Topic: Interpreting (multiple) attacks and damage: abstract or not?

Hi guys,

in LotFP (similarly to several other retroclones) a text on interpreting hit points and damage is to be found. My attention was grabbed by the following: "The to-hit roll is merely a summary of your attacks that round, determining whether you have successfully inflicted damage. That's all. It does not represent one attempted blow per roll made." (p. 8, Tutorial, Grindhouse ed.)

Yet at the table we tend to ignore this, right? Also the example of play does this: "taking a swing with a sword", "slicing wide with a dagger", "stabbed", "cut somebody in half"... (p. 67-68).

In addition, there is an interpretation of initiative that cuts the 6-second round into 1-second segments, which strengthens the notion that one roll = one swing.

Why the disconnect? Why do we need that text? (And there tends to be a similar disconnect regarding what hit points represent in the rules and what they represent at the table.) Maybe we cannot imagine combat in the abstract?

But this also made me think what would taking those definitional texts seriously in game design and in play mean. Initiative should be revisited perhaps, as should multiple attacks. If only one roll is needed for an abstract representation of the result of a combat round, then all attacks should be resolved with one roll - you just increase the possibility of causing damage. For example, if attacking with one claw causes 1d4, attacking with two claws is at +1 to hit and causes 1d6 damage. Two claws and a bite? +2 to hit and 1d8 damage. And you can distribute the damage across several opponents in reach which you would hit with that to-hit roll. (Perhaps with the added limitation that at least 50% have to be caused to your primary target, and if you would miss him, you cause no damage that round.)

The baseline for determining damage should then also perhaps be not only reliant on the weapon you are wielding. I liked the rule for class-based weapon damage (I think from one of the early Fight On! issues), so Magic-User causes 1d4 with 1H weapons, and the Fighter 1d8. Smaller weapons move the die size one step down, 2H one step up. High Strength could increase the die size, as could Fighter's experience (say, 6th and 12th levels).

Still not sure about the initiative... (and hit points).

What do you guys think? Is that a productive direction?


P.S.: Sorry if a similar topic has already been discussed...

Last edited by Bifi (2017-02-09 12:17:19)

Re: Interpreting (multiple) attacks and damage: abstract or not?

IMO abstract and simplicity are the only solution there. Multiple attacks of some creatures serve mainly to show how dangerous they are. You can reduce greatly your work if you rule that multiple hits are possible only in combat with more than one opponent. So if a tiger has two claws attack, it can use it only when fighting more than one enemy. And no, not everyone is ignoring abstract nature of combat in old games. One minute or 10 seconds round is very interesting and allow you to unleash far more of your imagining and creativity. Also, counting rounds after rounds in seconds, and hits after hits is just plain boring. In abstract combat with longer rounds you don't even need Initiative at all. Example: if you hit your enemy and kill him and the enemy misses you, the Ref can interpret this situation as killing an opponent before he could even realise what's happening. I believe the most productive way is to increase your capacity as fast, efficient decision maker, not creating more mechanics where it isn't needed.

Re: Interpreting (multiple) attacks and damage: abstract or not?

I agree that we generally play as if each roll is a "swing" so to speak (at least at my table) as it just seems to feel natural in describing things.

After trying many systems, I've settled on this:

Each side rolls initiative each round, players take turns rolling, applying the bonuses/penalties of their PC, players' side wins ties vs. enemies.

Spells are declared in initiative order (ie, winning side decides, then losing side).
Ranged attacks go off in initiative order.
Melee occurs (for those who didn't use ranged weapons) in initiative order.
Spells take effect in initiative order.

Reroll initiative.

Note: those who win initiative can know a bit about what the other side is doing - they can see who's taking aim with weapons, who's uttering a spell, etc.

I'm trying a whole other weird thing with damage and hit points, and not sure if it's worth reporting on before I actually see it in play!