Delver’s Legacy: Core Mechanics

As you may know, I’ve been looking at the progression of Dungeons and Dragons through the years. After seeing the latest round of house rules and new edition ideas, I’ve decided to cobble together some of my ideas for what a rules light remake might look like. I’m thinking of doing a series of these under the project name “Delver’s Legacy”. Let me know if you find this interesting or have any suggestions.

To start off, I’d like to shoot for a unified resolution mechanic. Here’s what I’ve got in mind:

Resolving Checks

To determine if an important action succeeds roll d20 + modifiers. If the result matches or exceeds the base difficulty, the action succeeds.

In most cases targets will be able to resist or counter an action. If the appropriate defense of the target matches or exceeds the rolled results, the target “saves” against the effect, forcing a partial success instead of a full success.

Design Notes

Base difficulty should be a more or less fixed value for a given situation. It should also be relatively low. The idea is that there’s a moderate chance of outright failure at low levels, but that this diminishes at higher levels. At the same time, outlandish stunts should become progressively easier at high levels.

In contrast, defense should scale with the character. This lets us stabilize the chance of beating those defenses around nice high tension values.

If we want to include “saving throws”, we can do that by “taking 10” on the attack and rolling with a defense bonus. This may be especially appropriate for collateral damage and shaking off effects.

Behind the Scenes

The suggested rules are combined elements of both attack rolls and saving throws. By making one a lower fixed value and the other a scaling value we gain more granularity in our results (failure, partial success, and full success). This lets us reduce the chances of a wasted turn (failure), while still keeping a certain level of tension by keeping the outcome less certain (will this be a full or partial success?).

Damage & Resistance

By default, when a character takes at least 1 point of damage they are defeated. The character who inflicts that damage can also place a condition of their choice on the target. That condition must be related to the type of damage and how it was dealt.

To protect themselves from this fate, most characters have resistance pools. Whenever a character takes damage, they may spend points from an appropriate resistance pool. Each pool spent this way reduces the damage taken by 1. If this reduces the damage to 0, that damage has no effect. Damage sources reduced to 0 can not defeat a character.

Design Notes

The idea here is to turn hit points into a more general mechanic, possibly one that can be used in non-combat challenges. For example, a character might use “patience” to keep working on a difficult puzzle or trap.

In this system, most effects that take characters out of play should be handled as damage effects. Classic examples would be things like petrification and paralysis, which traditionally skipped hit point based defenses. Temporary disablers like stuns might also allow pricey hp sacrifices to end or mitigate them. Alternately, some creatures might have traits that let them break effects for an hp sacrifice.

Behind the Scenes

By making “hit points” an added trait we’ve got the ground work in place for mooks/minions. It does mean you can have a character at 0 hit points and still standing, but the next damage they take drops them. That “last chance” situation provides a nice level of tension that may be worth exploring.

Making the condition inflicted on defeat the attacker’s choice leaves things a bit more open ended and should make it easier for the system to handle lethal and subdual effects with equal ease.

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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