you get to roll dice, rather than rolling dice to determine what happens".


That's a bit of an over-simplification and somewhat inaccurate for SW at least.

It'd still be simplistic, but more accurate to say, you're rolling the dice to see how well you get to roll the dice where basic results range from no roll to standard roll to bonus roll.

Plus add in the potential tactical considerations that work best in that configuration. A Called Shot for more damage is pointless in a single roll system where the penalty for bonus concept is unusable.

Yes, there's a chance of "failure" on both dice, but that just expands character options. If your defense primarily not being hit or not being damaged or any of the various combinations of the two. If every hit has an effect, then attack rolls get more powerful and Toughness less so which can lead to issues of imbalance in the system.

For instance, in the system above, larger opponents would become significantly weaker. 5 PCs attacking with Gang Up and +2 or +4 for Large or Huge are pretty much guaranteed to hit every attack every round and each attack does a "Flesh Wound." A Large/Huge Extra would go down within 2 rounds, and a Wild Card would at best last a few more (not counting the chance that one of the rolls Aces accelerating the process).

Perhaps if the desire is to have every damage roll to have some potential effect, base it off existing components of the system instead of having to track a new one.

Say any time a character takes damage, they have to make a Vigor roll against the result of be Shaken even if the roll does not exceed Toughness. That at least gives a chance to affect someone on a roll less than Toughness.

Then say instead of a Success on damage causing a Shaken, it causes a level of Fatigue from trying to avoid the attack. This level of Fatigue can be removed by taking a "Breather" action. You can take other actions with it, but it counts for multiple actions in that round.
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:12 am    Post subject: Re: Death of a Thousand Cuts Reply with quote

Clint wrote:
Plus add in the potential tactical considerations that work best in that configuration. A Called Shot for more damage is pointless in a single roll system where the penalty for bonus concept is unusable.

Too bloody true.
The core World of Darkness book is a great gaming book, and if I liked the dice mechanic (at all) then I'd use it for a lot of games. Their "roll damage" combat system still blows my mind at times, but it makes their Called Shot rules essentially useless. It's a -3 to hit a Head, but the best body armor available (full riot gear) is only a -4 to firearms attacks and a net -1 to other attacks.
It's literally sub-optimal to attack something in the head unless it is supernaturally resistant to normal damage but vulnerable to head shots (hint: nothing is). You're much better off simply stabbing it, or shooting it with your shotgun, in whatever random hit locations your happen to hit.
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SeeleyOne
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Called Shots in various game systems is a topic of its own. Many, many game systems have penalties that outweigh the benefits. Additionally in most cases the Called Shot systems feel like they are taped on.
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clint wrote:
Plus add in the potential tactical considerations that work best in that configuration. A Called Shot for more damage is pointless in a single roll system where the penalty for bonus concept is unusable.

The called shot would still be worthwhile against armoured opponents. But in general I agree, there are a number of issues with combining the attack and damage roll, and that's just one of them.

However what I do find intriguing is the idea of every successful attack being useful, regardless of the damage roll. I'm not saying that this is a problem with SW, or that it's something to be "fixed", only that it could make an interesting house and/or setting rule for some games.

Clint wrote:
Yes, there's a chance of "failure" on both dice, but that just expands character options. If your defense primarily not being hit or not being damaged or any of the various combinations of the two. If every hit has an effect, then attack rolls get more powerful and Toughness less so which can lead to issues of imbalance in the system.

That is always a risk, and the above issue is one of the main reasons why I suggested that only Wild Cards could inflict flesh wounds - it prevents a horde of Extras from wearing down a toughness-based Wild Card.

Clint wrote:
For instance, in the system above, larger opponents would become significantly weaker. 5 PCs attacking with Gang Up and +2 or +4 for Large or Huge are pretty much guaranteed to hit every attack every round and each attack does a "Flesh Wound." A Large/Huge Extra would go down within 2 rounds, and a Wild Card would at best last a few more (not counting the chance that one of the rolls Aces accelerating the process).

Agreed, but I actually prefer that to the alternative. 5 PCs being guaranteed to shake the Extra on the first round, and then (assuming it fails to recover) kill it on the second round. That's still 5 PCs against a single Extra. Against a Wild Card opponent it would take five rounds, assuming the opponent failed every Spirit roll and chose not to use bennies on Soaking or removing their Shaken status.

If one of the PCs aces then that will accelerate the process regardless, but this approach means that each PC has a tangible affect on the outcome. You don't roll damage and "do nothing", you roll damage and add a flesh wound to help your companions (in the same way as knocking off some hit points in certain other systems).
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ogbendog
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Death of a Thousand Cuts Reply with quote

Clint wrote:



Say any time a character takes damage, they have to make a Vigor roll against the result of be Shaken even if the roll does not exceed Toughness. That at least gives a chance to affect someone on a roll less than Toughness.

Then say instead of a Success on damage causing a Shaken, it causes a level of Fatigue from trying to avoid the attack. This level of Fatigue can be removed by taking a "Breather" action. You can take other actions with it, but it counts for multiple actions in that round.


Hm. It adds a die roll on each hit, but does allow smaller hits to have a chance of effecting.
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FickleGM
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have no problem with a hit doing no damage. What takes the steam out of most folk with whom I've played is when you get a raise on the attack roll and even with the extra d6 damage the hit does no damage.

My simple proposal is to add the following benefit to a raise on the attack: if no damage is inflicted the victim is Shaken, as if by a Trick (meaning a non-wound Shaken effect).
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Gylthinel
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm one of the guys that is very tired of my attack roll being meaningless, and I don't think it is a symptom of not playing the game correctly. A string of mediocre (not bad) damage rolls against a foe with even mild toughness can lead to blow after blow that does nothing. This is tactically frustrating and cinematically unexciting. And it makes the game anything but fast.

That said, I like the thrust of this rule! Though I'd take it a step further and remove flesh wound tokens for and actual wound rather than shaken.

Cudos!
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IanPScheffler
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see a large part of this "whiff" problem being mostly poor narative. If you get an excellent attack roll but a very poor damage roll, your GM should be staying something like, "You swing your blade with great skill directly at his helm, but you hear the clang of steel on steel and don't feel your weapon bite into flesh!"

Is it more fun to swing 3 times in SW before you take down an enemy without any hit point tracking or more fun to subtract 1/3 of the monster's hit points on each attack before he dies on the third? There is no difference other than having less to keep track of. The problem lies with nostalgia, preconceptions of how RPG's should work, and a classic type A personality element (the same element that causes people who come to a minor traffic jam to take a detour for an extra 4 miles rather than wait one minute for the lane to clear.)

It constantly surprises me that every time I come to these boards I see new alternate damage house rules when I consider the way SW handles damage to be the single best thing to hit RPG's since Doritos.

None of this was intended to be an insult to those who don't enjoy the system as is. To each their own and all that, but understanding what your problem really is will always be the first step to a solution.
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

IanPScheffler wrote:
I see a large part of this "whiff" problem being mostly poor narative. If you get an excellent attack roll but a very poor damage roll, your GM should be staying something like, "You swing your blade with great skill directly at his helm, but you hear the clang of steel on steel and don't feel your weapon bite into flesh!"

Narrative is good, but it won't change the "whiff" factor. More likely candidates for the problem are "the GM not properly balancing the opposition and/or the players not understanding or utilising the available tactical options", as I mentioned in my original post, but even then it will still come up from time to time.

IanPScheffler wrote:
To each their own and all that, but understanding what your problem really is will always be the first step to a solution.

As I explained in the original post, my problem is that "it can be a bit disappointing to make a fantastic attack roll and then end up inflicting no damage. Or, as the concept was phrased in a recent discussion on another forum, "you're rolling dice to see if you get to roll dice, rather than rolling dice to determine what happens" ... I do like the idea of a successful attack roll always having some benefit".

I strongly dislike hit points, but they do at least (usually) ensure that a successful hit always has some effect. I don't see why I can't have the best of both worlds, whether it's through flesh wound tokens, Clint's "breather" suggestion, FickleGM's "shaken on raise" idea, or some combination thereof.
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Dylan S
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The trouble is that sometimes critical hits result in no damage, right? As a different sort of suggestion, the SWD book does include a setting rule called 'Blood & Guts' that allows all characters to benny their damage rolls (free No Mercy edge for everyone). Why not implement this, and leave it up to the players whether to glumly accept the odd 'whiff' or spend a benny on a re-roll? Makes for some interesting choices. If you hand out the normal +2 bennies per session, I can't imagine low-damage crits would eat up too many. Maybe that's just me, though - I find my players always have some bennies left over at the end of the night.

Plus, you'd get to return the favour when your Main Villain rolls four 1s on a critting Bolt. Smile

Anyway, I know that's not really what this thread is for. I'm just the kind of guy who likes to find a rule that already exists. See also: lazy.
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dylan S wrote:
As a different sort of suggestion, the SWD book does include a setting rule called 'Blood & Guts' that allows all characters to benny their damage rolls (free No Mercy edge for everyone). Why not implement this, and leave it up to the players whether to glumly accept the odd 'whiff' or spend a benny on a re-roll?

That's a very good suggestion. However I wonder if it could be taken a step further: if the damage roll fails, and the player has no bennies left, they are awarded a benny at the end of their turn.
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Dylan S
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zadmar wrote:
Dylan S wrote:
As a different sort of suggestion, the SWD book does include a setting rule called 'Blood & Guts' that allows all characters to benny their damage rolls (free No Mercy edge for everyone). Why not implement this, and leave it up to the players whether to glumly accept the odd 'whiff' or spend a benny on a re-roll?

That's a very good suggestion. However I wonder if it could be taken a step further: if the damage roll fails, and the player has no bennies left, they are awarded a benny at the end of their turn.


Sort of a condolence prize? Yep, if your players agree to it then that would work. I would allow the same for your NPC wildcards, though!
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VonDan
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh never mind i thought you said "Death of a Thousand Cats"
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FickleGM
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2012 9:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, I'm going to adopt the Blood & Guts option and see how it plays out. Smile
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