D&D 5E Removing Attack Rolls -- and maybe more? (Game Design / Theory Discussion)

DND_Reborn

Legend
Reviewing articles on Bounded Accuracy made me question how well it was working given its purpose in the design of 5E but also made me think about pushing it further in some respects.

I find it interesting that this was considered a solution to the treadmill effect of attack bonuses and AC (among other things of similar nature). Basically it wasn't a solution so much as an exchange. You went from increasing attacks and AC to increasing damage and hit points (the "bloat" we all know and love...).

I have seen people post about wanting effects or reduced damage even on missed attacks.

Also, consider an abstract understanding of hit points, generally accepted in 5E (although some insist on still considering them all "meat"). I have long considered "hit points" more properly termed "combat effective points" given how they are "expended" to avoid serious / deadly injury. Really, they are plot armor to keep your character in the story.

So, I will do my best to express my idea about (at least) removing attack rolls from D&D:

Each concept is addressed in further detail later on.

1. Damage increases with level. Starting point is +1 die per tier perhaps.
2. Damage dice explode to represent critical "damage" (replacing critical hits) for any die rolled.
3. Ability modifiers still apply to damage as normal.
4. Armor class (worn or natural) is translated into damage reduction. Start point is AC value - 10 = DR.
5. DEX modifier also reduces damage as a "dodge" or "parry". I don't know of heavier armors would limit this or not...
6. Size also reduces damage as a "cap" concept, 1 point per size difference.
7. Save for half spells might be reworked to a middle damage or perhaps keep saves?

More to come...

The idea is when someone attacks, the target expends hit points to avoid the attack. For the most part the attack is always effective in making the target defend itself (the loss of hit points given current terminology). How effective or damaging an attack is depends on a few factors: experience of the attacker, weapon being used, etc. as well as the defenses of the target.

For example, a commoner attacking with a dagger might do 1d4 damage. To an ogre with 59 hit points, the commoner with a dagger is not much of threat. The commoner's attack is easily avoided, soaked, parried, or whatever so the lost hit points is relatively small (avg. 2.5 out of 59 would be about 4% of the ogre's "combat effective points"). In other words, the commoner would need to make several attacks before the ogre was concerned. Or, a mob of commoners would be a threat due to their accumulated damage. (Note: the size difference DR is negated by the Ogre's low DEX. Any armor worn would provide more damage reduction.)

However, a 10th level rogue might do 2d4+4 (DEX mod) (+ 5d6 sneak attack maybe), averaging 9 (+17.5) damage on each attack. Now, the same ogre has to work harder to defend itself, expending more hit points to negate the attack. Just the normal dagger strike would expend nearly 15% of the ogre's hit points, while a sneak attack added in jumps that up to nearly 45%! The hit points expended by the Ogre to handle this damage might be, again, any combination of taking the hit (soak), actually injury, expending enormous energy skill to "avoid" the attack, or whatever fits the narrative.

So, part of bounded accuracy was supposed to be increased damage, but IME damage does not typically increase on the same scale hit points do. So, the above example would incorporate a system for increased damage. A simple suggestion would be adding one die of damage per tier or something.

It also means there are no "failed attacks". If you make an attack, you are actually attacking--your effort always results in some expenditure of hit points by the target. The damage roll (however that might be adjusted for this concept) determines how effective your attack is and how many hit points the target would expend to avoid / reduce / absorb / etc. that attack. Damage reduction and dodging (see below) can reduce damage to the point where an attack is rendered ineffective, however. Again, the idea isn't that you failed so much as the target's defenses might be better.

Without attack rolls, armor class would not exist as it currently is. Armor would provide damage reduction, allowing the wearer to more easily mitigate attacks. Armor (and size difference) would reduce damage to a minimum of 1, not 0. That is my first thought anyway...

Dexterity (not impacting AC) would also reduce "damage" but in the sense of a dodge or parry. Our dagger-wielding commoner attacking a DEX 14 target would deal 1-4 damage, but the DEX would reduce the result by 2, making half of the attacks "dodge" or parried or avoided by DEX alone. I think this form of DR should be able to reduce damage to 0.

Spells and other features that boost AC would likewise reduce the damage in some fashion, again decreasing the effectiveness of the attack.

Spells which allow saving throws (such as fireball) could be reworked slightly to average result (instead of 8d6, save for 4d6, make it base 6d6?) if we wanted to remove saving throws (in that sense) as well as attack rolls? Or saves could be retained?

The system could be built up without much difficulty, although many adjustments would need to be made of course.

So, I guess that's it for now. This isn't really something I am considering adopting seriously, just the results from some observations about the purpose of bounded accuracy, how likely attacks succeed in 5E, and other factors.

Also, I am not saying this is a good idea or a bad idea, just an idea. I welcome any discussion about it as an exercise in game design, etc. I am well aware people might not care for the idea of removing the attack roll, but frankly in 5E attacks seem to hit so much IME I wonder if there is really a point in having them anymore? 🤷‍♂️
 

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NotAYakk

Legend
So in OD&D, the trick was that accuracy grew while damage did not. And meanwhile, AC was static (determined by gear) while HP grew.

The product of (accuracy) times (damage) divided by (HP) determined how effective you are at killing a foe.

While OD&D didn't use THAC0, THAC0 was a decent approximation for OD&D's combat tables before it existed. You'd start with a THAC0 of 20, and AC went from 9 on down.

Against a modestly armored foe (AC 5), at level 1 you'd hit 30% of the time, going up by 5% per level. A hit would average about the HP of a 1 HD foe, give or take. So, at level 1, you defeated 0.3 HD per round, and had 1 HD.

While the tables where not linear, you could approximate them with about 1 point of accuracy per level.

So at level 2, you had 2 HD, and defeated 0.35 HD per round, etc.

At level 8, you had 8 HD (could take about 8 hits), and hit 65% of the time against a modestly armored foe.

There was also the "1 HD or less multiple attacks" rule -- a level X fighter would actually get 5.2 hits/round against 1 HD or less foes -- so anything non-heroic would be quickly defeated by high-HD hero units.

Multiple attacks in other cases ended up existing as well.

But the core bit is that by scaling accuracy and attack count, you could make fighting characters more effective without directly scaling the number of attacks/damage per attack quite as fast.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I think this could be a fun idea to try at the table. Maybe adding exploding damage die instead of critical hits (when max damage is rolled on a damage roll, roll another die of the same size).

I guess Advantage/Disadvantage could be ported to damage die anyway, rolling to set of dice and keeping the best damage roll. Nothing complicated there.

Maybe it would require PC to have a little more HP at first level, to avoid being one-shot by most foes. I'm partial to CON score + 1 HD roll at first level, for these cases.

As for Dex, this is what I'd do:

1) Move Dodge action to a Reaction but lasts only 1 turn. (and Disadvantage on Attack rolls becomes Disadvantages on damage rolls).
2) Creature can take a number of reaction equal to their Dex mod. Only one reaction per turn.

This means high Dex character will have more occasion to Dodge attacks, taking only minor damage, but they will have lousy Damage Reduction from armors.

Also, I'd keep saving throws, but change all spells to use saving throws, no more spell attack rolls..
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Maybe adding exploding damage die instead of critical hits (when max damage is rolled on a damage roll, roll another die of the same size).
This IS our current house-rule for criticals now instead of the natural 20. We like it much better, it makes a heck of a lot more sense, and makes lower-die weapons attractive since your odds are higher of rolling max. FWIW we allow all dice to explode infinitely (damage and healing, spells such as sleep, etc.).

It is also more exciting because it happens more often. :)

1) Move Dodge action to a Reaction but lasts only 1 turn. (and Disadvantage on Attack rolls becomes Disadvantages on damage rolls).
2) Creature can take a number of reaction equal to their Dex mod. Only one reaction per turn.
Interesting ideas!

Also, I'd keep saving throws, but change all spells to use saving throws, no more spell attack rolls..
This could easily work as well, but I would just keep the attack spells personally. A 3d10 fire bolt cast at a target should work as a 3d10 heavy crossbow IMO. Spells (non-cantrips) are a more limited resource, so I wouldn't want to change a spell like guiding bolt to a save spell and allow the target to take only half damage.
 

This IS our current house-rule for criticals now instead of the natural 20. We like it much better, it makes a heck of a lot more sense, and makes lower-die weapons attractive since your odds are higher of rolling max. FWIW we allow all dice to explode infinitely (damage and healing, spells such as sleep, etc.).

It is also more exciting because it happens more often. :)
For monsters/NPCs, too?
 


HECK YES!!! I never, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER play with a rule that works for players but not for their opponents! That is at best bad game design IMO and at worst bad form.

Delightfully terrifying!

Kobolds, Giant Rats, and any other of the 1d4 damage low CR monsters suddenly become real KO machines for low level characters.

How about for something that has multiple damage dice (e.g. Ogre 2d8+4)? I'm guessing any and all dice that are max damage "explode", yes (i.e. you don't need two "8s" to explode)?
 

I’m tinkering with Damage Reduction as well but adding it as a property of armour in an attempt to balance lowering the power of player characters. The highest DR a character can have is 6 with plate armour (which I have made an extremely rare commodity). I’ve lowered character hp max by having the players rolls a hit die for every level including first. No modifiers are added. There’s also an HP max cap of 50, level cap of 10, and all sorts of other ways of making the characters less like super heroes and more like mercenary treasure hunters.

But I digress. There’s definitely room at the table for something like DR in 5th Edition. I like the idea of attaching it to armour or maybe certain spells that raise AC.
 

Horwath

Hero
No attack rolls would be an interesting idea.

It would remove some weight from Dex as a No.1 stat.

If crit is used as an exploding dice, then dex can be used to negate a number of exploding dice per round equal to dex bonus.

Disadvantage could be half damage to attack, and advantage 50% more.

To keep cover bonus, it might serve as simple flat damage reduction.

Same with all armor.

Magic weapon +1 attack and damage, should be +1d6 damage instead.

Now we can remove -5/+10 part of those 2 feats.

Assassinate(rogue/assassin) would be +100% damage instead of +50% for normal advantage for surprised target.

Elven accuracy could be removed or add +75% damage for advantage and +150% damage for assassinate.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
1. Damage increases with level. Starting point is +1 die per tier perhaps.
2. Damage dice explode to represent critical "damage" (replacing critical hits) for any die rolled.
3. Ability modifiers still apply to damage as normal.
4. Armor class (worn or natural) is translated into damage reduction. Start point is AC value - 10 = DR.
5. DEX modifier also reduces damage as a "dodge" or "parry". I don't know of heavier armors would limit this or not...
6. Size also reduces damage as a "cap" concept, 1 point per size difference.
7. Save for half spells might be reworked to a middle damage or perhaps keep saves?
Looks like a lot of moving parts to me. But I'll tinker...

1. Maybe try +2 points per level: an extra d4 damage per hit die of an equivalent-level opponent.
2. This gets clunkier at higher levels, and smaller weapons. Let's go with Fantasy AGE inspiration here: if 2 die rolls match (stunt), add d20 damage. If 3 match, add 2d20 damage.
4. Dandy. I'm a fan of rolled DR, though.
5. This shouldn't reduce damage to 0. Unless you're a hardcore HP-as-meat person.
6. Not sure about this - I suspect that the Manual already gives inflated HP to larger creatures. If not, I'd make the rule absolute: Medium, 0. Large, 1. Huge, 2. Gargantuan, 4.
7. Spells are where the whole plan breaks down, because they depend on the standard rules. Best to go ad hoc with these, and expect to have to forbid usage of several.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The idea is when someone attacks, the target expends hit points to avoid the attack. For the most part the attack is always effective in making the target defend itself (the loss of hit points given current terminology). How effective or damaging an attack is depends on a few factors: experience of the attacker, weapon being used, etc. as well as the defenses of the target.

So, I think D&D has the design it does largely because defense is largely passive, in the sense that there's typically no participation from the player of the target.

The common alternate approach is to make combat rolls contested. The attacker makes some check, with things that add to their attack, the defender does similarly. The results are compared, and the difference determines damage done.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
So, I think D&D has the design it does largely because defense is largely passive, in the sense that there's typically no participation from the player of the target.

The common alternate approach is to make combat rolls contested. The attacker makes some check, with things that add to their attack, the defender does similarly. The results are compared, and the difference determines damage done.
Dungeon World is always a good place to look for alternative mechanics.

In Dungeon World, players "defy danger" or "hack and slash". The player rolls how well they do, and depending on how well they do the thing they are engaging with is either damaged, or the PC is damaged, or the situation changes in some other way.

You can be restricted in what you can do in a given situation.

(For example, when fighting a dragon, it might not be possible for a character to "hack and slash" until you ground it, identify its weak point, or deal with its fire breath (maybe get close enough?), or some other problem.)

In a D&D type game, the equivalent would be making a check when engaged in combat to determine if you improve the situation. Then consequences (damage/whatever) occur to everyone in the combat.

By removing the "roll to hit" and the "attack" action from D&D, it means that a fighter-type PC is never using their action to attack.

Their action is something you spend on changing the tactical situation. And as a non-incapacitated being in a melee, you are a danger passively to everyone hostile in the melee. The "swing your sword" is presumed.

An archer, similarly, is presumed to be firing arrows when fighting. That isn't their action; that is their state (in ranged combat). Their action might be to cover an ally, disrupt an advance, or something else.
 

HammerMan

Legend
So, I think D&D has the design it does largely because defense is largely passive, in the sense that there's typically no participation from the player of the target.

The common alternate approach is to make combat rolls contested. The attacker makes some check, with things that add to their attack, the defender does similarly. The results are compared, and the difference determines damage done.
as much as I know I would hate it (and it would triple time in combat at least) part of me would want a 'you roll attack, I roll a dodge or parry' maybe eating your reaction, with armor having DR instead of AC bonus, and the armor have it's own HP, and as it goes down (taking the amount of the DR) the DR dropps until... something happens

I also think I just designed Rifts combat, so I think I should sit this out, cause that is NEVER the right answer.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I find it interesting that this was considered a solution to the treadmill effect of attack bonuses and AC (among other things of similar nature). Basically it wasn't a solution so much as an exchange. You went from increasing attacks and AC to increasing damage and hit points (the "bloat" we all know and love...).

Your idea is interesting and fun, but you are starting with a flawed foundation that is skewing it off target.

The increasing affect of attack bonuses and skill DCs pushed some checks completely out of the range of possible for some characters (except attacks, where a natural 20 would always hit), and the flip side that some other DCs were at the point where a character could not fail, such as with trip attacks or disarms.

Bounded accuracy does accurately correct those problems.

Without nigh-unreachable saves and ACs, and the reduction of peicemeal damage reduction, HPs became the primary tuning point. The developers have said that they are calibrated to the point where encounters take the same number of rounds as before.

So HP are not bloated.

Now we have that out of the way, let's get to the discussion of your concept.

I have seen people post about wanting effects or reduced damage even on missed attacks.

Also, consider an abstract understanding of hit points, generally accepted in 5E (although some insist on still considering them all "meat"). I have long considered "hit points" more properly termed "combat effective points" given how they are "expended" to avoid serious / deadly injury. Really, they are plot armor to keep your character in the story.

So, I will do my best to express my idea about (at least) removing attack rolls from D&D:

Each concept is addressed in further detail later on.

1. Damage increases with level. Starting point is +1 die per tier perhaps.
2. Damage dice explode to represent critical "damage" (replacing critical hits) for any die rolled.
3. Ability modifiers still apply to damage as normal.
4. Armor class (worn or natural) is translated into damage reduction. Start point is AC value - 10 = DR.
5. DEX modifier also reduces damage as a "dodge" or "parry". I don't know of heavier armors would limit this or not...
6. Size also reduces damage as a "cap" concept, 1 point per size difference.
7. Save for half spells might be reworked to a middle damage or perhaps keep saves?

More to come...

The idea is when someone attacks, the target expends hit points to avoid the attack. For the most part the attack is always effective in making the target defend itself (the loss of hit points given current terminology). How effective or damaging an attack is depends on a few factors: experience of the attacker, weapon being used, etc. as well as the defenses of the target.
This is a really fun idea. Is there a way to make this more tactical, where there are times you might not want to spend HP to avoid the attack?

Side note, I find exploding dice slwo down play sicne they need to be evaluated, rerolled, and then totaled up. They aren't core to what you are suggesting, this isn't a showstop. Just wanted to mention that you may want to evaluate if they bring enough bonus to have it as a net positive. I do like the concept of something taking the place of a crit, as those are good dramatic swings.

As a small add, you may want to remove many of these bonuses if the wielder is not proficient, or other cases that would apply disadvantage.

Remember that some creatures do a lot of damage per hit, so DR 1:1 over 10 may not be sufficient. On the other hand, it can completely invalidate low level attacks, which undoes some of the work bounded accuracy brings to us in making monsters stay relevant.

Perhaps:

Light armor provides resistance vs. B/P/S of 10 damage or less.
Medium armor provides resistance vs. B/P/S of 25 damage or less.
Heavy armor provides resistance vs. B/P/S.

(Picking numbers out of the air.)

Have that DEX (with max DEX taken into consideration), shields, and anything that adds a set AC bonus provides DR equal to the bonus, applied after armor Resistance. Keeps HAM relevant as well.

So, part of bounded accuracy was supposed to be increased damage, but IME damage does not typically increase on the same scale hit points do. So, the above example would incorporate a system for increased damage. A simple suggestion would be adding one die of damage per tier or something.
Again, it was not intended to increase damage, so you don't need this.

It also means there are no "failed attacks". If you make an attack, you are actually attacking--your effort always results in some expenditure of hit points by the target.

I've been a proponent of miss damage, so I'm fine with this - in melee. Even if you don't connect, there's energy using in staying at that heightened alertness, stress, dodging, etc. But it would seem that every character being able to always hit at range strains verisimilitude.

The damage roll (however that might be adjusted for this concept) determines how effective your attack is and how many hit points the target would expend to avoid / reduce / absorb / etc. that attack. Damage reduction and dodging (see below) can reduce damage to the point where an attack is rendered ineffective, however. Again, the idea isn't that you failed so much as the target's defenses might be better.

Without attack rolls, armor class would not exist as it currently is. Armor would provide damage reduction, allowing the wearer to more easily mitigate attacks. Armor (and size difference) would reduce damage to a minimum of 1, not 0. That is my first thought anyway...

Dexterity (not impacting AC) would also reduce "damage" but in the sense of a dodge or parry. Our dagger-wielding commoner attacking a DEX 14 target would deal 1-4 damage, but the DEX would reduce the result by 2, making half of the attacks "dodge" or parried or avoided by DEX alone. I think this form of DR should be able to reduce damage to 0.

Spells and other features that boost AC would likewise reduce the damage in some fashion, again decreasing the effectiveness of the attack.

Spells which allow saving throws (such as fireball) could be reworked slightly to average result (instead of 8d6, save for 4d6, make it base 6d6?) if we wanted to remove saving throws (in that sense) as well as attack rolls? Or saves could be retained?

The system could be built up without much difficulty, although many adjustments would need to be made of course.

So, I guess that's it for now. This isn't really something I am considering adopting seriously, just the results from some observations about the purpose of bounded accuracy, how likely attacks succeed in 5E, and other factors.

Also, I am not saying this is a good idea or a bad idea, just an idea. I welcome any discussion about it as an exercise in game design, etc. I am well aware people might not care for the idea of removing the attack roll, but frankly in 5E attacks seem to hit so much IME I wonder if there is really a point in having them anymore? 🤷‍♂️
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
as much as I know I would hate it (and it would triple time in combat at least) part of me would want a 'you roll attack, I roll a dodge or parry' maybe eating your reaction, with armor having DR instead of AC bonus, and the armor have it's own HP, and as it goes down (taking the amount of the DR) the DR dropps until... something happens

I also think I just designed Rifts combat, so I think I should sit this out, cause that is NEVER the right answer.
I was reading this and thinking "Ovi, you should recommend @HammerMan look at Paladium games!"
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
EDIT: This isn't showing what I quoted to me, but is when I edit it. Not sure why.
@DND_Reborn has blocked you. You can still see the OP for any post @DND_Reborn posts, but anything else is covered by the block function. This gets the odd result of if you quote the OP, you can see it in edit, but once you post it the block function treats is as a quote of someone that has blocked you and hides it from you.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I've been a proponent of miss damage, so I'm fine with this - in melee. Even if you don't connect, there's energy using in staying at that heightened alertness, stress, dodging, etc. But it would seem that every character being able to always hit at range strains verisimilitude.

One of the awkward bits of D&D is that we have tied that die roll to a narrative - If we make the "To Hit" roll, we HIT the target with the weapon. Meanwhile we have Hit Points that are specifically decoupled from narrative - they aren't "just meat".

If we decouple the d20 roll from that narrative, then we decouple "hit or miss" from "succeed or fail". If you succeed on the d20 roll, you do damage to the target - whether we narrate that as running them through with a sword, or them twisting their ankle trying to dodge, becomes a separate element - we can either use that as design space, or just leave it to convenience..
 

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