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D&D 5E No ascending bonuses: A mathematical framework for 5e

Dragonblade

Adventurer
This type of system has a lot of benefits as well, and of course its own flaws. Its a lot swingier than the other system. For example, if those low level mooks get lucky on those d20 rolls I could suddenly be looking at a deadly encounter.

Or if I gain a penalty to AC from magic or being prone or something, that means a lot more because my defense is wrapped up in a single defense score instead of a hp pad.

Yes, exactly. Stalker0 highlights the problem with going the opposite way. With ascending bonuses but low HP and damage output. You end up with a grittier game, but one where the grittiness is predicated on swinginess.

Without the HP pad, the game becomes very binary. Either you take no damage or are significantly hurt. It makes encounter difficulty much harder to guage and depending on the dice the players either don't feel challenged or face a TPK.

For many, this may seem more "realistic" and in a sense it is. But I think whatever gains you make in simulation are at the expense of the game and narrative side of the equation. Its harder to write a long term story arc focusing on a PC when a couple bad die rolls can kill them off. And for a player of that PC I think it would be frustrating. And from a game standpoint, I think it gives you less to work with in terms of player powers and abilities without exacerbating the problem. Like Stalker0 pointed out, any effect that boosts or hinders your defenses has a hugely disproportional effect on combat.

But as I proposed before, if you don't ascend bonuses (or ascend them slowly) and instead increase HP and damage outputs, I think you have more freedom as a DM. You can tweak HP and damage outputs for grittiness without also taking on as much swinginess as a side effect. You also have more game space to work with in terms of buffs and bonuses to defenses, damage or HP and it becomes much easier to predict the results it will have on the game. Swinginess can be minimized thanks to the buffer that HP affords you. And because of that its easier for DMs to challenge players while minimizing the threat of TPK or unwanted random death.

Just my thoughts. :)
 

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Lord Vangarel

First Post
I like these ideas very much however would it still be D&D?

For example I came up with some figures of my own on how I'd see this working. Lets say a 5th level fighter gets 50+(Level x Con Bonus)+5d10 hit points so has somewhere between 75 and 120 hit points. The damage output needs to increase to match this so he does 2W+Ability Bonus+(Level x 2) as damage with a successful attack so does (2x1d8)+4+10 as damage so 16-30 assuming +4 Str and a longsword. So average hit points and damage the fighter is going to require about 5 successful hits to kill himself. Assuming we want characters to improve slightly over the levels the fighter gets a +1 attack bonus at 5th,10th etc levels so our 5th level fighter assuming availability of a masterwork weapon and his level bonus is going to have a 10% better chance to hit most normal AC's in the 1-20 range assuming both had a +4 Str modifier. You'd also have to factor in feats to improve chances to hit (not bonuses as such but maybe use the feat/ability roll 2d20 to attack take the better result etc).

Could it work? Yes, with some provisions. Spell damage would need to be looked at as a Magic Missile doing 2d4+2 damage wouldn't even touch the sides. This could be changed to Magic Missile cast by a 5th level wizard does two missiles at (2x1d4+1)x2 so would do 8-20 points of damage. Probably not enough of a change but in the right direction.

What this gives us is a game where a bunch of 1st level warriors could feasibly take out a 20th level monster. Yes lots of them would die trying but eventually they could do it so 20th level no longer seems so godlike to these 1st level warriors anymore.

Another major advantage to me would be the requirement for magic items essentially goes away. At the moment you need the magic item bonuses to help hit the higher AC monsters. With a static AC range say 1-26 or thereabouts you no longer need the magic weapons to hit. Let's also say that a magic weapon also increases the damage it deals. So a +1 weapon deals 2W damage, a +5 weapons deals 6W damage. This, to me, makes magic weapons special again. The powerful magic sword in the hands of the low level fighter makes him instantly special and the equal of much higher level opponents. A 1st level King Arthur with Excalibur in his hands suddenly can rule Camelot (especially if magic weapons also had a way to reduce damage sustained by the wielder).

Again though having looked at the numbers and potential would we end up with a D&D like system, is it too much holy beef to barbeque in one go?
 
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Connorsrpg

Adventurer
Whilst there are some probs, I mostly like this idea.

It would also make having animal companions, followers, etc more viable. Never liked the dump and get a new one simply b/c your level change and all the rules needed for making companion NPCs. Makes the idea of a constant companion (even a simple dog) viable. (Like Savage Worlds ;)).
 

Hassassin

First Post
This type of system has a lot of benefits as well, and of course its own flaws. Its a lot swingier than the other system. For example, if those low level mooks get lucky on those d20 rolls I could suddenly be looking at a deadly encounter.

Or if I gain a penalty to AC from magic or being prone or something, that means a lot more because my defense is wrapped up in a single defense score instead of a hp pad.

Swinginess in "balanced" encounters isn't inherently* different between 4e-like systems, those with static AC and attack, or those with static hp and damage.

The only thing the different scaling models change is how power difference between levels can scale. I.e. for what values of X are APL +/- X encounters such that either side has a chance.

I've not done the math, but I'm pretty sure keeping one of AC/hp constant would give a linearly or polynomially increasing power curve, whereas 4e (and 3e) are exponential.

* Not inherently means you can choose it by varying just numbers, instead of progressions.
 

I did something like this for a completely rewritten Fantasy Hero damage system for an AD&D-like game. We even broke down those damage results into 7 or 8 discrete spots on the table and named them. Then when you hit, we didn't even say the numbers. Instead, "I hit. Smashed him," or "Got him with a Spattered," or "Oh man, I only Nicked it." It worked very well for us. In our case, "Nicked" versus "Smashed" and so on was relative to the target--i.e. if young hero "Nicks" the dragon, that may be close to the most he can do.

I doubt going as far to label them would work as well in your proposal, and the 3d6 might be a better idea. But just an anecdote to say that the general principle of such a chart is sound. It was very fast in resolution for us, too, even with the indirection of the names instead of numbers.

Yeah, its a tried and true setup, going all the way back to at least Marvel Super Heroes damage/hit chart in some form or other. I kind of like the 4e 'no charts needed' thing, but that does have its limits.

Must spread XP. "Measure of effectiveness" is a good route.

You'd keep the attack roll in such a system for explicitly fate, simulation of a world, and other such reasons. It takes the linear, wide nature of the d20 and make it a huge plus. The damage expression tends towards the average. It is fairly predictable. Most of the time, it works out about like you think. This appeals to one segment of preferences. But you keep the attack roll because it is unpredictable, all or nothing, in any given circumstance. This appeals to another segment of preferences. Of course, you can predict how the attack roll will do on average, but when the troll is on the bridge and bearing down on you, and you need to hit--anything could happen.

Well, if your damage rolls are anything like D&D damage rolls, then yes. OTOH there's no reason they HAVE to be. For instance the chart I proposed above could be done away with and a simple procedure used instead as both a 'damage' roll and a 'to-hit' roll. Just multiple a 1-2 die damage roll by your level. That makes a linear distribution (or for 2 dice a mild bell curve) and you get a LOT of variability. (1d8)*10 for instance means you can do anything from nicking the troll to slicing its arm off with your attack. Hit points are abstract so now they become more of what Gygax was talking about, expending luck, skill, fatigue, etc to defend yourself with always diminishing reserves until finally the killing blow lands at 0. If you use something like HS or a physical/non-physical 2 step pool where one recovers and the other needs real healing then it even works better IMHO.

But again, I've now constructed a system that bears little relation with anything that most people would call D&D...

This does illustrate something though, if you're required to basically go back to 1980 and base your system on the 1980 vintage fighter in essence, there's not a heck of a lot you can do with D&D. I've read a LOT of pretty reasonably interesting concepts for rules that would work well in terms of an FRPG fighter that would satisfy most of the characteristics that people want both in the 4e camp and in the more traditionalist players, but you cannot make a fighter that both has more scope within the rules and follows those 1980 mechanical conventions, and is a decent game design. Something is going to have to give in 5e, either we are going back to "you swing your sword every round" or we have to have things like HS and encounter/daily powers or 'fatigue points' or 'defensive maneuver points' or something at least tacked on.
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
This does illustrate something though, if you're required to basically go back to 1980 and base your system on the 1980 vintage fighter in essence, there's not a heck of a lot you can do with D&D. I've read a LOT of pretty reasonably interesting concepts for rules that would work well in terms of an FRPG fighter that would satisfy most of the characteristics that people want both in the 4e camp and in the more traditionalist players, but you cannot make a fighter that both has more scope within the rules and follows those 1980 mechanical conventions, and is a decent game design. Something is going to have to give in 5e, either we are going back to "you swing your sword every round" or we have to have things like HS and encounter/daily powers or 'fatigue points' or 'defensive maneuver points' or something at least tacked on.

Agree with that, too. That's one of many reasons why I'd probably be a bad fit to write a version of D&D. Given the choice to nail concept and support a wide range of play styles, centered on what D&D did and does--I'd ditch any particular mechanical convention in a heartbeat.

I almost think there are at least two possible good game designs out of all this discussion: 5E and "Not Exactly D&D 1E". :D
 

Yes, precisely.

If one changes D&D to no longer be both a defense bonus and a bag of hit point bonus versus lower level foes, the game changes.

Alternatively, the deadliness of higher level foes decreases (which also means that taking out lower level foes is harder). It's also a bit easier to get lucky and take out higher level foes because they are not bags of hit points.

All in all, a slightly different game. The curve is flatter. Lower level foes are more of a threat than previously, higher level foes are less of a threat than previously. But, lower level foes are not as much as a threat as same level foes which are not as much of a threat as higher level foes.

This means that one could take on foes 8 levels higher with significant resource expenditure. On the other hand, foes 8 levels lower would require more resource expenditure than one would normally associate with foes so low since although they rarely hit, when they do, they do more damage percentage-wise (and it takes a bit longer to take them out if extra resources are not expended)..

This makes the game a bit more gritty. Course, there are always healing resources, so it wouldn't be overwhelmingly so. Instead of monsters doing 1 extra hit point per level, it would be more like 1 extra per 2 or 3 levels.

One advantage of that is that the DM doesn't have to wait 5 more levels before introducing a troll. He can introduce the troll much earlier and if the troll escapes each time, that troll can easily be a re-occurring BBEG for 12 or so levels. The level window for the introduction of each monster is much greater than in 4E (which is typically about 6 levels, maybe 8 at the most). Since higher level foes do significantly less damage and lower level foes do significantly more damage (percentage-wise as compared to 4E), the troll can fight the PCs from the time it has an 80% chance to hit down to the time that it has a 20% chance to hit or about 13 levels.

There is a way to have your cake and eat it too. The way you do that is to have a pool of 'defenses' you can use up. They are mechanically just coupons that you spend to negate an attack entirely. Each PC gets some number of these (they can be flavored as desired and you can provide some slight variations of the mechanics as you want to make them give you the feel you want).

These defense chits can be spent in combat, but they can also be recovered by a different set of rules than hit points, like you can get some back after each fight for instance, or at a 'milestone' and you can have your 'warlord' inspire the character to give him more, etc. Obviously the number increases with level, and it could also be increased by having an item, by heavier armor, shields, etc. In fact 'feats' and better gear might be the main way a high level PC adds to their defense tokens.

What this does is let you go fairly extreme in terms of ramping up damage output as you go up in levels but still lets the lower level foes be a threat. You can also probably tweak the to-hit/defense progression to be less as well, which is nice.
 

mmadsen

First Post
A better proposal for a system than the OP's model is to increase to hit and defenses as PC level up, but to hardly increase damage or hit points at all.

This type of model indicates that the PCs get better at blocking, dodging and hitting foes as they level up, but a sword hurts them only a little less at high level than at low level.

That means when 10 1st level foes come at the 10th level PC, they miss a lot. But if they do hit, they do hurt him. This type of system is also more plausible than the various D&D models and the OP one proposed here. It makes sense that the higher level PCs dodge more attacks completely and hit more often, but swords still hurt them if they do hit.
Yes, a system where defense (AC) progresses rather than toughness (hp) is much, much more plausible and avoids a lot of contentious discussions about "what's really happening" in the game world.

The concern is over how this scales.

For characters who are hitting half the time, a one-point to-hit bonus yields a 10-percent increase in hits per round, from 0.50 to 0.55. For characters who are hitting three-quarters of the time, it's less than a 7-percent shift, from 0.75 to 0.80. For characters who are hitting just one-quarter of the time, it's a 20-percent shift, from 0.25 to 0.30.

So, setting things up so that the Fighter always hits won't make him that much more powerful than characters who often hit, but characters who rarely hit will feel bonuses and penalties much more.

I don't think that's a bad thing, but we need to be aware of it.

We also need to pay attention to how the various scores compound one another. A character who gets hit half as often and has twice as many hit points has four times to life expectancy. If he also hits twice as often for twice as much damage, he has four times the offense too, implying 16 times the combat effectiveness -- which actually means he can take on four ordinary guys, due to Lanchester's Square Law.
 



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